Monday, August 11, 2014

Saving $$$

How I save money to be a stay at home mom. Budget and lower bills to live off one income. Here are some great ideas from Kate @ House Mix on how to save money so that you can be a stay-at-home mom. I have highlighted some of my favorites. To read them all check out her website: House Mix 


So here’s my strategy: Write a menu. Make a list. Follow the list. 

At the beginning of the week, we rough out a menu, make a list of the ingredients, and go to the grocery store. (When we’re making the menu, we also consider the food we already have on hand.) And when things have been really tight, I’ve been known to take a calculator in the store with me.
Some other grocery shopping tips to save money:
  • Buy the store brand.
  • Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. Look at the other products and prices even if they’re not discounted to compare.
  • Use the price-per-ounce printed on the shelf tag to find the better deal.
  • Look on the lower shelves for the best deal, because they put the pricier items at eye level.
  • In our grocery store, the spices in the Latino section are about half the price of the ones in the spice aisle.
  • You probably don’t have to buy two to get the “two for a dollar” deal. If you need one, just buy one for 50 cents.
Buying in bulk
If you buy something repeatedly, find the cheapest place to get it in bulk. Calculate it by how much each item in the package costs individually. For example, I did a lot of research on the cheapest place to buy diapers. I found the cheapest place by calculating the cost per diaper. (At that time it was Costco — in the store, not online.)
When shopping in the warehouse, it’s important to remember that:
  1. Not everything saves money buying in bulk.
    Sometimes it’s the same cost at the supermarket and you don’t have to devote your pantry to storage.
  2. And not everything is worth buying in bulk.
    Some things will go bad before you can use it all.
  3. A list is imperative. When very few items cost less than $10, a few extra additions to the cart will blow your budget.
Take the time to learn prices at the grocery store versus the warehouse to get the best price. 
This was our most drastic measure. We decided to cut the cord with our cable provider after frustrating service and rising costs. We don’t have time to watch all that much TV anyway, so the decision wasn't incredibly hard. We only have internet now and use it to stream Netflix and Hulu Plus through a Roku. It saves at least $50 a month. Read in full detail here.


You can unplug everything that is not in use — toaster, coffee pot, microwave, lamps you don’t frequently use, to save money. Even if it’s off, it still pulls electricity. You could even try a strip plug to unplug the computer, scanner, chargers at the same time. A friend of mine tried this during one particularly hot summer month when it seemed her AC might never turn off, and she saved $20 in a small apartment.
It consumes less energy to leave the thermostat on auto, and not turn it up and down all day. And I’ve learned to make use of the scheduling program on our AC/heater wall unit. I’ve programmed it to run less while we’re gone and at night. If you have this option, you might as well take advantage.
More electricity-saving tips:
  • Add weather stripping to any doors that aren’t sealed tight.
  • Use curtains and blinds. Keep them shut to help cool the room down, and keep them open to allow the sun to warm it up.
  • Turn lights off when no one is in the room.
  • Wait until there is a full load of laundry before running the washer. Washing in cold water uses less energy.
  • Line-dry towels and blankets that take longer time in the dryer.
  • Load the dishwasher completely full before running it. Dishwashers have actually been shown to be more efficient that washing by hand.
  • Use your microwave or toaster oven for small things instead of your oven. You will consume about half the power.
  • Consider ditching the garage fridge. It uses energy ’round the clock, and is especially draining if it is older and less efficient.
Cell phone
Our cell phone bill was astronomical. Marcello needs unlimited minutes for work, but we just couldn’t believe we needed to pay that much. We went to the cell phone desk at Costco, where they carry all the major carriers, to find out if another company was cheaper or if we needed a different plan, or something!

I get as confused as the next guy with cell phone plans, but don’t just accept outrageous monthly bills. Cut back options or find a better plan.
When we bought our house, our mortgage broker told us an incredibly useful rule of thumb.By making an extra payment a year on your home, you will cut your mortgage payoff time by eight years. In other words, you will owe the bank money for 22 years instead of 30!
I realize this doesn’t help the immediate monthly budget, but it saves a lot of money down the road. My aim for this year is to spread that extra yearly payment across 12 months and start getting to the principle of our mortgage instead of just the interest. It might not be obtainable at the beginning, but it can be a goal to keep in mind.


Baby Gap is my fave, but it doesn’t quite fit in with my baby budget. I buy most of my kids’ toys and clothes at a consignment shop called Once Upon A Child. They carry gently used clothes in great condition at half or less than the store price. I have bought many pieces there with the original price tag still on, and yes, quite a few barely-used Baby Gap pieces. I can’t tell you how much money this has saved us.
And what’s great is that when you’re done with baby gear, you can even sell it back to them. (This is not sponsored, I just love them.) There are lots of great kids consignment shops. Get out there and take a look at what you’re missing.

Another car consideration is gas. Before you make a trip somewhere, even across town, think about how much it will cost you. Check out this helpful site, Gas Buddy, that tells you how much you will have to pay site to site with your specific car. But here’s a warning: I made the mistake of telling a friend about the site, which made her realize it costs her almost $5 to drive to my house!

Car insurance

First, I did some comparisons with different companies, but didn’t find a better deal. But it’s worth it to take the time to shop around. Then, I looked at our car insurance policy online, detail by detail. By doing this you might notice some extras tacked on you may not need. I noticed that we were paying for a couple things already included in our AAA account, like roadside assistance.

Shopping, entertainment, and extras

In the beginning, extra/nonessential purchases were few and far between. But when it came time, I compared prices and researched online to get the best bang for my buck. For the nonessentials like clothes and house goods (well, guess it depends on who you ask!), my main stores were (and still are) TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, Forever 21, Ikea, and Amazon.

Rejoicing: CLOTHING -> I buy my clothes at an area thrift shop. Due to pregnancy, nursing and life, my weight and clothing sizes seem to change ALOT so I can't spend alot on clothing or store 20 different sizes. So I go to thrift store that has clothes for $1. That way I'm not spending a fortune on my clothes. When I'm looking for a nicer outfit I usually go to Marshall's or Ross. When I can't wear a certain size anymore, I donate my clothes to our teenager in our youth group. They love it! 
As far as entertainment, we got a Netflix subscription in lieu of going to the movies and often invited friends over for dinner instead of going out. If we went out, a lot of times we had lunch instead of dinner. The lunch menu, while shorter, is cheaper — works better for little ones’ bedtimes too. Actually, having two young babies at the same time sort of zapped our desire to leave the house, so entertainment didn’t really pose much of a problem for us!
Especially with nonessential purchases, it’s important to wait until you have the money to buy something. Don’t buy it because you will have the money, or next month should be better. Buy it after you’ve already planned it, it’s in the budget, and the money is there. In the same tone, don’t borrow money from next month’s budget. If you’re already on a shoe-string budget, you’ll surely need it next month.

More ideas to help the bottom line

  • Grow your own herbs in pots.
  • Start a little garden with the more expensive veggies.
  • During a tight month, use up all the food in your pantry and freezer before making a trip to the grocery store.
  • Get your hair done every other month instead of every month. (I’m on the four month plan, not because of budget, just lack of time … and maybe motivation. See Mommy Style Amnesia.)
  • Learn to cut hair and save on kids’ cuts. (Those things add up. I’mexperimenting learning now while they are too little to care that it looks like Edward Scissor Hands did it!)
  • Use both sides of the Swiffer cloths.
  • Use water, vinegar, and baking soda to clean instead of buying multiple cleaners. (There are thousands of DIY cleaners on Pinterest.)

Get on the same page with your spouse

This is a tricky one, because what two people want to spend money on the one same thing? My husband would prefer to spend all our money on food and fancy ingredients. I, on the other hand, would like to spend all our money on decorating our house. But we each made a pact to stick to our budget and consult each other before purchasing things not on the list. He has expensive taste (he had Prada undershirts when I met him!), but he’s actually better at sticking to the list than me. (And I have shown him that he can buy Calvin Klein pants for $25 at Marshalls. It’s not Prada, but hey …) Discuss how your family can live within your means and spend less than what you have coming in.

Written budget and yearly expense list

You need a budget that is written out, something that you can physically look at and use to keep record.


We tithe 10 percent of our income each month, and this was not a place where we cut. We adjusted our 10 percent to no longer include my income, but we still give. And let me tell you, it is freeing. Knowing that we have that money set aside for God’s kingdom, does several things for us:
  1. Honor God.
  2. Help those on Earth do God’s work. And to help others see God’s love through those people.
  3. Keeps us from being stingy when we need to be generous. 
  4. Give and sincerely not expect anything in return.
  5. See God provide for our family. Since we got married and made the decision together to tithe, there have been countless times when money has just shown up when we were in need. I don’t mean it arrived in an envelop on the doorstep, but it came in other ways — a late wedding present, an insurance overpayment, an unexpected bonus. And in exact amounts that we needed. We never miss the money we give away. In fact, we do better.
  6. To grow closer in our relationship to God. 
If you’ve never tried tithing before, it will most definitely change your life. I once read an article that said that if you make over $40,000 you are in the richest 8 percent of the planet. That in itself encourages me to give!

The gist

  • Look at every single expense you have and be ruthless. Whack your budget to it’s bare bones, and leave only what you really can’t live without.
  • Pay off anything you can (starting with debts with the highest interest rates). Hunker down those last months you are working and really make them count. Less payments equals less stress with one income.
  • Set realistic budget goals, otherwise your budget will fail every month and  you’ll give up on it.
  • Keep track of each expense, no matter how small. This allows you to see how you’re doing on the budget during the month, and can show you where your budget need adjusting in future months.
  • Only buy things you have planned for and have the money in the bank for.
  • Keep putting some money into savings.

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