As I mentioned in my last post, Kevin and I are learning a lot about how to live on less and be better stewards of the money with which the Lord has blessed us. And for the record, I hope that post didn’t sound like I was trying to complain about life on one salary. I certainly have frustrating and discouraging days, but in the scheme of things, I don’t want to ever sound ungrateful for the salary we do have. There are so many who are out of work right now in our country and so many countries that live in poverty on a daily basis, so I hope my words didn’t make it sound like we are complaining about our situation. We are blessed, for sure!
With that said, here are some of the ways we are trying to streamline our budget and live on less.
1. Create a realistic budget (and stick to it).
– Since discovering Dave Ramsey, we plan our spending for the month using our monthly budget. Although it’s relatively the same each month, it flexes a little based on what we have going on for the month.
– Before children, we did our best to save as much as possible, but we were not always great at sticking to our monthly budget. Since we had some “wiggle room,” we were a little looser with our budget. It was more like a guideline, but not a definite plan.
– Now that we are living on one salary, we are forced to stick to the budget, unless we want to dip into savings or acquire debt. Since we worked so hard to get out of debt, we have no interest in going there again!
2. Don’t forget to tithe!
– I don’t mean to start a debate on tithing, but I would definitely encourage you to keep this a priority in your financial life. While it’s not one of the “10 commandments,” it’s definitely a practical way of acknowledging that the money we have is a blessing from the Lord and that ultimately it all comes from Him.
– When we first started living on one income, we were a little bit short each month. Luckily we had put money away for this “adjustment period” in case we ran into that problem. It just so happened that the amount of money we were short was exactly what our tithe would be. For a split second, it was tempting to consider discontinuing our tithe until we could figure things out. We decided to continue tithing and trust the Lord to either increase our income or help us reduce our spending so we would not continue to have this gap in our budget each month. He has been faithful!
3. Use cash for as many categories as you can.
– This day in age, using cash for every budgeted item is not possible. For example, it’s probably not the best idea to mail cash to your mortgage lender each month. But, perhaps it would be possible to pay cash for your groceries, clothing, or recreation/entertainment categories?
– We have found that using cash helps us to make better purchasing decisions. Once the cash is gone, it’s gone, so we are less likely to be impulsive. This has worked especially well at the grocery store. I use the calculator on my cell phone to add up everything as I go so that I don’t go over!
4. Create a weekly menu.
– This is one of the major ways we have been able to trim our grocery budget. Every Sunday evening/Monday morning, I sit down and create a weekly menu for our family. I plan out how many meals I will need to cook, decide on what those meals will, and then make my grocery list. This has prevented lots of last minute shopping trips. And for us, the fewer shopping trips we make, the less likely we are to overspend! We are easily tempted, what can I say?
– I also make a point to choose my meals based on what I currently have in my pantry as well as what is currently on sale at the grocery store. This brings me to my next point.
5. Shop the weekly sales and use coupons as much as possible!
– My newest hobby is couponing! I have found that I can buy a lot more, save a lot more, and have a better stocked pantry by shopping the weekly sales and then combining those deals with coupons! I’m not one of those “extreme couponers,” but there are a lot of good deals to be had if you are willing to spend a little time doing some research. I could do a whole post on just this topic alone, but not today (maybe that will be part 3?)!
Overall, the biggest adjustment to living with less is changing our entire mindset. We always thought we were pretty frugal, but we are realizing that we were “looser” with our money than we originally thought. When we used to make dinner plans before even thinking about the budget, now we have to think ahead about whether we have the money in our entertainment budget and we may opt to have people eat in with us instead. When we used to purchase all of our clothes brand new from our favorite clothing stores, now we consider whether we can find them at a consignment store or on the clearance rack (and with coupons) at our favorite stores! 🙂 It hasn’t been an overnight change and we are still learning a ton, but on most days it’s been a good challenge for us to find new ways to stretch our bucks!
Do you have any good ideas to share on how you and your family save money? I’d love to hear them!