5 Small Ways to Save $235 Per Month

I was contacted recently by the producer of a local NRP show, the Sound of Ideas, about being on a panel of experts to discuss how to live frugally.

She started our conversation by asking me a tough question, “Why are you frugal?”

Before I could answer her question, I told her that I needed to define some terms.

“Being frugal is often misconstrued as being cheap. But I don’t think frugality is about never spending, never treating myself. For me, frugality is about living within your means, and doing it intentionally. It’s about spending and saving ON PURPOSE – with forethought and intention.”

“So why am I frugal? It’s because my husband and I have all kinds of financial goals for our family, and the only way to meet them on our income is to stay focused on all the little and big decisions we make.”

Which leads me to the point of this post: What are some of those little decisions that you can make in order to save (intentionally) in a big way?

Today, I’m going to share five small changes we made — and you can, too — to cut as much as $235 out of our monthly expenditures. (Your mileage may vary; these numbers are based on the real savings we saw when we implemented these changes.)

  1. Get rid of our landline. We switched to a VOIP option 5 years ago and haven’t looked back. Until now, when I calculated our savings over the last 5 years.  Roughly $2000, or $35 per month. And that’s a conservative estimate.
  2. Keep a bag of snacks and a bottle of water in your purse and another set in the car. This is small stuff, remember? But so often, I am out running errands or taking kids to soccer games and someone is HUNGRY. Buying a small bag of pretzels at the gas stations costs $1.39. Taking one from my pantry costs $.25. You do the math! (And you can save even more by making your own single-serve bags with ziplocs, rather than buying them pre-packaged.)
  3. Use Wifi, not Data, for non-essential apps on my smart phone phone, including YouTube, Facebook, and any and all games my children have downloaded to my phone. I also turned off WiFi Assist last year, which saved me a bundle. I keep my data as low as possible this way – saving about $35 a month for our two phones over the next data level.
  4. Menu plan. More than couponing, more even than cooking for scratch, menu planning has been the best way to keep our grocery spending under control. In the months that I menu plan, we spend on average of $120 less than the months that I don’t menu plan. ‘Nuff said.
  5. Keep a price book. As long as we’re talking about saving on groceries, I have to sing the praises of price books yet again. Don’t buy that jar of tomato sauce at your local grocery store for $4, when you can pick it up down the road at Target for $1.80 (or on Amazon for $1.60). I don’t know the “buy now” price of every item I ever purchase, but by knowing about 75% of them, I easily save $40 a month. (If you’re new to price books, I made you some free printables to get you started.)

Did you find this post helpful? Let me know and I will be happy to share more of my savings strategies.

I’d love to include your suggestions tips for small ways to save big as well. Please share in the comments!


  1. Buy fresh produce at ethnic grocery stores (Mexican, Asian, Middle-eastern, European – whatever you have) rather than supermarkets. It is always cheaper for the same ‘conventionally-grown’ stuff.
    Start using mint.com to track everything – and you will see exactly how much you’re spending on what. It’s the greatest tool our family has to knowing how much we’ve spent on ‘food’ (or any other category) over the last month/year/etc. Our 10-year old son tells me that I should start being a spokesman for mint 🙂

  2. Yes, I’ve come across some of these tips over the past year almost by accident. It’s so helpful to share the knowledge when you have it.

    Other things we’ve done:
    Switch to a no-name phone carrier. We have the same network as AT&T, but for $65 less.
    Don’t go shopping while you’re hungry. (See Mara’s second tip.)
    Buy clothing at the end of the season for next year.

  3. Such great tips. Thank you Mara. I know it’s obvious, but so many people just throw out the weekly flyers for the local stores. I wont shop in every store that has sale items cuz my time and gas is also valuable, but I decide each week where Ill shop based on who has the best *most needed* things on sale. I also shop on Wednesdays because the stores have double ad day ie double the sale items.

  4. Swallow your pride and buy store brands for certain items. I’ma brand snob but have lately started going generic on certain things (like pasta) that are consistently cheaper than the name brands even on sale. I’ve even gone generic on babywipes (aldi brand) as they are significantly cheaper than anything else, including a box from costco.

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