We weren’t always on a budget, and it definitely caused us to fall behind on bills, as well as made our credit less than desirable. We were tired of living paycheck to paycheck, and having nothing left over. For most of our marriage, I have been a stay at home mom, so we do live on one paycheck. But you can still save if you know where to cut and budget. We had a wake up call years ago, and reworked how we were spending, what we were spending it on, and where all the extra money was going. We not only are saving, but our credit is repaired! It takes work, a few tears, some laughs, and a whole lot of determination, but you can do it!
Where did we start? Here is the list of some steps we took:
- We wrote down all our bills (including mortgage or rent), and looked at items we could either get rid of, or cut down on. One of the big things is the electric and water bill in our house. With the electric we make sure to unplug items when not in use, especially chargers. We keep lights turned off during the day and only put ones on if needed. We changed our light bulbs to more efficient ones, and use timers when needed. When it comes to the heat and air conditioning, we use the air the most because we live in the southeast. We keep it at a temperature that is comfortable enough and if we aren’t at home we turn it up higher. For the water, we use the dishwasher, and if washing by hand we turn off the water in between washing/rinsing. We do larger loads of laundry, and we are allotted a certain amount of time in the shower (if my kids had their way they would be signing happily in there for an hour). These small steps have saved us about $50-$75 a month.
- We were also out of control with our grocery bill, and easily spending $1,500 or more a month. This is where we saved the most money, and this is where we really revamped. We see where the best sales are (usually it is between Aldi’s and Walmart), and, if needed, shop between a couple of places. We started meal planning, meal prepping, and making a lot of things homemade (I feel this is where we really started our homesteading journey). We also shop for the month (this is especially handy if you have a stand alone freezer, or extra refrigerator), and use our rotating pantry. We have slashed our bill to about $450-$500 a month. We also have a budget of about $150 a month for toiletries/miscellaneous. In total for both is about $600-$650 a month. We have saved over $900 a month just on that alone.
- Envelopes. Yes, envelopes. We have a ledger sheet in each one stating how much we put in, and how much we take out. If you don’t feel comfortable with taking the cash out, or just don’t have the time, you can easily do this with a savings account attached to your checking, and keep track of it that way. We did it that way last year due to the pandemic, and we were still able to keep our goals. We don’t do it that way permanently, because we like to have it physically with us, and use cash whenever possible. This method works for us, but it may not work for everyone. Some tweaking may be involved! We have envelopes for the following:
- Medical (co-pays, prescriptions, etc.)
- Eat Out (once a month)
- Savings #2
- Emergency Fund (3-6 months worth of expenses)
- Credit cards… where do I begin? We need credit cards to help build our credit, but they can send us into debt. When we were struggling financially, it helped when we needed it, but it was a vicious cycle because we were only able to pay the minimum, if anything at all (we always contacted the credit card company if this was the case, and they were always helpful and willing to work with us). It took us years to pay down even the smallest amount. Do we still have credit cards? Absolutely, but we use them wisely. We use them for gas, and some bills (we use the rewards cards), but we pay off the full amount each month (we make sure we have the money already set aside). We don’t use them for large either. We always save in cash for those. Some people I know use their credit cards to pay for everything, even their mortgage, but always pay them off each month. They usually have rewards cards and use them for vacations, etc. Short story long, use them wisely and make sure you have the money to pay them off each month.
- Living simply. This has been our motto for a few years now. We used to think we needed every new thing that came out, new cars, new electronics, etc. We don’t. We are living within our means, and still enjoying life. We have a roof over our head, food on our table, clothes on our backs, heat when it’s cold, air when it’s hot, and plenty of laughter and love. We take joy in what life and nature has to offer. Hiking trails, beaches, lakes, mountains…We love to bargain hunt and thrift shop. We enjoy refurbishing our finds, and items we already have. We make old things new. We create. We enjoy.
Everyone is different. Everyone lives different lifestyles. This works for us and our lifestyle. If you are like us, it may work for you, If not, there may be parts that help, or parts you can tweak to fit your life…Just remember, whether you have a large family like ours, or a small one, having a budget is important. Life is expensive, but if you plan accordingly, you can still enjoy it!