So, with the addition of our first child coming this December, Dylan and I have put ourselves on a serious financial budget. We know a little bundle of joy often comes with a little bundle of debt, so we are doing as much as we can to prepare ourselves financially and mentally for our new addition.
Having a budget is the most important thing we have given ourselves. Before now, we had sort of just spent without thinking… Or without planning, I should say… But now we consider every cent we spend. A few of the things we ask ourselves include: Is this a necessity? Can this wait? Will this help us reach our financial goals? Though, we are a ways away from meeting our ultimate financial goals, these questions help us stay on track. They especially help us keep each other on track (like when I want a new dress: Sarah, is that a necessity? Or when Dylan wants Chickfila: That wouldn’t be helping our savings account… We both get tempted in different ways, but it is important that we keep ourselves on track and push each other not to spend unless it is absolutely necessary.
Below you will find a list of ways we have been saving money. Some might seem obvious and some might seem too small to make a difference, but it’s the accumulation of all of these efforts have helped us stay on track with our budget and financial goals.
- Create yourself a budget binder. I know this sounds super 8th grade, but honestly I use it every week! There are pages in there to track both of our bills and I use it to plan out our meals each week including the cost of each meal. It sits right on our kitchen counter and whenever we need to reference our budget it is right there for us. Writing out financial goals and long-term budgets not only help you better understand what the goal is, but it also acts as a reminder for you every time you see it.
- Stop eating out. Occasionally we will eat out with friends or family and so far it has been either as a double date or when we are visiting with family. But ever since Dylan and I have moved to Richmond (back in May) we have only eaten out ONE time just as the two of us. We plan each week what we will make for dinner. I create a menu and we abide by it–even on the weekend! This has helped us out TREMENDOUSLY. I cannot stress it enough. And sure, it is SO hard to tell friends that we can’t eat and go out because of money, but we have yet to encounter a friend who doesn’t understand. We also have enjoyed preparing meals at home, and have pushed ourselves to try a new (budget friendly!) recipe each week. This week’s is homemade French Onion Soup, Dylan’s favorite. If it goes well then we will certainly share the recipe!
- Stop drinking Starbucks. But really you could change Starbucks to every other kind of energy pick-me-up. Dylan had a knack for energy drinks and mine was definitely Starbucks iced coffee. And yes, I know that being pregnant (and having coffee honestly repulse me at the time) gives me a lot more motivation than it might be for others, but it really has saved us a lot. Just $3 a day adds up to over $1000 a year. Even if you only go a few times a week, it still adds up quickly. Making coffee or tea at home has saved us a ton. And, of course, not drinking it every day has saved us even more.
- Pack your lunch. I pack my lunch everyday and it probably costs me under a $1 each day. I remember when I used to think that the $8 lunch deal at Starbucks was a good deal, but now I wouldn’t spend that much unless it was a special occasion. I normally take a sandwich, a side of chips, a fruit, and lots of water! It’s nothing fancy but it’s budget friendly. Dylan doesn’t pack his lunch and works close enough to our apartment that he could come home for lunch if he was to get hungry. But he really only eats a few times a day (I don’t know how he does it…) and even when I’ve offered to pack him a lunch, he isn’t interested and usually waits to eat until he gets off of work.
- Only buy necessities. Duh, that’s an obvious one! But try and actually apply it… and you would be surprised how much might not be considered a necessity (or at least I was). When we first moved in 3 months ago, we didn’t have a bath mat for our main bathroom. My first instinct was that we needed to get to Target and pick one out immediately, but Dylan pushed back (thankfully) and we decided that it could wait for a while. It actually wasn’t until last week that I cracked and purchased a $10 bathmat because my cousin brought up a good point that I (especially being pregnant…) shouldn’t risk slipping while getting out of the shower. Now, each time I step on it, I appreciate it so much because it wasn’t there for 3 months. We’ve gotten so good at only buying necessities that the last time we were at Target I was picking up some pregnancy related necessities (mostly I was stocking up on prenatal vitamins) and when the cashier told me that my total was $39, I cringed. I slowly went over everything on my receipt and tried to see where I went wrong and bought something I didn’t need. But I needed everything on there and I didn’t buy anything that wasn’t a necessity, so I hadn’t done anything wrong in regards to my budget. And the double checking is where I went right.
- Don’t go where you might be tempted. Before deciding on our budget, I would love a trip to the mall just to browse and look around. I might buy something small here or there, but I loved walking and spending time with Dylan more than I did actually purchasing the things I purchased. So now Dylan and I still take those leisurely walks, but not around things that might tempt us. We walk around the neighborhood, or go to a park. I’m impulsive and I needed to understand that being arounds things or places that might tempt me would not help my budget or financial goals.
- Buy off brands. We honestly haven’t missed a thing! Dylan was nervous when I suggested he get the bagged cereal instead of the more expensive boxed cereal, but he so far has enjoyed it! Honestly, Aldi’s has helped us tremendously. Their prices are so low because it is all their own brand, and we haven’t even noticed a difference. Sometimes the off brand is as much as half the price as the regular brand price. And if we did taste a small difference, then we would suck it up for our goals.
- Shop around for the best prices. Right when I started our budget binder, I went to all of the area grocery stores and wrote down their prices to compare to each other. What I noticed was that they all varied in prices for everything. Some stores would have steals for some items yet other items would be more expensive than at another store–which is why we shop around. I know where the best prices are for the things we need and I go to that location. It might be only a few dollars that I am saving, but I am saving nonetheless, and since we live pretty close to all the grocery stores (suburban life right there) we don’t spend much, if any, extra on gas to do this.
- Use coupons and fuel points. We mostly do our shopping at Kroger and Aldi. Aldi has off brand prices that are just unreal and I go there for a lot of our commercial items that we might need. However, Kroger has awesome specials and coupons on their Kroger App that allows me to compare to Aldi’s prices. We love coupons and hate “paying full price” for anything (yes, we have become those people), and our financial goals thank us for this!
- Stop using credit. Unfortunately, we both have credit cards and loved using them in the past. However, we have learned the hard way that using credit may seem like a get-out-of-jail-free card for now, but it always comes back if you don’t take care of it. So we are taking care of ours! We’ve locked whatever cards we can away in Dylan’s safe and don’t plan to use them anymore. Part of our longterm financial goals are to not owe one cent on credit card debt, and we will get there–one way or another.BONUS!
- We plan to cloth diaper our baby. We have gotten a lot of strange looks from people when we tell them this, and even some “you’re crazy” comments, but we view it as our chance to save some waste for the planet and also save some cash for our wallets. We are going to attempt it, and if it doesn’t work out then at least we’ve tried! More to come on this later (clearly, when there is said baby present). Any encouragement and/or advice would be greatly appreciated!
I hope these were helpful to any families out there struggling with money problems. I hate that money is something Dylan and I talk about regularly, but it is a big part of managing a family. We cannot wait to meet our little babe and we want to be as prepared as possible for him or her!