As newlyweds MJ and I had to learn new ways to save money. The ones I have listed below are so helpful, and they do not require you to make drastic changes to your life.
1. Create a budget and stick to it.
If you don't have a plan, you will never be able to spend less. Make a budget, and decide where all of your money will go - no matter whether it is spent or saved. Include monthly costs (rent, groceries, gas, etc.) and budget for unexpected expenses (car parts, school expenses, etc. - for us it was my repeated doctor visits). A budget is useless if you do not keep up with it. Consistently check to ensure that you are staying within your limitations. If you don't know how to make a budget, find an older or more experienced person who does and ask them to help you.
2. Communicate about spending.
Because MJ keeps up with our budget and accounts, I usually consult him before I spend more than $20. He has never asked me to do this, but I am glad that we talk about finances. Our friends who did our marriage counseling told us that money is one of the main instigators of arguments in marriage. There is no need to put additional stress on your spouse by spending money that you don't have. I never want to do that to MJ, so we talk about what we feel like we can spend.
3. Don't go to the mall.
This may seem silly, but there is a larger principle behind it. Generally, you won't want it if you don't see it. Stay away from places like the mall when you don't have extra money to spend. The goal of every store is to get you to buy something. "Window-shopping" when you are trying to save is a terrible idea. And to all the ladies out there - limit your time on Pinterest when you're broke. Pinterest is a virtual mall. It is filled with unusually expensive outfits, home decor, and jewelry that you don't need. Don't tempt yourself if you're trying to save!
4. Sleep on purchases over $45.00.
The best way to know if you really need or want something is to sleep on it. You can usually tell within two or three days if this would be an unnecessary impulse buy or if you actually need it. Also, don't make huge purchases alone. Consult your spouse to see what he/she thinks. They may think of a large upcoming expense for which you need to save.
5. Figure out how you relate to cash.
If you tend to spend cash when you have it, only keep enough cash with you for three or four tips at restaurants (in case you use a gift card). Some people like us are less likely to spend dollars here and there (which usually adds up quickly) if they do not have cash with them. If you are less likely to spend money when it is in your pocket instead of your account, keep the money you have budgeted for that week in your wallet.
6. Eat at home.
Eat lunch and dinner at home whenever possible. It is usually much cheaper (and healthier) to cook something for dinner than go out, and it is nearly always cheaper (and healthier) to eat lunch at home. Fast food is no exception. You usually spend as much as you would at home or more (a ChickFilA combo is usually between $5-$7 per person).
We've discovered the joy of eating leftovers in the past year. It is a good feeling to know that you are saving money and still getting what you need.
When you do go out to eat, order water & share meals when reasonable. Go to restaurants where you will get your money's worth (Macaroni Grill gives you as many loaves of bread as you want, and you're guaranteed leftovers!).
7. Get Netflix instead of cable.
We have not missed cable one bit. I realized that it took up way too much of my time anyway. There is more than enough to watch on Netflix (movies, TV series, documentaries, etc.), and it saves you money. A fun date night idea is to get a $5 pizza from Little Caesar's & watch two documentaries on something you're each interested in. You're sure to learn something (about each other and some random topic) and laugh. And you only spend $5.00!
8. Only use coupons on items that you will use.
You could give me a coupon for $4.00 off a $5.00 jar of olives. I could use that and buy a food that I hate and will never ever eat, or I could save the dollar and buy organic tomatoes (which I will use) instead of regular ones. Do not use coupons to get food or items that you will not use. You end up with alot of stuff you will never use and you have spent a little money here and there that adds up in the end. What's the use of being Couponing Queen of the Universe if you will not use what you buy? Don't use coupons for the sake of using coupons. You may spend more than you need to spend. That being said, try to use good coupons. If you have a coupon that will get you a pound of ground beef for $1 (what a dream), use it and find good recipes that require ground beef.
9. Designate a "No-Spend Day" each week.
Pick one day out of the week that will be your "No-Spend Day." Do not spend any money on that day. It is alot easier than you think. Spending less is all about getting creative & accomplishing what you need to by spending less. Use creativity and see how much you can do for free on No-Spend Day. For example, on Tuesdays you could eat breakfast at home, go to the Dixon Gardens & Art Gallery after 10am for free (ok, maybe donate a dollar), then go to the zoo, eat a packed picnic lunch there, and finish off the day biking around Shelby Farms. FOR FREE.