This post brought to you by Arizona Commission for Postseconday Education. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Uncreative Mommy.
My husband had been the sole breadwinner in our family since 2007 and we have definitely been a paycheck to paycheck family…to the point that we borrowed money from our parents more often than we care to admit. I was never very good at budgeting or figuring out different ways to save money other than just going without many things we needed.
Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to the household income thanks to my blog but I am still far from earning a full time income. However, I have finally figured out how to budget and have learned some money saving techniques that although do not give us a ton of freedom, they definitely help a lot.
Stick to a Budget
As it turns out, creating a budget is actually very simple, sticking to it is the hard part. Write down every bill you owe, subtract that from your income…that number is what you will put towards your grocery budget as well as extras like entertainment and household and then, if you are lucky, savings! Then over a months time, keep track of every penny that leaves your wallet, where it went, what it was for. Once the month is over, you can determine which expenses are impulse items and which ones to factor into the budget. Once you do the next step, you can add this into the budget.
Reduce Your Grocery Bill
The average family spends approximately $200 per person per month on groceries, and that includes basic household and hygiene items. Before I did all this, we were spending close to $1000 a month for the 4 of us, now we are around $600 a month. Since my husband and I share a car and with my current health issues, he was doing all the grocery shopping and it was pretty much a daily thing with no real list. When I realized how much we were spending, I decided to make a huge change. I created a list of items that we typically have in the house and a list of our favorite meals. On Saturday, I do a basic meal plan and then go through the kitchen to determine what we need to buy for those meals, I also check other items like the kids snacks and lunch items and the foods I need for my diabetic diet. I then create my list, in the order they are in the store to make it easier for my husband and then I send him on his way with explicit directions NOT to deviate from the list. Chopping $400 off the original amount we used to spend has helped tremendously.
Eliminate Unneccessary Bills/Work with Utility Company
First thing I did here was to opt into a flex plan with the electric company. Our winter bills were around $150 but our summer bills were pushing $500 a month, so with the flex plan, we pay a flat fee of $235 a month and have even had a few free months because we overpaid enough during the winter. We also finally ditched cable and are now big Netflix users thanks to our Roku stick! Although, I think the best thing we did was switch our phones to Walmart Family Mobile! Instead of $100 per phone, we are around $125 for 3 phones with the same coverage than most other plans have.
Create a Nest Egg/Safety Net
Yes, we have been able to save a lot of money lately because of the things we have changed, unfortunately, that isn’t all fun money. As I stated above, we borrowed a lot of money before and now we don’t have to, but we are still very much a paycheck to paycheck family. That is not stopping us from protecting ourselves later. We are very aware that things can happen and unless we want the 4 of us to squeeze into my old bedroom at my parents house, we have to make sure we have a safety net just in case. Some months we are only able to put away $10, other months we can do $25 or more. Every penny can help in emergency situations, so even if you are only adding spare change to the piggy bank, at least it is something.
Use Cash, Not Credit
That’s not to say you should carry cash wherever you go, it simply means, only spend what you currently have to spend. Other than our bank cards, we do not have any credit cards. Those got us in trouble in our very irresponsible 20’s and now we avoid them at all cost! We will not create more debt than we already have.
Save for the Future
And when I say the future, I mostly mean our children, although saving for retirement is a great idea too! I do have a confession to make though…we have not started saving for Lexi to go to college. At this point, we are hoping she gets a full ride to college because time went by much too quickly with her! I do know that every little bit helps though when it comes to paying for college and even small scholarships can all add up, such as the $250 scholarship that the Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education (ACPE) is giving away to one child who enters their coloring contest.
Sponsored by the State of Arizona through Arizona Commission for Postsecondary Education or ACPE, the Arizona Family College Savings Program (529 Plan) is a Section 529 College Savings Plan that is designed to help families meet the rising costs of a higher education. It offers an easy, flexible, and tax-advantaged way to save for college. With a 529 plan, users can make tax free withdrawals, take advantage of professional money management tools and there is no income requirements and a monthly investment can be as low as $15. The funds from AZ529 plans can be used at accredited institutions eligible through the U.S. Department of Education anywhere in the country and some abroad. They also offer a great College Savings Planner to help get you started on saving for your child’s future!
In order for your child to win the $250 scholarship from, print out the coloring page below, have them color it and send it back by December 11, 2015!