Our cart was filled to the brim with old fashioned oats. Cue the laughable conversation. The scene went something like this… Cashier: Are you on some crazy diet plan? My husband: No, but my wife is part horse. I turn beet red and punch him in the arm. What’s the deal with all the oats, you ask? Well… It’s our version of family budgeting and a simple way to save. (I’ll explain in just a minute)
Despite my goofy, tongue in cheek photo, there is nothing glamorous about groceries. However, saving money on your groceries—and in other areas—does free up your finances for glamorous dresses. Okay, I’m joking again. I mean it allows you to set your dollars aside for the important things, like your child’s college tuition, home improvements, emergencies or your retirement plan.
I am by no means an expert in finance or family budgeting. Furthermore, I realize I am coming at this topic from a place of relative privilege. Failing to mention that would be a bit hypocritical. We are very careful with our finances, but money is not a constant stressor for us. We are lucky and know it.
That said, I do understand living financially lean. My first TV news job made the pay at Walmart (which was drawing protests for its low wages at the time) look good! Then, there’s my husband. He takes frugality to an entirely new level. For example, before we were married, he refused to turn on the heat in his apartment. He wore a jacket to bed all winter and subsisted on the “radiant” heat from neighboring units. Thankfully, he outgrew those crazy habits. These days we save money in more realistic ways.
First up, grocery games! Extreme couponers we are not. But we will wait to buy products until they are on sale and buy in bulk when the discounts come. As in, entire pallets of canned goods, garbanzo beans, oats, etc. My hubby once bought a 50lb bag of multi-grain cereal (crazy, right?). He loves to read the grocery adds to see what to stock up on. I don’t have the patience, but I certainly help him load the cart. We do most of our shopping at Aldi. Buying in bulk does present a storage challenge, so we use a back staircase as shelving.
Great recipes are easy to find these days. So why not expand your culinary horizons by utilizing inexpensive foods? We base a lot of our meals on cabbage, garbanzo beans or canned tuna. You’d be amazed at what you can make with these simple ingredients! Our go-to dinner is a Pad Thai-inspired dish of sauteed cabbage, garbanzo beans, crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce, lime, canned corn and old fashioned oats. (Don’t knock it until you try it!)
None of us are officially vegetarian, but we rarely eat meat. This has been a valuable choice for both our health and our pocketbooks! We get most of our protein from beans and occasionally eat fish. The savings really add up!
While I love eating at restaurants, particularly ethnic restaurants that feature dishes I can’t make myself, we only dine out when we are on vacation or for work/social obligations. Eating at home is more cost effective and—let’s be honest—dining out is tough with a toddler. I still haven’t been able to kick my Starbucks habit though…
One of the things that disturbs me a bit about motherhood is the looming trap of disposability and wastefulness. Doesn’t it seem like you use something for a week or two, then your little one grows out of it or tires of it? Sometimes they don’t wear or play with what you’ve purchased at all! I have a full bin of clothing—tags still on—our son never wore. It got pushed to the back of a drawer and I found it too late! On the flip side, Hudson’s favorite toys and outfits are all hand-me-downs from family members.
If you live in Greater Lafayette, Little Bird Lane Children’s Consignment Event pictured above, is a great place to consider. The semi-annual pop-up sale (March 8-10, 2019) at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds has brand name clothing, toys, books and games at an affordable price. Best of all, it allows moms to give their quality items a second chance. Less waste, more happy little faces!
I can just hear my husband saying “told you so” on this one. When it comes to family budgeting, DIY projects have saved us a ton. We live in an old 1912 home, so our improvement wish list is long! I was a bit skeptical when my husband told me he wanted to do our kitchen backsplash himself, but it turned out beautifully. I helped, but he was the foreman. It seems, with a bit of web research, you can tackle just about anything.
My husband and I have installed light fixtures, renovated a walk-in closet and constructed a mud room. That said, we save plumbling and electrical for the pros. There are some thing you just don’t want to mess with!
If you travel for work, building your vacations around conferences or presentations can help make family travel more affordable. It might not be a destination you would choose on your own, but adding a couple of family days before or after can make these work functions feel relaxing.
I believe our local libraries are profoundly under utilized. Most offer free educational programming. Then there’s the books! So many treasures to be discovered. We also checked out DVDs from the library for an alternative to the movie theater.
Remember it’s the thought that counts, not the price. We don’t go overboard during the holidays and rarely get each other gifts. Instead, we give our time or “help” to each other. This year, our Christmas gift to each other was new siding for the house. The same goes for our little guy. He doesn’t need a lot of toys to be happy. At this point, he’s just as excited about a cardboard box or mixing bowl as a fancy plaything.
Not a novel idea, but ditching cable has certainly saved us a lot of money over the years. My husband (a communication professor) is always flabbergasted when teaching media-related classes how many people don’t realize local TV is freely available over the air. We miss channels like HGTV, but certainly don’t miss the bill!