The reasons to go solar are plenty. For one, the environment. Another reason would be to power your EV vehicle. Maybe you want to be self-sufficient and live off the grid? Or, perhaps you simply want to avoid the electric company’s price hikes. Remember January 2023? Oof! Those are all great reasons. But my favorite reason is that solar saves money. The savings can be immense, especially over time. Yes, installing them is an initial investment, but solar panels are what a call a money-saving investment.
Solar Is Affordable
Before I go into how much money installing solar panels saves, let’s talk about the initial investment. I want to debunk the myth that solar is too expensive. In fact, solar panels are very affordable. We shopped around for the cheapest option and chose a solar panel company, Sunlux, who installed our panels for less than $20k. $20k is AFFORDABLE. $20k is less than a brand new car. Heck, it’s less than many used cars, too.
If you don’t have $20K to pay off the solar upfront, you can finance it. A 10-year loan with Sunlux runs about $115 per month. That payment is covered by the savings from not paying the electric company! Below, I share with you our electricity bills after solar was installed mid-March. You can see that our savings run anywhere from $94-$150!
Federal Tax Rebate Reimburses 30% of Total Cost of Solar
We were ecstatic to learn that they extended the federal tax rebate in 2023. This reimburses 30% of the total cost of solar panel installation. Since our solar cost $20k to install, we would get $6k back on our return next year. This makes the true cost of installing the solar panel $14k.
Solar Can Reduce Taxes on Your Real Estate’s Capital Gains
When you sell a property, you are taxed on long-term capital gains. However, you can subtract improvements you made to the home while living there. Solar panels count! Subtracting $20k from a properties capital gains saves someone $4k in taxes assuming they are in the 20% tax bracket!
It Takes 7.2 Years of Solar To Come Out Ahead
So assuming you save $6 k from the tax rebate and $4 K from the capital gains tax, the solar really only costs $10K. Financed at $115 / month (which is what you would pay anyway to the electric company if you didn’t have solar), you come out even at 7.2 years. However, the solar you just installed should continue to give returns after 7.2 years. This means every year after that, you are saving $115 / month. Meanwhile, the electric companies likely hiked the price of electricity due to rising demand coming from an increase in popularity of electric vehicles, electric stoves, and electric dryers. Factor in inflation, and you can quickly see why solar panels are a money-saving investment!
In conclusion, installing solar isn’t any different from paying the electric company when financed. Your monthly bills isn’t going to change much. For many, it would save you money actually. In the end, it would lead to savings in the future! Install it today, and your future self will thank you.
*If you are local to Orange County and wish to use Sunlux, would you do me a favor and mention my name as Sunlux offers a referral reward for previous clients. Thank you!
Well, we’ve gone and booked our delayed trip to Japan! When Japan reopened Fall of 2022, we were already expecting our first baby and felt we hadn’t planned enough to travel-hack our way there before the stork arrived. For those who don’t know, we have travel-hacked our way to almost ten countries and all around the USA. We open credit cards in a strategic manner in order to earn points that give us free flights and hotel stays. In this blog post, I share how we are travel-hacking our way to Japan this year, with a 6-month old baby in tow.
The Biggest Regret Was Not Getting On That Plane
We were set to leave for Japan with a group of friends in March 2020. Due to pandemic precautions, we never got on the plane, not realizing how long the shut-down would stay in effect. Two days after our departure flight, the world shut-down. Not getting on that plane was probably one of the biggest regrets we had for years, as we had acquaintances who took the trip anyway and had no problems returning a few weeks later.
Japan was Mike’s dream destination and we felt like we missed out on a huge opportunity. We had made a goal of seeing the world before starting family growth and we felt the pandemic definitely changed all of that. Now that we’ve entered the family growth stage of our lives, we don’t want travel to be affected. So we decided to travel-hack our way to Japan and jet-set right when baby would be approved for travel. We’re set to take off in October 2023! We couldn’t be happier for Japan to be open again.
Travel Hacking the Flights: Total Cost $250 per person
Since the reopening of the countries borders, the cost of flights to Japan are at an all-time high. I have seen so many friends take their delayed dream Japan trips in the last few months. I have also seen some of them shell out over $1000 per person to get there. Mike and I are pretty frugal about flights, having used credit card points for almost all of them since our marriage. So we wanted a way to get to Japan, but lessen the cost. Unfortunately, even if you paid with points, getting to Japan is impossibly expensive and opening credit cards will not cover the full cost for two people. Thankfully, our 6-month-old infant will get to fly for free.
So we chose to open an American Express Gold card to book our flights to Japan. The flights themselves helped us to hit the minimum spend. The total cost of the flights were about $1,400 for both of us plus our free infant bassinet. With American Express Gold, once you hit the bonus rewards points, you can opt to get $900 back in cash refund which we used to offset the flight costs. This means that it cost us $250 per person to fly to Japan. Considering it would cost us the same amount of money to fly from the West Coast to the East Coast on the same exact dates, I would consider this an absolute win! If you wish to open an American Express Gold card, you can use Mike’s referral link here.
I opened one of my favorite cards ever, IHG Rewards Premier (this is my referral code). People don’t typically look at IHG, but we have been loyal to the brand since Mike’s dad worked for Crowne Plaza for over 20 years until 2020. This was the credit card we used to travel-hack part of our honeymoon to New Zealand in 2017!
The IHG Rewards Premier earned me 140k bonus points after hitting the minimum spend of $3,000 in 3 mos. I used these points to book 4 nights at InterContinental Hotel in Tokyo Bay. I love IHG because the 4th night is always FREE. Meaning, I only spent 3 nights worth of points in order to book a 4 night stay.
Mike then opened the IHG Rewards Premier card after me, and received his bonus points. We used his points to book 4 nights at the Crowne Plaza in Kyoto. Together, we had enough left-over points to cover the rest of the single-night stays during our trip. Essentially, opening the IHG Rewards Premier allowed us to stay in Japan for ten days for FREE.If you find value in this, please use my referral link to sign up for an IHG Rewards Premier card. They are currently giving away the most points I have ever seen. By using our referrals, you are also helping this space and us spread the word about travel-hacking. Thank you.
Things to Know About Booking with Infants
Wow. I can’t believe I am now writing about this. But I think it is worth mentioning that there were a few considerations this time around, as we are taking a 6-month old with us. The best advice we ever got from fellow travelers was that the easiest time to travel with a wee one is between 6 months old and 1 years old. Especially on long flights! At this time in their life, they are still mostly sleeping. They haven’t learned how to walk (or run) away from you, or babble all day. They may cry occasionally, but nothing a bit of milk and swaying can’t solve.
When it comes to flights, you should inquire about bassinets. Our flight to Japan is quite long, so we wanted to book a seat with a bassinet in front. There are only two sections of the plane that has this. However, in order to book it, they asked for our newborn’s passport information. But he is yet to be born. So we called the flight company and talked to an attendant who helped us book the seats with a placeholder name for our child. Since we didn’t know his name at the time, we arbitrarily picked one.
There is no charge for his bassinet. It is completely free. But we will apply for his passport once he is born. We can them call the flight company and update his information.
As for hotels, typically when booking with IHG, no rooms are bookable via the website with points if it exceeds 2 people. But if you call in to the hotel, they will typically make an exception for an infant. Many hotels do not count the infant as a third person and will thereby allow you to book the room on their end using points. Especially if you are a card-holder or loyal rewards member! Hotels are great because unlike AirBNBs, they typically have bassinets available for their guests.
As a caveat, this is by no means the only way to travel-hack to Japan. This is simply the way we ended up doing it. A lot of factors go into it, including where we are at with the frequency of opening certain cards, as well as what airlines we want to use. Going to Japan means limited flight options, so definitely consider that first. Public transportation in Japan is great, especially if you are going to the touristy areas, so there is no need to worry about booking cars. Just make sure you order your Japan Rail Passes at least a month before departure. You activate the pass once you are in the country.
A great alternative to hotels in Japan would be Marriot, which Mike’s dad currently works for. Our friends are going to be in Japan the same week we are, and as Marriot members, they decided to book their hotel rooms with Marriot. I am also a Marriot fan since family works for them, but we benefit more from friends and family perks rather than rewards points. Either way, I am a proud holder of their Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (this is my referral link) which I would highly recommend signing up for in order to book a few nights for FREE!
I think I was destined to be a list-maker. It gives me so much joy to write down a massive slew of words on paper. My brain feels lighter and my life more organized after I make lists. Plus, I get more things done by simply writing tasks down. As in, physically writing with pen in hand. (That’s the therapeutic part.) Today, I am starting The Ever Growing List of Baby Stuff We Did Not Buy.
Today’s list entails everything from hand-me-downs, gifts, and acquisitions to our Buy Nothing Group. I am also keeping track of products I have reviewed for this space, which I hope benefits all parents, but that we’ve been gifted for free. And most importantly, the list ends with things we chose to go without … at least for now.
As parents, we have the daunting task of providing for our children. And sometimes, companies use that to their advantage. The commercial market for baby stuff has really gone down the deep end. They have redefined the term “newborn essentials” to include everything that would grow the economy. Everything has become essential – or so they make it seem. Where has our discernment gone?
My own mum scoffs at changing tables and changing pads, especially those connected to large dressers that increase the price. Back in the day, our loin-cloth nappies would be swiftly changed on the bed. If you’re worried about your changing skills, placing another square cloth underneath the booty catches any accidents. I take my mom’s disdain as a sign that perhaps we can survive the first year of parenthood without a changing table. At the very least, we can wait and see how things go.
I also had a friend communicate with me her dissatisfaction with an expensive stroller she purchased for her first child. It was big, bulky, heavy, had useless functions, and was expensive. I took her advice and accepted a hand-me-down jogging stroller to start. My aunt offered it up to me even though its years old. I figured it’d be useful for our active lifestyle. These are the types of money saving tips that families need. Not only will it help families stay within budget, but it will also help allocate dollars to the REALLY important stuff.
If you are keen on family budget tips such as this, feel free to subscribe to my email list!
If you’d really like to go on a deep dive, I highly recommend reading the book Not Buying It. Luckily, I found mine at our public library. I devoured its contents in one day, as I sat painfully awaiting my 3 hour glucose test to end. The joys of motherhood!
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I just received an email from my gas company regarding the increase in home gas prices for January 2023. The cause was attributed to a nationally unprecedented cold snap. The effect? An expectation for this month’s gas bill to double in price. During a time of inflation, this isn’t necessarily the news home owners want to receive for the new year. Here, I wish to share a few thoughts on how to lower the gas bill in your household.
First and foremost, I should acknowledge that not all these tips might apply to your particular situation. Take what you wish and leave the rest behind. We are lucky enough to live in Southern California, which avoids the frigid temps of winter. Ignore my call to keep the heat off. I don’t mean harm to anyone’s health! But perhaps alter the thermostat. Lowering a thermostat setting by 2 degrees will do wonders for your bill. This is because your home will lose heat at a slower rate when set to a lower temperature. If you continually heat your home to a higher temperature, it will lose heat at a faster rate due to a higher difference between interior and exterior temperature. Enjoy these simple savings tips!
How to Lower Gas Bill
Turn the thermostat down. Lower the heat setting to the lowest temperature you can tolerate. Heaters are the biggest gas guzzlers in the winter. Opt to cuddle under blankets for warmth. Bundle up in sweaters and fuzzy socks. Sidle next to cats, dogs, kids, or significant others. In a similar vein, hang out with all your family members in one room. The more body heat in a closed environment, the lower you can keep your thermostat. When I was young, my siblings and parents always spent evenings in the living room together – playing games, solving puzzles, reading books, or even watching a movie. It’s easier to warm a small space rather than a large one.
Turn the thermostat off when you are away. Of course this doesn’t apply if you have pets that need to stay warm. But if your thermostat is pre-set for a certain temperature and you don’t have pets, do not forget to turn it off when you step out, go to work, or go on vacation. A really easy way to do this is to get a thermostat that you can control with an app on your phone! We’ve owned the Google Nest and loved it!
Be mindful of the laundry. Only wash clothes when they really need washing. I am not embarrassed to share that I reuse pajama pants and sweaters throughout the week. Actually, I literally own one pair of pajama pants, which I wear only to bed, for the entirety of a week. It’s a habit my mom created and one that works well for my minimal lifestyle. And when you do run the washer, opt for the cold cycle when possible.
Hang dry clothes instead of using the dryer. Or at least do a combination. I get that clothes don’t feel the same when hang-dried. For people who aren’t used to the starchier feel of the fabric, I recommend half-drying clothes to save on gas. Set the timer for 15 minutes of drying time, to soften up the clothes, and then hang up to dry completely. This will save you so much money, as the dryer is probably the second source of gas usage in the home.
Skip the dryer setting on the dishwasher. We run our dishwasher every night, but open the door and pull out the racks to allow the dishes to air-dry. This saves electricity as well as gas! And in case you missed it, I have a long list of ways to save electricity here!
Utilize window treatments. Opening the blinds and drawing back the curtains during the day allows maximum sunlight to naturally heat up our homes. Likewise, in the evenings we draw in the curtains to reduce the amount of heat escaping our home. It also helps block out the chill from cold window panes.
Improve sealing around doors and windows. Making sure all doors and windows are properly treated with caulk will help to keep temperatures stable within a home. Caulking is an easy sealing process that you can do on your own! We just recently caulked a shower faucet after replacing it. The tube of sealer cost us less than $10!
Turn off kitchen and bath exhaust fans within 10 minutes of cooking or bathing. This will reduce the amount of warm air sucked out of your home.
Upgrade to an electric water heater. We have a tankless, electric water heater in the garage. Combined with the installation of solar panels, this can lead to huge savings!
Track your usage. Last but not least, track your gas usage. Log into your account and view how much you’ve used in the billing cycle thus far. Set a budget for gas usage and try to hit that goal! Be creative in how you do it, too.
I hope this list was useful to you. If saving money is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, sign up to learn how to set up a budgeting tool that works! My readers have found great success in reaching their savings goals by setting up a budget. This could be your year to do the same!
My sister and I grew up resourceful. Having less means than those around us, we’ve mastered the art of getting things for free. Not in any sort of illegal sense, but by inheriting from others who are better off and less grateful for what they own. I remember the joy we used to get collecting freebies from school events. I ended up marrying someone obsessed with optimizing freebies on his birthday. And in our friend group, I am known to accept hand-me-down clothes. Currently, fifty percent of my minimalist closet is made up of second-hand items gifted by gal pals. Truth be told, I once dug out perfectly good food (still packaged in plastic!) from the trash when my roommate threw out unwanted pantry items. Needless to say, scrappy sis and I try our best to buy nothing.
But the phrase “Buy Nothing” is not just an act of non-doing. It is a group title as well. And one I am proud to be part of. Joining a local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook is worth a try. A community formed around the act of giving is rare but lovely. To be on the receiving end inspires one to donate items in return. Having trust that the community will provide in the future is refreshing. Respite from the individualism we’ve cultivated in our modern world.
Prior to this year, we only had enough holiday ornaments to count on our fingers. They fit nicely into a child’s shoe box. However, two days ago, a kind neighbor donated 90% of our current ornaments via our Buy Nothing Group. I was so grateful to unveil the goods I stowed away in my frunk. Red and gold globes glittered back at me, as if to say Hullo. I didn’t mind that a few were missing hanging clips, as I have twine in the kitchen cupboard to makeshift a dangle out of.
The best thing about Buy Nothing is that it goes in-hand with waste nothing. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well I’ve always treasured the unwanted and unpopular. Depending on your local Buy Nothing group, you may find a plethora of well-to-do items. We are lucky to live in such a neighborhood. I joke that it’s a way to off-set our HOA fees.
Equally as useful, it’s a place to give to others. Rehoming things is quite the task, especially if you have a penchant for reducing waste. I’ve sold items on Poshmark and Craiglist, but there are some things not worth selling. I refer to the time it takes to post, the gas it takes to pick up, and the hassle of arranging a meet-up. But the Buy Nothing Project gives me a space to give guilt-free. I just set it out on my porch for pick-up at whatever time is convenient for the receiver.
And for those who are in a pinch, throw a call out to the universe. Post with the title ISO (“in search of”) and hope that a friendly neighbor would answer back. I’ve seen moms ask for costume props or event decor with the promises of returning if the borrower so wishes. Ripe bananas for the taking have been snatched up by someone hoping to make bread. Left-over zucchini avoids meeting the garbage man. Used baby items and dog beds run amok.
Anywho, for someone who writes about saving money this holiday season, I thought this was worth a mention. By now, Buy Nothing has taken off and become popularized by many financial independents. Perhaps you’ll find a gently used toy for gifting to a child to a need. Or a new duvet cover to replace a tattered one for a college student. I just snagged some puzzles for the winter season, with the hopes of slowing it down. It’s on the advent calendar somewhere. For those looking for a frugal life hack, this is certainly one of the best.
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Are you worried that inflation will cut into your holiday budget this year? Finances starting to feel tight as the end of the year draws near? That’s quite alright! Don’t let that be a damper on the holidays. There are many ways to make the holidays feel less consumerist (stressful?). As a frugal minimalist, I’ve pretty much gotten the holidays down pat. I created a list of ways to save money during the holidays, just for you! Some of these won’t be popular to all. But I hope you find one or two things that resonate.
Write a list. Not writing a list of people to gift to during the holidays is like not writing a list before grocery shopping. Sometimes, things end up in the proverbial cart, unplanned. Most likely, those things were emotional purchases. Use logic. List a lucky few you want to prioritize. Keep the list short. Not everyone needs a gift.
Offer a gift exchange. If you come from a huge family, offer the idea of a gift exchange. It is much more doable to buy a decent gift for one person rather than for twenty. And cost-efficient!
Create a no-gifting letter. Me and my sisters have created a no-gifting rule over the holidays. We used to buy each other gifts every year, until we turned thirty and realized we were only shuffling money around. It sounds kind of silly, going through the hassle of getting someone a $50 item just to receive a $50 item back. I stopped gifting my sister after she moved to Spain in 2020 upon her request and my immediate acquiesce. My SIL and I haven’t been exchanging gifts since 2018! Have a conversation with friends and family who have similar money and life goals as you. You may find that they don’t value gift-giving either. Or rather, they value other things more! If you’re having trouble, I did write a holiday no-gifting letter here that you can borrow. Plus a few tips on how to collect the courage.
Get rid of expectations. Holiday traditions are usually social constructs. Sometimes, it’s hard to ignore social expectations. Not everyone is as open to ditching tradition like your closest sibs are. But choosing to opt out of an office potluck or gift exchange could mean saving $50 for someone you prioritize more. Likewise, by simply reducing what you think it means to deliver an “acceptable” gift or contribution can mean saving precious dollars during this time. It may be emotionally difficult, but becomes surprisingly easier after a few tries. Think of it as reframing your actions to match your values. Where do your true priorities lie? By investing your hard-earned dollars on many mere acquaintances, you are taking away from those closest to you, too. Every yes is balanced by a no. Good reminders during this special time.
Make homemade gifts. I published a list of simple (mostly home-made) gift options before. Something as simple as baking pie or making cookies would do. If you’d like to get crafty, making wax candles, bars of soaps, or decadent essential oil blends would be appreciated.
Make consumable gifts. My husband and I love being in the kitchen and we will oft make jars of homemade sauces, gift baskets of pasta meals, or homemade syrups for coffee. For example, this orange simple syrup recipe is perfect for fancy Cafe Nicos. I have one girlfriend who makes candied almonds, toffee bars, and other sweets and ships them to our door. It’s a family tradition she’s been keeping for years, and they make a whole event out of it!
Shop second hand. Thrift stores aren’t as inexpensive as they once were. Nowadays, they could cost as much as buying brand new. But there are other ways to shop second hand. For example, we joined our local Buy Nothing Group. It’s a great way to acquire another man’s trash and turn it into my own treasure. If you love to scout, this may be a great version of online, second-hand shopping. And some people give away things with tags still on it! Young kids especially love any kind of toy. They’re just so happy to unwrap a box!
Gift free books from your Friends of the Library. We live in a community with lending libraries. I walk by it every day when I do my dog-walks (check out how I make $1k a month taking care of pets here). By checking in each time, I find random books of all genres, most of them very good. I’ve got a few bookworms in my life. So I package a few of the same genre to gift to my friends, along with a pouch of hot cocoa or bar of chocolate. I LOVE finding books they would want to read.
Use up old gift-cards. There was one year when I discovered that Mike had been hoarding gift cards. Not in any intentional way. He just didn’t want to shop at those particular stores. I nabbed them and spent them to buy other people gifts. Or when I was really lazy, I just re-gifted the gift cards! They were in a box collecting dust and we were able to declutter them, which was a win-win.
Gift based on love-language. I once wrote a post on how our enneagrams can determine our financial strengths. Likewise, our love languages affect the way we receive gifts. Thankfully, not everyone has the same love language. Some people like acts of service, so gift ideas would include babysitting their little ones while mom and dad have a date night or coming over to help gift-wrap. Other people’s love language are words of affirmation. A really well-written card that tells them what they mean to you is all they want for Christmas. For those who like quality time, perhaps puzzling at home or cooking a meal together will do. If your significant other loves physical touch, maybe a foot rub, facial or massage at home would be wonderful to them! And even if your person likes gifts, did you know that gift-lovers care more about the significance of the gift rather than the price tag? You can buy someone a diamond ring but if you let the concierge choose it or the recipient feels like you didn’t take their style into consideration, then it could mean very little, even though it cost a lot!
Say no to junk-for-junk gift exchanges. You know that White Elephant game? I almost never sign up for those! Only a lucky few walk away with something worthwhile. Most of the time, I call these junk-for-junk gift exchanges, especially when the price limit is set low. I try to avoid them or when I participate, I opt for the most practical gift. Last year, I fought for a pasta kit. I figured I might as well take home dinner!
Socialize selectively. This is a BIG one. When I first started my financial independence journey, I decluttered my friends. I realized that some of the people I hung out with still loved to party, or loved to shop and spend their money. I reprioritized my life to set myself up for who I wanted to be. And then I selectively said yes to certain gatherings, and said no to ones that did not add value. It was the best thing I ever did. I remember the days when I would bemoan, complain and physically dread certain events that I was only going to out of obligation. By being socially selective, I’ve eliminated stress, my sense of fakeness, and that which wasted my time. This holiday season, socialize selectively.
Be creative in your get-togethers. Get-togethers don’t have to be fancy. They also don’t have to be expensive. Be creative. Make dinners a potluck. Do a boardgame night. Or watch movies with popcorn. Play music like you’re in a band. Our friends and I love gathering for pizza or bowls of pasta, and playing video games on the Switch. The girls gab while the boys have the time of their lives. We also used to do Fantasy Football together on Sundays. Creating a league meant an excuse to eat food and gather at someone’s house on the weekends. For the holidays, be creative in your get-togethers.
Plan your get-togethers around something other than dinner. Hosting a dinner party for 12 can be quite expensive. If “potluck” isn’t an option for your circle, why not plan your get-together around a different time? Doing a breakfast gathering is simpler and cheaper than cooking an elaborate dinner. Breakfast gatherings are actually me and Mike’s favorite! We love to do coffee, bagels, donuts, pancakes, or waffles. A one-pan quiche is amazing! Bowls of fruit or a box of croissants really isn’t that difficult to get-together, and it’s affordable. Other ideas include an afternoon tea party with tiny sandwiches and cookies, a light cocktail mixer with appetizers, or a ‘fancy brunch’ with charcuterie and mimosas. Doing this can cut your grocery costs in half.
Cut costs elsewhere. One way we cut costs is by dining out less. Since we are already attending a number of gatherings and eating tons of heavy foods, we try to cook more dinners than normal and eat at home. Another place one can save is on entertainment. Skip the movie theatres and opt for a bit of family time instead. To be honest, we are usually exhausted from the social events this month. We relish any time to just stay in.
Opt for e-cards. This is the first year we are sending a few holiday cards by post with Basic Invite. But for the past five years, e-cards is really all we do. It’s convenient, efficient, and free.
Find free holiday activities. We love free holiday activities. I prepare an advent calendar each year which contains fun things to do throughout the season without spending money. This was one I made a few years back! It’s literally my favorite list I have ever made.
Return unwanted gifts. Some people think this is mean, but as the queen of decluttering, this is one of my favorite things to do. My family, by now, has been warned of my distaste for clutter. I have asked them many times to skip the gifts. Shall they choose to continue gifting me things that aren’t things I need or want because of their own merriment, well that’s up to them. But I do return unwanted gifts, and they know that I will. Most members simply enjoy the task of shopping and wrapping during this season, without a care what happens after the giving. If that’s what it takes to spread joy, I’ve learned to let that part go.
Use nature for decor. Holiday decor gets expensive and requires storing year round. As minimalists who practice small space living, we don’t have much other than a fake tree and a handful of ornaments. We have two stockings to hang and three tabletop pieces we thrifted years back from Goodwill. One can save on holiday decor by bringing in garlands, berry branches, acorns and other natural elements into the home. This year, we plan to pick oranges from the groves by our house and make dried orange ornaments out of them.
Stay home for the holidays. I understand not everyone has the privilege of living close to their loved ones and staying home for the holidays. But holiday travel can get expensive (especially with today’s gas prices!). Staying in makes a huge different. Even if you have to travel to see relatives, maybe stay home more often in the month of December. Those few times you skip driving can add up! Limit your grocery runs, forgo the movie theatres, and shop online (hopefully there’s free shipping).
Borrow what you need. My mum luckily lives down the street and owns everything one would ever need for the holidays. I make sure to ask her for bakeware, cardstock, and even ingredients, prior to buying some of my own.
Reuse old wrappers and bows. This is another thing I can find at my mum’s house and my SIL’s. Avid savers of gift bags and bows, my SIL has even gone so far as to fold up used wrapping paper neatly. She doesn’t tear into gifts like I do. Instead she flicks the tape off neatly, as does my husband.
Regift gift cards and other gifts. Does this sound audacious to you? Not to me! I grew up watching my parents do this all the time! My mom works at a school and receives candles, soaps, Starbucks gift cards, and boxes of chocolate from her students year round. She would save some of the unwanted scents or fast food gift cards and gift them to nieces, nephews, and friends!
Limit your own luxuries. I like to remind myself that the holidays are a time to give to others. That’s the true meaning for me. So I skip my coffee runs while I’m out shopping. I skip spending my fun money, getting my nails and hair done, ordering wine with dinner, plus other little luxuries you can think of.
Travel outside of the popular dates. If you must travel, try to do it a few weeks before or after Christmas. You may find the flights and hotels are a bit cheaper. Another popular idea is celebrating after the holidays. Last year, Mike’s side of the family got a bout of COVID and our holiday party got postponed two weeks. Because it was in January, we were able to buy gifts on sale, groceries on sale, and avoid the crowds! Woo-hoo!
If you like this list, please subscribe to my email list to get more finance tips! Or pin the photo below to Pinterest and save for a later time. Lastly, I would love to hear your ideas as well. Comment below and let me know how you save during this time of year!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
Wow! It’s finally happening! High-yield savings account rates are up. Today, we are seeing the highest return since the pandemic in 2020. Marcus HYSA (high-yield savings account) are at 2.5% but my readers get an additional 1% APY bonus if they sign up through my link here. That means that by signing up today, you can secure 3.5% rate of return on your savings for the first 3 months. I wrote about what HYSAs are here, but I thought I would provide an explanation as to why I this is the perfect avenue for short-term savings in today’s post.
HYSAs are low risk investment options for short-term savings:
HYSAs are low-risk investment options for short-term savings. How is this different from the stock market?
I like to use the stock market for my buy-and-hold strategy. Because of fluctuations in the market, the value of my investments could go up or down any day. The only way to beat the market is to buy and hold long-term. Historical data has proven that staying in the stock market for a long period of time is the best strategy.
The stock market’s volatility also means that I would not want to keep my short-term savings in it. Short-term savings refer to money that I am saving up for a particular event. In my case, my short-term savings was for the resumption of student loans. With the student debt interest rate at 0% since the pandemic started, we had decided to put our savings in a HYSA to earn interest on it over time. Unlike the volatile stock market, this rate of return is guaranteed, and can not go negative.
Examples of short-term savings:
Saving for a house
Saving for the birth of a baby
Preparing for student loan repayment to resume
Saving for next round of school tuition
Saving for an emergency fund
Saving for a wedding
Planning a trip/travel
Buying a new car
Why are HYSAs better than a savings account?
Savings account at other banks have a much lower interest rate. For example, I do my banking with Chase bank and at the time of writing this post is 0.01%. Compare that to 3.5% that you get by using my referral sign-up bonus! That means that if you have $10,000 in your savings account, you will earn $1 from Chase, and $350 from HYSA every year. That’s a no-brainer for me.
Why choose Marcus for your HYSA?
Marcus provides a return rate that is 4x the national average. It also is FDIC-insured for up to $250,000. That means you can put your savings here to rest without worrying about the value going down. Marcus in particular is backed by Goldman Sachs, a long trusted company. They also have same-day transfers up to $100,000 to and from most banks. This means that your money is readily available should you need it.
Would it be better to pay off credit card debt or save in a HYSA account?
While HYSAs are perfect for short-term savings, I think it is always better to pay off credit card debt first. The reason is because credit cards charge an interest rate much higher than what you would earn by stowing away dollars in a Marcus HYSA. That being said, if you struggle with credit card debt, may I recommend The Credit Pros and their expert services? (*aff) Paying off credit card debt was the first thing we did on our student loan repayment journey, and it was the thing that catapulted us forward towards financial independence. I highly recommend!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. A friendly reminder that this is an opinion piece written by yours truly and should not be considered professional financial advice.
The biggest push back I get when I talk about cutting costs and saving money is that it’s difficult. People fear the word ‘budget’ because they associate it with negative implications. As a writer of intentional living, I can tell you that is not true. The point of budgeting is not to deprive yourself of things that make you happy. Rather, it is a curation of activities that you choose to engage with in order to prioritize that which makes you happiest. Because of this, budgeting is a personal task. There are some things that may be easier for you and your family to cut out than others. I recommend you start there! Today, I want to share my top 10 easiest things to cut out of my budget.
But first, have you tried YNAB? YNAB stands for You Need a Budget. It is our favorite budgeting tool from day one! I recommend YNAB to all budgeters, and we still use it to save thousands of dollars each month! You can try YNAB for free using my affiliate link. We are so grateful to have an easy, user-friendly app that is convenient and always accessible! Now I’ll share the top ten easiest things I’ve cut out of my budget.
Top 10 Easiest Things I’ve Cut Out of My Budget
Shopping for clothes
Personal Maintenance (manis, pedis, haircuts, etc.)
Certain groceries like snacks, bars, soft drinks
Paper towels (went fully green in 2018 and never looking back)
Entertainment (Bowling, Movie Theatres, Theme Parks, etc.)
Buying books (yay for libraries!)
As you can see from my list, I can easily give up food, activities, and goods for myself. I wrote an ever-growing list a long time ago, but these ten were the easiest to let go by far. It’s been a while so I do have a caveat that some of my thoughts on the items on the ever-growing list have changed. But in exchange are other things current me won’t spend money on. Of course, everyone is different. There are things I would not sacrifice, such as good coffee and quality goods. That is totally okay! The point is not to deprive, but to thrive.
With current inflation at a high, I think we all need to practice what I’ve been preaching for the last five years. Which is, to flex our frugal muscles as best we can. We may be in it for the long-haul, but the better we are at managing spending, the more we can shoulder the weight of rising prices. If you’re new to the space, do check out my course, Mastering a Budget. It’s helped a lot of people get started!