Saving money is undoubtedly difficult for most families.
There was a time in our life when we were literally living off of our savings without any new income coming in. Initially, I thought that phase of life was going to be one of the worst chapters in our family history. Now in hindsight, I am so grateful for that experience, as it taught us so much – not only about being wise stewards of our finances, but about where true joy comes from.
As I share these money-saving tips, I will also share how these small ideas taught me about life, family, and happiness. There is something to be learned in every situation. These tips kept my family afloat during a time of transition and financial hardship. We learned to live within our means, be content with what we have, and stop the spending machine. I hope a tip or two can help you.
1. Meal Plan
I’ve sort of become an advocate for meal planning on my blog. I post a meal plan every Monday and did a small series on how meal planning can save you money.
With meal planning, I feed my family of 6 for around $300 a month. I plan out our meals carefully, cross-check the ingredients needed with what we have on hand, make a very detailed list, and then stick to it!
To find out more about how meal-planning can help your family save money, check out my post: Money and Meal-Planning: Practical Tips and Ideas To Save You Money at the Grocery Store
2. STOP Eating Out (This Includes Coffee!!)
It may or may not go without saying, but if you are struggling financially, eating out cannot be a part of your routine. Those coffee drinks and quick runs through the drive-thru really add up, and those dollars would be better spent at your town’s cheapest grocery store, purchasing groceries as part of your meal plan.
It’s easy to think in terms of, “I deserve a treat,” or “I should get to splurge,” but shifting your mindset towards your long-term goals and your family’s true needs rather than immediate wants can save money and create a healthier financial outlook overall.
That dollar menu is tempting, but do your best to just say no.
3. Get Rid of Cable
I really struggled to let go of cable. I wondered how I’d ever live without The Food Network and Disney Jr. Want to know something? I not only survived – I’m happier now. Getting rid of cable (and the huge bill that went along with it!) not only saved us a lot of money each year, but gave us back more quality time!!
The tv is such a trap. “I’ll just sit and watch one episode,” you say. Three hours later, you’re still on the couch or your kids are still glued to the screen – the morning wasted. Since ditching cable, we’ve accomplished more, spent more time outside, more time reading, more time doing art – just used our time in a more well-rounded way. It was one of the BEST decisions we ever made, and even though we can afford cable now, I don’t see us ever going back.
4. Don’t Go to “Target”
Don’t get me wrong – I ADORE Target. However, like most people, I find it incredibly difficult to walk out of Target without having spent 50 bucks. They have everything. Everything is affordable. And let’s face it – those little red clearance stickers are SO hard to resist!
When we were struggling financially, I literally went six months without shopping for anything other than groceries and basic toiletries. I didn’t go to Target. I didn’t go to the mall. I didn’t go shopping when I was bored or run an errand with the kids just to get out of the house.
Re-training yourself to stop shopping can be tough – especially if it is a regular habit for you. Learn to make do with what you have. If you do find that you or your child TRULY needs something, learn to utilize resources like “swap and sale” groups on social media, local used clothing stores, friends willing to give hand-me-downs, etc.
Bottom line: learn to buy just what you need, rather than what you want.
5. Drive Only When You Need To & More Efficiently
There is no way around it – gas is expensive. When you’re struggling, one way to save money is to figure out the most efficient way to run all of your errands at once. If the post office is on your way home from work, stop on your way home. Pick up that gallon of milk you’re out of while you’re already out, etc.
6. Entertain Yourself
This was by far the most important life lesson we gleaned from this period of our life. There weren’t any trips to the zoo, the museum, or to the park across town. We didn’t go to the movies, buy any new video games, or go on any staycations. During this time it was just the six of us – at home – just being together. And that had to be enough.
Let me tell you – that time of “circling our wagons” so to speak, yielded some of my favorite memories. Learning to be content with what you have is so critical to true happiness. It was so valuable to learn to appreciate and enjoy the things we already had that we so often took for granted.
We played board games that had sat in the closet for years. We watched old Disney movies. We drew pictures. We talked. We had dance parties. It was magic, and I wouldn’t trade those months for anything.
7. Delay Gratification
It is hard to wait for things we want. It’s hard not to spend any money that comes in on the things we’ve been thinking about. Those new shoes, that bigger tv, or that new boxed set of books seem super appealing and hard to live without – but really – we need to train ourselves to live within our means and WAIT to spend.
Saving up and waiting to buy the things we want helps us make less impulsive decisions and helps us truly value and appreciate the things we do buy.
If you can wait to buy, wait to buy.
Am I Dave Ramsey or another financial guru? No. Recognizing that everyone is different and that no one can understand the life situation anyone else is in, all I know is that these 7 recommendations can make a difference in your bank account. For some, you’ve already learned to never eat out. For others, you’ve NEVER had cable or the luxury of putting whatever you’d like in the cart at a store. Finances are a tough situation in many families and the source of much frustration – whether you have money to spare or not a dollar to your name. We’ve had plenty and we’ve been in want. We’ve had a financial cushion and we’ve wondered how we were going to buy diapers the next month. These tips helped me keep our family afloat during a difficult time. The biggest change was learning to be content with what we had – even when what we had wasn’t much.