In my adult life I have become an advid budgeter. I have varied between a beans and rice budget, a YOLO budget racking up debt, and now living debt free on what I will refer to as a more laxed budget. Of course, I didn’t learn everything at one time to get where I am now. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we all shared our secrets so we can all have a chance? I think yes! With that, I give you the ways I have cut expenses!
I should really preface this just incase someone reading this is only here for this one post. I am a 30 year old stay at home mom of 3 [7, 3, and 1]. We are a one income family with my husband’s job as a sanitation worker. I have always been the finance nerd in our relationship. One of my main duties is budgeting and paying bills.
1. Obviously you can’t be in control of your finances if you aren’t dedicated to them. You should have knowledge of every penny that comes in and goes out. I find it beneficial to check the bank once per day.
2. Chances are you know how much money you get paid (or your households income) and how often. Once you have that noted you then write out your budget. What I have found that works for us is making my own spreadsheet that lists each bill we have, its due date, the amount due, and then a checkmark box to mark once its been paid and a second one for when it has cleared your account. Writing it out helps to make sure you pay everything on time. You don’t want to have to pay late fees just simply because you forgot! Plus, if you are like my family and get paid every 2 weeks, keeping track of everything makes life much easier from one pay day to the next.
3. One of the biggest expenses is groceries. Back when we first started budgeting we stuck to really cheap carb heavy meals (spaghetti, hot dogs and mac n cheese, and frozen pizza). At the time we were okay with it, but now we are a mostly keto family as I am working hard to improve my health. You can still find cheap meals to make, in any diet lifestyle. You just need to make a plan. First you have your alotted budget (even if it varies weekly), then you plan your week based on that budget. Plan your portions appropriately! Leftovers also make great lunches. We personally go grocery shopping weekly. Typically we do one bigger trip a month for the bulkier items (hygeine sort of things and pet supplies) and then we go weekly for our meals. To eliminate impulse shopping; meal plan and then do an online pickup order. I can elaborate on this more if there is an interest for it, just let me know!
4. Say no to cable/satellite! We have been cable free for over 5 years now. We do pay for Netflix now that we are in a good place financially, but when we weren’t we didn’t have it either. We do pay for internet so we are able to stream and save on our phone bill with a lower data plan. It’s not impossible to live without internet, but for us it just makes sense to have it.
5. Get on the level payment plan for your utilities. Having bills that are consistent helps you plan ahead. There is nothing more annoying than paying $63 one month and $257 the next for electricity. Ask your utility companies if they offer a level payment plan. That way each month is the same amount and you can better plan your finances.
6. Credit cards should be considered the devil. Especially if you tend to shop a lot and use them all of the time without paying them off. If you have debt, stop yourself from making more and work on paying it down. We really like the Dave Ramsey method with the snowball effect. If you don’t have the money in your account or budget, then don’t be spending money you don’t have.
7. Use what you have! Before going out and buying new things, use what you already have; get creative! This can even be said for clothing. A dress can become a skirt, pair it with a shirt and you can make many outfits! Whoever taught us that an event or holiday warrants us to buy new clothes should be karate chopped. I have also been applying this to home decor. I like change, especially in my home. I can find things around the house and use them in different ways than which I originally bought them. It makes it feel new again and changes the scenery.
8. Shop around before you make a purchase! Say your microwave took a crap. I could tell you that you can certainly live without a microwave, but if you feel strongly about having one, shop around first. Check buy sell trade sites first. If you can’t find it there, check the thrift stores. If you cannot find a used one and have to buy new, shop around online first. Look for deals, coupons, and which store has the best price before buying something new.
9. Cancel any subscriptions you can live without. I challenge you to really try to live without them. Pretty self explanatory.
10. Your budget should automatically include some amount of savings. Whether it is $5 a paycheck or a million dollars a paycheck. Start establishing the habit of saving consistently.
11. Use your resources! We have friends and family that have been so willing to help us along the way. For instance, my sister in law added me to her Costco membership (it is free for her already paid membership). While we do not go there very often, we do know some of the better deals they have there than anywhere else; like their deals on toilet paper. Sharing subscriptions can also be beneficial and lowering costs of things.
12. If you need clothes, buy used! Ever since I have started shopping resale stores for my kids we have saved so much money! We went from spending about $300 per season on 2 kids, to about $100 twice a year on 3 kids. Thrift stores, goodwill, resale kids stores, buy sell trade on Facebook or nextdoor app, and poshmark are great ways to save a lot of money on clothing!
13. Learn how to do things yourself. Home repairs, car repairs, car maintenance, hair cuts, and things of that nature can get costly. Youtube is a great resource to learn how to do things yourself to save you money. Be sure to include any known upcoming expenses in your budget!
14. Limiting fast food and restaurant spending is a huge way to save money. It may not always seem convenient, but if you are financially ill then you can make that sacrifice until you are financially well again. IF this is absolutely not doable for your lifestyle, set a budget, and stick to it! Absolutely do not spend credit! If you don’t have the money, then you don’t need to eat out.
15. Don’t be afraid to say no to others. I remember back during a time we were in so much debt and we were embarrassed to tell people we didn’t have the extra money to do things. We would rack up more debt just because we were too embarrassed to say no. You aren’t obligated to say yes to anyone when it involves spending money. If you don’t have the money, then say “no thanks”.
16. Going off of #15, don’t buy gifts for others if you don’t have the money. You can try to make something with what you have at home. If you can afford a few dollars you can make something inexpensive or shop the dollar tree. Don’t feel guilty for not giving gifts.
17. Find ways to make extra money. Chances are you have stuff around your house that you can sell. Maybe you have a hobby that you can use to make some money. Get a part time job if you are able. You can sign up to uber, lyft, or door dash. You can donate plasma to earn some extra money. Offer to clean or garden people’s homes for some extra money. Sign up on care.com to babysit or dogwalk.
18. Find free entertainment! If you are itching to get out and do something, look up free things to do in your city. Chances are there is at least 10 things you can do, maybe something you haven’t done before or even thought of. Something we enjoy is geocaching. It is free and fun for the whole family.
I am a firm believer in mindset. If there is a will, there is a way. You can only get as far as your excuses will let you. I challenge you to be critical of your habits; are they serving your finances well?
Something to help maintain financial motivation is watching YouTube videos on saving money and minimalistic living. You can also watch Dave Ramsey for free on YouTube. If you have the ability to listen to podcasts or audible books, those can help keep you going too.
I hope you found something useful here!
-jenn (a wife, mom, and woman who has been there, done that)