We live on a mostly single income, that is when Davis isn’t working part-time. Although my benefits are better than most jobs, my salary is comparable to a teacher’s salary, to give you an idea. We have to budget very tightly, in a semi-Dave Ramsey kind of way. The cash envelopes don’t really work for us, since we’re always left with coins that get wasted or lost. I do keep an excel file, but I don’t keep up with it every month. Here’s how we make it work, and could possibly work for your family, as well:
- You don’t need that cable subscription! Seriously. Don’t do it. $300-$500 per month wasted, I tell you. If you need to watch television, subscribe to Hulu ($5.99/mo), Netflix ($8.99/mo), or Disney+ ($6.99/mo). We use an antenna to get the important channels.
- Be honest with your family members, friends, and co-workers about your budget, but don’t be a scrooge about it. Don’t spend $50 on your nephew’s gift when you can’t afford it. It’s a little easier for us because My husband’s brothers and their wives are pretty much in the same boat financially as us, so we’ve started doing things like only buying Christmas gifts for nieces & nephews and drawing 3 of their names, instead of all 6.
- Find free events in the community that your family can enjoy together. Forego the $50 or whatever it costs to go to the movies. We like to take the kids to the park when the weather is nice. Libraries are another great resource for fun free events for you or your kids.
- Meal plan and shop for groceries at places like Aldi. Before kids, we would shop at *gasp* Target for groceries. I can’t tell you how much you save shopping at Aldi. Meal planning keeps you from impulsively grabbing things off the shelf that catch your eye, for the most part. Just don’t go shopping on an empty stomach. I’ve also heard that planning meals around the weekly specials in the Aldi ads can save you money. I don’t really know, because I’m not that disciplined. You know what else saves us money? Eating lots of eggs, beans, rice & avoiding the expensive meats. If we buy meat, it’s almost always turkey or chicken.
- This could go under the previously mentioned point, but we try not to eat out so much. That’s a relative statement, but for us, that means maybe twice a weekend, and only at fast food places where we can spend under $20 for a family of 4. I promise, the more you eat at home, the easier it gets. Think about it in terms of saving money, not the impulsive “that sounds so delicious and easy right now!!!” While we’re talking about easy meals, make that part of your weekly meal plan. Since we have a rice cooker, it’s so easy to throw some rice in and let it work its magic. Our kids are currently satisfied with just some shredded cheese and a little soy sauce on their rice, so be it. I’m sure that will change as they get older.
- If you have a mortgage, shop around for more affordable home insurance every year. In our experience, insurance goes up every year, so if we get a lower offer in the mail, I call them and check it out. I’ve gotten our insurance payment lowered by $50/mo by doing this. You could also follow this tip when dealing with internet service. We pay $45/mo for our internet. Long story short, when calling to lower our bill finally didn’t work, I just downgraded it. And you know what? I haven’t noticed a difference.
- You don’t need the latest gadgets, trends, or what-have-you. Trust me. Be content with what you have. Easier said than done if you’re currently in the habit of this kind of spending. But if you must, look on places like Facebook Marketplace for gently used items that cost half the price.
- Buy used items. I buy all of my kids’ clothes and shoes at Once Upon a Child, which is a store that sells gently used kids’ clothes, toys, and baby gear, and I try to only buy what they need. My son’s last 2 pairs of tennis shoes were Nike brand, one costing $10 and the latest ones costing $8.50. STEAL. And your young children won’t know the difference. My 4-year-old son loves his “Mikey” shoes.
Now that I’ve bared our family secrets, what are some things you do to survive a tight budget? Maybe I can incorporate your ideas into my own saving habits.