We often get asked how we afford being able to travel fairly often. Short answer? We save money. Longer answer? It’s really easy and here are a few tips that allow us to save money in little ways so we can afford more travel. Plus, most of these tips are eco-friendly and sustainable. Everyone wins! Personally, we try to limit the amount of single-use plastics our family uses. It’s very hard to be zero-waste but every little bit for our environment counts!
Bulk groceries & Food
Firstly, we save money at the grocery store. This is actually a HUGE one for us. We really enjoy good food. Our diet is full of vegetables and we have vegetarian/vegan meals several nights a week. Good quality meat is fairly expensive. Our family buys in bulk to help mitigate the costs and to reduce the amount of packaging being used for our food. Plus, we try to make larger quantities of food like half gallons of yogurt for cheap. Check your local area for places that sell foods in bulk (like cereals, grains, flours,etc) and allow you to bring your own containers. Often times, they offer incentives like percentages or no extra charges because you brought your own bag.
We spend about $300 per month on groceries for our family of three. The $300 grocery bill includes my husband’s work lunches, usually something fun (like a new cut of steak or more in-season fruit), and the rest of our necessities for that month. Sometimes it’s a little over or under $300.
I enjoy coffee probably more than the average person. We love freshly roasted beans but we didn’t live near any local places that roasted coffee for years. So we buy green (not-roasted), fair-trade coffee beans in bulk and roast it ourselves. Doing so eliminates a LOT of those plastic bags that coffee comes in. You can also support local by going to places that sell coffee beans in bulk and I know that a lot of health food stores have this option as well.
We only buy freshly brewed coffee drinks from local stores that we enjoy. It’s a treat for us. We anticipate the fact that at some point during the day we will both need caffeine. So my husband brews and brings his own cup of coffee and I generally make some for us when we go on local trips. Our normal coffee orders cost about $5 per person. If we both drank coffee out every week day, that would be $200 per month. If we include weekends, we would average $300 per month on just coffee beverages. We also try to bring our own cups when possible too. Many places including Starbucks offers incentives if you bring your own cup.
We have the privilege of living in a space that has been built in the last 20 years and has okay insulation. We noticed that we had pretty bad air leaks into the garage and out of our outdoor-facing doors. An easy and fairly inexpensive way to alleviate some energy costs is to buy foam tape and stick it in the doorways. Surprisingly, that little fix paid for itself in the first month! We’ve mostly lived in tropical locations that don’t use a ton of electricity during the day. Our very unpopular opinion: Unless it’s really hot, we don’t use the AC during the day. On average, we only spend $150-175 during the summer months compared to our neighbor’s $300-400 bill. The difference is an overnight stay plus food in most places!
Take Out/Eating Out
On average, we eat out 2-4 times a month. Is it more work? Just a little more than normal, honestly. According to Business Insider, Americans eat out more than 5 times a week. If we followed the same practice, we would spend about $400-$1000 ($20-50 per meal). Instead, I make sure we have a few quick meals on hand. I also cook huge meals and try to freeze family-meal portions for quick meals. My husband also takes leftovers for lunch to work everyday. We used to use more of the plastic BPA-free containers but have switched to glass containers because they last longer and are more environmental-friendly.
One of my favorite activities is going thrifting. Kids’ clothes are usually in great condition because kids grow so quickly so the clothes are barely worn. It’s so much cheaper than buying a brand-new wardrobe for our kid every 6 months. Plus, seasonal things like ski jackets and ski pants are a fraction of the cost and are usually in great condition too. We also enjoy buying used wooden furniture since they last so much longer and the designs are usually better.
Free Activities in Your Area
Lastly, we save money by utilizing free or very inexpensive events or activities in our local area. Our favorite family activity is hiking. It’s basically free since there is a hiking trail near our house. Our community also has a pool included, so we utilize it in the summer months. We also go to the local library because they hold events that are free for different ages. Usually cities/ counties hold events regularly that are free to the public. We enjoy farmer’s markets and a variety of outdoor events that are local to us. Most of the beaches we frequent generally have free parking, so we enjoy those as well.
If you count up the savings mentioned, we save about $1000 each month from these small fixes. Do you have any ways your family saves money? I’d love to hear about it!