Little Things = A Bigger Savings Balance

(Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)

Brett and I are going to be mostly homebodies for the next couple of years with only local travel and trips planned. There’s one exception coming up though: a big family travel event is in the works for December 2023. We’ve already began to save for that.

While Brett and I have always maintained a separate travel account that we feed each month, we’re more inclined to save more when we have a specific goal and know how much we need to save to achieve that goal. We have a general idea right now of what next year’s Big Event will cost, and we have 15 months to pull together the funds to cover our expenses.

This time around we won’t have the option of selling any of our things to help plump up our savings. Instead, we will need to be steadfast in adding as much as possible, whenever possible, to our account each month in order to reach our goal, as well as look for new and different ways to save, even if they’re tiny. Just like small expenses here and there can quickly deplete the cash in your wallet, or the funds in your checkbook, small amounts of savings continually added to a balance can increase it rather quickly.

None of the little things we already do may seem like much, but they add up surprisingly quickly and have always helped us reach our travel goals:

  • We create a budget each month and stick to it! Many of our monthly spending amounts are set but with others we try whenever we can to spend less than what we budget, and put what’s left over into our travel savings. If we find a sustainable extra amount of leftover income in our budget over a few months we use it to increase the travel savings allotment. Brett and I practice zero balance budgeting; that is, every penny of our monthly income is “spent” each month which includes paying our savings. If we notice there’s money “left over” for a few months, we increase the regular allotment. Because the cost of living in Tennessee has been so much lower than it was in Hawaii, we’ve been able to increase our travel savings allotment by $100/month.
  • It’s almost like a game to us to find ways to spend less on groceries and less on our utilities. We food shop with a list and pay cash when we shop because the cash left over is always more than a credit card reward. We are near fanatical about saving energy and water. We do laundry only once a week (three loads), in cold water and using the precise fill level in the washer. We take five-minute showers. We cook with the air fryer or slow cooker whenever possible versus using the full oven or stovetop. We only use our A/C when absolutely necessary, and this winter our thermostat will be set at 60 degrees, like we did back in Portland, and we’ll bundle up.
  • We never spend any $1 bills or change we receive. Readers are probably sick of hearing about this by now, but we’ve been doing this for years and it really does add up. We’ve saved $53.67 in change and $1 bills just since we left Massachusetts on August 6, and hope to reach at least $100 by the end of the year. Next year we plan to start saving $5 bills as well to kick things up a bit. Any windfalls we receive, such as refunds or gifts, also go into our travel account. Annual cost-of-living increases, or at least most of them, go toward bumping up our travel savings allotment as well. The tiny income I receive from the blog goes directly to savings.
  • We aim for at least one no-drive day per week. This small effort provides at least 52 days in a year, more than seven weeks, that we’re not burning gasoline or putting wear and tear on our car. If regular gasoline expenses fall under what we budget each month, the difference goes into our travel savings.
  • We find ways not to spend. While we have budgeted a weekly treat for our granddaughter, Brett and I don’t stop for coffee; we make it at home. We eat out infrequently, and only if planned in advance. We buy clothing or shoes when necessary, the same for household goods. We don’t pay for streaming services – we share accounts with members of our family. We don’t buy books; we use the library. None of these things put money directly into our savings, but they do make a difference in our bottom line every month and what does go into our account. The items we do spend on are always included in our monthly budget.

Since we left Hawaii in early May, these little savings we’ve made have added and additional $890 to our travel account on top of the regular allotment (we were actually able to save while we were in Mexico, a change from our usual travel destinations). We’re ready to kick things up next year though, and know we can do better and save more. We’re already very motivated, especially whenever we think of the fabulous family travel event we’ll get to experience, financed in part by all these little ways we save.

12 thoughts on “Little Things = A Bigger Savings Balance

  1. not sure i could go as low as 60 – i would have to wear a hat in your place, my thermostat is set between 65-68 in the winter

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    1. We really do bundle up! I will wear a fleece jacket all day, wool socks, leggings, etc. Never had to wear a hat before, but I do have fleece headbands. We kept our thermostat at 58 degrees back when we lived in Portland, although Brett would turn it up to 64 for when the girls woke up (not much better but it helped some). We came to like the cooler temperature after a while and did adjust. I hope we can do the same again this year although we’re older now and the adjustment might not be as easy. Lowering the thermostat really made a BIG difference in our utility bill though, so in the end it was worth it.

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  2. Heating and AC are always a discussion with us. Our condo is really well insulated, so the bills have been pretty great, especially compared to our last house which had some significant draft issues even after an energy audit and update. We’ve been bundling up and using our gas fireplace for an hour to heat the great room for morning coffee, BUT, this morning it was 37 outside, so heat it is. 🤷‍♀️

    We expect one more warm spell. 🤞 But 60 is just a bit cold for me. There is an ongoing competition on the local FB page for who can keep their heat off longest. 🤣

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    1. We did have a gas fireplace in our Portland home, and for a while we would turn that on in the mornings. However, it made a noticeable difference in our bill when we turned off the pilot light!

      I think this time we may ease into 60 degrees gradually versus going cold turkey like we did before. Also, we plan to pick up a couple of fleece throws for our sofas, and I put one on my Christmas list. We did not have one of those before (the girls would have fought over it) and it would have helped.

      It’s getting cooler here day by day but so far it remains comfortable – I still haven’t needed a sweater or jacket. We did get a notice from the management that we might experience a slight burning smell when we turn on our heat for the first time so I guess some residents have already gone there. We’ll keep ours off for as long as possible.

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      1. Hmmm. I will say our gas bills have been about $20/month, and we have a gas stove and hot water heater, so I’m not sure about the pilot. Interesting though…will have to check it out.

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      2. So I checked on ours, and DH says we don’t have a pilot light on this new gas fireplace. It’s got some kind of spark ignition that operates with our remote and only fires the gas when it’s on. (Bad explanation but I’m kinda clueless on the technicalities of it. lol)

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      3. Our fireplace was old style with a pilot and turned on with a wall switch – thankfully we never had a power outage during the winter when we might have needed it (power out would have knocked out our regular heating as well). Remote controlled spark ignition was very high end back then, but I think all gas fireplaces use the technology now.

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  3. We are still running the AC here in S Cal but open windows as much as possible. This home despite added insulation is hard to heat so I am grateful that heating season is short. Congrats on your increased savings. It is always motivating to have a fun goal to work towards.

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    1. I grew up in Pasadena and I don’t remember the weather getting cool until sometime around late October. Septembers were brutal, with days often in the high 90s or over 100 degrees (and no A/C in the schools). And of course there were fires then as well because everything was so dry. But yes, there was a short cold season. Funny – I know we owned coats but I have no memories of ever wearing one! Anyway, no heat needed here yet – this morning was chilly at 51 degrees, but it’s still comfortable inside and I’m still in summer weight pajamas.

      Our daughter-in-law and I gamed out some costs for next year’s event and it’s going to be a genuine challenge for us because we only have a year versus two or three to get ready and we intend to pay cash for the entire thing. But, game on! I know if we’re dedicated we can reach our goal.

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  4. Love your tight budgeting for goals.
    Passive solar in your apartment? You will, most likely, have far more sunny days then Portland. Bubble wrap and blanket curtains on “cold windows” were key to keeping heat in. We do go to 70 at the heat of the day and 60 at night. Even with heat off our house never got lower then 58(with 20 degree sunny days in January). Slippers, wool sweaters, and good blankets are our friends.
    Looking forward to hearing where the family trip is going to be!

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    1. I think we will get more sun in the winter because the leaves will be off the trees behind us, which currently block a lot of the sun (actually better in the hot summer to keep it cooler inside). We will turn up the heat to 70 in the afternoons when our granddaughter is with us, but that will only be for a couple of hours and will help keep us a bit warmer in the evenings. Otherwise we will be bundled up in fleece and wearing wool socks with blankets over us.

      I only clue I can give for now is that next year’s family event will take place somewhere in CONUS!

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