Money Saving Tips from Laura
Over the years I’ve mentioned a number of my wife’s money-saving hacks on the podcast and the community has always wanted more! Laura was kind enough to write up some tips for the FI Weekly:
“Hello FI Weekly readers! Laura here making a guest appearance and taking over the FI Weekly this week! I thought it would be fun to jot down a quick list of some of my tips for making your life with family a little easier, less expensive and less stressful:
- Until the age where your kids start caring about their clothes/shoes (maybe somewhere between 10-13 years old?), don’t bring them shopping with you! I never took my girls shopping with me when they were younger. You don’t need a 5-year-old demanding the $60 Nike sneakers when the $30 Pumas will be just as good. When I see a pair of sneakers that I know my child would like, I go ahead and buy them in the next size up too. So, the next time she needs shoes, we just pull them out of the closet.
- Batch cooking! This is something you need to be doing whether you are making dinner for 1 person each night or 6. Whenever you cook something and you’re not rushed for time, just make double or triple! It’s a small extra time investment for a big benefit and almost all food tastes just as good if you freeze it and eat it a few weeks later. If you are making a lasagna on a Sunday afternoon, make a second one and put it directly in the freezer. The weather is cooling off and it’s easy to do this with soups and stews. You will be patting yourself on the back a few weeks later when you pull a delicious meal out of the freezer.
- Another spin on batch cooking: find a versatile meat (or some other protein – fish, vegetables, tofu) that your family likes. This might be grilled chicken, pulled pork or chicken, taco meat, etc. Make several pounds of it and use it for various meals throughout the week. For example, if you made grilled chicken, you can use it for sandwiches one night, pair it with a baked potato & vegetable another night, put it on top of salads a third night, make it into tacos or nachos, pair it with sauce & pasta another night, etc. So many options!
- Two of my favorite easy dinners: (a) Rotisserie chickens from the grocery store (or Costco)! When I haven’t made a plan for dinner, I often go to the grocery store and quickly grab one of these chickens. Take 5 minutes to throw some baked potatoes in the oven and make a frozen vegetable or a salad and you have a great meal. (b) Breakfast for dinner!! Our family rarely sits down to a big breakfast (even on weekends), but we love breakfast food. Solution: Breakfast for dinner. It’s usually simpler than cooking a “regular” dinner, in my opinion. I always try to include eggs to get some good protein, and also because my 10-year-old loves to cook eggs and I’m happy to outsource the job to her. We’ve decided to make this a weekly thing in our house and everyone is enjoying it.
- Know your schedule: If your family is on the go a lot and sitting down to a family dinner is just not possible, plan for that! During the summer when we are at the pool a lot, I have a lot of “pool food” options in the house ready to mix and match and be brought to the pool for dinner. This includes salads with chicken, sandwiches, sliced rotisserie chicken & pasta salad, etc.. For when you’re truly “on the go,” things you can grab for kids to eat in the car or parents to eat while waiting at a child’s sports practice/game: sandwiches, hardboiled eggs, cut up fruit and veggies, small containers of pasta salad, or breakfast burritos that you’ve premade and reheated from the freezer, etc., are just a few examples.
- Lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff. Save money on the big stuff like housing, cars and food and then don’t worry about every little $10-20 expense, especially if you value it. If your child’s school is selling yearbooks for $20 and they really want it, don’t stress over it, just buy one! My girls seriously pull out all of the yearbooks going back 9 years to when my oldest was in kindergarten and look through them ALL the time. They are priceless. A friend asks you to go out for coffee or lunch – go and enjoy, don’t focus on the $5-15 it’ll cost you. Spending time with friends is so important for us mentally and money shouldn’t be a factor for these small outings. Saving on the big stuff allows us to say yes to the little things without stressing about them.
Google Chrome Safety and Essential Extensions
A few months ago, I highlighted some essential tips and tricks to be more efficient with Gmail, and today I wanted to pass along 2 great twitter threads I found for the Google Chrome browser:
- “7 Chrome settings you need to change immediately” for safety and security, by Zaafir Salam. Many of these are extremely quick to check on and update, so please take a look at this list.
- Logan Storti’s thread “Here are 13 extensions that you shouldn’t live without” included some gems like Loom, Grammarly and ScribeHow. This list is slightly geared towards online creators, but I think anyone can get value from it.
My favorite little-known extension is called “Fast Dial,” which is basically a visual representation of bookmarked pages.
When I open a new tab in Chrome, it is set so Fast Dial shows up instead of a blank tab or some other URL location.
I currently have 27 websites bookmarked (from ToDoIst to our ChooseFI Facebook group to my solar panel monitoring login, and a whole lot in between) and they show up as tiles on that tab so I can quickly navigate to any of them with one-click.
It isn’t revolutionary in theory, but in practice it’s the most important extension I have installed.
What’s your favorite extension that makes your life better?
ChooseFI Community Taking Action This Week
- Pino said, “My 1% better this week was using travel rewards for the first time. I opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred card less than a year ago and I didn’t think about using the points for an upcoming trip until listening to your most recent podcast revisiting using travel rewards. After logging into the Chase website, I saw that I could get three nights at the Hyatt I chose through Chase for 62,000 points. Then I saw that Hyatt is one of their partner hotels. On the Hyatt website the cost was only 12,000 points per night. I was able to transfer the points to Hyatt and get three nights for 36,000 points. In doing so I saved over $800 as well as 26,000 points by booking directly through Hyatt rather than Chase!”
- Cory said, “This week my 1% was starting a new job…that is part time. Financially, a 50% pay cut is hard to argue as a 1% improvement, but because of the lessons from ChooseFI, my wife and I reached Coast FIRE, and so I was able to cut back my working hours to have more time with our pre-school kids and work on my side hustle. I am a pharmacist by trade, but also write and speak professionally and have been growing that the last couple of years. While putting the gas pedal down and pursuing full FIRE was an option, I can’t buy these years back with me kids. Thanks for the guidance to help our family get here!”
- Gina said, “My 1% better this week was breaking down the math to show my husband how much we win by maxing out his 401k rather than just doing the match. I broke it down to numbers he can understand: a) what we won’t see in the account for the month and b) how much more will be invested. Because we are higher income earners (but still with student loans) maxing out the 401k leads to ~$800 less in our checking account, but ~$1,140 MORE in his 401k. Once he realized it was essentially a free $340/mth he was getting, he was on board to try.”
- Kevin said, “My 1% was to ask the kitchen renovation company whether they had any “flexibility” in their kitchen renovation proposal/estimate. I received a response that I would receive 10% off (valued at $1200) because I was a repeat customer (I used this same company several years ago at a previous home, now rental). The power of simply asking for a price reduction is amazing! I regularly asked if a store offers military discount (I’m a military retiree) and often times, they provide a military discount when asked. I used to feel “cheap” by asking… now I feel like it’s just smart to ask!”
- Suzanne said, “My 1%: My oldest child just started her senior year in High School. In addition to looking at various colleges, I’ve been in correspondence with a financial aid officer at her dream college to narrow down what our expected contribution would be for her expenses. My daughter wants to apply there early for a better chance of getting in, but can’t let her do that and be locked into that college unless I’m certain that we can afford it. The admissions officer has been great at answering questions ranging from how home equity is factored to how outside scholarship money is applied (this particular school would use any outside scholarship $ against any of my daughter’s institutional loans and work study contributions but not our parent contributions). Podcasts and fb groups like choose fi have been critical in helping me know the right questions to ask. If my daughter applies and gets into her dream college, we’ll be more than ready for the bill.”
- Betsy said, “My 1% better this week was that I fixed BOTH of our cars’ hatches–one wouldn’t stay up, and the other wouldn’t open at all. I am not a mechanic, and we don’t do any car maintenance ourselves. But I was able to watch enough YouTube videos to replace the struts (with $28 replacements!) that hold up the hatch on my 2010 SUV, and to fix the handle on my husband’s 2007 compact car with some maneuvering and silicone spray. I can’t imagine what these repairs would have cost at the dealership!”