Thanks for stopping by from Kelly's blog! If you are new, welcome to my humble
Let me begin by saying we live on a seriously tight budget. This may be revealing too much, but I am all for keeping it real... and honestly, I'd like to look back one day and realize how different things really are for us. Our joint income in 2009 barely reached into 5 digits. Yes, last year we barely made over $10,000 between the two of us. I can honestly say this past year has made us stronger spiritually as a couple and individually and we only made it by through the grace of God. Looking back it is amazing and humbling to see how He has provided. In the fall Trevor and I were both in school. When time came up to register for spring, he opted out to work as a security guard full time. Since then, our income has changed some but not significantly. Despite the difference, we are still using the tighter budget and finally able to save some money. I've learned how to save money and budget and I am still learning, growing and changing. I actually take it as a fun challenge now. ;)
Ways we learned to save money:
1. Set a budget and stick too it. Seriously, it takes a while to get used to it but once you do it will almost be second nature. We researched what percentage of your income each area of your budget should be. Some things had to be adjusted for us... Housing is only supposed to be 20-30% of your income. Ours is a whopping 56.7%... ouch!
Funny story. Tuesday, T and I went to the grocery store before he had to go to work. The young couple in front of us spent $189 and some change on groceries. As the husband was swiping the card, the wife said, "I hope this is enough to last us through the week." She was honestly worried that almost $200 worth of food wasn't going to be enough to feed them for a week? We aren't talking steaks here. It was just a lot of convenience foods and snacks. My grocery budget includes our eating out. On a good week, we have $60 to spend. Yes, $60 on eating out and groceries for 2 people for one week. I am hoping to gradually bring this amount even lower. Trevor turned to me after they left and said, "Baby, I may tease you about the whole budgeting thing, but I want you to know I appreciate that you know how to feed me and keep money in the bank." THAT made all of the effort completely worth it.
3. Cutting back on "spending money". T and I both get $20 a week spending money. This is to cover any snacks/food(at work or, for me, at school) or saving for special things. T likes to spend his spending money on fishing/sports/cars. I like to spend mine on books. ;)
2. Envelope system - this might not work for everyone but it definitely works for us. The only money that stays in our bank account are tithe, housing, and any bills that we pay online or are automatically taken out. There are several main areas that we set aside first, priority areas(tithe, housing, utilities, etc). After that we divide the remainder of the money over the lower priority envelopes. We have always tried to save money but it never really seemed to work before the envelope system. The "swipe it and go" theory IS NOT how I want to live my life.
3. Couponing - for just an hour or so a week you can save big time. Couponing blogs are some of my favorite. It takes more time and effort when you are first getting started but it is definitely worth it. If I can invest 1-2 hours of my time and save more than $20, I consider my time well spent. If I can save $60-100, I consider my time exceptionally well spent. ;) Once my time isn't as consumed with school(oh Monday, please hurry), I plan to spend even more time couponing. For those who have never used a coupon or think it is a waste of time or money, here is something to think about... If you buy 1 newspaper a week at Walmart for $0.99 and only use 1 $1 coupon, then it has paid for itself. Even on slow weeks, it pays for itself. Sounds good to me. ;)
4. Eat at home. Sounds simply, right? Eating out makes a HUGE dent in people's budget.
5. Eat from your pantry/menu planning - During January I took part in the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. I set a budget for $100 on groceries and only spent $85.65. I truly stretched myself. This was hard but so rewarding. After all, the money we saved helped pay for a trip to Disney World. ;o) I plan to try it again in May. Not sure how well it will go but I definitely want to empty out my pantry and freezer before we move.
Want to know more about what I learned from the EFTPC? Check out my first post, last post and all the posts in between. Menu planning goes a long way in saving money. After shopping sales and coupons, I usually only have to buy a few items, if any, to make several meals. This week I bought less than 20 items to make almost 2 weeks worth of meals because of what I already had stockpiled(thank you, coupons!).
6. Pay Cash if possible - we want to pay cash for as much as possible. Unfortunately, we have learned that this is not always a good thing. Unestablished credit is worse than no credit. Apparently our utilities and such aren't enough.
*Please correct me if this is wrong, I am simply going on what I have learned from the people at our bank as well as friends and family members. I welcome any advise or opinions in the matter. I am credit clueless but don't wish to remain so.*We were advised by many people, whom we completely trust, and all of them told us basically the same thing. It boiled down to this: loans, credit cards, etc are not reported on your credit until after 6 months. Also,it apparently looks best on your credit report if you pay only the minimum for the first 6 months and then pay it off in full. If you pay it off in full from the get go it doesn't even make a difference, good or bad, on your credit.
We just got our first credit card and are only paying the minimum for the first 6 months. After that we will not use it at all if we cannot pay it off completely at the end of the month. Also, we plan to make minimum payments on students loans and then start paying as much extra each month as possible. Oh goodness, don't get me started on the interest that accumulates!
7. Adding this a little late. I can't believe I forgot it! Swagbucks. Basically it is a search enjoy, with the same results as google but you when points for your searches. I love cashing in my points for gift cards and have raved about it before. ;)
I am hoping that with graduating and, hopefully, finding a full-time job we will be able to live a little more comfortable. But now matter what, I want to hold on to what I learned, that resting in God's arms is much more comfortable/comforting than any financial status or lifestyle could ever hope to provide.
What are some of your money saving tips?