We live amazingly well on a tight budget. Years of poverty early in our marriage coupled with our hatred of waste has made us self-proclaimed experts on cheap living. It is our fiscal ability which has made supporting our large family possible. I'm often asked how we do it. I'm not sure it's all that unusual, but here's how we do it:
1. I budget monthly down to the penny. I know where the Computer Guy's paycheck is going before it even hits the bank.
2. We operate on the envelope system. Everything which is not paid electronically through our checking account is paid in cash. I sort the cash into appropriately labeled envelopes every payday. (Examples of envelopes: eating out, children's activities, allowances, grocery store splurges, etc.) When the envelope for a particular category is empty, we have no more money for that item. Then we have to either borrow from another envelope (after much debate) or do without.
3. Pay cash for everything. Our motto is "If you can't pay cash, you can't afford it." Credit cards? What's that? Check cards can get you into big trouble if you aren't scrupulous about writing everything down. Use cash. It feels more like spending real money.
4. Allow yourself one splurge in your budget. We budget for the splurges. If you don't give yourself that one thing you won't stick to the plan.
5. Know the butcher in your grocery store. Be on a first name basis with him. Shop at the same time on the same day of the week. If he knows you're coming and what you like he'll hold it back for you. I never pay full price for meat because of this. The stuff that usually gets ground into hamburger gets set aside every other Friday morning until I can pick and choose at 9AM. Meat is the biggest chunk of our food budget. Never pay full price.
6. Diapers go on sale all the time. (It's every 3rd week at CVS.) Learn the schedules. Clip coupons or print them off and wait. CVS and Walgreens will let you stack coupons on top of each other. (I just bought packages of Huggies for $2.50 each.) Never pay full price.
7. School books for homeschooling. half.com or Amazon or one of the other used book sites. ( My daughter's Spanish book for this year is listed at $111.53 new. I paid $.50) Never pay full price until you have researched it. College books can be rented now. Save the money for cute shoes!
8. No cable for us! We turned off the cable which was running us $60 a month and turned on NetFlix for $8.99. We stream everything to our TV through the Wii. We don't miss the cable. We saved $51 a month.
9. I signed us up with a minute monitor on our cell phones. When we've used 75% of the minutes it texts us a warning. We get another if we hit 100% I signed my phone and #1's up for 250 text messages each per month. We get warnings about that too. We cut back on our minutes and never go over. It cut our bill in half. The monitor is free from our provider. Why wouldn't you use it?
10. Everything but meat and toiletries comes from Aldi. 2 weeks worth of food for the 8 of us averages $180. We were spending $300 at the regular grocery store for the same stuff.
11. There are lots of fun activities that the kids could do. They get one at a time. This saves my schedule and my bottom line.
12. Coupons, coupons, coupons! Sign up for free sites on line and for Frugal Girls on Facebook. Match the coupons to the ads. You have to be organized and it takes some time to get used to buying things in ridiculous quantities, but the first time you get $200 in groceries for less than $20 it will all be worth it. Treat this like a part time job. Never pay full price for anything! (Are you noticing a theme here?)
13. Hang your clothes to dry. Our rule is "If the Air Conditioner is running, the dryer isn't" It's 105* today. The clothes dried in 10 minutes. I throw them in the dryer on Air Fluff to break up the stiffness. It takes 5 minutes. Our electric bill went down $100 last month.
14. Set the thermostats on 80* in this heat. We have acclimated and are fine. A/C is expensive. Use it as little as possible.
15. Wash out the inside of your A/C units at the end of the sping. Ours get full of cottonwood fluff. It makes them infinitely more efficient.
16. Shower timers.
17. No gym except in the winter. The weather is gorgeous outside, so why would you go workout inside? The outdoors is free. Use it.
18. Dollar movies. Once a month we load up the kids and go to the movies. Tuesdays at our local dollar movie theater are $.50 admission days.
19. Make a list of all the free admission days at local museums and attractions. For example, the natural history museum in OKC is free on the 1st Monday of every month. Every other day it is $6 a person. There are 8 of us. Free is better.
20. I buy the boys' jeans at Goodwill. They are hard on jeans. Goodwill puts denim on sale on Sundays. When the jeans cost $1 a pair, I don't care if they get ripped.
That's what I've got for now. If I think of more, I'll do another post. So what do you do to save money?