Unfortunately there is not any one cure all for our family to survive living on a teacher’s salary. I wish I could tell you to do one thing and it will be easy- but it’s not. It’s a huge combination of things that we are always striving towards. Saving money and making ends meet is not a once a month thing for us- it’s a continual process of searching for ways to save money and stretch our budget. Many of our friends live on a teachers salary plus a spouse’s salary-and they still have problems making ends meet. Our family does a LOT of small things that all add up to a big savings.
Here is a look into the madness of our family in an effort to make ends meet and stretch our budget. We do ALL of this (and more!). It may look exhausting, and sometimes it is, but it helps our family pay our bills!
- Couponing for groceries- this saves us 40-90% of our grocery bills. We used to spend $100+ per week for groceries. Now we spend anywhere from $10-60 depending on the sales and how tight our budget is for that week. (You can browse my Basics to Couponing sheet here. You can also find printable grocery coupons here.)
- Cancel our cable. We actually didn’t pay for our cable to begin with because we had a 1 year promo deal, but when they wanted to charge us we cancelled it. Instead we have chosen to use Netflix for about $10 per month. It gets us movie rentals, TV shows, and so much more. Not only does this cut the cost of cable but for us it cut the cost of going to the Redbox several times a month!
- No cell phones. We don’t have cell phones because we can’t afford it. It was a tough call but has saved a lot of money. We do have a “pay as you go” phone that we spend $100 a year on. It gives us 1000 minutes for the year which we use for emergencies or travel purposes only. To be honest right now we don’t even have our phone working.
- Sign up for store clubs. We have signed up with our grocery store baby/kids clubs, birthday clubs, and other “promos”. We have received so many coupons, freebies, and special monthly deals. This helps expand our family entertainment. We get free meals around our birthdays. My son occasionally gets free Chuck-E-Cheese tokens. As well as grocery coupons and freebies.
- Sign up for daily online deal sites. There seem to be a TON out there right now. I typically use Groupon, Mamapedia, and Zulily the most.
- When shopping online get the most for your money. Try Plastic Jungle to buy gift cards cheaper, ebates to earn money back, and swagbucks to earn points for gift cards when browsing!
- Pick a family splurge. Even when things are tight you need something fun. Every year we buy a membership to a different location. One year it was Sea World, the next a science museum, this year it is the zoo.
- Always pay a little extra on your bills (if you can afford even $5!). I try to always pay a few extra dollars on my utility bills especially every month. Then when we have a really tight month on the budget that utility bill will either be heavily discounted or $0! Every year we do this and pay for little or no utilities during the summer months.
- Use your tax refund! Our tax refund almost 100% goes to bills. We use our tax money for our Christmas budget, car insurance, savings account, house repair/car repairs, medical bills, education, and if we have extra we’ll set aside some money for vacation or another splurge.
- Sign up with credit card rewards programs. We have 2 credit cards- 1 gives me gift certificates to Amazon which helps pay for our Christmas gifts as well as other items we need throughout the year. Our other credit card gets us hotel rewards points so we can actually afford in an emergency, or for a mini-vacation to spend the night away a few days a year-for FREE! This weekend we are actually driving a few hours down to see my husband’s grandpa in the hospital and getting a FREE hotel night so we can be with them a little bit longer.
- Yard sales/Thrift stores! We have bought clothes, toys, household appliances, our deep freezer, books, movies, and a TON of other things at a fraction of the cost this way. We can even buy “splurge” items this way as well!
- Keep our AC/heat off. This isn’t possible 100% of the time because we have small children and live in Florida, but as much as physically possible we turn off our AC and run small fans if we need to get some air flow. This is a HUGE money saver when we can do this. We can save as much as $100 on our monthly electric bill on months where we do not run our unit.
- Eating out. This is a hard one. It seems to me that the tighter our budget is the more we want to go out to eat simply to feel a little better about the situation and have a variety. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Look for coupons. Eat healthier. Sometimes we pack the kids in the car with their food from home, and hubby & I just grab something for us and do a picnic. Subway’s $5 subs are great for this!
- Buy presents year-round. I buy Christmas presents in March and birthday presents 6 months ahead of time! If I find an awesome online deal, or clearance in store, I buy it. This is a HUGE money saver. I’ve already covered several Christmas gifts and spent almost nothing for VERY nice gifts! The same concept goes for buying holiday decorations for the next year. After Easter I buy all of the toys for next year’s Easter basket.
This list may look daunting, but you don’t have to change your lifestyle overnight and drop off the face of the earth. Why not try 2 or 3 new things a week to cut costs. It really does add up, and it gets easier to save as you go. Don’t feel bad. Sometimes no matter how much you save it just isn’t enough. Don’t feel guilty- just keep plugging away! You may have to look for other sources of income, and it’s OK! We’re in that boat right now and it’s hard to buckle down and try yet another way to save/make money. But look at what you have around you and appreciate your family and friends. They are what really matter.