If money grew on trees, we wouldn't need to work so hard at saving it. (Not spending it so much might help keep more money in your bank account, as well.) Because I suck at saving money (and it's possible someone else out there does, too), I asked the same folks graciously giving advice on making a home about how they've been able to save money over the years. Their tips are smart and may help you start saving a bit more.
Keep your eyes on the prize:
"I am in no position to be providing anyone with financial advice, however I do think that the old adage 'keep your eyes on the prize' offers some prudent advice. I think that the first step is figuring out what it is you want...setting really clear goals and aspirations and then ensuring that ALL and any financial decisions align with these goals and aspirations. There is enormous value in simply paying attention…"
— A. J. Berne has a passion for architecture and interior design that is evident in her 645 square foot home in Toronto.
"Everyone's relationship with money is different. What works for some may not work for you. For me, it was a gradual process on how I look at life now versus when I was in high school and out of college…all of which were during the excess of the mid-'80s. It's been a process for me, but in the end, it's all about 'The Big Picture.' Living in 450 square feet of space has made me realize what I really need in life, from the stuff I own, the clothes I wear and even the food I buy. If it doesn't fit in my home, I don't get it. Home = Life. The trick is finding a balance. It's never about a a diet, but a lifestyle change that will take you through life."
"Given I'm an artist and we sometimes live on one paycheck, saving is a real challenge. Living in Austin, our main investment is our home which has obligingly grown in value — representing latent savings.
But probably what has saved us the most is my penchant for bargaining. Naturally one cannot bargain for the electric bill, or mortgage, but we've saved a great deal on vehicles, vacations and goods and services. We bargain within reason — when a price is obviously too high or there is wiggle room.
We also have saved a great deal by shopping the thrift stores where you can find everyday items like AC filters or light bulbs for next to nothing."
— Carol Stall is an artist and jewelry designer, and we toured her and her husband Phil's charming 1930s Austin home.
Make it automatic:
"I think the easiest way to save money is to not see it. Set up whatever automatic savings you can. It's amazing how you adjust your spending to the amount of money that's available. Of course that will only work if you don't rely on credit. I use credit cards for most of my purchases in order to redeem rewards, but I pay them off every month. My mortgage is the only debt I'm carrying. Of course you need to make sure that you *can* pay them off every month. For help with that I use mint.com for tracking my expenses against budgets. It's a great program, and the mobile app allows me to track what cash expense I make as well."
— Tim Tripp has a passion for the history of decor and design that's present throughout his Toronto loft we toured.
"Saving money is extremely difficult but I have the money automatically withdrawn every pay week in small increments, and then a larger amount the same day as payday!"
Do it yourself:
"My husband and I are big on doing things ourselves if we can. I'm handy with the sewing machine, and he builds tables/wooden boxes/shelves and more, as required. This is often (though not always) a great money saver, especially where we need something to be a specific size. When we need something for the home, we will try to think 'outside the square' and come up with a solution that we can make ourselves. This includes repurposing or rejuvenating older things. I've learned that paint is a great way to freshen something up. When we moved in to this house, I was not very excited about some of our older furniture. We considered replacing it, but ended up repainting them. Our bed was a honey colour pine timber. We removed the decorative elements on it and painted it white. I love it now. We did the same thing with our dining chairs, the cot, and an old timber-framed arm chair.
Having simple taste is also a great money saver! We really noticed that when we built this house. The simpler furnishings were often less expensive. Having said that, wherever we can, we try to buy things that are durable, so that we don't need to replace them due to wear and tear. Sometimes it's a tricky balance between cost and quality!
Also, even though I love shopping for the home, I try to avoid buying in to trends. I love things with a timeless quality, and often ask myself if I will still love it in fifteen years time."
Cook more, shop less:
"My recipe is eating more often at home instead of eating out; I have not perfected this recipe yet but it's coming along.
Shopping trips are also difficult to avoid. I am a window shopper, and sometimes I give in. Now I am trying not to buy something just because it is a good deal — it took me quite a while to come to that realization."
More great advice:
*These interview responses have been edited for length and clarity.