At the end of July, I decided to challenge myself to put an extra $1,000 toward my mortgage principal by the end of 2013. I didn't pick a certain dollar amount for each month because I was hoping to avoid stressing myself out if we were a little short one month or something unexpected came up. I was able to put an extra $250 toward my September 1st payment:I had an unexpected expense this month during my dental check up, which would have set me back $89, but I used a Visa gift card (the kind you can spend anywhere) to offset that cost. I also have some habits that help me stay frugal listed below.
Book-buying ban:I've been on a self-imposed book-buying ban since January of 2012. When I find something I want to read, I request it online and wait for it to arrive at my local library (and sometimes I wait and wait and wait, but that doesn't happen too often). I'm lucky that my library also offers magazines, DVDs, and CDs, so I rarely buy those, either. Added bonus: Less stuff to store!
Adjust the AC:When my husband and I first moved to a house with air conditioning, we set the temperature at 75° because that's what our parents did. Getting that first electricity bill was quite a shock, so we slowly bumped it up to between 78° and 80° (depending on if we're both home and outside temperature). This chart is even more convincing.
No paper products:We use cloth towels, wash clothes, and cloth napkins to clean up. I use handkerchiefs (I bought the 12" squares from Wallypop 5 years ago and they're still going strong), but my husband prefers regular tissues. The little paper cup next to our bathroom sink was replaced by a real drinking glass. Mr. Giraffe drinks coffee, so he switched to using this french press to brew coffee at home because it doesn't require a filter.
Parties sometimes require extra planning. Invites by email or text message are the norm, so we skip paper invitations for casual gatherings (I think our wedding was the last time we used paper invites). We have plenty of plates, cups, and silverware to host about 10-12 people, but I do usually break out the paper napkins because there are so many kids in the family and I'm still building my cloth napkin collection. Overall, it was an easy transition (but I do reserve the right to curse when cleaning up cat vomit) and saves a ton of money.
Going green:I wrote a series in April called Mini Green Changes and all of these habits help me save money: use half, eat vegetarian, use a Ladycup, and consider the packaging.
How do you save money?