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How Simple Routines Save Me A Lot of Money

how simple routines save me money

Guest post from Katie of Holidays for Less

I am not a “routine” person by nature. I am not a type-A personality or even very organized for that matter. But out of necessity, I had to start a few routines to keep myself (and my family) sane! Once I saw how my routines are not only saving me time but money, I forced myself to become a “routine” person!

So, how do my routines save me money?

Here are three simple routines I’ve implemented in my own life that have helped me save time and money.

1. Packing lunches the night before

I work outside the home, so I’ve gotten in the routine of making my lunch for the next day before I go to bed. I pack every single thing that I will need and put my whole lunch bag in the fridge.

Sometimes that means my popcorn or spoon sit in the fridge over night. I’m okay with that, because on the nights that I slack off and don’t pack my lunch, I always end up buying my lunch (and sometimes breakfast, too!) because there’s never enough time in the morning.

If I buy lunch, it runs about $6 and breakfast costs between $3-$4. That’s $10 a day! Start multiplying that by a month or even a year and the numbers get really ugly!

That savings is motivation enough to stick to my evening lunch-packing routine.

2. Fueling up on Sundays

Between my commute to work and standard errands around town, a tank of gas lasts me exactly one week. I used to just fill up whenever I needed; however, I found that many times, I would end up filling up on the highway, which is always the most expensive place for gas!

So I finally made myself get in a routine of filling up every Sunday. This way, I was in control of where I was when I needed gas.

Even if it’s a holiday week and I don’t use my car as much, I top my tank off on Sunday, to ensure I’m not stuck low on gas mid-week. I always use the same gas station because it is the cheapest in my area.

Since I have started this routine, I have never found myself just going to the nearest gas station and I have averaged a savings of about $15 per month.

3. Updating the budget daily (on my lunch break)

I am the keeper of the finances in my house, which means I keep our monthly budget updated. I used to keep my budget (an excel spreadsheet) on my home computer, but I would be too tired at night to update it, or I would just plain forget.

Then, the end of the month would roll around and suddenly I was in a panic looking back and what we’d spent and hoping we hadn’t gone over in our budget categories. Many months, not surprisingly, we had gone over, which meant less money going in to our savings account that month.

In an effort to fix this problem, I’ve now moved my budget to be housed on my work computer and gotten in to the routine of updating my budget during the first 5 minutes of my lunch break each day. I literally look at and update my budget Monday through Friday each week. Some days, I have nothing to enter and some days (like Mondays!) I have quite a few things to enter.

I’ve been in this routine for 5 months now and not only have we kept within our budget each month, but many months we’ve come in well under budget — allowing us to put even more money in savings. In fact, last month we received our car insurance bill for the year and instead of dipping in to the savings we have for that bill, we were able to pay it entirely out of our monthly income. This never would have been possible just 6 months ago!

Routines can be intimidating to the organizationally challenged, like myself, but if you can find a routine that doesn’t take much time out of your day and actually saves you money, I promise it will be much easier to stick to!

Katie is a wife and mother who loves a great deal and helping her family save towards their financial goals. In her spare time, Katie blogs at Holidays for Less, where she shares ideas and deals that will make parties, holidays and general entertaining easier on your wallet.

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  • Susan says:

    Good advice Katie.

    I do the same, only I pack the non-regrigerator items in my lunch box each evening, and then just add the refrigerator items in the morning. I find that if I take the time to prep fresh veggies twice a week — on Sunday and Wednesday — so I can just grab and go every morning, I’m 100% more likely to actually eat fresh veggies with my lunch.

    Have you considered google docs for you finances? That way you can access your stuff from either your home or work computer.

  • jennifer says:

    Love this post. I never thought about filling up my gas tank on Sundays before. That’s a great idea because I have to drive a lot for work and I’m closest to the cheapest gas station on Sundays. It always irritates me when I have to stop at a higher priced station mid-week.

  • Debbie says:

    This was such a good post! I felt like I needed MORE MORE MORE ways you have saved because of routine. I get some lunch prepped the night before but not consistently and sometimes it’s a mad rush. I love the gas one because not only will you save by buying at a cheaper station, it also causes you to think about what trips you can combine if you are running low and want to commit to not filling up till the designated day! I love the daily budget update too! Give us MORE!!

  • Sarah says:

    Great habits!! I recently read that the more things you can put on auto-pilot with habits, the more brain power you have left for the important decisions in your day.

  • Susan says:

    I completely agree with you about routines. I spent over an hour yesterday breaking apart large bags of nuts, kettle corn and pretzels into small snack size bags that I can take to work. It saves money and me calories (so I don’t eat too much at one time.) It’s annoying and boring but if I don’t separate everything at one time, someone will pig out with 8 servings in one sitting later on.

    I also make lunches the night before. I have been known to put the entire lunch bag in the refrigerator also. Sometimes, I pack whatever I can and leave the lunch bag on the counter. I will then put a post-it in the lunch bag “Don’t forget to pack cheese sticks, turkey sandwich” or whatever I needed to leave in the refrigerator.

    I gas up at Costco on the weekends. If I go really early, I beat the long lines.

    • Tabitha says:

      Each of my kids has a small plastic basket in the freg with their name on it – we place drinks and other cold items in that basket the night before. One of their “jobs” is to grab all the cold stuff and put it in their lunch with a cold pack (even my four year old can do it because only what he needs for his lunch is in the basket). Just an idea instead of having to write sticky notes:)

  • I am also learning to be a routine person! After being home with my kiddos for seven years, I am gearing up to go back to work next school year when my youngest starts kindergarten. At the beginning of this month, I sat and prepared my first ever monthly meal plan. During the week I planned meals that can be made ahead on Sunday so I can just throw them in the oven or crockpot. This way when I go back to work full time, I will already have a routine going for dinners. Fueling up on Sundays is a great idea! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Shannon M. says:

    Being organized is not my talent, but I am learning, albeit SLOWLY. I have been menu planning for years, but lately I have gotten into the groove, and have a cost saving and time saving routine. a. I have a coupon keeper that I update every Sunday when the paper comes out. It is a large recipe box from the office supply store, and it is filled with standard size mailing envelopes labeled with tabs for each category. b. Each week I plan: 2 chicken dishes, 2 beef or pork, 1 meatless, 1 budget, and 1 leftover. It takes the guesswork out of my menu planning, and offers a variety of foods. I simply “plug in” the ones I’v decided on, and write down what I still need. c. I write out the menu and post it on the bulletin board in the kitchen. This may not seem like a big deal, but when I didn’t post it, I made too many compromises. Once I posted it, I was committed, and the whole family has had a chance to look it over as well.
    At a time, when grocery bills have never been higher, mine has actually dropped quite a bit. I have gotten more confident, and now challenge myself to be more resourceful than before. I used to look at budgeting as a negative things, but now it is fun. And as someone before already said: it is easier to save money when you make daily decisions to be mindful of what you spend and consume.

  • kathy says:

    Great post, thank you! I have 1 routine to add: baking my own bread! I do not work outside the home as I am retired, so this might not be feasible for some. But I find I enjoy it and I usually make yeast rolls a little on the large side and we use them for sandwich rolls instead of loaf bread. My bread machine is a tremendous help, wouldn’t want to be without it!This is quite a savings as we go through at least two loaves of bread a week and with the “good” breads being close to $3.99 / loaf, that can be $8 a week for bread or buy the cheaper bread for $1.09. A bag of the best bread flour costs $4.95 and I buy my yeast in bulk from King Arthur for a fraction of the cost in stores. A bag of flour will make at least 48 LARGE rolls or about 80 small rolls.So : store bread= about 7 sandwiches for $3.99 vs. 48 sandwiches for $4.95 ! Of course you have yeast but I pay less than $6 for a year’s supply and some other minimals but still a great savings in my book! And this is per 48 sandwiches! If you catch your flour on sale that same bag of some brands could be under $2! I’m just spoiled to King Arthur.

    • Fay says:

      i love king arthur flour too. Also, by not driving to the grocery store each time you need bread, you probably save on gas money too.

    • Molly says:

      Our H-E-B has their own brand of bread, which sells for $.88 a loaf. I buy this instead of name brand and it tastes just as good. I am not a math person. Can you tell me, is my buying bread at this price cost effective? or would it be better to make my own bread? Would the cost be the same either way? I am usually the only person that eats the bread for lunch and stuff, the kids don’t really eat that much and my husband only eats it when we have breakfast. Although, I have always wanted to make my own bread. I love the smell of it when I walk in the store.

  • moneystepper says:

    I already do number 1 and 3, but making filling up gas a weekly routine is a great idea that I’d never really thought of. I tend to fill up when the gas is low, and you are right that this often leads to higher gas costs. Only a couple of pence a liter here and there, but it all adds up pretty quick with the price of gas these days…

  • Andrea says:

    I love the ideas…but I have one Side note question. where are these lunch kits available (shown in the photo) I NEED THESE!!!

    • Heather says:

      I’ve seen them at several different grocery stores lately, in the plastic bag section. Personally I have the ones from, and I like them a lot.

    • Susan says:

      Andrea, I’ve seen some lunch containers that look very similar at Fred Meyer, which is my local Kroger affiliate.

    • Susan says:

      Andrea, they’re Rubbermaid Lunchblox. Google images, and you’ll find lots of sources for them.

      • Andrea — as Susan (above) noted, these are Rubbermaid. I got a set from walmart last year in the lunchbox section. Bought it for my kindergartener but the lids were too hard for him to get off and the set was too big for his usual lunchbox. For an adult, they could be a good option, however. They don’t stack when stored and the little lids are small so can be lost easily……BUT, the icepack is AWESOME. The set ended up being a waste for us since I couldn’t use as it was intended for.

  • sue says:

    Great tips. I also make lunches at night, sometimes I take 2 at a time and leave in the frig at work. I also have a can of soup, applesauce, granola bars and oatmeal in my desk drawer as a back up plan. Keeps me away from the vending machines too.

  • Anna says:

    Love these tips, especially the budget one! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  • Jenna Jarmon says:

    How do you do your budget spreadsheet? That sounds so easy and wonderful!!
    Definitely going to remember these.

  • Susannah says:

    Katie, these are great ideas! I would love more detailed info someday on how you manage your budget.

  • Paula says:

    I use Google Drive and that way I can update my spreadsheet from wherever I am.

  • Stephanie says:

    Perhaps it is because of the industries my friends and I have worked in but having your spreadsheet on your work computer makes me nervous. If you are laid off/fired/come in on Monday to find all new computers, etc… you will not have away to get your information off the machine. Many places will not allow you to pack up your own desk let alone touch the tech when you are on your way out. I may be paranoid but the last few places I worked before kids always had security escort people directly to the parking lot after giving the bad news. It was simply policy to get potentially disgruntled ex-employees off site as fast as possible. Please make sure you have a current back up somewhere else.

    • Lisa says:

      I do the same thing with my budget on my breaks at work, but instead of keeping the budget spreadsheet on my work computer, I keep a small jump drive in my purse that I just plug in on my break. I will download/update the home computer as a backup a few times a week (probably should do this every day) in case I lose the jump drive. And I make sure to not have any personal info on it in case I do lose it.

  • Sara K. says:

    I love the idea of fueling up on Sundays. A tank of gas usually lasts me about a week or so. Fueling up every weekend would save me the headache of trying to stop on a weekday morning or evening when I’m in a rush!

    I do try to pack lunches the night before but am not always successful 🙂

  • Sbee says:

    These are great little routines that are non time consuming and best of all besides saving money is that it is fun for the whole family and is a great learning experience for our child taking the time to do the little things will add up to big savings VACATION HAHA thank you so much crystal for the tips

  • Jeny says:

    I do that but in even more crazed mode. I do my shopping on Sundays and I wash and portion all my produce, meats and everything into individual bags/tupperware. It takes hours after the grocery trip, but saves so much time on a daily basis with prep work. I just bag up individual lunch bags for a week in the fridge and can just grab and go. It also makes putting together quick and easy for a busy single mom. Another trick, make more than just what you need for that meal. Make extras and portion them out for really busy (or lazy) nights. No more excuses to hit the drive-thru!

  • Judy says:

    Your ideas are all great. Thanks! However, you should probably caution people to check with their employer to see if it is acceptable to have personal files on the work computer. Also, the downside of that is if you leave that place of employment, you may not be able to take the file with you. An alternative would be to have the file on your personal mobile device. Thanks again for the great ideas.

  • Mel says:

    Thanks for sharing these routines, Katie. I’ve recently started substitute teaching in addition to some freelance writing for the local paper, so my schedule has gone from home every day to here, there and everywhere! I’m trying to get the hang of needing to take lunch with me (I’ve always had lunch breaks that allowed me to leave work in the past), and a couple of times I’ve been on my way to an assignment when I noticed the gas tank was almost empty but I didn’t have time to stop. Definitely going to start instituting those two routines!

    Updating the budget daily…yeah, I need to do that as well. I just don’t want to do it. 😛

  • I love these ideas!! Thanks!! I never thought to fill up/topp off on Sundays…that is genius. We are out anyway headed to/from church so why not? Perfect.

  • Organize365 says:

    I am really looking at how to get my finances in check. I LOVE that you do this EVERY day at lunch. I am going to start trying that for both my home and work finances and mileage!


  • Molly says:

    These are such great ideas. I used to do all these things. When my husband had a set schedule at his job, I had everything in check, then they changed his schedule and everything got out of whack. But slowly but surely, we are getting back into that groove. I take lunch to work, or I make sure I have money saving coupons for restaurants when I want to treat myself to a nice work lunch or the family to a nice dinner in my purse at all times. I buy granola bars with my coupons and keep them in my desk at work so I don’t rush to the store for a quick candy fix during my breaks. I am bad at putting gas, I do it once the gas light turns on, which I should not do because I have put gas at one place and when I drive home, I see it for less. I would recommend downloading the Gas Buddy APP. I have some people that use it and they love it. Now that I have a better phone I will getting this APP. You have some great tips here, but like everyone else, I would be careful about putting your spreadsheet at your office computer. If you are going to do that, I would suggest getting a flash drive so you upload it from your office computer and then also, if you have a personal email account, email what you updated to your email that way you will have another backup. I do this with my pictures at work, we can have pictures on our computers, but I always make sure I send it to my personal email, in the event that something happens. Thanks for the great tips, I will be using these tips to get back into my routines at home.

  • Keri says:

    Have you heard of YNAB? It is an excellent budgetary tool that you can sync with your phone and your computer at home. This way, you never have an excuse not to enter your purchases into your budget. We have just started using it in the past couple of weeks, and it has created such a good help for us. It’s a great tool!

    Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  • Wafa says:

    i would really like to know how i can get those tupperware’s/storage containers in the images of this post! anyone know where i can buy them?

    • Carol says:

      I’ve found that gas prices tend to be best on Wednesdays. They begin going up on Thursday and Friday and hover around the same price until Monday then start declining. So, when possible, I fill up on Wednesdays.

    • Wafa — I posted this above but wanted to get you an answer directly too…
      This lunchbox set is by Rubbermaid. I got a set from walmart last year in the lunchbox section. Bought it for my kindergartener but the lids were too hard for him to get off and the set was too big for his usual lunchbox. For an adult, they could be a good option, however. They don’t stack when stored and the little lids are small so can be lost easily……BUT, the icepack is AWESOME. The set ended up being a waste for us since I couldn’t use as it was intended for.

  • Dallas says:

    Great tips Katie! Thanks for sharing. I am also a fan of packing my lunch the night before! Not only do you save money, but you eat healthier, too!

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