I’m excited to introduce my first guest blogger! A former missionary kid, Joy grew up in Swaziland and Fontainebleau, France. She worked as a teacher, preschool director, and programs coordinator for an adoption agency, before becoming a stay at home mom. Though the rewards are great, the pay sure isn’t! After checking out Joy’s tips for budget trimming, we’d love to hear YOUR tips in the comment section below.
Last summer, I left the job that I loved and embraced a higher calling: motherhood. Besides gaining a beautiful baby boy, we also lost one income. My husband and I live in an expensive city in the US so our budget took a hit. How were we going to pay all of our bills, tithe and save? We had to take a serious look at our budget and make some difficult adjustments. And so, our lifestyle changed.
Here’s a few of the most helpful changes we’ve made to help stretch our budget along the way:
1. We decided to use cloth diapers. We had been tossing around the idea of using cloth diapers for a while but when our son arrived and we realized how much we spent on diapers monthly, we decided to go for it. And we love it! We started when my son was 3 months old. We use the Grovia hybrid system and we spent about $350 to purchase everything. We have 8 shells and 24 inserts. Our son wears cloth all day, but at night he wears Pampers Stay Dry. Because we use cloth diapers, a box of 56 disposables lasts us about a month and a half.
Now that my son is eating solids, we use Grovia’s bioliners. If his diaper is just wet, then I wash the bioliner with the rest of the diapers and use it again. When the liner gets holes in it, I throw it away. If he has a messy diaper, the cleanup is easy. Just throw the liner with the poop away and put the cloth diaper and shell in the wet bag to wash later. It’s less hassle and less mess.
2. I make a meal plan every week. I shop in my pantry first to see what ingredients I have so I can plan my meals around them. Then, I figure out what meals we are going to have that week, and I make my grocery list. Some weeks, I only need to replenish our fresh food supply and I can keep the meals planned the previous week.
I have found that making as much as you can from scratch is the cheapest way to go. Frozen veggies are another money saving idea. I still buy fresh ones, but I also have a stock of frozen ones because they last longer and can make a good supplement to a meal. I can always throw together a stir fry easily too. Finally, don’t be afraid to make breakfast food for dinner. Omelets, waffles, pancakes, french toast or crepes with fruit and yogurt make cheap, filling meals and often only require ingredients that you already have in your cupboards. We usually have breakfast for dinner once a week.
3. We track our spending each week. This way, throughout the month, we see how we are doing budget-wise and how much we have left. There is a lot of software out there to help families track their spending. My husband created our spreadsheet but Mint.com has come highly recommended.
Groceries are one of the major items in our budget each month, so I have a post-it note on my fridge with the dollar amount that reflects what we have budgeted. At the beginning of each month, I get a new post-it and write the amount that I have available to spend that month on groceries. Every time I come home from the store, I subtract the amount I spent from the amount on the post-it. This way, I know exactly how much I have to spend for the rest of the month. I’m very visual and it’s a good reminder for me.
4. I shop with my grocery list and my calculator. I know, I know. How embarrassing to walk through the grocery store and add up each and every item! But it really helps me to see how much I am spending so that I am not surprised when I get to the cash register. Because I know how much I can spend from the post-it on the fridge, I stay in budget and still get what’s on my list. I may just need to choose the cheaper option instead of the name brand or the organic one for a few things. Plus, I use the calculator on my phone so it looks a little less embarrassing (hopefully!).
This month, I am trying to cut our grocery budget in half. I want to stay within $250 for all of our groceries. Ambitious? I know. Because I am a stay at home mom, I can go to different grocery stores and shop the deals, within reason of course. When I was working, this was not possible because of my schedule and desire to spend time with my husband after work. We are also blessed with an Asian supermarket within walking distance. It is the cheapest and best place for me to get fresh produce, especially since my son just started eating solids and I am making his baby food. Last week, I bought 2 acorn squash, 3 zucchini, 5 apples, 2 lbs of clementines, 3 large sweet potatoes, 1lb of celery and 2 onions for just $18. So far this month, I have been spending $60/week on groceries and now, I am at the end of the month with $13 to spare. My goal from now on is to spend $240-$280 a month.
These budget stretching ideas may or may not work for your family, but my family has found it extremely helpful to make a plan, track our progress, and experiment with new ideas (cloth diapers, home-made baby food, and Asian markets have been much easier to adopt than we ever expected).
And yet, my family can budget and plan as much as we want but I need to remember Who ultimately provides for us. I need to embrace Matthew 6:33 and seek first the kingdom of God without worrying about how He will provide for us. Growing up as a missionary kid, I saw how God provided for our family in times when we thought it impossible for Him to do so. And now as an adult, with a husband and baby, He is still showing me how important I am to Him, and how He will provide for my every need. It may not be my every want, although He does provide for those too, but He has always provided for my every need.
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