When I was in high school, working both a full-time and part-time job, I had only my car insurance and gas to worry about. My car was paid off, I didn’t owe rent or utilities and my food was cared for other than what I picked up for lunch at the fast food restaurant of my choice.
I was making decent money for a girl with minimal bills. And I blew through my money like there was no tomorrow. I had no budget, I barely tucked away money like my mom advised I do. I lived for the immediate and by the time I left home for college, there was nothing to show for all the hard-earned money I’d made.
My care-free lifestyle altered drastically as a freshman. I was determined to pay my own way through school but with a mere $1,000 in my bank account and my first’s months tuition due, I knew I was going to need a budget if I was to pull it off.
Four years later, I graduated college debt-free. I had only needed to ask my dad to cover tuition once and that was paid back the following week. I also paid for my wedding, debt-free.
I kept a rigid budget and went to bed hungry many times, but I had reached my goal. If I had to do it over again, the only thing I would change is I would have listened to my mom and saved my money while in high-school.
But I did learn some valuable lessons I was able to take into marriage and, because of them, when times got tough and bills exceeded our income, I was able to help keep us afloat. Here is a simple list of some of the things I learned/used while needing to save money; I hope they can help you reach your goals, too!
1. Make a Budget.
You can’t stick to a budget if you don’t have one, right? If you need help with making a budget, you can read my post: How to Create a Simple Budget. My husband keeps an excellent budget and I plan to have him spill his excel spreadsheet tips in a future post.
2. Cancel subscriptions.
When we were trying to save money to go on a trip, we looked at our spending to see where we could cut back. We contemplated our cable bill and realized we really only watched one or two channels and we could watch those online for free. So, we canceled cable and put that money towards our trip each month.
3. Stop eating out.
If you add up what you spend going out or grabbing a daily coffee, it could equal a couple hundred dollars. It was a shocking number when we added ours up.
4. Have a game plan for groceries.
You have to have a game plan when you go to the store or you will overspend. These tips help me tremendously:
- Eat before you go. This really works. When I’m hungry, everything looks good and things end up in my cart that I don’t need.
- I started shopping every week instead of every two weeks. I found I was better able to stretch my budget with only seven days to plan for instead of 14. Also, we could buy fresher foods going every few days.
- Make a menu. This is imperative. If you don’t have a list of items you need, you will buy things you don’t and over spend. A menu allows you to plan meals and see where you can splurge and where you need to scrimp on items. For example, if I have a special occasion coming up and I want to buy corned beef, I know I need to make a few cheaper meals throughout the week to compensate. Also, I try to plan meals that make enough for two days, which cut back costs. Here is a Magnetic Refrigerator Chalkboard that makes menu-planning fun!
- Shop Aldi’s. If you are lucky enough to have one nearby, go! I do not know what we would do without our Aldi’s. Aldi’s allows me to stay on budget every week. They also offer more organic options, which I love. I cannot encourage you enough to give them a try if you have not already.
- Clip coupons. I rarely do this as I really only shop at Aldi’s, but for the rare times I need something Aldi’s doesn’t offer, I always try to find a coupon. I hate paying full price for anything.
- Buy things on sale. Find out when your favorite meat goes on sale and buy it then. You’ll save good money waiting for sales.
- Buy in bulk. My budget has never really allowed me to buy in bulk and most things you can find in bulk stores I can still get cheaper at Aldi. (Can you tell I love Aldi??) But when you get a sale on your favorite items, buy them up, if your budget allows.
- Buy your meat frozen. I always buy my chicken and ground turkey frozen. I save nearly 50% buying it frozen and thawing it myself.
5. Shop at garage sales and thrift stores.
Nearly all my clothes and our girl’s clothes are hand-me-downs. It just makes sense to buy them at a fraction of the cost when you can find almost new clothes at thrift stores. You can save even more money shopping during their discount days. Most of the furniture in my house is also used. A little paint does wonders for used furniture!
6. Say no to parties.
If you are on Facebook, you probably get invited to a party at least once a week. Although I love that my friends are trying to earn money for their families, if I’m trying to save, I just can’t afford to buy anything. So, I politely decline all parties until I can afford to spend a little extra. Until you reach this point in your finances, just say no.
7. Swap babysitting services with a friend.
This was a huge money-saver for me when I had a tight budget. If you don’t have kids or need a babysitter but have other things to offer, why not barter? I have a friend who is the queen of bartering. She gets all kinds of things by offering her services as a writer.
8. Attend free activities.
This is great if you have kids. All kinds of places offer free days or free activities after a certain time. Libraries are great at providing fun for kids at little to no charge. Check your local listings or search online for free activities. Some parks even offer free lunches in the summertime. That’s a win for your budget! Just because you are tight on money doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun.
9. Find items around the house to sell.
Having a garage sale, selling things on E-bay or even posting items to Facebook are great ways to get rid of clutter and make some money for what you need but don’t have in the budget.
10. Set aside some money for frivolous things.
This won’t work for everyone, but I always try to set aside a little bit from my budget to get a Coke and fries, buy some new makeup or save for something bigger that I don’t really need but want. This little allowance keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. My husband does the same thing with our main budget. We try to get ice cream or dinner on occasion, just to spoil ourselves. The kids need to hear “yes” once in a while, too. This little allowance helps us stay on budget.
I hope I got your mind thinking in the right direction. Living on a budget, getting out of debt or saving for something big can be done. If you’re patient and tweak what you can, you’ll get there. Baby steps.
What are some tips you have used that has helped you?