I’m always looking for simple ways to save money.
I weigh the convenience factor with our health, values, and lifestyle.
It takes discipline to save money and to set rules about how we will not waste.
We have to have goals and a plan.
We pray about big purchases. When I see something I want, I try to wait to see if I can do without or if I have something similar I can use to that purpose. If I can’t stop thinking about it after a few days or a week, I try to work it into the budget.
I remember a time when I had way too much month at the end of the money.
I was a school teacher for almost 10 years, but my last year working outside the home was haphazard…and I found myself working two part-time jobs with no benefits. I was struggling to survive financially.
I’ve bounced checks or auto debits because I didn’t realize the check card had been used. I’ve had to juggle which bills I paid so I made rent and had food and gas money. I’ve lived in fear of collection agencies, avoiding the phone calls and dreading certified mail.
Thankfully, we’re a better place financially these days.
We still have some credit card debt we’re paying off, but we’re investing for retirement and our children’s education. We have no car payments and we’re under our BAH allotment for our housing.
Healthy finances are important to me in this ever-changing world.
I want to teach my children how to live frugally but well.
I want them to understand budgeting, investing, taxes, saving, checking accounts, home-buying, and more. It’s important to be financially literate.
I’m tired of explaining that “I don’t have the money” doesn’t always mean that I literally have every penny accounted for, but rather that “This or that isn’t a priority” or “I’m spending as much as I desire at this time.”
These are several simple ways I’ve found to save us money.
I’ve found several mix and match Americana cloth napkin styles that we keep in a drawer by the dining table. We also have some pretty gold ones for special occasions.
We reuse these for a few meals, until they get too greasy or dirty, and then we wash them for next time.
We haven’t gotten on board with family cloth in the bathrooms (ew) or cloth towels in the kitchen, but we do have a large stash of dishcloths for cleaning and wiping up small spills. Paper towels and facial tissues last a really long time for us.
When my son was a baby, we used cloth diapers and made our own wipes from flannel.
Laundry and Cleaning
We make our own laundry soap.
We use wool drying balls.
I try to do laundry every other day, so there are full loads.
I often hang dry the clothes to save on energy.
Seldom Eating Out
We rarely eat out in restaurants and almost never get fast food.
It saves money and keeps us healthier.
We eat at home 95% of the time. We make our own seasonings. I make a hot breakfast every day. I make dinner for the family every evening. We usually have leftovers or sandwiches for lunch.
It has helped that we have stated to ourselves and the kids that eating out is not an option when we leave the house. We try to plan around meal times and do errands mid mornings or late afternoons.
We just have to plan better.
We eat before we leave the house or take a cooler with lunch and snacks. We don’t run errands (or go grocery shopping!) when we’re hungry. We take our lunches for field trips. We make sure dinner is prepped and we make sure to arrive back home in time to cook and eat it.
We do sometimes dine out while traveling and we plan for that if there’s special cuisine or a specific restaurant we want to try, but we often rent an apartment so we can prepare our own meals.
We never buy bottled water. We have a filter on our refrigerator and we refill these glass bottles.
We have simple family birthdays with homemade cake and a special dinner served on a Celebration Plate. We have simple homemade decorations and watch a favorite movie together. We don’t go overboard with lots of presents, but just a few very carefully picked out and lovingly wrapped items.
We often travel for holidays and rarely give big gifts for Christmas or Easter. I eschew giving a bunch of Dollar Store junk in stocking and baskets, so we prefer useful items like pretty school supplies, healthy snacks, and maybe a desired item. We strive for a debt-free Christmas. I like to follow the something they Want, Need, Wear, Read plan of gift-buying and giving.
Shopping is not entertainment.
I buy groceries and other items when we need them. I’m not a hoarder. I don’t do coupons. I just discovered Ibotta and it’s ok, slowly racking up a few dollars every month on a few items I buy anyway.
I don’t subscribe to store emails or social media. We don’t buy newspapers or magazines. We don’t care what’s trending nor do we need the latest and newest tech gadgets or clothes or toys.
My house is not full of fancy décor or lots of knick knacks because they aren’t useful and are just something else to dust. Our furniture is mostly handmedowns and yard sale and thrift shop finds. I don’t redecorate with the seasons or when we PCS and I don’t read decorating magazines or blogs because they make me discontent. We haven’t purchased new furniture in 10 years, except to upgrade the kids from baby cribs to beds.
I cut my own hair. I’m pretty low maintenance. I don’t have a lot of makeup or accessories. I don’t use product in my hair. I don’t get my nails done.
We keep our utilities low by setting the AC high and the heating low. We turn off lights and use water sparingly.
I don’t like waste. We don’t often have leftovers with four growing children, but I encourage frugality in this area.
I often double or even triple recipes so we can have lunches the next day.
I store leftovers in glass containers to maintain freshness and use them up within a couple days. We get creative with soups and casseroles.
Also, if an apple or carrot only gets half-eaten, it’s saved for later. It can be used in salads or smoothies.
Limiting Trips into Town
Currently, Wednesday is our going out day.
The girls have music lessons, we run errands and do the grocery shopping, and Tori has gymnastics. (I have to plan and prep dinner and my teen daughter or husband finishes it up since we get home after 6 PM – see above!)
This means I have to plan our meals and make a list when shopping.
Sundays, we all go to church. After lunch, my teen daughter and I go to the gym for about an hour and then go grocery shopping on base (most local stores are closed).
Keeping to this plan allows me to say no to any extra running around. Many homeschoolers and stay at home moms in our area are always going out for field trips, playdates, or shopping entertainment. We prefer to stay home and complete our homeschool work. This helps me only to fill up my minivan’s gas tank about 2-3 times per month.
We also don’t feel pressured to change our schedule very often. We have this as a priority, so we don’t feel the need to deviate unless it’s very important or an amazing opportunity.
The kids know we generally stay home, so they learn they have plenty of free time to play, create, and explore after homeschool work and chores are completed. Work before play.
We try to live within our means. That means not using credit to pay for anything. The deals on credit cards aren’t attractive enough for me to use them. I don’t have the discipline to pay them off each month. Paying cash makes us think twice before making a purchase. I keep our spending plan on spreadsheets on the computer.
We’ve never really done the envelope system. I just don’t like to go to the ATM every week or whenever.
Most of the stores in Europe are Euro cash-only. I seldom shop at those stores. I like the bigger stores that remind me of a Super Wal-Mart and they cater to the international community here and accept my American account-linked check card.
I don’t shop with calculator in hand. What if I get to the register and my total is more than I have? Embarrassing.
When we travel, we have to use a pin and chip credit card for flights and accommodations, but we try to pay cash for all other expenses.
When the kids need clothing or supplies, we pay cash.
When our minivan needed a new alternator and pulley system, we were so thankful to be able to pay cash for it all. I remember a time when an emergency like that would have really messed us up financially for months.