The reason why I named my blog sweet life skills is because there are so many things I have yet to learn to feel I am living as responsibly as I can. One skill that I have not yet succeeded in is keeping to a strict budget and saving money. I feel so compelled to do this, not because Wes and I are drowning in an insurmountable amount of debt (because we’re not), but because we want to be a good stewards (sounds a lot like Stewarts..bahaha!) of the things God has blessed us with. I believe, the more we save, the more we can bless others and share the love of Christ. God has given us a lot, and I don’t want to squander it. I want to make the most of it!
Because of this, I have been on a quest to find the best ways to save money! The other day I made this my facebook status: “What's YOUR favorite way to save money? Have any tips, websites, stores, etc. that you'd be willing to share!? :)” I got a ton of great responses, but I’m not going to lie, there was nothing that I hadn’t heard (and even taught!) before. (Actually, that’s a lie. One of my great friends recommended a website where I could buy $260 jeans for $90. I had never heard of that before…haha!) Anyway, though I had heard the tips before, many of them I have not put into practice. I came to a couple of conclusions that I need to remember as I try to improve my spending skills. Here they are…
1. Saving money is planned and intentional! You MUST have a game plan each and every week/month, depending on how often you plan to grocery shop. I have a huge problem of planning my meals the day of. A lot of the times my weeks are jam packed with activities and plans. Some weeks, or days within a busy week, are not so much. On those days, I have all day to dream up an immaculate, often themed, meal, and I go shopping around 2:00. Last spring, it was not rare for me to spend $15-$25 on one meal for two people. ONE MEAL!! That’s like going out to eat at a sit down restaurant! Plus, we’d always have tons of leftovers that we would rarely eat. Bleh! Also, I make a lot of non-sale, impulse purchases every time I go to the grocery store. This week I found two resources that I do believe I will utilize to help me with my planning.
• www.angelfoodministries.com -I heard about Angel Food Ministries in college, and always wanted to do it. They say there is significant savings, and I believe there is, if you just shop for what you need when you need it (no sales, no coupons). However, I had some of my frugal friends say that they didn’t know if it was all that great of a deal, and that they think they could get similar or better prices shopping the sales, like they so love to do. I decided that I do think it would save ME money, because it would save me from several trips to the store, where I tend to impulse by like crazy! For November’s box (the menu is posted online), I already made a month-long meal plan, including recipes and a shopping list to get the additional items needed. Michelle shopping for a whole month in one day…imagine that!
• e-mealz.com - My sister-in-law, Tiffany, introduced me to this website this morning. Her and her mom use it. Basically, they give you specified week-long menus with recipes and grocery lists, for only 1.25 a week! I think you prepay $15 for a 3 month period. This would save so much time, and you can get lists for special diets and for different sized families! I looked at a few of the meal plan options for a family of 1 and it cost about $35-$45 per week for all of your dinners. Not too shabby! Tiffany did say she heard they start repeating after 6 or 7 months. I think that’s totally okay, though! She said she prints off extra copies and keeps them in a binder for future use! Smart Chica!
2. Saving money requires extra effort! First of all, planning alone requires extra effort. Also, it is a lot easier to go to Price Cutter than Wal-Mart, and Wal-mart than ALDI. Get it? But wait, there are tons more opportunities to save, if you are willing to put in just a bit more of your time! My friend Laura left some really great ideas, all of which require extra effort. The ideas include making your own bread, having a vegetable garden (which my friend Jen also mentioned, along with canning those veggies), making your own laundry detergent, and not buying anything “pre-washed” or really pre-anything! I’m not going to lie, a lot of these things sound fun. However, sometimes I’d be in the mood to do that, but most of the time I just want to slap a piece of microwaveable chicken on a pre-made bun with some pre-grown, pre-cut, pre-washed salad on the side! I have to remind myself that if someone offered me a $1.50 to wash some lettuce, I’d probably shake on the deal. If you add all of the money you’d save by adding this extra effort, you’d probably save a ton!
• http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx - If you are interested in baking your own bread, my grandma swears by this. It is bread that you don’t have to knead, and can keep the dough in your refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. All you do is break off however much you want to bake, and bake it. The article is about 9 pages long and includes recipes for how to use the dough for cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, etc. Last Christmas, I didn’t eat any, but it smelled amazing, and my cousin said she couldn’t stop eating it because it was the best bread she had ever had! I’d say it can be used for sandwiches or a side to dinner, and is made with staples everyone can find in their pantry!
• http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/- If you are interested in making your own laundry detergent, I heard it saves A-WHOLE-LOT of money. I just found this website (that looks super fun…I’m gonna check it out more when I’m done with this post!) I don’t know that I’ll be doing this because I read a blog post that it doesn’t keep your whites as white. Also, shopping for laundry detergent is one of my favorite things to do. I love to mix and match scents! Haha! Instead, I do think I could use less detergent each load. I have the problem of forgetting loads in the washer, so I have to wash everything twice! Eek! (surely, some of you have done that before, right!?) I really need to get better at that!
3. Saving money requires sacrifice! The best examples I can think of is eating leftovers for lunch, and not eating out when we have food at home and time to prepare it. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but some leftovers just aren’t very good! Now I admit, some leftovers are better the second day (like roasts, soups, and stews) but the rest is just yucky to me. Maaaeeerrr! As far as eating out goes, sometimes I just CRAVE things. My sister says I am going to be the most finicky pregnant lady ever because my eating habits are already weird. Seems petty, but this will probably be one of the biggest obstacles for me, because I don’t HAVE to give it up. You know what I’m saying?
4. Saving money requires the mindset that every penny counts! My parents have been trying to pound this idea into my head since I was born. When I was in college, I feel like I was pretty good. However, since dating my dear sweet Wesley, who just wants me to be happy, my skills have been lost! For example, when I would eat out in college, I would get the absolute cheapest thing I could that would still meet my needs (and wasn’t appalling), whether that meant al a carte at a Mexican place, or sticking purely to the dollar menu when eating fast food. Now I’m like, “that sounds good, and it’s only a few dollars more!” Ugh! It really does add up!
5. I can become skilled at saving money! –Some of the things I that have been recommended to me, I have tried at one point or another and just didn’t like it or didn’t stick to it. I see some people who are awesome at stretching their dollars, and I’m pretty sure it’s because they have a lot of practice. Also, I am not aware of a lot of food prices yet, so I don’t know if I’m getting a good deal or not. I hope to get better, so this doesn’t feel like such a burden!
6. Saving money will require a change of mindset and lifestyle for me. Wes and I love our fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants lifestyle. It’s like, what, honey?…It’s a Tuesday night and your craving sushi!? Me too! Let’s go! We also like to go to coffee shops. On weeknights we like to go do our bible studies (because it’s hard to stay focused at home) or hang out with friends. On weekends we go (generally before church) because we are silly and stay up RIDICULOUSLY late on the weekends. BUT, we LIKE it this way. We LOVE our freedom, and we kind of want to stay like this until we have kiddos and have to have a routine for their benefit. I like to think that when we have kids I’ll automatically get better at budgeting because our lives will be more regimented. Do you think that’s true? I may be fooling myself…
I have the knowledge, now I just have to put it into practice! The next few weeks I am going to focus on making meal plans, and finding coupons and sales for household items, hygiene items, and fun things that we like to have but don’t need…like juice (my man loves him some juice! But the good stuff is pricey!). I am not yet to the point that I am willing plan my meals around the foods that are on sale. Maybe soon, though! I would also like to reduce the amount of times we eat out in a week, and only go to places where we have coupons. There are frequently buy one, get one coupons in the mail.
Some of my personal tips for saving money include:
• My mom-in-law taught me this: Buy lots of terrycloth bar cloths and microfiber rags and use them as your dishtowels and in the place of paper towels (for spills and other cleaning). We buy them at SAMs and always have a massive supply of clean ones, which is awesome and convenient! Plus they last a long time and can be bleached! Also, I know dish cloths and sponges weird some people out because they are so germ-filled, but with this method, you can use 5 a day, and it’s all good!
• Keep your eye on coupons and sales and stock up on items that you know you will need in the future. In the past Wes and I just stock up on things like soap, toothpaste, and contact solution at SAMs Club. It keeps us from having to shop all of the time, but I think I could save a lot more, if I simply bought those items continually in smaller amounts. (just like my momma does!)
• I haven’t used this yet, but I’m pretty sure you can download coupons onto your Dillon’s card and they are applied to your purchase when you swipe your shopping card. How cool is that! (if I’m wrong, please clarify!)
Have a great day!