In the first part of my series, “Where There's a Bill, There's a Way”, I discussed how our growing family found ourselves under a mountain of debt. We went from feeling helpless and frustrated to being determined to dig ourselves out of the mess we created. We turned our frustration into the momentum it would require for such a task that lay ahead of us.
As a stay-at-home mom with three children and one on the way, I made it one of my jobs to see how many ways I could save our money. Hard as it was, it actually became a bit of a sport that I began to enjoy. I am so thankful for this time that renewed a sense of old-fashioned resourcefulness; something I think more Americans could stand to recover, regardless of their financial situations.
Ways We Saved
It cannot be underestimated that saving a little bit, across many areas, makes a huge difference in the budget. Most of us don't realize this until we're forced to. It's the habit of the wealthy and it was what carried our grandparents through the Great Depression. Essentially, it's choosing to live below your means, wherever that is, to put your money where it will benefit you. The lower your income, of course, the more drastic you have to be to save a dollar.
Here are 15 practical steps we took:
- 1. We used our clothes line every day possible. A dryer is one of the most costly appliances to run.
- 2. We didn't drive places we didn't have to. Driving costs money.
- 3. We didn't buy wrapping paper; we used brown paper bags and decorated them – or fabric, or old maps, or newspaper...
- 4. We recycled everything possible and tried to repair things instead of replace them, carefully considering every purchase. One can do without a lot, we found out!
- 5. We didn't eat out, at least not very often. You could cook a meal at home for $5 compared to eating out which can be over $30 for two. If we did eat out, everyone drank water, sometimes we shared plates, and we tried to use coupons. (Tip: One restaurant had a “giant seafood platter” that fed our whole family (7) because we had mostly little ones. Total cost was $18.99.)
- 6. We didn't buy consumable products that we could do without (paper plates, paper towels, etc.).
- 7. We didn't pay for cable or tv services and had only one cell phone.
- 8. We kept our thermostat as high/low as we could stand it. Using a fan in the summer can help. To help, we kept the blinds down in summer and up in winter, utilizing the outdoors as much as possible.
- 9. We turned our hot water heater off at night, then back on the next evening. This saved about $40/month.
- 10. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) breastfed our babies. Huge savings. We also asked for diapers for those wishing to give gifts.
- 11. We cooked from scratch and ate lots of soups and casseroles.
- 12. We planted a garden.
- 13. We made homemade gifts...lots of homemade gifts.
- 14. We shopped thrift stores and yard sales, almost exclusively. Perhaps once with a stigma attached, thrift shops now are full of almost new, name brand clothing. We continue to shop there.
- 15. We shopped online for items like printer ink, contacts, etc. (And we always checked for coupon codes before checking out.) (True story: I once ordered checks online and between a couple of coupon codes, I ended up receiving $2.50 back!)
We essentially looked at every area, big or small, to see what we could trim back or cut out altogether. It began with a state of mind that rejects the notion of “keeping up with the Joneses” (By the way, the Joneses filed for bankruptcy). The results were quite amazing.
In the next part, I'll share the ways we found to earn extra money.