So far in this series we’ve looked at ways to save money by being…
The final 4 C’s Strategy overlaps with #3 but I’ve kept them separate since each one has it’s own main focus.
Being counter-cultural in our approach to money helps us zero in on our own goals and work towards them without being influenced by what culture says we’re “supposed” to do. Once you’re comfortable going against the cultural grain, it becomes easier to come up with all kinds of creative money-saving ideas that are unique to your own situation.
The 4 C’s: Strategies for Living on Less
Strategy #4 – Be Creative
To help make our one-income, homeschooling lifestyle possible we’ve sometimes had to get a little innovative. Some of the following ideas are more “outside-the-box” than others and some would only work in certain situations. The key is to think about each area of your spending and brainstorm ways to do it cheaply but still effectively.
Here are some of the ways we’ve saved over the years:
Negotiate in “non-negotiable” situations
Prices for things like furniture and electronics aren’t as “set” as stores would like you to believe. This works best if you save up so you can pay in cash. It never hurts to try!
Be willing to compromise
Save money by getting the floor model that’s 99% new-looking (after one week in a house with kids no one will be able to tell the difference anyway). We ended up getting our entire downstairs carpeting free when we noticed a small defect in the product. They offered to replace or refund and, since the defect was hardly noticeable, we decided to save the $900!
During certain seasons of life you may be able to save in ways that you’d never considered possible before. When our second car was costing us more than it was worth, we realized we could make one car work for a while. We held off on buying a new one and ended up having only one car for several years – saving on gas, maintenance and insurance – before eventually going back to two cars.
Use lesser-known alternatives
For example, instead of paying for high-priced phone contracts, check into services like Skype or Tello which aren’t traditional but offer super low-priced options that work for many situations. Medical insurance is another huge expense. When we found out our insurance costs were going to double (it was going to be more than our mortgage!!) we started using Medishare and it was literally 1/6 the monthly premium cost for our new plan. It’s worked well for us so far and saved us thousands of dollars. Whatever the topic, search for alternatives and see what options you can find!
Barter with friends and family
We do yard work for my neighbor in exchange for free milk and snacks. My parents used to trade babysitting so my mom and her friend could each continue their respective part time jobs. My sister’s friend designed a brochure for a landscaper in exchange for free landscaping. Think about what you need and what you have to offer.
Find shortcuts for the little stuff
Time your Shutterfly photo album purchases with their free book coupon codes. Save up your credit card points for Christmas gifts. Learn basic sewing and home maintenance from YouTube so you don’t have to hire those out. Buy clothes that aren’t dry clean only. There are tons of ideas out there for money-saving shortcuts. The Common Cents Club has a lot of great tips for frugal living.
Reuse & upcycle
Before you throw out containers like glass jars or shipping boxes, think about their possible uses. Our garage, utility room and art supply closet are filled with repurposed pickle jars and shipping boxes. And my kids regularly use their box of recycled containers for making all kinds of contraptions and crafts.
Do your math
Don’t sign up for subscriptions and memberships unless you know for sure it’s saving you money! The same is true for pool passes and museum memberships. For example, after using Amazon Prime for a while, we realized we were spending more with it than without it, so we quit! If you’ll use it enough to make it worthwhile then go for it but don’t sign up without doing the math first.
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Two final thoughts as I close out this series:
- The first time through, these 4 C’s Strategies work best in order.
- After that, they all become lifelong, ongoing pursuits (as a homeschooling mom I’m obligated to remind you to be a lifelong learner 😀).
Increasing your knowledge about finances (Strategy #1) will help you understand where your money is going and how and where you can best find ways to save.
Having a cautious approach to money (Strategy #2) and minimizing unnecessary financial temptations are important so you’re not wasting effort or working against yourself.
Learning to be comfortable going against the cultural norms (Strategy #3) isn’t easy but it’s so freeing (and if you’re homeschooling or planning on starting, going against the grain is something you might as well get used to).
Once you’ve paved the way with the first three strategies, you can let the creative ideas flow (Strategy #4) as you customize the tactics you use for meeting your financial and life goals. Different ideas will work better during different seasons of life so keep trying new money-saving methods.
If homeschooling or other life situations have reduced your income or you just want to steward your finances well, I hope some of these ideas have helped you! Where there’s a will, there’s a way to make it work!
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