A couple of our friends recently asked for a little bit of advice on how we keep our costs low, manage our money and stay on top of the money we have so we don’t spend money that we don’t actually have. So, I decided that would make a fantastic blog post.
1. We Cut Our Cable Bill.
A few years ago we got rid of cable. We decided that it was a lot of money that we could be spending elsewhere. Not only did this help add wiggle room in our budget but did wonders for our marriage. We kept internet and ditched the cable. I wrote about how we still watch TV shows sometimes without cable (or a subscription of any kind) here.
2. We Eat At Home.
We used to be notorious about going out to eat because it was easy. Nothing sounded good for dinner and so we conveniently we “had nothing to eat” so out we would go for sushi or a quick dinner at Wendys or Chilis. We cut down a ton after we had A, it made more sense to eat at home than to drag her out in the winter to sit in a restaurant.
Tip: When you write out what you have to eat for meals where you can see it, it’s easier to pick what’s for dinner without needing the excuse to go out because you “have nothing.”
3. Productive Grocery Shopping Trips.
When we go to the grocery store without a plan and a list we end up with a cart full of stuff, no real meals and our grocery budget blown out of the water for the month. So, every time we go to the grocery store (we go grocery shopping as a family, we have ever since we moved in together in 2006) we make a list of the meals we plan to have over the next two weeks to a month, what ingredients we need, what additional items (such as snack foods, etc.) that we need, and anything we need around the house. We also buy “in bulk” with things that are cheaper that way (i.e.-hamburger, it’s easier to buy 5lbs and cut it into 5 portions and cut into 1 pound portions and wrap and save. We also plan our shopping trips based on sales and coupons that we have at our local stores.
4. Monthly Budget Tracking.
We know which paycheck goes where. The first pay check goes toward rent, the second check goes to remaining bills. When it’s time to pay bills we open up our pre-made spreadsheet and fill in all of the information. The first column is the name of the bills (i.e water, student loans, electric, internet, phone, etc.) the second column is the amount that we owe that month, and if there is a balance such as student loans or credit cards that goes into a third column. Under the full list of bills that need to be paid we have the amount that we have from Ryan’s check under the total, and my income from the month and under that line there is a “left over” section. This tells us what we have left over. By doing this we are able to see exactly what we have for additional spending or to put into savings.
5. Needs vs. Wants.
Ryan and I are both very frugal. I Started working pretty early, and such a pride in earning money that I understood the value. This made for me understanding wants versus needs. Ryan was the same and we have continued to be this way. If we don’t need it we usually don’t buy it even if it something that we want. In fact, to give you a little insight on how extreme we are, we still have Christmas money from like three years ago. A great tip I learned from my dad is – when you want something write it down, and revisit it a month or more down the road, if you still want it – get it. If you don’t move on.
We have talked about what we would like to do to teach A about money so that she understands the same values that we do – that’s nice to have things that we want, but it’s more important have the things that we need and then think about the things that we want if there’s room for it later. Before A was born we started a savings account with money that we had saved and we also have a
small piggy bank, err Monster bank, That’s just for her so one day she can fill it with pennies and other coins and take pride in having money that is her own and understand the beginning concepts of money.
Right now, she’s just fascinated with the awesome noise it makes when there are coins in there to rattle around, and I’d say that’s a pretty good start. Having a little money that’s there to jingle every once in a while is a good feeling to have, wouldn’t you say?