A wee bit less than 3 years ago we felt led to make the first of what would become a series of increasingly challenging steps…the first of which was a major downsize, but that is for a different post.
I used to think that there were certain things I could never tackle, handle or live through. I used to live in a bubble of fear, motivated by convenience and smothered by insecurity. And while I sometimes teeter on those old pit ledges, I no longer live there.
If I could sum up this season of our life with just one question it would be this: Do we trust God? The answer, regardless of what it may be for any of us, is a profound one, and one that shades every single area of our lives. Do I trust him to handle every area? My deepest struggles? My children? My fragility? My money? And the list can go on and on. It is a challenge. I have grown so much, and know that I still have so very much more to learn and to change.
And so, the challenges have come—some harder then others—each ripe with the fruit that can only come through journeying through the hard instead of avoiding it. This month will be no exception. This month we are tackling ways to save money on the everyday household stuff. So, I am exploring and challenging myself to find ways that we as a family can cut back. Simply, how can we steward what we have been given in a better way, one that is reasonable and works for our family?
The following are a few steps we are implementing to save money this month:
1. Build a budget. True confession: we have always made a budget (my hubby is into that sort of fun), but only with rare exception have we ever hit the target. This month, not only will we build that budget, but we are going to do a little happy dance when the month is over and we have hit our target. (No, I will not post the videos of said dance.) We need to know where we are heading if we ever want to get somewhere, and a budget is a great road map. The goal of our budget: give some, save some, and live on less then our income.
2. Stop eating out. That means no drinks, no fast food, no restaurants. If we can’t buy the food at the grocery store then it will not be purchased at all. (This one is by far the hardest for us as a family. There are just some nights this mommy prefers to delegate to a local restaurant. *deep sigh* I may already be forming a twitch over this issue) *The one exception is date night. Nobody is messing with date night!
3. Buy only clothes that are needed. Notice I said needed, not wanted. And I will add one more point to this. If I can find it at the thrift store, then that is where I will buy it. (Underwear is NOT included in the previous statement…I just can’t handle that.)
4. Plan our menus weekly and/or monthly. I am not one who can handle planning a month out, so I am starting with planning our meals out for a week. If I plan, we are more prone to stay on target monetarily, AND eat healthier, AND save money by shopping smarter instead of last minute.
5. Save money on meals by shopping at sales. Did you know that you can look up most grocery store sales ads directly online? (Examples: Raley’s and Safeway.) It took me all of 15 minutes to see what stores had what on sale, and who had the better sales. Knowing what is on sale and where really helps save. Buying local produce from farmers’ markets is also a great way to save. Additionally, we try to plan meals around what is in season and/or on sale. This week, grocery shopping took me 2 hours, and I went to 3 stores.
6. Shop for the whole week. Instead of going back and forth to stores numerous times, we sit down, make a list, and then plan out our shopping accordingly. It saves time, gas, and a whole lot of energy. (I may really suck at this. It seems I am always forgetting something and having to go back. I guess it is time to start a running list.) Additionally, if I actually take an inventory of all that we have already stock piled, I may stop buying it and can use up what we already have…like our 5 bottles of mustard.
7. Use coupons. Now, I know that there are some out there that take “couponing” to a whole new level. I am not that person. In fact, I think I have used coupons exactly once before this week. However, if (as I learned this week) I can quickly and easily find coupons online for things I actually use and need, then I don’t mind saving a few bucks. Coupons.com is one great resource I found this week that helped me find a few coupons. *I see no point in buying something I would not typically buy even if there is a coupon for it. So, I am sure to look for things that I will actually use, or I will buy a generic brand when possible.
8. Buy larger cuts of meat. Typically, larger cuts of meat are cheaper per pound. Additionally, I can make several meals out of one piece, thereby giving me additional savings in both time and money. For example: this week I purchased an organic free range turkey on sale for less then $2 a lb. The first meal is a baked turkey (I used apx. 1/4 of the meat to feed my family of 4). Then, I stripped the turkey of most of its meat (NAKED turkey!), divided the meat in half, and put half in the freezer for later use (COLD naked turkey!). I then threw the carcass in a stock pot (HOT naked turkey) along with a few veggies to make some seriously awesome homemade broth, which I froze. I will use the left over meat to create an additional two meals. So, a total of 3 meals, plus 2 gallons of stock, and tons of leftovers from just one awesome turkey purchase. Total time to prep original meal: 20 minutes.
9. Bake instead of buy. Where I can, I carve out the time to make my own baked goods instead of buying their more expensive, heavily processed counterparts. For example, this week I have returned to making our own bread. It took me only about 20 minutes, and I really enjoyed the kneading, throwing,
and possibly imagining certain faces in and the pounding of the dough. The result was a loaf that was far less then $1, kids that thought I was awesome, and a moment of domestic bliss…until I realized that I try not to no longer eat bread. Edie at LifeInGrace has an awesome Honey Wheat Bread recipe that is too good not to share.
10. Give myself grace. As a mom, wife, and woman, this is probably what I struggle with the very most. I am not going to be perfect at this. I am a work in progress, and that is ok. I am moving forward, I am learning, and I need to stop being so hard on myself…and I have talked with enough women to know that I am not alone. So, how does that help me save? Well, I am less likely to do any emotional eating ($), spend time in a mental institution ($$$), have to continue therapy for an exorbitantly long time ($$), or pay for the therapy of my children ($$$). But mostly, I will be better at giving grace, and that will save me from paying the extraordinarily high price of pride.
Ok, now it is your turn, dear beloved reader. What are some of your money saving tips and tricks? I wanna know!