Living on a Budget: My Top Ten Tips

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Recently we’ve started to take a deeper look at our finances in the hopes of being able to eventually travel the world, so we have taken to budgeting a little tighter and seeing where we can cut costs without cutting our quality of life, and I’m happy to say it’s been easier than we thought!

The transition was tough at first and still takes more planning than I’d like to admit, but we’re doing it! I’ve slashed our grocery bill down to about $50 a week for a family of three and we’re eating more wholesome foods at home which is always a plus! We spend more time together, and thankfully the weather has allowed us to find some free entertainment outdoors. With our recent budgeting we’ve had family experiences that are truly memorable, and we’re reaping the benefits both as a family and financially.

So here are my top ten tips to making the best of a budget, and feel free to share your own in the comments!

  1. No More Fast Food! This one is a flexible rule, but typically we avoid eating out or drive thru’s for two weeks at a time, and if we find ourselves looking decent after those two weeks, we’ll splurge and grab some convenience food. Last Thursday we tore up the rug in our hallway and painted a little bit, so we treated ourselves to pizza and mozzarella sticks, but the leftovers also made for a decent lunch the next day. We find that if we deprive ourselves of fast food for too long we’re more likely to breakdown, where as if we plan in a treat every few weeks, we can maintain eating at home a little easier.
  2. Make Your Own Coffee! I bought our trusty coffee maker six months ago, and truly it has become the household MVP. Not only do we save a ton on not going to Dunkin’ Donuts every morning, but I’ve also mastered making my own iced coffee, and the house smells delicious in the morning, (and the afternoon… and night… we drink a lot of coffee.)
  3. Learn to Cook! If you’ve followed the blog much you may have seen me mention that I’m not great in the kitchen, however out of necessity and a passion for success, I’ve begun finding myself cooking more and failing less! Homemade yogurt bites, pizza, shepherd’s pie, and mac and cheese muffins, if the baby and hubs will eat it, I’ll give it a try! I have yet to understand anything outside of ground turkey or beef, but eventually I’ll work my way up in the meat world!
  4. If You’re Thirsty Enough, You’ll Drink It. This one pertains to both the lack of premade juice, as well as having to curb my wine drinking habit. My husband is a little picky when it comes to juice, but being a stay at home Dad, he’ll drink a whole 3 Liter of Cranberry in three days, and that just isn’t going to get us to where we want to be, so we’ve switched over to powder mixes, or we always have whole milk, and of course water. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, I have to finish whatever I have in the house before I can buy more, and when it comes to one glass and I’m asleep Sally over here, that means I really only need to restock once every few months.
  5. The Library is Life! For starters, there’s an awesome children’s room at our library, which is also air conditioned, plus they have a huge DVD selection, not to mention it’s free! With a wide selection of all the reading materials we could ever need, utilizing the library for a rainy-day excursion or place to cool down has become one of my favorite things to do, and a super way to keep our entertainment budget at zero.
  6. Reduce the Waste. When I looked at our grocery costs, I was interested to see just how low I could get out budget without giving up the healthy-ish lifestyle we live, and I came to realize that a good chunk of the budget was blown on things we used only to throw away. Stuff like paper towels, napkins, aluminum foil, and plastic bags are all things of the past in our household. We utilize reusable paper towels, non-stick cooking spray, and a hodge modge of Tupperware and glass jars for all our storage needs. We found that by lessening the extra stuff we bought, we also have become a little more environmentally conscious which was an unintended effect of our budgeting.
  7. Travel Smarter. Another unintended environmentally friendly aspect of our budgeting journey is that we try to do everything in one trip, if we’re already out and have to do other things in town, we try to get it all done at once to save on gas and drive time. We are currently rocking a mini-van and although great on room, it’s not the best on gas, so if we can knock out seven birds with one stone, we try to. This also plays into the planning aspect as well, with budgeting comes an extra level of planning that at first seems difficult, but eventually becomes second nature.
  8. Coupons and Cash Back Apps. Mobile phones are a delight, I can clip coupons, view sales flyers, and scan my receipt into Ibotta for cash back all in the palm of my hand! I’ve become pretty good at using the coupon sales flyer combo, and always scan through Ibotta before I toss my receipts. Also the grocery store I use has a 2% cash back rewards program for any store brand goods you buy, so buying generic has never been a better deal. If you want to learn more about Ibotta check out my previous article here.
  9. DIY Everything! Household cleaner? Nailed it. Date nights? You bet. Snack foods? I’ve made those too! When it comes to having sheer will power and the internet at my fingertips, there really isn’t much I can’t do myself. I’ve learned that doing things myself rather than buying things pre-made has really fostered a type of independence and confidence that I didn’t have before. By using time as a bartering tool with myself rather than money, we’re able to spend more time together and saving some money on the way.
  10. Set Goals and Have Patience. This one is a major one for me, before we started budgeting and saving, I was very much an instant gratification purchase type of person. With Amazon Prime and Target twenty minutes away, I was frivolous with my wants and would buy junk just to have it. Now with the budget not only do we weigh every purchase before we buy, but we also have reevaluated our lives and what we truly need to be happy. At the end of the day if little dude is fed healthy food, dressed appropriately for the season, and happy as a clam, there is nothing more in this world that we need. By setting obtainable financial goals and realizing how important those are, we’re able to put off frivolous spending without as much as a second thought.

Budgeting with a toddler can be tricky, but we realized that life was more than just material objects and fancy food, in order to truly experience and live our best lives, we stepped it down a notch and are happier knowing that quality has overcome quantity, and that by budgeting now, we’ll be able to experience things we’ve always dreamed of down the line.

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