New year, new you, right? January is more than six months in the past, but the start of a new school year is the perfect opportunity to ditch your bad habits.
Are you ready to start fresh?
10 Smart Habits to Save Money and Reduce Costs During the School Year
1. Repurpose What You Have
Be honest. How many mix-matched sets of curtains do you have in boxes?
Many military families collect several different types of curtains, towels, shelves and storage solutions over the years. When every house you live in is slightly, or majorly, different, it’s tempting to get new things.
Instead of shopping at the PX for new stuff, pull out what you already have.
Reusing or repurposing things you already own works for school supplies too. Try to use last year’s backpack and lunchbox. Try on clothes to see what still fits.
2. Ditch the Plastic Bags
I’ve got a huge stash of plastic brown commissary bags sitting under my sink. They’re great when I walk the dog or need to collect wet bathing suits. But I really don’t need quite so many.
Instead of collecting plastic shopping bags, make the switch to reusable grocery bags.
Pick up a few eco-friendly shopping bags at the commissary or PX. They’re usually located near the cashiers. Local grocery stores also sell fabric bags. You’ll love using your Sprouts bag in Okinawa!
If you forget your bags at home, reuse the plastic bags to pick up dog waste, pack lunches or tote wet bathing suits home from the pool.
You can also recycle plastic bags at the commissary. Look for the collection bins near the front of the store.
3. BYOBottle of Water
Buying bottled water can get pricey! From vending machines, it can run you over $2 a pop! If you’re drinking lots of water, the cost adds up fast.
Instead, bring your own bottle of water. Just fill it from the tap at home.
Tap water might not be for everyone. If you live on or near a military base, you may decide to drink bottled water and that’s understandable.
To improve your tap water, consider installing a filter or working with a water filtration company.
4. Plant a Flower Bed or Vegetable Garden
You’re only living there for a few years, so maintaining the lawn or landscaping might not seem like a priority. You should make it one!
Gardening can seriously help improve mental health! Next time you need to kick the deployment doldrums or beat the PCS blues, planting a few plants or pulling some weeds is worth a try.
Beyond boosting your mood, keeping up your yard can be required as part of your lease agreement. On-base residents are typically required to maintain the lawn and any plants on their property.
Some off-base homes might ask you to handle minor upkeep too. Being a good tenant can help you when you PCS, since prospective landlords may ask for contact information for your previous landlords.
5. Carpool to School (or Work)
Whether you live on or off base, you might be headed to the same school or work location as your neighbors. Before you all pull out of your driveways in separate cars, consider setting up a neighborhood carpool.
Active duty troops headed to similar areas on base might rotate driving duties. You could connect with other parents to figure out a good drop off and pick up schedule for school.
Carpooling helps everyone to save on gas, can build great relationships and reduces fossil fuel emissions.
6. Menu Planning for the Win
Every week, it seemed like I was left with food that wasn’t eaten. Whether it’s one sad apple in the drawer or a box of salad greens, something spoiled in the refrigerator.
Well, not anymore.
Or at least not as often.
Since we started menu planning, we’ve cut down our wasted food by a lot!
We’ve set up a general meal rotation that we run through every week. I tweak a few things weekly, based on what’s in season or on sale. Having a mostly standard set of meals makes it easy to shop since we eat the same things every week.
Another option is to plan out unique meals by the week or month. As you plan, write down ingredients for each meal. Try to plan several meals each week that use similar ingredients so that you can use leftovers. On example would be to roast chicken on Sunday, eat pot pie on Monday and have chicken fried rice on Wednesday.
When you’re making your shopping list, check for ingredients that are already in your pantry or fridge. Then just buy anything extra that you need, plus general weekly staple items like milk and eggs.
Since you’re already gardening, it’s a no-brainer to take your hobby to the next level! Composting vegetable scraps and other food waste can help to enrich your soil. That leads to better blossoms and yummier veggies.
Collect fruit and vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds and other food waste in a compost bin. Transfer to a larger compost pile or system. Over time, those food scraps and waste will break down into super-rich soil. Spread your enriched dirt over your garden beds and watch your plants thrive!
8. Recycle, Don’t Trash
Living in Japan and traveling overseas has been eye-opening in terms of what can be recycled and what must be trashed.
There are lots of options for recycling items. It just takes a little effort to break down cardboard boxes and rinse cans or bottles.
As you cook and eat, be mindful of food packaging and what you do with empty containers. Most glass, metal, paper, cardboard and plastic can and should be recycled.
Check the recycling policies where you live for specific rules about removing caps or rinsing containers.
9. Pick Up Together
Instead of posting an angry rant in the neighborhood Facebook page, grab a trash bag and pick up a little bit of trash. Better yet, set up recurring neighborhood clean-ups!
You’ll connect with your neighbors in new and different ways. Plus, your community will look so much better without litter or pet waste.
10. Purge the Items You Haven’t Used
So those curtains…if you haven’t used them in a few moves, it might be time to give up the ghost. Instead of dragging them to yet another duty station, where you won’t unpack them again, donate or sell them.
However you do it, get rid of the stuff you haven’t used in a while. If you can’t or don’t use it, it’s time to lose it!