Are your finances already stretched to the limit? Are your bills already overdue? Sometimes living within your means just isn’t attainable. Combine a very limited income with the holidays and you may find your bills are already overspent. It can be VERY stressful when you don’t know how you will pay your bills! I can’t make more money appear, but there are a few things we do to help us NOT spend money.
STOP Grocery Shopping.
Ok – this sounds a little unreasonable – but hear me out. We obviously all need food in our house. But even being frugal with our grocery shopping still allows room for overspending. When things get tight we put a grocery freeze on our house. We take two weeks to eat what we have in our freezer or bottom of our pantry. We allot $10 each week for fresh items like milk and produce. Do you have random meat stored at the bottom of your freezer? Maybe an extra loaf of bread? Or how about a few extra boxes of pasta in your closet? Try eating your old stock and skip grocery shopping for a few weeks.
Plan a Night Out. Or In.
Sound like an oxymoron? How do you save money and plan a night out? I find that when our money is the tightest and we are stressed out all I want to do is go out for a nice night and not worry about things. And if you’re not careful you can easily drop $20-$50 or more! BUT spending money….well…it makes it worse! So our family spends a night out doing something close to home and FREE. Try having a picnic at a local park, feed the ducks, go hiking, geocaching, craft time at the library – whatever works for you. Sometimes we set aside $2 and each buy a large drink at the gas station or split a large ICEE/slushy. Sometimes we just take the kids to the pet store at the mall so they can play with a puppy. Head to your local bookstore and sit down with a good book. You can even rent movies at your libraries!
Reorganize and Repurpose.
I am a bit of a freak about organizing although if you walked in my house you wouldn’t notice! My kids have pretty much trashed everything I try to organize. BUT I do find that organizing and digging through closets and storage containers can often give me new ideas of things to do as a family or for a project – not to mention getting my house cleaner! I save everything under the sun and try to figure out a way to reuse things – even if it’s just for a kid’s craft that we’ll throw away later. I placed an old pop up hamper in the garage and all of our (washed out) soup cans, shampoo bottles, glue bottles, toilet paper tubes, etc. get thrown into the hamper.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled.
Keep a look out for freebies. Just this week someone down the road had a pile of stuff in their front yard that said “FREE”. I was able to pick up some new books, a few movies for the kids, a book bag to donate and a small helium tank with balloons for a birthday party – all for FREE! Driving around town I also saw a doll crib and other random items people are getting rid of. Make sure to check local Facebook groups, Freecycle and Craigslist too! If you’re handy keep an eye out for scrap wood, doors, frames and other items that you can recycle and reuse.
Pre-plan and Double Check.
Make sure you KNOW what your bills will be – especially if you use credit cards! Twice a month I sit down and double check all of our accounts. Once to see if we are on track with our spending, and then once to pay our bills. Many people write down exactly what they spend but it is difficult when you’re busy and with kids – I totally get that. Although there are apps you can use to help you keep track of your spending!
I understand sometimes you can’t help it if something comes up like medical expenses or a major repair. That’s when we really get thrown for a loop and pre-planning can help a lot here. BUT by double checking your expenses it will help you to stay more in check for the rest of the month. If it’s REALLY tight we say- “Let’s see if we can not use your credit cards for anything at all for 3 days starting tomorrow”. We gas up our cars and put the credit cards away – we don’t buy food, we don’t buy toiletries, we don’t go out for any reason. Taking small amounts of time like 3 days is a much easier goal than not spending anything for 30 days! Start small and then reset your goal.
Keep $5 and Leave it.
My husband and I are both very careful with money and thankfully neither of us are impulsive spenders. But when money is tight we put $5 cash in each car, put our driver’s license in our wallets, and leave our credit cards at home. Keeping $50 cash is a better idea in case of a car emergency like a flat tire but if you will spend it don’t put it in there! If we have an emergency and run out of gas we have $5 to put in the tank to get us home. Without our credit cards or any other cash in our wallets we are not tempted to run in the grocery store for that one last item, we’re not tempted to stop for a quick drink, or stop at a yard sale or thrift store just to see what’s there!
Envelopes and Cash.
Some people use a “cash only” system without credit cards at all. If you are an impulsive shopper this might be the way for you to cut your expenses. I also know some people who have gone so far as to put their credit cards in the freezer and freeze it into a large block of ice. We have an envelope for each person in the family – when that person receives birthday or Christmas money it goes in their envelope and they have that cash to spend on their purchases. We also use the envelopes to save up for our date nights, Christmas budget, vacations, house projects, and any other category that we feel we need. Nobody is allowed to touch the envelopes unless they are using it for that specific purpose.
Keep it out of your Checking Account!
We have learned that if we put money in our checking account it somehow disappears! We always have bills to pay so if we put extra money in our checking account to “save” for later – it doesn’t happen. It gets eaten up by our bills. I HIGHLY suggest opening at LEAST 1 savings account, even more if you need! Not only are they usually free but you get a higher interest rate in a savings account compare to a checking account. (even though it isn’t a huge amount)
Keep it Rolling.
If you DON’T have any savings plan NOW is the time to start! Make a goal of $1000 and do everything you can to keep that goal – even if it’s only $10 at a time. It’s there for an emergency. If you have to use it – start saving for it again. I know it’s really tough to build it up when you don’t have it. If you DO have a savings account and have more than a few thousand dollars consider opening up several CD’s and stacking them.