A little while ago, I told you about how our family of (then) four had survived and managed to still buy a house and 2 cars all while bringing in $17,000 a year. It wasn’t easy, but that was all that we knew at the time.
We save money AND spend it as a family
I’m a saver by nature. I always had a piggy bank FULL of coins, until I got my first bank account when I was 7. I loved getting my monthly statements and watching it grow little by little. I never needed the hottest, latest, newest things. I was just as happy with last year’s model that I could get for a tiny fraction of the cost.
My husband, however, is a spender. He blows through money like nothing I’ve ever seen before. If he has cash in his pocket, it will be spent faster than you can ask him what he’d like for dinner. He used to tell me “we’re not doing too bad! See, we didn’t overdraw our account this month!” Well, ok… but there’s still a lot more month once the money runs out. It’s taken him many years to realize that this is not sustainable if we’re trying to save money for “adult things” in life… like a new car, vacation, a savings account, or a house.
Back then, almost all of our time was spent trying desperately to keep our heads above water financially. Until my husband and I finally sat down and said “this has to stop.” We couldn’t fix the income, so we needed to fix the spending. After many, many, MANY trial-and-error budgets, we finally found something that worked for us. Yes, sometimes it was hard to follow. But we finally decided what we were saving for: our own house.
Finding an incentive was just the kick in the butt my husband needed to start seeing the value in every little penny. It still wasn’t easy, but that incentive kept both of us going. And little by little we amassed a savings account AND a down payment account.
But what else did we do to stay afloat as a family?
Hand-me-downs will be your way to upgrade.
Is your brother getting rid of his TV and upgrading just because he wants the newest model? Offer him some money for the perfectly good last-year’s-model. You’ll be saving a lot of money getting “new” things this way.
So much of our furniture and electronics are hand-me-downs that we’d never have gotten if we had to pay for them ourselves. I’m not ashamed to say that. Each time someone has offered us an “old” phone or TV, I have no shame in accepting it and offering some money in return. I never would have gotten a MacBook Pro because of how expensive they are, but my dad had gotten one, hated it, and couldn’t return it. So He gave it to me.
I know that other people swear by Craigslist for deeply discounted items around the house. If accepting family and friends’ offers for their second hand stuff is just not something you want to do, Craigslist is a great second option.
Save like crazy
Automatically have 10% of your paycheck put into a savings account. That way, the money is saved, but you don’t see it in your account so you’re not missing it.
It was a great trick I played on myself weekly. I knew that there was money being taken out each week, but it still looked like we only had what was in the checking account. This trick really worked for both my husband and myself. On top of everything that we were saving by living differently, we were also amassing a nice-sized savings account without even trying.
Make your own EVERYTHING
When you stop buying remade things and start to make them yourself, you not only know exactly what you and your family are eating, but it also saves money. It does require more work, but is it really worth $10 for a pizza from the frozen food section when you can make it yourself for less than $4?
Making my own detergent saved me SO much money! Laundry used to be my second biggest expense after food. My husband works a dirty job, and well… kids are messy. So it wasn’t uncommon to have to do a load of laundry every day. It also wasn’t uncommon to need to wash my husband’s work clothes multiple times. I went from spending close to $50 or more a month on supplies for laundry to not needing to buy detergent for a whole year when I made my own.
Here are some other things you can make at home and save money:
Which takes us to another point…
Stop going out
“You didn’t eat lunch and now you’re hungry when you’re out? Too bad. No stopping for take out here.” I’ve said this many, many times to my husband. Yes, it’s harsh. But when you think about spending more than $6 on a sandwich that you can make at home, it’s just an unjustifiable expense.
What we started doing was saving the money that was leftover in our grocery budget at the end of the month and putting it to a lunch date for my husband and myself. Nothing fancy, but it was time to get a very special treat. We even made it a point to save money when we went out once a month.
If you start treating getting lunch out like a luxury, not only will it save you money, but it also makes you appreciate it that much more.
What do you do to get by when money is tight?