As you know, I consider myself to be pretty frugal. If there is a way to save money, I do it (except couponing. I just can't wrap my brain about that)
But the thing about being frugal is that you can do all the thrifting, sale hunting, yard sale-ing, money saving strategies you want, but so long as you don't have a budget and stick to it, inevitably none of it will save you money in the long run. No one ever just happened to end the month with money left over because they used a few coupons.
Frugality has to be a lifestyle. It has to be intentional.
If you are really serious about saving money, you need to set up a plan and some boundaries. Our take on money is pretty simple: it's all from the Lord. ALL of it. We are simply stewards of it. And while yes, we believe that 10% should be tithed, and more should be given whenever possible, that doesn't mean we can be frivilous with the other 90%. It's still HIS. He expects us to be responsible, disciplined, charitable and intentional with it. For us, that means being frugal because all the glitz and glam is just not important when your perspective is eternity.
There are 2 major ways that we maintain a frugal lifestyle in our home:
I know. That can be a scary concept. And if you're anything like me, it's fine and dandy to set up a budget, but actually sticking to it? Every single month? And balancing it often? Ugh. No fun.
I established a budget for my family in 2005. In the 8 years since then, there have been seasons where we adhered to it down to the penny, as if our life depended on it (and sometimes it did). And there have been seasons where I may have just forgotten about it altogether because months would pass before I actually sat down to balance it.
One thing I've learned: if I ignore our money, things only get worse. Sometimes I don't want to acknowledge that bills have to be paid or that we just don't have enough money this pay period for a date night or to buy a new sweater. But that doesn't make those things any less of a reality. And a budget keeps me in check, especially when I don't want to stick to it.
If you've never used a budget for your family and don't know where to begin, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey. Also, try using a cash system (like he suggests) even if it is just for you and your husband's "allowance." That alone made a world of difference for us.
my #1 tip for budgeting is balance often! By often, I mean every 1 to 2 days. Especially if you aren't using cash. It's amazing how many transactions take place in just a couple days: bills being paid, gas for the car, a quick grocery trip or just a Starbucks run. Wait too long and your head will be spinning with how many transactions you'll need to input and ultimately balance. And it's no fun to have to search with a fine tooth comb for that $1.18 that's throwing everything off!
Other than simply being intentional with your money and being a good steward of it, budgeting also allows you to save for emergencies and future purchases. This is major. If you are intentional about putting a specific amount of money into savings each month, you'll be surprised at how fast you're able to save money for a future trip, the cash purchase of a car, a down payment on a house, or just a rainy day fund. When I first established our budget in 2005, my intention was to save up for a Hawaiian honeymoon (we didn't get to take one when we were first married). In just a few months of adhering to my budget, we had enough money for 2 days in Waikiki and 5 days in Maui!
I feel like meal planning goes hand in hand with budgeting. If you have a set amount of money for food every month (or every 2 weeks), you'll need to know at the very beginning of that period how much food you can purchase. There are 2 things I do on either the day before my husband gets paid or the day of: set up a budget and write a meal plan and corresponding grocery list.
My meal planning strategy is not rocket science. It was the same for when Ben was paid only once a month as it is now that he gets paid bi-weekly. I sit down with a couple cook books, my yumm-o pinterest board and a recipe binder and fill in all the days of that pay period on a calender. I only plan dinners ahead of time. For lunches I just keep all the same ingredients in the house: cheese and tortillas for quesadillas, sandwich fixin's and we eat alot of left-overs. But meal planning all 3 meals is a great idea!
As I write in the dinners we'll have, I write down on a grocery list (divided up by store. I shop at Sams Club for a lot of bulk items and a couple other grocery stores) the ingredients I'll need to purchase for every meal. I do all of my shopping at one time, either on payday or the next day. I pack up the car with reusable bags and a cooler. I load up the kids and we hit every store on the list. For me, it's just easier to get it all done in one big trip. Sometimes I have to divide up the trips between 2 days, which is okay too. During the summer, I'll need to adjust my menus so that I only have to shop on the weekends. I'm not going to take 2 kids grocery shopping in the middle of the day when it's 120 degrees outside!
If I can, I'll plan meals with perishable vegetables and cheeses for the beginning of the 2-week period and meals that use frozen food toward the end (that way food doesn't go bad before I can get to it or I don't have to run to the store in the middle of the period for new food). I always freeze all of my meat the day I purchase it. Then I pull it out of the freezer the morning of or the night before to defrost.
Bottom line: I purchase only what I've planned for us to eat and we eat everything we have. I think it's important to be a good steward of your food just like it is to be a good steward of your money. That means nothing should go to waste. Another way to do that is to eat all of your leftovers. If you don't eat them for lunches the next day, then plan a night of the week where your dinner is leftovers from previous dinners.
And that's our secret. It's simple and yet a little intimidating. But once you get going on both a budget and meal planning, it becomes second nature. And I really don't know how we could survive without it!
Here are a few other ways we save money in our family:
top 5 ways we save money with babies in the house
thrifted curtains, 2 ways!
one car for the family
who needs cable?
used camping gear
Be sure to link up with us below to share your frugal tips! Please link back to this post and be sure to visit the other hosts of today's link up: Teachers of Good Things, For This Season, Walking in High Cotton, Vicki Arnold