Making money is just a part of life… and saving some of that hard earned money is a really smart idea for a rainy day (or retirement… or a new truck… or a new baby. Get my drift?)
Saving money is something my husband and I have agreed we want to do in 2021 and it has been an adventure this first month evaluating our finances and spending.
Like many things, I’m writing this post after many hours of personal research and coming up short. I didn’t think I’d have to do a deep dive to learn about less obvious ways to save money, but apparently I did!
The good news for you is that it’s all compiled into a giant list of ways to be frugal as a first responder family!
Planning for taxes? Here’s what you need to know about saving and submitting your taxes as a first responder family!
Check It Right Now!
Yall, yall. YALL.
Back in my banking days I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people that would come crying to my desk because they had overdrawn their account and didn’t understand how it happened.
And Every Single Time it was because of charges they either A. didn’t approve or B. didn’t remember it was coming out of their account.
If you are looking to save money, you’ve got to PRINT every one of your statements for every account and every card. I promise you, you will find at least ONE thing coming out of your account that you had forgotten about or didn’t approve of ( and it’s happened to me- and I know better!) Let’s just say that when I did this for the first time in three years, I was SHOCKED at what we were spending money on that we didn’t need or want!
This is one of those things you should be doing every 6 months (oops! this is my top priority now!), and a starting point for anytime you are trying to save money.
Just do this and keep your money you already have!
Move It Around
Growing up I attended school at, quite literally, one of the poorest schools in the USA. And there was a math teacher that knew this, so He made it a priority to transform our Algebra 2 class into a class about financial literacy every tuesday (God Bless you Coach Graham!)
He taught us about balance transfers, and how, with the right strategy, you can move debt around between credit cards without accruing any interest.
In the most basic terms, you apply for a card that has a zero interest APR, and once approved, you transfer your balance from your other card that has an interest rate, to the new zero APR card.
This can A. allow you to pay off the balance without paying interest (preferred) or B. allow you to just move debt around every 12-24 months.
What should you look for?
You should choose a card with a LOW balance rate transfer, and with an introductory APR of 0% for at least 18 months.
Choose this option wisely by making sure to review your terms and conditions and continue to pay off your cards when you have the chance!
Ask for Discounts!
There’s a time and a place to ask for discounts, and if they have something for first responders, you should ask!
This includes places like Tmobile with their first responder plan, to GovX where you can buy a lot of wacky stuff for cheap (mostly just for the oakleys) and theme parks! (not disney, but seaworld, legoland and sometimes Universal!)
Stick it to your Budget
We know that lack of sleep and high stress situations can lead to lower self control. So it’s no surprise that many Fire Families can make some impulse purchases– after all- the job isn’t exactly great for sleep and low stress.
Sticking to a full cash diet or even a modified diet can save on impulse purchases.
How does a cash diet work?
A cash envelope system has been revolutionary for many people, myself included. What’s so great about a cash envelope system? Well, if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it! Debit cards and credit cards should be placed in separate containers of ice in the fridge (or closed completely) and cash should be budgeted for the majority of your bills- especially the small expenses like eating out and home improvement.
But Charisty, with the Rona lots of places went cashless. What now?
That’s where a Modified Cash Diet comes in (which is what we personally use). We deleted all the saved credit cards from our phones, we disconnected apple pay, and made it a priority to leave our debit card at home and our credit cards are stored safely in the freezer.
Modified Cash Diet:
💵 Credit cards all frozen in water in the freezer but ( LEFT OPEN to keep your credit score up!)
💵 Debit Card left at home unless necessary (we put a $10 in the car for emergency gas)
💵 Deleted Saved Card numbers from our phones
💵 Disconnected Apple Pay/samsung pay
💵 Use Cash when comfortable/available
We did make an exception to this (And I believe everyone should make a plan that works best for them) and we left my RedCard DEBIT card connected. This means it goes straight to our bank account and I have to check the account before I spend any money.
To avoid temptation I just delete the app when I don’t need it so I can’t get random notifications on good deals for things I ‘have to have’. And the RedCard from target saves me 5% on every purchase (and thats ended up to be a lot of money!)
We’ve got the Disney Plus. We’ve got the OG Netflix. We’ve got subscriptions for sports and TV and Youtube and music. (and then I need a subscription to manage my storage to watch all of these videos I downloaded!)
Seriously, there’s a lot of options for watching and listening and reading- but how many of these are you using?
Yes, yes, I know it’s only like 10 bucks a month for this one and 20 for this one.
The issue is when you’ve got like 6 of these and all of a sudden your paying 100 BUCKS a month for “things that were supposed to be cheap and budget friendly”
What’s the solution?
It’s simple! Just rotate your subscriptions!
Here’s how it works. Cancel everything but two options for the month. Use those two options. Then at the end of the month, cancel one or both of your current options, and sign up for another option.
Really, you don’t even need to cancel. You can just pause them ( I DON’T recommend you do that option where you pause for 1, 2, or 3 months because it will sneak up on you) Instead just pause or cancel and then resign up when your ready.
It’s also kinda fun because you’ll binge watch whatever your about to cancel and then look forward to it when you resubscribe!
Them Eats add up BIG TIME
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Shift day, and Firefighter takes a meal to work to heat up (or cook) while there.
But, between the calls, the training, and more calls. It’s 8 pm and instead of eating food brought to the station, Firefighter just grabs a bite to each from the local fast food place.
Now if you look at what your Firefighter got for the price, you’ll see that the nutrition sucks (there’s studies that show you reduce your cancer risk by eating home cooked food) and it cost more than you can make it yourself.
BUT BUT BUT- I dont have the TIME!
Ok, here me out. If you dont have the time, pay for a meal kit or meal delivery Even if it’s the same price as what you’d pay for fast food.
Because at least then the NUTRITION is there and will pay off in the long run. Don’t think about food as just food. Think about food as long term health.
What can you do to make sure you stay healthy well into your elderly years? Manage your food, sleep and stress levels!
Fast Food= bad nutrition + costs 10 dollars.
Meal Prep= good nutrition + costs 5 dollars.
Meal Delivery = good nutrition + costs 9 dollars.
Pay more monthly but save in the long run
When your looking to save money, one of the things you look at is your fixed monthly expenses- and this includes insurance.
It can be tempting to lower your coverage or increase your deductibles but that is actually the OPPOSITE of what you should be doing?
whatttt? Am I blowing your mind right now?
Ok- back to my state farm days- I saw this play out in real life. Family is on hard times so they increase their deductible (to 1000 dollars on auto), decreased their policy coverage, and eliminated some of their life insurance policies. Wouldn’t you know that later that year they FORGOT to increase their insurance again and the husband died!
I know right?! they wanted to save money but it actually cost them SO much in the long run. Now they had to pay out 1000 deductible, had less coverage for medical bills, and had less life insurance because they had fallen on hard times.
The best option would be to decrease your deductible (to 100 or 250) so that you have to pay out less. After all, the deductible is what you have to pay to the insurance company to get your benefits if you need them. You want that to be lower especially when you’re already pinched for cash because that will be a hard hit to your savings.
If the insurance is too much, consider what you need to do in the next few years to downsize? Less vehicles? Smaller House?
DIY for the buggies
I know your tired of hearing about all of my previous career escapades, but I also used to work in Pest Control!
The thing is- if you know you’ve got a problem, and there’s an easy solution, wouldn’t you just do it yourself?
That’s the idea behind DIY pest control when it comes to minor things like roaches, spiders and fleas (but bed bugs are something you’ve got to get professional help for and ASAP)
I’ve been using DIYpestcontrol.com and I love it! They have lots of great help, informative articles, quick shipping AND some good organic options which I prefer to use when available. we live next to a lake and I like to follow the rules about run off!
This isn’t a paid advertisement or anything- I just appreciate how easy they’ve made it considering I had to take this crazy long course and test to get certified. Yes, there’s still things I might need a professional for, but most things can be done yourself! ESPECIALLY the preventative care of your house and lawn!
Prevention is key to keeping a low pest control budget, so make sure you treat for roaches and fleas (BEFORE!) so that it doesn’t end up costing you $$$$ in the long run!
Shop the off season for next season
This is one of my favorite hacks, and I’ve saved it for last because it’s the easiest to do!
Simply shop the sales at stores (box stores, thrift stores, online stores) when the season is about to end, and save it up for next year.
This works with clothes, this works with decorations, and most importantly, this works with gifts!
I use my phone and have a note of gifts or things I need, then I set timers to check the end of season sales. My timers are feb 1 for winter, july 15th for summer, december 26th for holidays.