I'd also like to preface this post with the fact that this information is what works for me and MY family. We have been saving and budgeting for years - which I have no doubt has helped make any and all life transitions quite smooth and stress free. We love to save money, we love shopping smart and Joey and I are on the same page when it comes to budgeting and our finances. I highly recommend that you have discussions about your own personal financing and budget with your partner (OR a Financial Advisor) - it helps to be on the same page, I promise you that.
I'm going to make this post a bit more user-friendly and post various sections with bullet points underneath - I figured that would be a bit easier to follow and find information. Here we go!
- Google Sheets. My husband has the Google Sheets App on his Andriod phone, and it has a 'Monthly Budget' option - this is the way we stay organized with our budget and expenses
- GO OVER THINGS MONTHLY. Life happens, you move, jobs change, income changes, your furnace breaks, etc. Going over your budget every month is a great way to keep on track with your current expenses or "life" that may be happening. You can adjust based on what is going on in your life or if you need to plan for additional expenses/costs in the upcoming weeks.
- Joey and I have a joint Checking Account - but separate Savings Accounts. We like our joint account because everything is in one place and it works for us when paying bills/setting up Auto-Pay. Knowing our one account will work for everything.
- Savings Accounts! If you don't have one, get one - Joey and I both have a very nice cushion in both of our accounts, for emergencies. Knowing we have that specific amount in our savings is very reassuring. We had been putting money into savings over the years and - let me tell you - it adds up!!!
- College Funds. Start one for your kids if you can... just do it.
- Oh - and having a partner that is obsessed and strict about budgeting and financial planning doesn't hurt... ;)
Loans & Credit Cards
- Don't have credit card debt if you can help it. If you have a credit card, use it and pay it off every month.
- Don't overspend (again, if you can help it). Use your credit cards for things within your means and what you truly need. Of course, there may be instances where people will need to use credit cards - and thats OK! But before you make a large purchase, think about if you would be able to pay off the balance that month. If not, try to think about other options...
- Joey and I have one credit card each, and actually never use them. I know CCs have benefits, points, cash back - but we prefer not to charge anything and only use our Debit card and/or cash. The only 'cash back' we get is from shopping at Costco (which I love because I don't HAVE to use my credit card, I simply get cash back by shopping there and using my Costco Membership card)
- Our student loans are paid off. I paid mine off within 3 years of graduating and Joey just paid his off THIS MONTH!!! #canigetanamen -- We always prioritized paying these off over additional spending, and really wanted to just get them out of our hair. It feels GREAT to have them GONE FOREVER!!!!! Ps. With the bit of money we made by selling our home, Joey used that to pay off his final student loan chunk. Sure, we could have banked it and used it on something "fun" but we knew by just taking that money and putting it towards that loan, we would be able to cut our monthly expenses by almost $200. So now, we're living in a bigger home, I'm not working and our monthly expenses are basically identical to when we lived at our old home.
- If you have the option to pay off a little extra on your loans or debt each month, do it. You'll feel better, you could pay them off sooner and just be DONE with them.
- Shop the flyers and sales. Whether you shop at Aldi, Pick N Save, Metro Market, Target, etc - always look at their ads, sales and coupons to see if what you want/need is going to be on sale. OR try to meal plan around what the special and sales are that week at your grocery store. Ex. We've been hitting up Aldi like CRAZY and have saved SO MUCH money its insane - this week Blackberries are .89 and Raspberries are $1.19 - I bought 8 containers when just the week before I saw them for $2.50 at another grocery store. Oh - and sometimes Aldi has their baby carrots for .49 and giant bags of large carrots for .99 - BUY THEM ALL.
- Meal Plan. OK - I am NOT kidding about this. Before you try to scrounge up meals for the week, take the time to go through your fridge, freezer and pantry. See what you have and what meals could be created by what you have in the house. Sit down and write what meals could work for each day of the week - and if there are a few misc. ingredients you need to pick up, thats totally fine. BUT you'll be surprised by going through EVERYTHING in your kitchen and what could be created. Here is an example of what we ate this week based on what was already in our home -
- Monday - Veggie & Rice Teriyaki Bowl
- Tuesday - Grilled Ham & Cheese with Roasted Carrots
- Wednesday - Eggs & Roasted Potatoes
- Thursday - (Thanksgiving Food)
- Friday - Leftovers
- Saturday - Birthday Pizza
- Sunday - Vegetarian Tacos (corn tortillas, beans & veggies)
- Meal Prep. So along the lines of meal planning - prepping as much food for the week as you can makes thins SO much easier. Use the weekends or any down time you have (#lol) to prep things like - big batches of rice, roasted vegetables, pot of chili, freezer pancakes, energy bites, muffins, soft baked granola bars. I bake and cook on and off all week and especially love to bake my freezer snacks for Jack and I. Our freezer is currently stocked with banana muffins, carrot muffins, soft granola bars and pumpkin pancakes. Just by taking a little bit of time to prep these items, I now have breakfast and/or snacks for WEEKS - and I saved SO much money just by making them myself here at home (ex. About $2.50 worth of ingredients made about 20 freezer pancakes, and $2 worth of ingredients made over 16 muffins)
Clothing & Home
- There is no denying that I like to shop - I like clothing and I like home decor. Especially with moving into the new house, its given us a chance to freshen up our decor and "start from scratch" making our new home exactly how it want it to look. BUT just because you like nice things doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money.
- BUY SELL TRADE. Not a member of your local BST Facebook groups? Join them ALL. You'll find people selling or wanting to buy anything and everything. In the last month we've made around $1,000 from selling things like home decor or furniture we would no longer need and/or want at our new home. By getting that money, it gave us the opportunity to turn it right around to buy NEW pieces of decor for our new place (Hobby Lobby 50% off anyone)
- Consignment Shopping. I've never been picky about brands or where I shop. Target, TJ Maxx and Old Navy are fabulous and always have great deals on their clothes - BUT over the last few months I've started to learn that straight up consignment shopping (Second Hand, BST or Upscale Resale Stores) is SO fun and the hunt makes things exciting. I've been reinventing my wardrobe over the last few months and really just focusing on key pieces to fill my closet. I've sold TONS of well-loved and gently-used pieces of mine that were collecting dust in my closet (I've made around $600 in the last 2 months) and have found new pieces that I can wear year round and - most importantly - ACTUALLY WEAR.
- Kids Resale or Hand me downs. Do you have family or friends that are done having kids OR are looking to get rid of some of their kid clothing/items? Ask around - you never know who may have bins of baby clothes or toys just sitting around. See if you could borrow them and/or buy them from them! There is a good chance you won't have to pay much, if at all. Sure, kids clothing may be a bit worn BUT our kiddos grow fast and there is no way i'm buying Jack a pair of $50 baby jeans when my family member is willing to pass-down all of their son's old toddler clothes!
Internet, Phone & TV
- Amazon Prime, Hulu, PBS Kids. We don't have cable. We have Amazon Prime (which allows us to have access to tons of shows/movies), Hulu, and our Roku which connects us to the PBS kids app with shows like Sesame Street & Daniel Tiger that Jack watches - as well as free Pluto TV that actually has decent channels and show options. We don't need cable, and honestly haven't had it for years.
- Google Fi. We don't have a home phone and solely use our cell phones. We switched over to Google Fi a few months back and it was the best decision ever. Our monthly bill runs around $60 (thats for BOTH of our cell phones).. thats it.
- We didn't fall into the "bundle deals" trap through our Internet/Cable company. We knew we only needed internet through them and since we were moving - I cancelled our old account at the old house, which meant I'd be considered a "new customer" when we moved to our new home.. WHICH MEANT we could take advantage of the $39.99/month for our internet.
Additional Ways & Tips To Save!
- Free/Cheap Activities. Play dates, Parks, Walks, Mall-walking, Local State Trails/Parks, Children's Museums and Zoos. We have a free Zoo in our area which (when the weather is nice) we love to go to. The Children's Museum has a free membership for kids up until 18m so we just signed up for that and hopefully can go a few times in the next month with Mr. Jack. We also purchased a $28 pass for our State Parks and went 5 times so far since this summer so the pass already paid for itself (its $7-10 for park entry normally).
- Coffee. You know I love my coffee. I rarely get coffee while i'm out an about - but if I do I still use my 'ways to save' tips that I listed in my previous post. Kwik Trip has iced or hot coffee that runs around $1-2 so I try to take advantage of those low prices rather than going to Starbucks and spending $3-4 on the same drink. 95% of the time we only drink coffee here at home, though. We make a larger pot in the morning to have a cup or two extra that I can pop in the fridge to chill and enjoy an iced coffee mid-day if needed. OH - and creamer. I've discovered that Costco sells a $5 tub of Coffee Mate Powdered Creamers. I was kind of weirded out and unsure about it at first and didn't think i'd like it, BUT after a few days of using it back in August I know no different. One tub lasts 2-3 months for me, as opposed to when I'd used to spend $3/week on liquid creamer. Its nuts!
- Going out to eat; we rarely do this. We don't feel the need to go out and spend $40+ on a meal when that could get us a majority of our groceries for the week. Sure, there are times where Joey and I will go out - we went to a little cafe for our Anniversary on Thursday (spent $20 on lunch and coffee), but its not something we do on the regular.
- Amazon Prime - Free 2 day shipping and an abundance of Shows & Movies
- Roku - As I mentioned above, we LOVE having one and being able to access the free apps within.
- Target Red Card (Debit)
- Target Cartwheel App
- Hair. I haven't colored my hair in 4 years. I get a $15 trim at Cost Cutters every 3 months or so and that is it. I also cut Joey & Jacks hair here at home. Once Jack gets more hair and doesn't just need trims around the long pieces by his ears - I may take him in to get an actual haircut. :)
- Presents. I grew up getting tons of presents for holidays and birthdays. Its all I knew and was used to. However, Joey and I have changed things up over the years... and rarely get each other gifts. We buy things when we need and/or want them and when we can find sales. We did get each other a new kitchen sink for our anniversary, though (#romantic) and Jack did pick out a birthday gift for Joey yesterday (his favorite beef jerky, cider and chocolate #thoughtful). Anyways, when it comes to Jack - we've been getting him one or two gifts for the Holidays and his birthday. I took advantage of Amazon Prime sales on Black Friday and spend $35 on two Melissa & Doug toys (originally would have been over $50) and now his Christmas gifts are done. ALSO - for family we've suggested to only focus on the kids. This means we're only getting smaller gifts for our nieces, nephews and Joeys younger siblings. We're at the point where spending Holidays with our family is the important thing and tangible gifts for adults are not truly necessary.
Ok, WOAH. Lots of information, if you made it this far - Bravo! I've been wanting to put this post together for a while now and knew getting it up before the holidays would (hopefully) be helpful! I hope you found some, if not all, of it beneficial and can take some of these tips into your budget and financing plans.
Again, keep in mind that this information is what works best for ME and MY family. Every family, every budget/income is different - but by using some of these tips and tricks based on YOUR family, it is my hopes that you can find ways to save and be smarter with your money.