Money isn’t always an easy topic. It is, however, on the forefront of most of our minds right now. Everywhere we look we hear about rising interest rates, rising food costs, and soaring gas prices. Not to mention the cost of housing, cars, and everything in between. Yet we still have to save for retirement, 529s, future plans, and investments.
While staying home is a full time job (and then some) it doesn’t come with a paycheck. The reality is we still have bills, four kids, and a home to keep up with. I may not add monetarily to our home, but I do have a role when it comes to money. I am essentially our family’s accountant, stock broker, and financial planner. In the words of Dave Ramsey- I’m a home economist.
That’s not always my favorite title, but I learned the value of it when we started our debt free journey. And now with all the inflation and uncertainty- I am reclaiming that title. So here are 10 practical ways to save money that I am implementing in my own family.
The Importance of Managing your Home Financially
As I mentioned earlier, I do not bring in a paycheck. But even if I did this role would still be just as important. Dave Ramsey always says “Budgeting is telling your money where to go rather than wondering where it went.” And let me be honest here: we spent a few years wondering where it went. I will share our entire debt free story in a future blog, but for now all that’s really important is to know that I knew nothing about money when I married Rafael. And he knew even less. Neither of us had grown up seeing a lot of financial planning and success with money. So we lived like normal Americans- You want it and don’t have the cash on hand? Buy it on credit..
Yeah that caught up with us.
And it stung.
It wasn’t fun.
But we learned some of our best life lessons from that experience.
We learned to work together. We learned to budget and save. And we learned to live below our means. But it didn’t happen overnight. Learning how to manage your money and plan for your family’s future is a huge part of being a mama. It is a part we don’t always like to talk about. But I believe in honoring God with everything especially our finances. And while giving and tithing do honor God, saving and spending can to!
I hope these 10 ideas give you a new perspective and help you battle inflation, grow confident in your role as a home economist, and spend your money wiser!
1. Budget ‘Spending’ Money
I know this seems like a backwards way of making better decisions with money. Step one (Although these aren’t in any particular order.) set some aside to spend on something you want? Really?
And here’s why.
Have you ever been on a super strict diet? Before you start you are so gung-ho. You can already picture your thin self on the beach. After a couple of meals that consist of carrot sticks and cardio, you start to lose that enthusiasm. By dinner time you are starving and questioning if your stomach can actually eat itself! You push on for a bit because you have a dream to achieve something. But before you know it you are laying on the couch knee deep in candy bar wrappers and swearing Oreos are better than any bathing suit or size 2 body could ever be!
Money is the same way. If you swear up and down you won’t spend on anything more than your electric bill and a grocery trip for three months, I guarantee you will burn out. You may even splurge on something big just out of sheer stress.
Instead give yourself some money you can spend on things you want (or need). Now you don’t have to get excessive and spend $500 a week just because you budgeted for it. But you also shouldn’t cry in your car over a four dollar iced coffee. Plan ahead for a reasonable amount to spend and then spend it without guilt and without breaking your budget!
2. Eat at Home
Everyone gives this advice. Especially my husband who always says “We are eating McHome today.” when the kids ask to go through a drive thru. But this is sound advice if (and only if) you like eating at home. That doesn’t mean you should say “Oh I don’t like it” and eat out every meal, but rather learn how to love food at home.
The best way to love eating at home is to learn to cook. You don’t have to be a professional chef to be a master home cook. The best place to start is with things you like. If you love Taco Tuesdays at your local Mexican restaurant- research taco recipes and master your favorite. If Chinese food is your weakness- learn to make it at home.
Sometimes when we make out our budget and meal plan we write out something completely impractical.
“Okay, this week I’m only going to spend $40.00 on groceries and we are going to eat beans, ham sandwiches, and potatoes all week!”
Then dinner time rolls around and we think “Who made this meal plan?! I’m starving!” And so we order a pizza or go out to dinner. The best way to save money is to eat things you like at home. Get creative. Cook things you actually want to eat. And stock up on simple meals- pasta, frozen pizza, or a simple sheet pan meal. This way when a busy night comes up where take out is calling your name- you have something quick at home waiting on you!
(If you know you have a busy night once a week where cooking is nearly impossible, go back to tip #1 and budget that meal in to your plan. This way you don’t have to break the bank or feel guilty!)
3. Skip the Gym and Work Out at Home
It’s kind of funny that I am adding this tip because I don’t work out. Oh I wish I did, but I chase around four kids all day so that counts, right? Really though when I used to work out, I was never one to go to the gym. Largely because I am shy and I think I would feel awkward. But on the other hand, a gym membership can cost anywhere from $10-$50 a month. Not to mention the price of gas to get there, gym clothes (you can wear whatever at home), and the added temptation of hitting up Dunkin’ Donuts or a smoothie shop just because you are already out and thirsty.
You don’t need heavy equipment, bands, or mats to achieve a great workout. YouTube is filled with great work out videos. Everything from HIIT to Pilates to Yoga. A full world of new and exciting workouts. The best part is- it’s free!
4. DIY Cleaners and Products
Okay, let’s be real DIY (do-it-yourself) projects can go either way. Sometimes you can pour eight hours and $50 into something you could have got at Hobby Lobby for $20. While there is a satisfaction in creating things yourself, this blog is about saving money so not all DIYs are practical for this cause. Some are though!
For example making your own cleaning products is an easy and cost effective swap. It is also a great move if you are trying to navigate your family in a more natural direction. As always you don’t have to throw away everything you own and start over. But as you run out of your favorite glass cleaner or all purpose cleaner, make your own! Most homemade cleaners are made simply from everyday material like: castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, water, and essential oils. You can even make your own laundry detergent or stain remover!
Check out my simple all purpose cleaner recipe in our blog: 7 Ways to Refresh Your Home for Spring
Lotions, body butters, toothpaste, and soaps are also simple DIY projects. For most bathroom and cleaning products ingredients tend to be the same. So one bag of beeswax pellets can make a variety of body butters, lotion bars, and lip balms. (Of course it can make candles too!)
Changing out your daily products for DIY versions is a great way to lead a more natural, chemical free life, but it is also a great way to save money. The average DIY household cleaner costs about $1 vs. store bought cleaners that usually cost about $5. Expanding that out over a year’s time with multiple cleaners can amount to huge savings!
5. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
Coupons are tricky. Remember Ibotta? Is that still a thing? I once got $100 cash back on purchases with that app and I only had to spend about $300 extra to do it..
That’s the downside to coupons. Sometimes “buy one get one free” sounds so good we buy things we didn’t even need. Coupons can be helpful and they can truly cut down on costs. But they can also be a stumbling block- buying name brand because you have a dollar off coupon is not better than buying the store brand that costs two dollars less. But we can so quickly fall into that trap..
So here are a few tips to apply when couponing..
- Make a list first and stick to it. If it’s not on your list and you don’t need it. Don’t clip the coupon.
- Don’t bulk buy silliness just because it’s a good deal. Have you ever seen that show Extreme Couponers? I actually used to like that show and I found it very interesting. But buying 200 Dawn dish soaps and 80 packs of hotdogs just because they work out to being about sixty cents each is just madness!
- Search coupons online. There are a couple of clever ways to do this. Let’s say you have two sensitive babies in diapers who can only wear Pampers. (Ahem.. that’s me.) Look online for Manufacturer’s coupons. Even if it is only a dollar or two off- that’s something! And you have to buy them either way, you may as well save where you can! The second way to do this and my favorite- search coupon codes before buying online. When you go to check out on almost any website it will give you a place to insert coupon codes. Google some! Just simply type in “Amazon coupon codes” or “Walmart coupon codes”, etc. If you find one and it works- you save money!! And if you can’t find one for that site- no problem! All you wasted was a minute or two!
- Don’t kill yourself to coupon! So many people make couponing a full time job. That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. Our time is valuable too though, so spending a full day couponing to save $10 on groceries isn’t really worth it in my opinion! Set aside a few minutes to flip through coupons or search some online and then be done!
6. Plan Errand Days
A year ago gas was about $1.75/gallon and I was loving getting out of an afternoon to just drive around. We may pay our electric bill one day and then hit up the car wash and grocery pick up the next. I really didn’t think much of it. That is until recently… It cost $80.00 to fill up our van the other day! Gas prices here are about $4.29/gallon! The days of afternoon drives and spontaneous iced coffee trips are long gone. But we still have to get out from time to time. Grocery pick-ups, paying bills, library trips, and sanity all require us to leave the house from time to time.
The best way to save money when gas prices are through the roof is to plan errand days. I know, I know everything requires so much planning. You may as well invest in some pretty markers and monthly calendars because that’s just the life of a mama- and home economist.
So if Thursday is your library day, schedule a grocery order, gather your bills that need to be paid, and take care of any other outing you can all in the same day. This will keep you from driving in circles all week long spending hundreds extra on gas each year.
7. Develop a Zero Waste Kitchen
So much about changing the way you handle money is parallel to the way you would lose weight. There will always be fads and tips and short cuts that yield short term benefits but nothing long term. It takes a lifestyle change. When we think of better managing money we don’t always jump straight to ideas like learning new skills or developing contentment with what we have. But in reality those are the best ways to succeed with money in the long run.
One of the greatest skills to learn is how to craft a zero waste kitchen. So much of saving money centers around food because most of us spend more money there than anywhere else. You can kick an Amazon prime addiction, but food is a necessity!
You do not need new countertops or a walk in pantry to develop a from scratch, zero waste kitchen- in fact you just need basic ingredients you may already have on hand and a little ingenuity.
How much food do you throw away each year?
It is amazing how much food we can forget and let ruin even with the greatest of intentions.
The concept of a zero waste kitchen is simple. I’ll give a quick example just to sort of show what I mean here. We buy our milk local and the pickup comes every week. Usually we are eager to pick up more, but this past week we had nearly an entire gallon left over and more being brought home, so we used the extra to make ricotta cheese. The leftover whey will be fed to the chickens.
Freezing, canning, giving, repurposing, and learning new recipes can in the long run save you a lot of money on food costs. (And help you need fewer trips to the store.)
8. Cut Out the Extras
This is a “not so fun” one, but you may find it easier and more productive in the short term than some other options on this list.
Where does your money go each month?
We should know the answer to this right? But if you’re like us- you may not. Of course the electric bill has to be paid, but what else is outgoing.
Magazine subscription fees? Netflix/Hulu/Disney Plus?
Pull up your bank statement and look it over. You may find you are paying for things you don’t even use. We have signed up for memberships or subscriptions before that we forgot we had and paid for them for months without realizing it.
What about your cell phone or Internet provider? Could you find cheaper? Car or Home Insurance? Is there a less expensive option with the same coverage?
All of this is worth looking into. If you could free up an extra $50 a month- you could save an extra $600 a year!
9. Sell the Old to Buy the New
This has been a fairly new revelation for me though I am a bit ashamed to admit it. The truth is sometimes we do want something new. Maybe it is as simple as a shirt or something to decorate a bare wall with and maybe it is something bigger like furniture or a car. Of course budgeting it in even if it requires you to save for a bit is wise. But let’s be real we are a generation of instant gratification. So instead of signing up for a new credit card or saving for six months- earn it!
This is such a simple concept, but again completely new to me.
Want a new wardrobe? Sell your old one.
Want a new couch? Sell yours.
We need to get rid of stuff to make some room for the new anyways. This keeps clutter to a minimum and helps you to purchase quicker something new that you want!
10. Don’t Skip Out on Date Night
As important as cutting back on bills and costs can be- there are also important things to hold on to. Hygiene, for example. Deeming soap and deodorant non-essential is not a good place to start unless you are truly on the verge of losing everything. And I think that date nights are an essential!
Again that doesn’t mean you need to budget $200 for a night out. A simple movie night at home, a shared meal at a restaurant, or a home cooked meal for just the two of you is so worth it. I don’t consider date nights expenses, but rather investments.
Building up savings, paying off debts, navigating inflation- these are stressful endeavors. Your spouse is your partner in all of this, but at times it can seem like they are your adversary. Date nights offer you time to talk, plan, dream, and laugh together. My brother-in-law always quotes the African Proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Please, go together. Don’t ever stop dating your husband!
In Spite of Inflation
Right now inflation is making everything difficult. Food, gas, rent, car prices- it is all going up. But these simple ideas will serve you regardless of what the stock market or Bitcoin are doing. Mamas, whether you stay at home or work, I know these are challenging times. But God knows what you have need of. Grow in thankfulness, contentment, and steward your money, your time, and your home well.
Give. Save. Spend. In that order. That’s all you can do with money.
You got this!