Recently a friend asked me for tips on how we saved money when I became a stay-at-home mom and we went down to one income. She knew the bulk of what I did was couponing and shopping sales at the grocery store, but she wanted to know what else we did. After thinking about it, I realized we actually made several changes. Because money seems tighter for everyone – not just households living on one income – I thought some of these tips might be helpful to share.
We set a budget.
I know that seems obvious, but going from two incomes to one overnight necessitated looking at exactly what was coming in and exactly what was going out. We did our best to stick with our budget.
We allowed ourselves to eat out once per week.
This was a major cutback from before I started staying home, but still, our budget did allow it. Plus, it cut down on our impulse to splurge when I didn’t feel like cooking because I knew I had one night to look forward to. It also kept me sticking to a meal plan. We set our eating out budget, which eliminated several higher-end restaurants from our typical choices. We frequented restaurants with kids-eat-free nights as well.
We each had “allowances.”
Per week, Matt and I had a certain amount of cash that could be used for any extra purchases not in the budget. Again, we set this amount based on what our budget allowed. My weekly lunch with my mom came from my allowance, as did any Starbucks treats or anything extra that wasn’t allocated ahead of time. Having individual allowances also curbed any squabbling that typically occurs when married couples are living with tight budget. If he or I wanted something extra, there was no discussing it. We could buy it if we used our allowances for it.
We had no budget for adult clothing.
Truly, Matt and I didn’t need new clothes. We had a closet full and we usually got plenty from family at Christmas. If something came up like needing new shoes or workout clothes, it came out of our allowance.
We had no budget for children’s clothing, either
I sold the clothes and toys that Drew and Alyssa had outgrown at Rhea Lana (a children’s consignment event) twice per year. I was able to make enough each time to be able to purchase the season’s worth of clothing. Most of what I purchased was from Rhea Lana, but I also bought new clothes from the Children’s Place, Crazy 8, and Gymboree on clearance at the end of the season. These deals were nearly as good as what I was able to buy at Rhea Lana, and I knew that I could get top dollar for these brands at Rhea Lana when the kids outgrew them. Of course, extended family also bought children clothing for Christmas and birthdays, which helped to supplement what I bought. The children always had more than they needed.
We had a yearly garage sale.
Each May, I gathered our unwanted items and had a garage sale. The money from the garage sale went toward summer activities for the kids, such as swimming or day trips. Drew also sold lemonade or sodas for a profit to give him some spending money.
We continued to stay frugal at the grocery store.
If an item wasn’t what I knew to be the lowest price, I simply didn’t buy it. We ate whatever chips I could get for $2 and if we ran out of Doritos (Drew’s favorite), we just didn’t eat them until I could get them for $2 again. I also spent months shaving with hair conditioner because I wasn’t going to buy shave gel until I could get it for a quarter or less. If toilet cleaner wasn’t less than $1, I cleaned the toilets with baking soda and vinegar for a while. In addition to shopping frugally, I made my own bread, rolls, chicken broth, sandwich buns, salad dressing, and yogurt, and I chose strategic vegetables and herbs to grow in the garden that would save us money (peppers, basil, oregano, blueberries, etc.)
These were the main changes we were able to make when I gave up my income. Thanks to my husband’s wise budgeting and my strategic thinking, we were able to not only survive but thrive during this time.
What other tips could you add to my list?
If you’re new to Journey with Jill, I mostly write about my personal journey as a Christian and as a mom. I also pepper in some gardening posts and money-saving posts like this one. I’d love to have you journey with me! Click here to never miss an update.