Your budget is already tight and now you have to tighten the belt even MORE? That might be enough to make anyone cry, but it’s not impossible.
A month ago I was laid off from my job after 18 years at the same company. I have 3 kids that I care for full time (my two boys and my stepdaughter) and this is the first time I’ve ever been a stay-at-home-mom. We are currently going to try and make ends meet with my husband’s income as an electrician’s apprentice and some side work by me (writing jobs, sponsored posts here on my blog and teaching tumbling class at a local rec center).
Though my family and I are already quite frugal, losing one income is definitely going to affect us and our budget. The last month has given me time to step back and take a much-needed closer look at our spending habits and budget. Here is what I’ve been working on this month:
Take Close Account of Money In & Money Out
You’ll need to know exactly how much you have to work with each month so keep tabs on the income. Gone are the days of willy-nilly shopping trips, where items went in the cart and we worried about paying the bill for them “later”. Now I keep excellent track of all expenses. I want to see exactly how much I’m spending on gas, groceries, utilities and additional expenses that seem to come up. At the end of each week, I’m writing them down and totaling them up. At the end of the month, I’ll add them to my monthly budget chart and see what the grand totals are for each area.
Take a brutal look at where your money is going and determine what has to get cut. I never thought I’d be able to live without cable television but we cut it out two years ago and I’m still alive! No more gym membership for my husband, he exercises now by going for a run. This is a hard one with kids because it might mean cutting out certain extracurricular activities. I have a feeling when I look at expenses at the end of the month, our grocery budget is what will need reworking. We may need to opt for generic in some cases or start using coupons.
Weigh Wants VS Needs
I really want my kids to get pictures from picture day at school but $20+ per kid for photographs isn’t in my new budget. And do we really need to spend $50 eating dinner in a restaurant when we have food to prepare at home…probably not.
Sure, we want to do lots of things, but we also need to make choices between having food in the fridge or blowing the week’s grocery budget on one meal out.
Making Extra Money With What You Have
We’ve always been very generous with donating toys, clothes and household items we don’t use to the thrift store throughout the year. However with every dollar is being accounted for, we’re planning a garage sale that will hopefully bring in some additional cash. Go through closets, boxes, toys, books and through the garage to find things that you haven’t used or don’t need anymore. List them online, post a “sale” to your friends on Facebook or consider a garage sale.
Shop Sales, Use coupons & Buy Used Whenever Possible
Coupon and sale shopping can be a slippery slope. Too often we buy because it’s such a good price and not because we really need it, so be careful there. I love the 30% coupons from Kohl’s as much as the next gal, but if I don’t need anything, they go right into the trash (sorry Kohl’s!)
And some items can be bought used that are just as good as new. My kids rarely get brand new clothes, because I can find high quality items shopping online with thredUP (affiliate link). Look at local thrift stores before hitting the full priced stores.
Negotiate a Discount
Call your utility companies and see if your income qualifies you for reduced rates. Does your lower income qualify your kids for low-cost lunch at school? Call your cell phone or television provider and let them know you are considering switching services unless they can work out a lower monthly cost. You’d be surprised what companies will do to keep your business!
Take Advantage of Free
Now that I’m home during the day, I have more time to take my little one out but we can’t go out to eat lunch, stroll the zoo or hit museums every day. The park is free. So is the library. They even have a fun little story time group once a week that we’ve been going to. We’re borrowing books and movies instead of buying.
Check your community’s online calendar to see what upcoming free events are being held. If you’re looking to buy something, ask friends if they have it that you could use, borrow or buy from them.
Pay Your Bills on Time
Ugh, not much worse than having to pay late charges or interest on your credit card because you were a day late paying the bill. That’s just a complete waste of money. I plug the bill due dates into my phone’s calendar so I get a ping a few days early to remind me to pay the bill on time.
What are some ways that you have been able to cut back even more on your budget? Share with me in the comments!