About Me, budgeting, Family Life, large family

That budget life

August 7, 2018

I’ve talked about finances here on the blog a time or two, but I’m ready to talk a bit more frankly. After the financial fiasco that hit our sewer line last week drained our itty bitty emergency fund (but could have been much, much worse, as you know if you follow me on Insta), I decided the time had come to officially call the postpartum period closed for business.

(And by that I mean the period of making declarations along the lines of “I just had a baby, so I deserve this carry-out iced coffee.”)

I possibly do deserve that coffee, but I can throw a handful of ice cubes into the conveniently-cooled mug that has been sitting on the kitchen table since breakfast and call it good.

In the name of transparency let’s address the reality that yes, we are solidly middle class. We have health insurance and wifi and my husband has a job that compensates him fairly for his work, and yet, we are still basically paycheck to paycheck. We do live in an expensive housing market, and we do have a large family, so that tightens the belt a bit right off the bat.

Could we cut back and be a bit more financially sure-footed? I think so. Which is what I’m aiming to do for the next four months, between now and Christmas.

We are not likely going to be getting massive pay raises any time soon, so I have to take a clear eyed look at the budget and admit why it isn’t working better. One word: convenience.

It’s convenient to buy already-shredded cheese. It’s convenient to buy disposable diapers, and baby food in pouches, and sparkling water in cans that could possibly have paid off one of my student loans by now if I had a dollar for every can of LaCroix I’ve ever guzzled. But looking backwards in carbonated regret is no way to live one’s life.

But, I mean, it’s embarrassing. I live a life of relative ease – luxury, even, by much of the world’s standards – and yet when faced with a potential home repair quoted (thankfully, erroneously) into the thousands, my life as I knew it flashed before my eyes. Would we pull the kids out of school to pay for it? Sell one of our cars? Get a second job at night for a couple months? Take out (yet another) credit card?

Thanks be to God, the company who quoted us the repair ended up being shady. So what could have cost us $7,000 ended up costing about a tenth of that.

Still, it was a wake up call. I want to be a better steward of our resources, and to help alleviate some of the pressure of being the primary provider from Dave’s shoulders.

I also just don’t want to worry about money any more. It’s fun to eat out and carry around a paper cup of steaming, liquid alertness. But I imagine it’s more fun to be able to go grocery shopping any day of the month, and to have a failed transmission be an annoyance rather than a tragedy.

Want a peek at where we’ll be cutting back? Here are the things on the chopping block:

My gym membership. OUCH. But not really. I prefer walking to swimming, it turns out, and if my body ever feels sufficiently recovered from birth, I think I’d prefer running even more. Swimming is great, but it wasn’t getting the weight off, and it’s a huge time suck to get a workout in. Minimum 75 minutes to get there/get in and out/swim a mile. Plus, we can’t afford the kids club for 5 kids, so I can only go at 5 am or 9 pm.

Takeout coffee. I love Starbucks. I know better and I have tasted better, but what can I say? As a dog returns to its vomit…

Eating out, period. We go on 2 dates a month because we swap childcare with one of my sisters. It’s awesome, but I think we’re going to pull back to eating at home first and then springing for “coffee or cocktails” for the scope of this project. (Date night funds come from a separate cash category than eating out. I’m aiming for $50/month or less for date nights).

Buying crap at Arc/Goodwill/Craigslist. I am an amazing thrifter. My kids have great shoes, I’ve scored some killer furniture deals, and we have a great and growing classic chapter books library. But I can get dangerously loose at the Arc. One thing leads to another and before I know it I’ve got awesome Nike soccer cleats for the next 2 seasons and another adorable Aden and Anais swaddle in organic muslin and 3 cute tops for Evie in my cart and…you see where I’m going with this. I might have to swear off the thrift stores entirely while we’re in belt tightening mode, so alluring is their siren call to me. I think thrift stores are for me what Target is to most moms.

Speaking of Target...well, not Target specifically, but brick n mortar stores, period. I’m going to take our local grocery store, King Soopers, up on their offer of 4 free uses of their curbside delivery program.

When I’m walking through a store, I tend to toss in unplanned items that I forgot to add to the list, plus the occasional box of diaper wipes just because can you ever have too many diaper wipes on hand? No, no you can not. But maybe I can slum it with a different and cheaper brand than the Huggies Naturals I’ve been faithful to since we brought home baby number one. Not gonna do the math on that one, because hindsight! It’s blinding! I am also hoping shopping only one time per week at a single store will help trim costs.

Starting/cooking dinner earlier than 4 pm. I am a notoriously reluctant cook. And I lose steam as the day progresses. A day that starts out with a hot breakfast may well end with frozen waffles, or some other convenience food that doesn’t actually fill anyone up. Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth at 9 pm and a whole fourth meal’s worth of snacks before bed. This morning I made the Pioneer Woman’s Sunday Night Stew at 10 am, and now it’s done same as I am.

Finally, we’d like to contribute to our parish capital campaign to renovate our ugly church, but haven’t been able to see much wiggle room in our budget. Suddenly things are feeling a bit looser.

I’m curious to see what other people’s “luxuries” are. I assume if you have internet access you have at least a few of them in your life. Maybe a whole lot fewer than we do, or maybe more. Are you debt free? We’re hoping to become so eventually – using that smart financial program you’ve seen me chatting up on IG, Wallet Win. Have you paid off your student loans yet, or would you like to do so before your kids start incurring their own? Kicked your Starbucks habit? Whipped up 101 different rice and beans recipes you’re dying to share with me?

45 Comments

  • Reply Catherine August 7, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I have EXACTLY that thrift store issue!! Four munchkins that seem to outgrow or wear out everything constantly give me my excuses. Preach!

    My financial fault has always been dining out. It’s not the food. It’s that someone else cleans the kitchen. Celiac made dining out ridiculously expensive, and I’m (probably too) proud to say that we went five months without a family dinner outing this year. Sadly, it’s the need to replace our furnace and air conditioner that prompted that.

    My biggest ally in the financial war is ALDI. Gluten-free items we can afford (four out of six of us must eat that way, and two of us need to avoid lactose with another one completely avoiding dairy), good produce, and a willingness to mark down meat items liberally are three traits I’ll take on my team!

  • Reply Robin Parma August 7, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    My husband and I looked into Wallet Win when you had shared a link for them sometime last year I think. They recommend using YNAB to create your monthly budget and have monthly budget meetings. YNAB has been a huge game changer for us. We haven’t dipped into our savings once since using it for our budget and we were doing that every month for awhile. We also dropped cable for just Netflix, dropped our land line, let go of house cleaning help, and cut WAY back on eating out and Sonic stops. Shopping online for groceries and picking it up helps me to see my total and make adjustments to my meal plan and grocery list if it is more than I want to spend. (Here in Texas, I love my HEB but they have a 3% markup on their groceries and charge a $5 fee. Wal-Mart has no mark up and no fees so I use them for online groceries.)

  • Reply Katie August 7, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    We don’t have high paying jobs, but are debt free and have lots of savings (praise God). Every month, though, I renew my commitment to spend more wisely (and often fail). My downfalls: caribou coffee, small amazon purchases that add up, and kombucha (which I’ve brewed before, so should really go back to that). I’d say the toughest thing, though, is eating paleo. It really is so hard to do it on a modest budget, but me and my doctor both agree it’s what I need (don’t think I would have my baby eating otherwise). Next month I’m gonna try (with my husbands support) no spending (outside of the absolute necessities). We’ll see how it goes! Good luck with your own goals!

  • Reply Caroline August 7, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    Love this! We weren’t sure how we were going to pay for all three of our kiddos to go to parents day out (necessary because I am in grad school to be a nurse practitioner), but very providentially the opportunity arose for us to rent out one of our bedrooms to a college student. She is paying us rent (much cheaper than she would find anywhere else) AND she is going to babysit for us in exchange for cheaper rent. We weren’t looking to rent the room out – and it means all three kids (4 & under) will be bunking up in one room – but it literally just fell into our lap and couldn’t have been a clearer sign of God’s providence and care. Maybe you have an extra room floating around waiting to be filled by a college student 😉

    • Reply Katie August 8, 2018 at 9:21 am

      We are doing this as well, but for a young adult. However we’re actually paying her a couple hundred a month in exchange for childcare (which would cost us into the thousands elsewhere). But I love this idea!

  • Reply Kathleen August 7, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    I hear you on the PP coffee run.. a way to get out of the house, but I am recommitting to just say no! My other big one is books. I need to use the library more! As another commenter mentioned Aldi is LIFE! Aldi has cut my grocery bill in half! It’s just insane how good the prices are and especially the GF food. I wish I didn’t live in such an expensive area where I know the price of everything is inflated! I am so sorry about your sewer! Those unexpected house disasters are so hard!

  • Reply Cynthia S Coy August 7, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    Yes, budgeting is on my radar and I know I must stay away from all things Amazon! I actually love swimming but I totally agree it’s a time buster. One thing I try to do is exercise with my kids. It’s not a lot, but having a little trampoline and Just Dance kid videos casting on the TV is fun and super time efficient. I also try to race them after dinner and they love beating mommy. Many blessings.

  • Reply Beth August 7, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    I think a good, electric pressure cooker is invaluable for stretching a food budget. And meals that taste like they’ve taken hours actually take minutes. Easy, delicious, cheap, fast. Sometimes I fill the liner in the morning, put it in the fridge and then just drop in the cooker in the afternoon.

  • Reply Anonymous August 7, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Such a good idea to build up a safety net! I don’t want to budget shame you, but I think my life might do that unintentionally.

    Living the truth of Catholic teaching means we have five kids, two of whom have significant medical needs. We figured out that 20% of our income went towards medical expenses last year. This year it is on track to be more. Unfortunately because these five kids are our “choice” it is impossible to ask for help without bringing a “tsk tsk” to the Church. So we struggle alone and in silence.

    My luxuries are frozen berries and beer from Aldi. We don’t have Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix. My husband and I stay in and watch movies from the library for our dates. I have never purchased a drink from Starbucks or Caribou, and I don’t have a smart phone, but a flip tracfone that comes to less than $10/month.

    I own 4 pairs of shoes, and my husband figured out how to cut his own hair.

    We eat oatmeal for breakfast. Every day.

    I wish you luck in your lifestyle changes– but the glib way that you talk about “slumming it” with off-brand baby wipes ends up being sort of hurtful to a family for whom off-brand anything is the least of their sacrifices.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing August 8, 2018 at 11:11 am

      I’m so sorry if it came off glib! I was really aiming for self deprecating. I apologize sincerely that it fell flat. I think it’s so hard to talk about budget because everyone has such a different frame of reference. I really hope that nobody comes away from reading this without a sense that I recognize we are so, so privileged. And thank you for your courage in enduring those judgmental stares in silence, and bringing your babies to the sacraments anyway. I have found that often the judgement is in my head, but sometimes people do come right out and say stuff, and that can be devastating in the context of church. Keep fighting the good fight. I am really sorry causing you any hurt.

    • Reply Lily August 10, 2018 at 11:32 am

      I encountered the same kind of response when I was a single mom at 18 taking care of my son — don’t ask for help because it was your choice kind of thing–and that was from Catholics and Non-Catholics alike. Don’t feel alone! I’ve walked that path, I totally get it.
      But I will say…absolutely, *absolutely* ask for help. Struggling alone and in silence begets a feeling of burden, and I remember living there. I remember thinking, wait a second, aren’t these little fingers and toes supposed to be the meaning of life and not the chains that bind me?! I’m not saying that you don’t find your joy — I’m positive that you find the joy with those wonderful children, and that most of the time you’re not thinking about the struggle.
      BUT! There are wonderful, caring, sympathetic people out there who would LOVE to babysit to let you have a real date night. One of the things I started doing was asking for time for presents; Christmas presents, birthday presents. I asked for a date night, or a movie night with a girl friend, or a walk. So instead of monetary gifts, friends and family volunteered their time to give me those things. They would give gift cards to pay for the event and then find the in-home child care I needed to make it possible.
      PS. My luxuries were raspberries and tapioca pudding. Haha! Nothing better.
      Wish you all the best.

  • Reply Abby August 7, 2018 at 11:22 pm

    This is my life!! We’re committed to Dave Ramsey and are still paying off student loans, but his Every Dollar app has really helped. I crave financial freedom as much as you do, and for whatever reason the Enemy has given me the extra covet-temptation of having five of my husband’s best friends making $500k+ per year. It’s SO hard to live without envy but I’m relying on Jesus every day (and for every dollar). Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Reply jeanette August 7, 2018 at 11:42 pm

    Not paying for a subscription to cable TV saves lots of money.

    Being the family hairdresser and cutting my own hair, my kid’s hair, and my husband’s hair was another way to save money. But you better be good at it! : )

    Our best money saving strategy, was never to buy anything on credit (other than a home mortgage). We use credit cards for convenience only, but pay the entire balance off each month. No interest paid to someone else means lots of money stays in your bank account.

    We also pay cash and buy a used car 1-2 years old instead of one new off the lot.

    Regularly contribute to a savings account, even if only a few dollars is all you can manage.

    Interest rates have been really low for quite a lot of years, so this might not help at this time in your financial life, but we started at double digit interest rates, so we used to regularly watch the interest rates fall and accordingly refinance our mortgage to lower our payment. We did this at least 4 times (and that means not borrowing against your equity, just strictly going for a lower payment). Sometimes to get into a home you end up qualifying for a loan with less than 20% down payment and your payment includes PMI. As soon as you own 20% equity you don’t need to pay PMI and can ask your lender to cancel it.

    Sometimes shopping around for better insurance coverage is good, too. Regularly review it with your agent to make sure that your deductibles make sense. Over time, you may find they need adjusting up or down and that will change your insurance rates. Also, make sure you are getting all of the discounts you are entitled to receive (they don’t always automatically give them to you). Membership in credit unions sometimes offers special rates for products like insurance, too.

    We don’t spend money unnecessarily, even in prosperous times. Being consistent in your spending habits will mean not having to break bad habits in lean times.

    • Reply Ellen August 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

      I was amazed at how insurance rates creep up on you. Now it’s something we regularly check on.

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing August 8, 2018 at 11:18 am

      “Being consistent in your spending habits will mean not having to break bad habits in lean times.” SO GOOD. So true. I will call our insurance company and ask about rates today. Thanks!

  • Reply teacher August 8, 2018 at 1:58 am

    I love these posts, Jenny. I always wonder how other families make things work financially and I appreciate that you share this personal part of your life with us. About LaCroix–we bought a knock-off soda stream and love it. Put in a drop of essential oil of orange or lemon at the bottom of your cup before you fill it with sparking water. Budget lacroix and no schlepping of heavy cans.

    One question I always have about budgeting for Catholic families is how they make Catholic school work. I would love to hear what percentage of Catholic families’ incomes go to tuition. For us, Catholic school tuition for our big family would be about 36 percent of our take-home pay. Are our Catholic schools here that expensive? Or are all Catholic families paying a third of their income to school?

    • Reply Jenny Uebbing August 8, 2018 at 11:16 am

      So our school is insanely generous with us. My husband works for the diocese, which I don’t think is technically considered, but they know exactly how much we make and how much debt we carry in student loans. They also take our family size into account. I’m technically paying less this year than last year, considering how many days of school my kids will be attending (2 full time and one full day/3 days a week). It will hardly cost me more to send them to Catholic school than it would to stay home and pay for a homeschool curriculum or babysitting help or whatever extra hands I might need to teach 3 kids and entertain 2 babies day in and day out. I realize some people homeschool for close to free! But that wouldn’t be me. I struggle with keeping all the balls in the air when they’re all home, and I would definitely need outside help of some kind.

      Our school has a deep commitment to the concept of “every Catholic family deserves a Catholic education” and they are very encouraging to larger families to apply for scholarships and financial aid. They want us at school, and so they make it happen. I try to give back as much as I can by using a script card to buy groceries and donating time and talent to our fundraising efforts by doing writing projects, volunteer hours, etc. Hope that helps!

  • Reply Mary Wilkerson August 8, 2018 at 3:21 am

    We are debt free.
    For us? Stuff that we don’t do…
    Car payments- nope. My husband drives around the grossest windstar. It’s a hit to his ego I am sure, but it was less than 2k, and we bought it two years ago… still going strong.

    Like you- when we don’t eat out, our bank account starts growing. Healthy eating has helped with this. I’m not gonna pay $50 for a healthy meal at a restaurant… takes the fun out of restaurants when you can’t eat the bread basket.

    Although we’ve kept the luxury gym with childcare included/ I never pay for sitters. It’s been a huge hit on our date nights/ but we intentionally hang out every night as a couple, and get our folks to watch our kids every couple months for a night out.

    And, like we’ve discussed, a minamalist approach to life. My kids each have 2-3 pants, 2-3 long sleeve shirts, 1 sweatshirt and 3-5 T-shirt’s (the girls 4-6 dresses). That’s it. We don’t buy them clothes, ever.

    Those our the luxuries we stay away from. I’ve got to tell you though, our weakness is avoiding the fully funded emergency fun (let’s say 10k) because we keep going on fancy vacations. Trying to buckle it down this year as well.

  • Reply Meg August 8, 2018 at 5:59 am

    We are debt free because we paid off nearly$100k in student loans pre-kids while I was still working full-time. But even so, we are still mostly paycheck to paycheck. We own our cars, have no cable, don’t eat out, no date nights, no vacations. We’re trying to see if I can do anything from home for income while my husband sells the contents of our basement. I wonder daily if we’re making the right choice for me to stay home with the kids (I think we are), but MAN it’s hard financially!

    • Reply Julie August 9, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Meg, please don’t doubt the good of staying home! That choice will be what your kids remember, always having you available, not the vacations or eating out. Nothing can compare to having Mom at home. God bless you!

      • Reply Miriam August 10, 2018 at 1:35 pm

        Julie I completely agree with you that kids will remember a presence more than all the extras. I would like to respectfully suggest a rephrase on the other part though, that nothing can compare to having a Mom who is living the fullness of her vocation as mother AND the fullness of her personal vocation, be that working, working from home, homeschooling, or whatever. I hesitated to post this because your pure hearted encouragement of a fellow mother is beautiful, but I decided to because I think the idea that a women who isn’t at home isn’t making the best choice for her children is damaging. Of course our children come first and of course we make sacrifices for them, but I don’t think that looks the same for every woman. The book Embracing Edith Stein really opened my eyes to this idea and I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Meg, if you feel called to stay home, awesome! Don’t doubt! The sacrifices you are making are beautiful.

        • Reply Liz August 17, 2018 at 7:11 pm

          Thank you for your comment Miriam!!!

  • Reply Christine August 8, 2018 at 6:04 am

    Thank you for your honesty! We’ve talked seriously about cutting our cable (the TV portion, not the internet portion) because the high cost is hard to justify.

    Have you ever used Walmart grocery pickup? It’s totally free (and they can’t/don’t accept tips). It’s been a HUGE time saver, but also a budget saver (no impulse buys!) Not an advertisement…I just really like it. 🙂

  • Reply Germaine August 8, 2018 at 8:10 am

    We don’t have netflix or cable and yes, we are millenials ^_^ It’s amazing what’s on youtube. There’s playlists of old-time Paddington Bear or the Andy Griffith show or Mister Rogers’ Picture Picture or EWTN’s My Catholic Family & Tomkin-the Catholic Cowboy, etc…for our littles when screen time is helpful. Because we’re a laptop & tablet family, we prop everything on a desk or table then tell them if they want to watch, they have to stay sitting on the couch, bed, whathaveyou so that way they’re not too close to the screen (I feel like kids younger than 6 losing important brain development from being too close to a tv didn’t stop when home computers arrived but I’ve no idea if there’s research to back that up.)

    I like watching cooking shows (who doesn’t like looking at food?) and they make me feel more okay to be preparing our food at the counter. Laurainthekitchen.com is HILARIOUS and her food is amazing!!

    We’re trying to cut back on our eating out and planned exactly when we would when we budgeted for this month. So far it’s been good thanks to me cutting out coffee stops…again : ) …I’m almost 8 months pp so I hear ya on the excuse thing ; ) Something that super helps is reminding myself that if I’m going to spend the $5 (incl. tip), I could also instead go to Krogers (the Texas version of King Soopers) and pick up 2 tubs of Dreyers double fudge brownie icecream or a party pail of chocolate (it’s summer after all) or a 4 pack of jumbo chocolate cupcakes and share the love with my kids : D no wars over getting a sip and lasts just a little bit longer…except the cupcakes. Anyhoo, just an idea.

    If I want to be around people in an adult atmosphere with hipster music but without spending lots of money, well I’ve no ideas local to Houston (our libraries rot). We’re in our indoor season so it’s time for reverse hygge. Imagine a Denver winter but instead of it being too cold to do anything outside, it’s too hot & muggy, and the days are longer plus misleadingly perfect looking outside the window. I only recently moved south of the Mason Dixon line so I’m still getting used to long summers and warm Christmases. I’d say do even more stuff outside while you can and then worry about coffee etc…after Christmas when winter is long and being out really means being indoors somewhere else : )

    Lastly, eggs. I refuse to go full on vegan or rice & beans to cut our food budget, but you can make cheese quiche with eggs & chopped ham + serve with tater tots & carrots 2x a week and you have another easy supper that’s nutritious-ish and not uber expensive. Just get 6 eggs, 1/2 bag of chopped ham or just get a few pieces of ham by the lunchables section, generic frozen pie crust pie plates (2/$1), whatever cheese you have (mozz, colby, cheddar, etc..), tater tots from the freezer section, plus a bag of carrots from the produce. Bam. A dinner that can be prepped in 15 minutes (less if you get pre-peeled and cut carrots), baked in 30 minutes, thrown in the fridge for later, and then just popped in the oven with the tater tots for 20 minutes while the table is set, etc…Not the fanciest but easy like frozen pizza. Easy to clean up after too because you can throw out the pie plates.

  • Reply Germaine August 8, 2018 at 8:17 am

    Forgot to add that by picking up ice-cream or cupcakes instead of coffee, I can than memo it to “grocery” on our budget instead of “restaurant” or “my spending.” Definitely isn’t as great for my waistline but then I really push myself to workout later. Something like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_2712788137&feature=iv&src_vid=njeZ29umqVE&v=X3q5e1pV4pc (which isn’t a walk but aerobic dance) is fun to do with the kids : )

  • Reply Bley August 8, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I think it’s always a challenge when you have a lot of kids:) Using grocery pick up has led to savings for us overall actually, and you should really consider it. Unless grocery shopping is something you enjoy! It is so convenient to order online, and I find we waste much less, because I order less. My kids are old enough now to help carry things into the house, so I buy for a whole week and rarely have to make an impromptu trip to the store. Also, the generic “frizzy” waters are pretty good:)

    I’m also considering going to a “uniform” for my kids in terms of clothing. Two, maybe three, outfits each, each of two seasons (winter and summer). I do laundry everyday, so we don’t need more than that. Especially now my girls are older and I want them to take more ownership of their appearance, I want to be able to spend a bit on a couple nice things, rather than an odd assortment of cheap things (which is where we’ve been up to now). ThredUp can be good, if you can get free shipping.

    I don’t know; I’m not thrifty by nature, so I really have to get in a certain mindset to make it happen:)!

  • Reply Jaci August 8, 2018 at 10:55 am

    My husband just unexpectedly lost his job, so this post is super helpful right now! I stay home with the kids, so our budget is usually tight anyway. I tend to have a minimalist approach to life, along with a “if I can make it myself, why pay more for somewhere else to make it for me? ”
    Recently, out of necessity (due to our milk going bad and an abundance of goats milk from a food pantry lol) I learned how to make goat cheese and cottage cheese. It is SO easy. Like heating it up to a specific temp, adding vinegar, letting it sit for 30 minutes and straining over a bowl to save the whey (why buy whey protein powder, when you can make almost a gallon of the liquid version yourself! What the whattt! )
    In the past, we have gone down to one car, no internet (use the libraries internet) , no tv (movies from the library), one phone between the two of us- like a traveling land line of sorts, no eating out, keeping lights off during the day, turning off the ac unless it’s super hot, repurposing old clothes into New things like rags (to cut back on buying paper towels.) Going to parks to play, splash pads, library story time/ programs, free nature centers, free day at the children’s museum, free day at the history museum. Hang laundry to dry outside. Grow a garden! So much organic yummy veggies to be had. Easiest to grow: cucumbers, snap peas, green beans, yellow beans, romaine, zucchini. Tomatoes and corn can be kind of easy Too.

  • Reply Emily August 8, 2018 at 11:28 am

    It’s always refreshing to hear of other families’ budgets and tight spending. Sometimes it feels like “everyone else” has the big house, nice vacation, huge grocery budget, etc.

    We worked hard to pay off our student loans and then to save a 20% downpayment on a house. That was largely possible because of my part-time-from-home work that is about to come to an end. Now the budget is looking even tighter. Our health insurance costs more than our mortgage, so that alone has a major impact on our budget. We share one cell phone (but have unlimited long distance on the landline), and it’s a flip phone. We don’t have Prime, Netflix or TV. We don’t do much in the way of entertainment that costs money. We don’t have a car payment. We have a pretty simple house that keeps the mortgage down. Having a garden (when it does well) has been helpful — nearly free produce that can become the centerpiece of a meal with a few cheap extras.

    The biggest challenges are rummage sales/thrift stores for clothes and books (which are my downfall!) and grocery store bills that seem to climb higher than expected every week. It’s especially so during pregnancy and post-partum periods. And of course the things, like health insurance, over which we have no control. Day-to-day living isn’t extreme poverty by any stretch, but it’s a real challenge to be able to save anything for an emergency fund, home improvement issues on the horizon, medical bills, etc.

  • Reply Renee August 8, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Here’s a fun fact I learned as a psych major back in the day: when you see a “sale” sign, your nucleus accumbens, the part of your brain responsible for impulse control, turns off. So I love your idea of not wandering through the store, potentially exposing yourself to ALL THE SALE SIGNS. When I was pregnant with #2, we were dirt poor. I remember reading articles (at the library, because no internet) about how to save money and getting frustrated because we were literally already doing everything. One car, no internet, meatless meals, never eating out or buying anything new… we did it all. Thankfully we are in a better place now, but those were some tough years.
    A few things we have done over the years to save:
    ~Bake whole chickens. I hate doing it, but it’s just one of those things I make myself do. Whatever is leftover from a meal goes into a soup or pot pie or stir fry the next day and the bones go in the pressure cooker for broth.
    ~the website BudgetBytes has some pretty good recipes and tips.
    ~So many beans. Refried are my favorites. I buy dried beans, cook them in the crock pot or pressure cooker, and then freeze them to use instead of cans.
    ~Make own cleaning stuff. My favorite is the laundry soap. Literally grate a bar of Kirk’s Castile soap, mix with two cups washing soda, and use 2-3T per load. So cheap and easy. We’ve been doing it for years.
    ~I hope no one gets to this point, but we would forage our backyard and parks for plantain and red clover, both of which are edible.
    ~I wouldn’t recommend this, but we actually haven’t been to the dentist in years.
    ~Cloth napkins and towels. Water is so expensive in our area that cloth diapers were actually more expensive to wash regularly than the Walmart brand, so I never did do that.
    ~On the water note, I stopped bathing my kids regularly. They rinse off about once a week, and I’ll wipe feet and faces at the end of the day. I’ve found that babies and toddlers don’t really need to use soap or shampoo unless there’s bodily fluids involved, so Johnson and his hefty price tag was evicted from our bathroom.
    ~I streamlined pretty much everything. I keep specific spices on hand, and if a recipe calls for something I don’t have, I don’t make it. I have one signature lipstick, one eyeshadow, etc. and just buy another when they run out, so I’m not trying or impulse buying makeup. Our wardrobes are minimal, as is pretty much everything else in our lives.
    ~Swap babysitting with another couple in the area who also doesn’t have family in town. We share a pint of ice-cream at the park or walk around Walmart together.
    ~switch to Marquette. I know this seems counterintuitive, but it’s so much less expensive and stressful than having a baby, if you’re in a place where you need to do that! I’m not saying don’t have a baby to save money, but we were in dire straights physically, emotionally, and financially, and I think that putting other things, like any beverage other than water, on the chopping block to pay for test strips was a sacrificial, prudent, and important decision for us.

    • Reply Anamaria August 9, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      As far as health insurance, look into Samaritan Ministries and other cost sharing programs! We saved so much money switching to this- it’s lower every month and they pay much more of every health need than health insurance. First baby we paid about $5000 ourselves (more than the self-pay price!). Second and third babies we paid $0 ourselves, including for the fancy vitamins and probiotics that my midwife wanted me to take- they cover supplements! Even if you have a pre-existing condition (the rules on when they cover these are strict and limited), it might be considerably cheaper since it’s so much less than most insurances per month. Also, it is GREAT to send money to someone in need every month and not a big health insurance company that has a billion hoops to jump through before you can actually get the meds you need, limit providers, drive up costs, etc. feel free to email me if you have questions [email protected]

  • Reply Kaitlin @ More Like Mary August 8, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    “But looking backwards in carbonated regret is no way to live one’s life.” I would come here for gems like this even if I disagreed with everything you said. 😉

  • Reply Meghan Grassi August 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    I paid off my student loans shortly before I had my daughter, but we are still working on my husband’s. We each get a tiny allowance every week, which I would have to use on my Starbucks, but I decided to start buying the big jug of sbux iced coffee from the grocery store every week, which costs less than grandes and lasts me at least a week. I find it less bitter than if I tried to make iced at home! We don’t have Netflix or Hulu, but my toddler picks 3 DVDs from the library every week. We get diapers and wipes from Amazon Prime subscribe and save (and if you can find 5+ items to get from subscribe and save you get a significant % off). I find the book The Tightwad Gazette incredibly helpful, even though parts are a bit outdated. I used to work a 3-hour shift every week at the gym for a free membership (and will probably go back when I’m a few months PP). We eat Paleo so we don’t find it to be worth it to go out on date nights to most restaurants, instead we go to Whole Foods and grab a few things off the hot food bar and bring it to the beach for about half the cost. My favorite resource is Lydia Senn’s youtube channel…she has lots of great tips for living on a budget with young kiddos!

  • Reply Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    There are some great suggestions in here! I also pretty much just love every topic you write about because it’s all about trying to just live this life God has given us the best we can. My husband and I have always lived comparatively cheaply and I think the mindset that we just don’t have the money for things helps me find other ways to make due. My biggest way of saving is to keep a little piece of paper in my purse with my monthly budget ($740 for a family of 6) and subtract every single purchase my husband or I make right away (except for car or home repairs, we have a savings for this that is automatically transferred to savings each month for when it is needed). This gives me a real-time account of my spending and once I have spent the budget I am done for the month, or if there is a little extra I can buy something out of the ordinary. I did price check just about every staple I buy and only get it from the store with the cheapest option, so that helps! Some additional suggestions: We use Republic Wireless for phones (works well if you have home WIFI), no lunch meat or any other meat that has been processed in really any way (think whole chicken and maybe some ground meat), actually avoid processed food as much as possible, replace a portion of the meat in a recipe with veggies or grains to stretch it into multiple meals, and I am now trying out a Christian health-sharing program rather than medical insurance. We also have an aversion to debt, so we have never owned credit cards or made payments on a purchase other than our house, we paid off student loans by living on one income rather than the two incomes we were earning early in our marriage, and always pay extra on our mortgage. Hope this helps someone!

    • Reply Sondra August 13, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      We’ve been eating Paleo for over a year. I’m not going to say meals are quicker but the are nutritious and most of our food bill is produce. We feel great and not complaints for the two remaining teens at home. We allow them one can of soda per week, and if they want macaroni they make it.

  • Reply Anna August 8, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    I love to have some (homemade-Pioneer Woman type) cold brew in the fridge. Throw in some half -and- half and/or sweetened condensed milk, save big bucks…I live far from Starbucks, or it could be dangerous for me. My impulse thrifting and Amazon prime need to get curbed, though.

  • Reply Ellen August 9, 2018 at 11:42 am

    We are self-employed and found health insurance in our area to be impossible. So we joined Samaritan health sharing. I actually don’t love it and we will switch to Solidarity after this baby, a similar plan that works better, but both are a huge cost savings over traditional insurance. It was scary at first to go outside the system, but now that our regular doctors have dealt with it a bit, it’s easier.

  • Reply Jen August 10, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    We have had a great experience with Samaritan Ministries! We received help through them for 3 babies and a diagnosis and 70000 dollar hospital stay this March. It gives me great peace in the money arena knowing we belong to this!

  • Reply Laura August 11, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Our family has had wonderful experiences with Christian Healthcare Ministries! Took years for us to try this but it has worked beautifully! Saves us so much money. I see more and more MDs understanding (and even using CHM personally).

  • Reply Iseoni August 12, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    For our family food is an issue. I found the best way to do things is to not plan, shop managers specials and get items like a small restaurant. You mention shredded cheese. A 1 LB brick is cheaper than a 12oz shredded bag, but often the shredded 2lb or 5lb is significantly less than that. Cheap veggies, like gourds and cabbage, go far and meat should be used sparingly. Eggs are so cheap and there are a million tricks to spread a few bucks to get nutritious food. The Food Stamp cook book is especially helpful.

  • Reply Sondra Daroshefski August 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    Two words: meal prep. It’s a game changer. It prevents those trips to the store for a last minute item that we know are going to end up costing us a minimum of $40, prevents dinner procrastinating & what I call DD- Dinner Dread. It’s all ready to go. Add a salad or a side vegetable a viola! Dinner! It also has the added benefit of being available to help with homework afterschool, taking my dogs for an extra walk, or being able to soothe & snuggle with whoever is crying, melting down or just needs a little one on one momma time.

  • Reply Megan Medley August 13, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    We’ve basically lived on a tight budget our entire marriage. Hubby went back to school 3 months after we got married and then became a stay-at-home dad when we had our first because at the beginning of a new career, his salary barely covered daycare. I’m a high school teacher, and fortunately for us, I make almost the top of the payscale because of my 2 MA degrees and 12 years experience. However, that is still not a huge income for a family of 4 (hopefully soon-to-be 5). So some of the things we’ve cut are cable, coffee out (I might get it 1-2x/month at the most), and we only buy cars that we can pay for in cash so we don’t have a car payment. I drive an 11 year old Saturn and hubby has a truck we paid for in cash that has enough spots for 3 carseats. Sooo, if we have a 4th, we’ll need a new car, but we’ve saved $15,000 for one if needed and it’s sitting there in the bank in case we need it. We bought a very modest home with a mortgage payment we can afford even though it’s not nearly as nice as we’d like. It’s also 1.2 miles away from my work, so I pay very little for gas (only have to fill up 1x/month). Hubby has to fill up 2x because he has the kids. We have a spreadsheet for meals and though we don’t eat super exciting meals, we’ve been able to get our grocery bill down to about $500-600/month. I know this won’t be possible as the kids get bigger and start eating more (they are only 3 and 1 right now, so they don’t eat much). We don’t pay for daycare cuz hubby is home with them. I think the hardest thing about being on such a tight budget is we’d love to send them to Catholic school but we probably won’t be able to afford it. I went as a kid, but my parents only had 2 kids and they both worked, so it was more feasible for them.

  • Reply Marissa August 13, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    Have you thought about the Y for a gym if you have one locally? I know the prices vary by state, but they are usually a pretty good deal. Ours is $55/month for a family membership (they will take into account your income, too) and includes free childcare. My kids LOVE childwatch and you can use it for 2 hours each day. I know a lot of moms that work out for one and sit in silence for the other hour 🙂 Well worth the monthly cost.

  • Reply Leslie August 14, 2018 at 11:53 am

    We have 5 kids (ages 6-16), and we’re financially independent now (working only because we want to, living primarily off my husband’s Navy pension). I’d recommend buying this book — https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Tightwad-Gazette-Promoting-Alternative/dp/0375508783/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
    It has a philosophy of money management and living joyously that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The author has 6 kids, and her advice is timeless. I was always frugal, but she gave me a framework for frugality that has enabled us to be financially free. It’s a wonderful feeling.

  • Reply Alice August 18, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    I know I’m late to this thread, but on the subject of home-made dinners: The best thing I can do is get most of the meal prep done in the morning. I try to know what I’m making for dinner by the time we’re done with breakfast and cleanup; have meat out of the freezer; and then do some amount of the work before lunch, like chop veggies and have them sitting on the counter under a wet paper towel; saute onions and garlic, or even make almost all of a soup except the pureeing, or adding noodles; and so on. It’s so much easier to cook without the hungry kids who all want a snack, and milk, and to go potty, and to have the spilled milk cleaned up, and their wet clothes changed etc etc etc that all magically occurs at 4:30pm!

    This may or may not work out price wise in our your area, but we are in a CSA during the spring and fall; it works out to an excellent deal for fresh vegetables, and forces all of us to eat way more vegetables than we would otherwise.

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