And we’re back!! It’s that special time of year when the shock of Christmas spending and January’s financial frivolousness hit like a ton of bricks. Andrew and I are “celebrating” our 2nd Annual Frugal February, the designated month for sticking to … Continue reading
Bonus post from Dave Ramsey just in time for the twice-a-month pay day: The new year arrived, goals were set, and financial aspirations were locked as you set out to take advantage of your greatest wealth-building tool: your income. That … Continue reading
Ah, an excellent reminder. Gentle enough to compel me, but brief enough to give me the kick in the soul I’ve needed. Lately I’ve made it my mission to avoid idleness online; a vice to which I’m pretty easily prone. … Continue reading
Every six months or so I declare my Semi-Annual PURGE WEEK. I attack every corner and closet over five days, ridding our home of excess and clutter, my mind of unnecessary sentimentality, and I produce an admirable pile of STUFF. We usually … Continue reading
I’m a big fan of “every little bit helps,” especially since Liam and I are the appreciative Bread-Eaters to our beloved Bread-Winner. I found a few ways to cut home/family costs and I’m looking for more, so I thought I’d break from my usual reflections for a little nickel-n-diming. The income we have has been a huge blessing for us and it’s so important to be excellent stewards and managers of God’s gifts.
Take It Back
I read on Dave Ramsey’s website that there is always new, unused merchandise in any given house. With those things fated to collect dust, the money spent goes to waste, BUT not if you return them. Getting a refund or store credit is a great way to put that otherwise trashed cash back in your pocket so you can really put it to work (depending on the situation, you can even return merchandise without a receipt). I thought, great idea! but I don’t have anything like that laying around here. After a little digging, however, I found a couple of rolls of shelf liner, some unopened furniture pads, two picture frames, and unused home decor. All purchased over time from different places, but they were forgotten or unnecessary. Not only did returning these items put about $50 back in our pockets, but it also cleared a bit of clutter from the house as well. If you can’t take it back for one reason or another, Craigslist!
Turn it Off
While I’m home during the day, I try to use as little electricity as possible to keep our monthly bill down. Our house has plenty of windows so keeping the blinds open allows for a delightful abundance of natural light, eliminating our need for lamps and overheads; I also have big weekend plans to put up a laundry line so we can reduce how frequently we use our dryer; and I keep the A/C warmer than what we usually enjoy and turn a ceiling fan on in whichever rooms Liam and I occupy.
On a side note, we just re-insulated the attic and for two days our A/C didn’t kick on even once. Making investments in your home like that can save pennies in the long run.
I’ve mentioned Swag Bucks before, but it bears re-promoting. I use Swag Bucks so I can rack up points to redeem for Amazon gift cards. THEN I use the gift cards to purchase diapers for Liam (and soon Little Boy #2), which already come at 30% off if you’re part of the Amazon Moms program. I once worked the gift cards and the discounts so well that an order for 200 diapers came to 19 cents with free shipping. That was the most satisfying 19 cents I’ve EVER spent. Even without working it that well, I can still get a $45 box of diapers for $15 and I’m all about saving that kind of money. Because I’m not a major contributor to our income, I work Swagbucks pretty diligently so we can have cheap or free Pampers. (Most major diaper companies offer point systems, too, which gets you even more for your dollar.) Forget the diapers, though – put the Swag Bucks toward anything you want! You can get points for searching, playing short videos, taking polls, etc.
Couponing is good. Couponing plus discounts is great, but throw in store credit and it’s just brilliant. Several other pharmacies have reward systems, but my store of choice is CVS. Just within the past few months, I’ve saved over $100 using my ExtraCare Card, which doesn’t include the ExtraCare Bucks (store credit) they offer with a few deals. Today I earned $3 in ExtraCare Bucks from an initial purchase, which I then put toward an originally $4 gallon of skim in a separate transaction. Total for that purchase? $1. I will totally take cheap milk. You can work things that way, OR you can take the store credit and put it toward a deal that will earn you even more, which couponers call “rolling.”
Because we lost our car not too long ago, we put the insurance money and my beautiful pickup toward a Honda Odyssey. We are officially a single-vehicle family now and while it’s slightly inconvenient on occasion, it cuts back on gas and insurance costs BIG time; PLUS it requires our lives to be a bit more structured with more communication about Andrew’s and my respective plans for each day. For days when Andrew takes the Odyssey, I have an arrangement with another at-home neighbor in case I need to take a little person (or myself) to the emergency room. AND the fact of the matter is that when I’m at home, I don’t go out and spend money anywhere – gas station, grocery store, Starbucks or Target; which means that we can stretch our dollars across more blocks on the calendar. The whole effort has been great for our family and the pros certainly out-weigh the small inconveniences.
Tell me how you save! Penny pinching can seem like a burden or it can be a thrilling game; it’s pretty satisfying to get things for free or inexpensively. These methods I use are by no means an exhaustive list – even within each approach, there are ways to go deeper and save more.
- Of his own accord, Liam has started picking up bits of grass and leaves from our wood floors and bringing them to me to put in the trash. I can’t help but beam with pride at this. Of course, he thinks that putting things in the trash is a game, but if it actually gets the house clean, who am I to tell him otherwise?? :)
- A HUGE blessing in my life recently is a Bible Study that I joined with my mother-in-law. Just last week I felt spiritually parched and, as I mentioned in my post, I scoured all over the place for something to satisfy my soul. I started reading St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life and the next day started my Bible Study. It’s such a great group of women and we just finished studying James. If you need a good spiritual slap in the face, James is your book. It’s been SO good to be so abundantly spiritually fed!
- Andrew had TWO days off of work this week and it’s been such a nice bonus in addition to the welcomed rain in our area! With a husband home for a couple of days and [slightly] milder temps, there was plenty of time for fishing, errands, ice cream, and lounging.
- Our Little Man #2 is pretty active! Originally I thought this kid would be more laid-back than his big brother, who is already collected and calm; but if he continues at the bumpin’ and kickin’ rate he has now, I’m in for a busy motherhood :)
My favorite bit of wisdom I’ve heard regarding income and being a housewife came from my sister: “Just as it is his role to bring in income, so it is my role to make living as inexpensive as possible.”
I was tossing and turning - wide awake much later than the usual bedtime. And I was trying to hit the sack early, too. Nothing was troubling me really; I just kept thinking of tasks for the next day, certain that I would forget each one. It shouldn’t have happened, but I tip-toed away from the warmth of my sleeping husband and down comforter to write a to-do list, the heaviest item at the bottom: ”Revamp budget.”
God has blessed us by allowing me to be a housewife/stay-at-home-mom, which means we’re a mostly-single-income family. Andrew is our bold & fearless bread-winner, and there are few efforts I manage here and there to bring something to the table, like being a columnist for the Catholic Connection, an amateur coupon-clipper, and paid chorister. While these little bits are blessings and they certainly add up, none of them have the steady rhythm and long-term job security that Andrew’s position has; and I guess they’re not really supposed to, either. If I signed up for steady and long-term, I might as well go back to the office.
The original intent, however, for all the extra pennies earned was Savings. Before Andrew and I tied the knot, my morality professor advised, “Learn to live on only Andrew’s salary and then when you have children and stay at home, you’ll be used to having just that income. It won’t be a financial crisis.” Rock solid advice and we took it to the bank. Yet lately we’ve grown comfortable with the extra monthly contributions, not saving as much as originally planned. Feeling like victims of our budget rather than taskmasters, we are re-addressing everything and, especially this month, tightening the cinch. Every last nickel is a blessing from God and it’s important to be excellent stewards of His gifts. We don’t want to take our extra income for granted or end up stunned in the event that it stops; so in light of this, we are “celebrating” Frugal February.
Not Spending Money can seem like a drag or it can be a game. On a related note, I’m a big believer in “every little bit helps” so if I can avoid spending $2 here or 50¢ there, our efforts toward Not Spending tend to snowball and it’s thrilling. For example:
- Coffee: Andrew and I are fancy-coffee-drinkers. We like it done-up and delicious like Starbucks – flavors, whipped cream, topped with caramel. But instead of paying $7 for a couple tall decaf cappuccinos, we put a pot on at home and then add some caramel topping and whipped cream from the store. Add a deck of cards to the scene and we’re all set.
- Coupons & Swag Bucks: I’m new to the whole coupon scene, but I know there’s an art to it worth pursuing. Stacking manufacturers’ coupons with store coupons (Target’s big into this) will save a BIG percentage on your grocery bill, especially if you combine it with weekly deals. Don’t throw those coupons out with the Sunday paper! Swag Bucks, too, are a recent thrill for me. It’s a website to earn points that add up to things like Target, Amazon, or Starbucks gift cards, electronics, movies, downloads, etc. You earn points by using the website as a search engine, answering a daily poll, entering codes, and other ways, too. Right now I’m shooting for Target and/or Amazon gift cards and really enjoying watching my points steadily stack up. Check it out/sign up at my referral link.
*The hyperlinks for Swag Bucks didn’t work in my original post,
so you can copy/paste the URL into your browser:
- Electricity: While small appliances like lamps and hair dryers don’t draw electricity when OFF, many larger appliances like TVs do. Unplugging your entertainment system each night and plugging it back in when in use can positively affect your electricity bill. Additionally, I try avoid turning on lights in the house during the day since every room has a window and natural light floods the house!
- Baby Stuff: Diapers. Liam will need them for a while longer and cloth diapers don’t work well with his super-sensitive skin. I use Amazon Mom and get 30% off (and free 2-day shipping) plus Parents Magazine often has 20% off coupon codes. Combine that with an Amazon gift card earned from Swagbucks, and you’ve got yourself a deal. Just yesterday I bought a box of 176 diapers for 44¢ total.
Instead of foolishly feeling subject to the Almighty Dollar, you should be its delegator. Dave Ramsey points out that money isn’t inherently good or bad; it does what YOU tell it to do. And I intend to put it to work.
- Andrew and I are hooked on Farkle – an addictive game involving 6 dice. We played all Sunday morning over coffee and breakfast and as soon as one game was done, we started a new score sheet. What a great time! You can get it at the store OR you can scrounge up 6 dice from any other board games floating around the house and then search for the rules/point values online.
- Liam is sharp as a tack! I taught him this trick to help him get down from standing. It’s hilarious and darling.
I’m in the middle of Family Birthday Season – we have 7 birthdays beginning mid-September and ending December 2nd and then Christmas totally comes out of left field. Usually Birthday Season and Christmas take us by financial surprise. While excited and eager to send cards and gifts, the lack of preparation beforehand shocks me into a spending freeze. So yesterday at brunch at my in-laws’, I suggested that we do our annual name drawing for Christmas gifts a little early this year. With expanding families on both sides, it’s difficult to handle gifts for everyone so we’ve been drawing names for the past few years. I’ve already started getting ideas for people and I’m determined to keep costs way down, while not sacrificing quality, of course.
This year is unlike those prior because I was ready for Birthday Season on Sept. 1 and with the names drawn for Christmas, I’m hopeful to have any and all gifts purchased on Nov. 26. I’m a big fan of Ebates.com – a website that refunds a percentage of your online purchases - and on Black Friday, they double the percentage you get back. Add that to the deals stores already have on that day (free shipping plus major discounts) and you can save a huge chunk of change. Last year I saved over $200 shopping through Ebates on Black Friday - hit snooze and avoid the crowds. No strings either.
Aside from fantasizing about stocking-stuffers before Halloween, here is a current snapshot of my life:
- It’s Monday! which means there’s a freshly baked something in my cake display – a new routine I accidentally started a month ago to enhance Andrew’s experience of me being a stay at home mom. This week – chocolate chunk brownies :)
- I may be having surgery soon. Since Liam was born, I’ve been having occasional, yet severe, gall bladder attacks. Appparently this is pretty common in women who have been pregnant and often results in removing the gall bladder entirely. While I’m not looking forward to it, I hear the procedure and recovery time are no big deal. Nevertheless, prayers would be appreciated.
- For about 10 hours/week I watch Andrew’s and my niece, Mary Elise, who is 5 mos – just 6 weeks younger than Liam. While the house is usually filled with baby coos, hiccups, and occasional crying, the only sound I hear right now is my own typing. Both babies are down for their naps with barely a protest from either one. Bliss.
- I have an appointment for spiritual direction this week on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! I am writing down all my questions re: humility and other virtues in application to being a catholic wife and can’t wait to receive guidance.
- To add more sweetness to my life, it has finally cooled off here in NWLA. Driving around two weeks ago, the bank clock reported an oppressive 102 degrees and now it’s struggling to get to 72 for today’s high. To ward off the chill in the mornings, I whipped out our duvet and down comforter and excitedly made the bed. A made bed is a warm bed. It may not be empirically true – but it feels true.
I am happy to say that not only am I now a housewife, but also a stay at home mom officially! Liam was born just 3 months ago and I was blessed with a 12-week long maternity leave :) I went back to work at the beginning of June to finish out my contract and my last day was the 24th. God is so good.
Since I’m brand new at being a housewife and stay at home mom, I thought I would focus my shared thoughts on what I’m learning – how to serve God and my husband better, how to improve my mothering; as well as how to save money on a small budget, start & finish home improvements, and manage our small living space well. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the word, but I’m hoping to be eventually.
For the first time in our 2 year old marriage, we have the Internet in our home :) We originally had 2 cell phones, but then when we moved into our house last month, we ditched our phones (and the over $100 bill that accompanied them) to get a land line bundled with the internet and a shared cell phone from MetroPCS, cutting our monthly phone expenses by $30. MetroPCS offers a plan that’s $40 after taxes and it includes unlimited texting, online use, and nationwide calling among other features. We got a new phone and after we receive the rebate check, we will have paid nothing for it; a pretty sweet deal. It’s all about cutting costs all over the place.
Speaking of costs, one of my favorite conveniences the Internet offers is that I’m much more able to stay on top of our money. I’m able to balance the account and track every penny we spend (though at the moment I’m having trouble tracking down $6.00 in my books!) and categorize it into our emergency fund, savings, spending, etc. It’s pretty freeing having more knowledge about how much we have and where it’s going, rather than maintaining ignorance and spending blindly. It becomes a game, a primitive puzzle of keeping everything in it’s place. I know people stricken with anxiety over finances because they don’t know how to manage it or they purposely blind themselves to how much they do or don’t have. And so the opposite is true – because I manage our funds and I have more knowledge of them, Andrew and I are much happier!
Boy! Get a bit of a running start and you just get drained! I wish I would have been posting these past weeks, but it seems that life persists even if you push the Pause button.
Andrew and I are leading the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class at our parish! I heard about Dave Ramsey through my sister, who’s lead the class twice at her parish in Nebraska. Thanks to his philosphy of paying off debt and “acting your wage,” we paid off our $14,000 debt in 10 months! We made sure to follow his baby steps and we’re now on Step 3, putting 3-6 months of expenses into savings. I’m trying to follow through with #5 on the Mrs. Right list :) Dave encourages couples to work together on finances, and that one spouse does the entering and computing of sorts. I keep our budget with columns and VERY basic addition formulas in Excel and try to keep our spending in line with it. I’ve been so proud of myself lately because I”ve chosen use what we have instead of spending more – for example, we’re nearing the bottom of our budget for groceries for the month and we JUST ran out of sandwich bags and freezer bags, but we have a ton of plastic wrap that I’ve been using to wrap our sandwiches and chips. Also, the other day I was waiting for my husband and he told me to go grab some Starbucks for myself while I waited – I knew that we had reached our max for eating out and it was tempting to go anyway because my husband suggested it. I started to absolve myself – It won’t be such a big deal because Andrew told me to go get it and it’ s just $3-$4 over…who cares? but I knew that Andrew wasn’t updated as to our “Dining Out” budget so I didn’t go and I felt fantastic. Better to save and feel good than spend and feel guilty :)
Saving money, not spending, becomes a thrilling game. I love finding more ways I can dance around the system and improvise with what I have. The temptation to spend is always there and it’s rough when the rest of the world subscribes to instant gratification, but the benefits outweigh the cost. Being disciplined and communicating with my husband yield responsibility and trust in our marriage and stomp out bitterness and possessiveness. So whether you’re a Dave Ramsey weirdo or you just like staying in the black, caution with finances is the way to go.