Top 8 Ways to Save Money – Part 1

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Top 8 Ways to Save Money

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m thinking about the top 8 ways to save money that I learned this year.

And for once, I’m on this topic of my own free will, and not because I’m in a panic that I spent too much money.  I’m proud to say that I did not overspend on Christmas! I finished up last night at the grocery store, which is usually a big splurge because I love to feed people, and this year I did not break the bank.

Of course, it helped that Virgo Man got a completely unexpected bonus yesterday, and that we sold our old wedding rings (from other marriages) earlier this week, but even without those surprise inflows I did pretty well.

Gosh, I guess writing about money every week for the last year has done something for me after all!

So without further ado, here is part 1 of my list of my top 8 ways to save money.

1. Avoid temptation.

I find it absolutely amazing that I have weaned myself off of my yarn habit. The other day a friend told me that she had been in the neighborhood of my favorite yarn store and had a few minutes to kill, so she wandered in. She hates knitting, but her daughter likes it so my friend thought she’d buy a ball of yarn as a stocking stuffer. Even she, avid non-knitter that she is,  wanted to buy one of everything on every shelf. “It’s so pretty in there,” she enthused. “And so soft!.”

Exactly. That’s why, for the first 6 months of 2011, I kept myself out of the yarn store. I broke the habit! Not only do I no longer look for reasons to drive 30 miles just for an excuse to go into the yarn store,  but I can even go in there now when I’m legitimately in the area and say to myself, I already have enough yarn. I can actually leave there not having purchased one single thing!

I’m going to guess that I saved at least $1000 in 2011 just by staying out of the path of temptation.

2. No debt allowed.

Back in high school, I dated a guy who truly believed that you should never buy anything on credit. He said, if you really want something, save your money until you can afford it, and then buy it outright. I thought that was just crazy, old-fashioned thinking. Flash forward 35 years to our high school reunion, where I saw said boyfriend for the first time in an eternity. He now owns 15 or 20 houses, a private plane, and a boat that he docks in Mexico and lives on 2 months out of the year. I, who avidly rode the debt train, do not own anything of the sort. Who’s crazy NOW?

In 2011, I did not officially use debt, although I did go into overdraft more than I like to say, and that’s nothing more than a very expensive form of debt. But one step at a time! Right?

3. Rustle up some vittles.

I love to feed people, and my grocery budget is, shall we say, extravagant. I will often stand in front of the pantry and find nothing to make a meal out of among the packets of dried exotic mushrooms, Spanish saffron, Mexican oregano, rice noodles, and heirloom beans. Virgo Man, on the other hand, is genius at what he calls “rustling up some vittles.” He is unbound by rules of culinary convention. Also he focuses on what we do have, not what we don’t have. We do have two left over chicken legs, some rice, a couple of green onions, and (always) a bottle of sriracha. Never mind what we don’t have. Let’s eat!

4. Don’t hoard, consume.

Related to #3 is the concept of consuming what you’ve got instead of hoarding it. This has been a tough one for me. I’m a collector more than a consumer, by nature. But I’m working on it.

Most recently, I’ve been consuming Dungeness crab, and how. Virgo Man, as regular readers know, is an avid ocean fisherman with lots of fisherman friends. He’s got a system down for Dungeness season, where he leaves the crab pots out in the ocean full time and whenever he gets a minute, he’ll run out and pull the crab out. Since Thanksgiving I’m willing to bet that 100 Dungeness crab have come through my kitchen. We’ve had steamed crab, crab louis, crab cocktail, Thai hot pepper crab, and crab wonton soup. I am sick unto death of crab, poor me. But it’s what we’ve got, and hoarding it isn’t really practical. So we find ever more ways to consume it.

Back in October, it was tomatoes. Here in Northern California, we had a wierdly cool summer and the tomatoes didn’t come in until late September, at which point they went madly insane. My local organic biodynamic tomato grower was selling them for $1 per pound. They weren’t pretty, but they were tasty and there were lots of them. I know all the ways to eat tomatoes, trust me.

And by the way, consuming what you’ve got is not just about eating. I used up a bunch of yarn this fall making the most adorable felted hats, which I am now giving as gifts. Virgo Man and I had the old wedding rings lying around, so we used those up too. I have not bought hand lotion all year – just used the partial tubes and bottles that had been buried at the far back of the bathroom cupboard. Once you get into it, disposing of “collections” is fun and rewarding!

So that’s it, World of Dreamers – the first four of my Top 8 Ways to Save Money. Care to share yours? Leave a comment below.

And…Merry Christmas. May your day, and all the days to come, be merry and bright.


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  • Jayne I have really learned a lot from you about, uh, me this year and how I handle finances. No more credit, not really by choice but by no one giving me any more. So there is that. its easy to know what to do and how to do it if you live so close to break even, not a lot left over to splurge on things like goat cheese! I LOVE GOAT Cheese Cath! Maybe 2012 is all about figuring out ways to manage and save and have a little of what we want all at once. I’m in. Can’t wait till Saturdays post to finish the list. xo Rem

  • Merry Christmas Jayne … oh how I love your posts.

    I pull cash for my weekly budget and don’t carry an ATM card. When the cash is gone, we are done for the week.

    My ex actually handled Christmas this year and all of our gifts are very practical (things we really need and can use).

    I get PG&E alerts and run around turning lights off and keeping the heat down so our bill stays close to the same amount each month with no surprises.

    When there is a choice of something for me or something for my son, my son gets to have it. Now people would say that you should put your own mask on first blah blah but you are only young once and he’s a great, deserving kid. I always think about those women who were so concerned about their looks that they were dragging their kids to the gym daycare at night rather than being home with them winding down their evening and putting them to bed. I’d see them in the room while mom was running the treadmill, falling asleep over their homework, looking miserable. I remember thinking then that I wasn’t going to be that selfish of a mother, even though people would argue the exercise made the mother better able to care for her kids. What, she can’t do cardio in her living room? Cutting out that gym membership (which many people will start in Jan) is a great way to save money.

    I also try and plan the use of my vehicle so that anything I need to do is handled in one trip and if the weather permits, I will walk to the store.

    I do allow myself the more expensive goat cheese, but I just love it in my salad. So like you, if I am going to push my budget, it will be for something delicious to make for dinner …

    But tonight we are having Irish stew…. which I can turn into several meals over the next few days.

    xox Cath