How to save money is always one of the hot topics every January. The credit card bills are arriving in the mail. Some expenses like utilities are going up thanks to the winter cold. Taxes are on the horizon. Those healthy changes we promised ourselves seem so far away if we don’t have the money to pay for them.
Having good financial habits in place like automatic savings and an emergency fund reduce the stress in our lives when the unexpected happens. Other financial habits like finding free activities or shopping at thrift stores for clothes focus on our wants, fulfilling them without impacting our budget significantly.
About 4 years ago, I started a series about our frugal habits as a family of 7. I had planned on writing 50 posts and ended up writing 24. When I revisited the posts recently, I realized how many financial/frugal habits had stayed in place over the years since we started learning to be frugal around 1996. Some habits have changed as our lives have changed like my 11 Daily Frugal Habits.
This year, I’ll be picking up the series again from a new perspective. We have 4 kids in Catholic school, and one child about to graduate from high school and then go to college in the fall. We’re also working on our home in preparation for selling it and buying a new home. Last December, we traded in my Honda Odyssey for a brand-new Honda Pilot which we plan on keeping for a long time, too.
To be honest, I feel a bit overwhelmed seeing all this money heading out our door….We’ve planned deliberately for some things and planned ahead for others. But, I’m a planner by nature. I like to have a reserve in the bank for emergencies.
No time like the present to review our financial choices and habits!
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The fact is we can live a full life on any income as long as we think of ourselves as fulfilled.
The road to credit card debt is paved with good intentions and no discipline. You first step on the road when you pull out your card to pay for dinner instead of using the cash in your pocket.
My husband and I tithe our income, though not the 10% often suggested by Christian authors. The amount to tithe is an individual decision. To be honest, I find it a difficult topic to discuss, maybe because tithing implies a complete faith in God.
Giving to others creates community and a sense of purpose in our lives. It helps us to see how so many of our needs are more truly wants, and that we need so little.
Paying back all debts can mean different things. Does it mean not carrying any debt load, including a mortage, often portrayed as “good” debt? Or, does it mean only carrying a mortgage, and paying cash for everything else? Or, finally, is it about planning your debt load so that you only carry what you can pay back quickly if it’s needed?
Saving money requires discipline. It requires a strategy. It works really well when the saving is automatic. It works even better when you develop a mindset for saving.
Budget or spending plan, making a plan for every dollar that comes in helps to ensure that the dollars go where they need to go. How the plan is made and followed varies from family to family.
For each bill, I divide them by 52 and set aside the money weekly in a savings account. Because I’m a bit of a nerd, I keep a running total which I update weekly. I like to see the amounts build over time and know that I’ll have the money when it’s time to pay the bill.
Hands down, the best way to increase your personal savings rate is to make it automatic.
Cooking food from scratch is a topic I could write several posts about, at least, if not more. As a mom of 5 kids, making almost all of our food rather than buying processed food lacking in vital nutrients is how I ensure my family eats a frugal and healthy diet.
I focus on buying real food and quality ingredients for making food from scratch. We’ve always grown our own vegetables and made a lot of our food from scratch.
Currently, my husband gets $30 in cash each week as walk-around money, plus $30 for gas for his car. I don’t get any walk-around money, nor have I ever had any type of allowance for myself during our marriage.
This is a tough subject for me to tackle since I haven’t spent much time on our utilities. It’s also one of the areas in our budget which feels unchangeable.
I’m using the PECO Energy Smart Choice site to do my energy audit; you can check with your local electrical company to see what they have available. Looking at the energy usage chart on this page, heating and space conditioning typically use the most energy, with water heating behind at 15% and refrigerators and freezers the third largest, running between 6 and 15%.
In my opinion, lighting is not just about which bulbs you use, but also about habits.
For my family, I have more questions than answers in this area. Here are the facts: combined phone, internet and cable service costs us $140/month which is $1,680 per year. Clearly having Verizon FIOS which handles all 3 is a want, not a need since we could find cheaper, slower services.
I am truly blessed to have a husband who can fix things. Whether it’s keeping our lawn mower going for 20 years or saving us a visit from the appliance repair man to fix our washing machine, my husband’s ability to repair almost everything we have has saved us so much over the years.
I wouldn’t call myself the queen of organizing, though as a mom of 5, being organized has helped me stay frugal. Though naturally an organized person, I first learned strategies for being organized when I worked at various nonprofits as an office manager, special events organizer, and membership manager.
In my family, only one of our children receives an allowance – our teenager. Honestly, we’ve struggled a bit with the allowance thing over the years for several reasons.
Unfortunately, in our current culture, staying home is unusual, something most people don’t do. We keep running, filling our days with errands, work, and sports practices and games.
Like Laine, one of the strategies I use to keep my gift budget under control is to shop year-round for gifts, and keep general gifts I find in a gift box.
Now, my husband and I schedule at least one date night out monthly. Since we’re on a tight budget, we stick to dessert and places where we can talk undisturbed for at least 2 hours.