That’s it! It’s the month we’re taking charge of our finances and going to move forward with the intention on being the boss of our money rather than its employee. Money talks are scary right now. There are even rumors about us heading into a recession and I get it, while you can’t take to heart every bad news that flies your way, let alone deciphering its validity or not, you do want to have some kind of plan in order to prepare for the future.
I have reads HUNDREDS of books, blog posts, and tips on saving money. When we lived on $16,000 a year with 2 kids, I went through all the things to figure out how to save an extra dollar. You may know about most of them as well: cut the credit cards, use cash only, cut the cable, reduce your grocery bill by eating less meat, and so on and so forth. After going through all this, it was so discouraging to sit down at the end of the month and realize we don’t have money after all that.
I have been in a journey to live on half of our one income. Yeah, NOT easy. While we are super blessed at now making more like $25k a year, we have increased our household size by 3 more children. It hasn’t gotten any easier folks! But this self-discipline will be the best thing I have done for myself and my family. So, lets get into these 3 unpopular ways to save money.
Treat yourself. No, wait! don’t click out! Bare with me. When I went super strict on my budget and finances, it was so easy to become discouraged and burned out and fall back into my old habits. This is actually a very common problem for many consumers. Typically we can keep up the difficulties for approx 6 weeks, and then we fall back into old habits. So, when I had heard about JC Penny conducting a survey on consumer habits and how people tend to revert back to old tendencies after getting burnt out (not sure this study is true, I remember hearing about it– which is why I chose this tip), I decided to figure out something that would set myself up for success. If we make the financial wise decision to cut back on specialty coffee, approx $4-$5 per outing, if you don’t get any added treats, we save approx $260 dollars a year. The average American spends 2-5x that. But, again, finances are tight for us, so I gave us an average of $5 a week. This could also be soda’s we throw onto the conveyor belt at the end of a grocery trip, or a quick drive through McDonalds for their $1 soda, or whatever– think about all the ways this adds up. Now, since that is like the number 4 tip of saving money, you all know this. Numbers I think really help us. Now, what I am saying is, after a month or two, those habits are going to creep back in. Charles Duhigg, in his well-known work, The Power of Habit, writes about how in order to get rid of bad habits, we need to change our habits, not drop them, but rewire ourselves to replace them with new habits. So instead of breaking the habit of reaching for a bag of potato chips when you go to read a book on the patio, your weekly ritual, you place a container of nuts there instead. Your habit is to go to this section and grab something– its mindless, you have to put something in that place because your body is doing things without much deliberate thought. Our mind has way to many things to process, it’s the habits that become routine that the mind doesn’t have to think too hard about. Giving that introduction into my tip of treating yourself, you may be asking, “well, why give me another opportunity to fall into my old habits?”
Here is what I learned, at the beginning of each month, I had a habit, or routine of researching meals, ideas, ways we needed to save money this month, build my shopping list and so on and so forth and it exhausted me and it was a lot of hard work. If I was successful, I would treat myself to a Starbucks in the middle of the month. That “Wednesday hump,” so to speak. It was something to look forward too, if possible, it was an outing that I could have with a friend and it was a lot of fun. If I chose $1 ice coffee Wednesday from a local coffee place, I could get two and share with a friend. Or even the Starbucks Happy Hour, would be my treat. It felt good, it kept me going and it was that dangling carrot— that reward, that we all crave, for our efforts.
Push your grocery shopping by two days each week. You’re probably thinking, “What?!” Or maybe, “That’s not possible. Saturdays are the only day I can manage this.” and if that’s the case and there is no way you can make this work, you may have to get a little more creative, and I’ll use that for tip 2B.
But, if this is even doable, let me explain: I cannot grocery shop for two weeks at a time. Couple things happen, 1) I live in a house with voracious eaters. Even my scheduled snack times are devoured in seconds, and let me just say, it’s not always growing kids that eat everything! If I were to shop 2 weeks at a time, that extra food get’s eaten and it’s not a pretty site when mom doesn’t have her needed ingredients. 2) I don’t have a large fridge. I can’t put 2 weeks worth of food for our family of 7 in the fridge. However, if I push back my shopping trip 2 days each week, we get creative about using up all the food we have in the house and nothing goes to waste. Sometimes we end up with popcorn, carrots, leftover shredded chicken, and apples for a meal– AND THAT IS OK! Yes, I have voracious eaters, but we say a prayer for the children that are going to bed hungry tonight, (by the way, please make this a large habit in your home, those kids need our prayers and we need to be reminded that this exists in the world, it’s not to be used only when children don’t want to eat what is in front of them, and its not only for times like this, it’s to be done DAILY!) and that reminder makes us so grateful for what is before us.
Now, 2B— IF there is absolutely NO WAY you can shop on anyway outside of your designated one; no friend can come and take the kids for a while, you can’t take the kids with you (Hello Covid!), and a plethora of other roadblocks, then this is what I suggest and has worked for us– has a Poor Man’s Week. You may think, “um, that’s us every week.” But I would venture to guess, you haven’t done beans and rice for a week the way Money Saving Mom did. Even in our tightest months, this wasn’t a habit I implemented. And you can do it different ways! For us, beans are really bad for some of our family members. I mean, REALLY BAD. I really don’t want my family doubled over in pain on the couch for hours at a time because their body can’t digest them well. So I implemented other ways– eggs! Eggs are protein and cheap! $2-$3 a carton, or less if you’re in a good area for $1.50- $1.75 for dozen eggs! I would get 5 dozen eggs, for $12 at Walmart back in CA when eggs prices were outrageous, and that would get us 5 meals. I would make Quiche, I would make banana and egg pancakes with dollop of yogurt on top, I would scramble it with some diced potatoes, I would fry them up with some saute’d zucchini, and I would boil them for egg salad boats (egg salad on lettuce– my kids love this). If you’re NOT gluten free, pasta is cheap and you can do different pasta stuff- Pasta salad (SIMPLE!!!!!!!!!!!), Pasta and sausage ($3) Pasta- Spaghetti, Pasta with chili on top, pasta bake. So simple. If you need more ideas, check this video out. Don’t underestimate the financial impact this could have. Make a game! Have everyone come up with a meal idea, make it, and vote the winner at the end of the week! Maybe they could do that $1 coffee, or Happy Hour with you in the middle of the month 😉
Lay aside social media for the month. We are bombarded with advertisements while scrolling, we are being influenced in subtle and overt ways, and it’s hard to remain strong in our financial journey when we are surrounded by the world and its lure. It’s time to let go and enjoy what we have! It’s time to dust checkers off and play a game with a child, a spouse, a friend. It’s time to walk across the street with a plate of cookies to the elderly neighbor that yearns for some companionship. It’s time to see what we own and appreciate it, rather than clamoring for the best deal on something we really don’t need. It’s time to enjoy the photos we take for ourselves, rather than to share, filtered, to the 500 friends that follow us, but only 100 that we’re intimate with. It’s time to set aside Pinterest Perfection, and make a pan of baked spaghetti for the mom that is struggling with her three kids ages 3 and under. Take the credit card out of the wallet and place it in the back part of your dresser drawer. Make a decision to enjoy each day. Live it to the fullest.
I guarantee you, you’ll have more saved then you thought possible at the end of the month and you’ll be richer in more ways than cash.