“How do you do it!?” is a question I have been asked multiple times; “How do you raise your family on only one income!?!?”
I never really know how to respond to this question. Honestly, living on one income is all I’ve ever known. My oldest was born one month after I graduated from college and I chose to become a stay at home mom.
My husband is a good and hard worker, but he is a blue collar worker and he does not earn a large paycheck. We have had ups and downs and I have had to learn to change from a SPENDER to a natural SAVER. It has not always been easy, but I have learned a few things along the way to make it more doable.
As a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM), I do not earn a physical paycheck. But, that does not mean that I don’t contribute to the family finances. I consider it a large part of my job to stretch my husbands paycheck as far as I can. A SAHMs paycheck comes in the form of saving money, budgeting smartly, spending less instead of more. Taking this part of my job seriously has helped us to save more and live more contently.
Make a Budget and Stick to it
At the end of every month we have a “Budget Meeting” where my husband and I sit down and discuss our finances and make our budget for the next month. It is not always easy to stick to this budget (especially not at first). But the more we kept working on it, the easier it has become and the more freedom we have felt. Having this budget keeps my money in check AND gives me freedom to spend without feeling guilty. We prefer to spend most of our money using cash, you can read more about why and how we do so here: The Envelope Money System: A Beginners Guide.
Do NOT spend a lot of Money on Kids Clothes
When you are shopping for your kids clothes, do not spend a lot of money on them! It’s hard with all these darling cute little outfits, but I promise it is a waste of money. Kids grow out of clothes way to quickly, they spend most of their time playing outside getting their clothes dirty, and honestly, most kids (especially younger kids) do not care how much their clothes cost or what brand they are wearing.
I’ve learned a few little tricks to save money on kids clothes:
- SAVE everything. If you are planning on having more children, then save all of your kids clothes. That way when the next child comes you will already have plenty of clothing that you can use again. I organized all my children’s old clothes into boxes (diaper boxes work great for this!) or Tupperware bins (I can usually find these for pretty cheap at Walmart) and then I labeled them by the age and gender of the clothing, for easy access to them later.
- When at all possible buy USED! There are a lot of great options available right now for parents to be able to buy good quality used children’s clothing. My favorite option is a local children’s consignment store. Check to see if you have one in your area and stop in regularly. Some days I leave without buying anything, but other days I leave buying almost new name brand items. A few other options are thrift stores, garage sales, and ebay. All of these are great resources, especially if you check them often.
- Shop off season. Usually in the spring you can find winter clothes on a huge discount and in the fall summer clothes has a big discount. Buy a size up from what your child is wearing currently and save it for them to wear the next year.
- Sell clothes you will not need anymore. If you aren’t planning on having any other children and you have clothes that they have grown out of, SELL these items. They can be sold on Facebook marketplace, the local consignment store or at a garage sale. If you are going to get rid of them anyways you might as well make a few bucks right!?!
- Utilize discount stores such as Ross and TJ Maxx. I have found some great deals on brand new clothes for good prices at both of these stores.
Every week on Tuesdays you will find me with my pen and paper. This is the day I plan all our breakfasts, snacks and dinners for the week. Lunches are more of a loose plan and I just try to have sandwich fixings on hand at all times. Having a meal plan helps stop the temptation to buy fast food or go out to a restaurant to eat. When making your weekly Meal Plan look through ads at your local grocery stores to see what the stores have on sale. Try to plan your meal plan around those sales. It takes time, but it saves a lot of money. You know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Make a plan!
Cook from Scratch
Cook from scratch as often as possible. I still throw a frozen lasagna into the oven occasionally, but I have learned that the more I cook from scratch the more money I will save. Search Pinterest for ideas on snacks and meals to make. A few of my recipes are posted here How I use ONE Roast for THREE Meals, Homemade Graham Cracker Recipe, The absolute easiest Pasta Bake Recipe!, and My favorite easy Homemade Pizza Crust Recipe. Cooking in the kitchen can be a fun family activity. My kids LOVE to help me in the kitchen! We turn on some tunes, dance and laugh together while we cook.
I do think it is important to plan family travels. It is a great way to make memories and build friendships. But, you do not need a fancy expensive vacation to make memories. Explore areas nearby for your family vacation. Become tourists in your own area. Go camping at a nearby National Park, spend a couple of nights at a hotel for a “Staycation”, or explore a few local museums. Join Groupon and look for deals that you can use as a family. Your town just might be more interesting than you originally thought, and your kids will appreciate the extra time spent together.
Consult Pinterest cautiously
As a mom Pinterest is my go-to resource for finding kid activities and recipes. However, if you are trying to save money you should view Pinterest cautiously. It is far to easy to get swept away with the fancy decor and lavish birthday parties. These are fun, and I do not put down anyone who likes to go a little over the top for their children, but for those of us who are trying to save a few bucks it is not always the best route. Enjoy your time browsing Pinterest, but be careful not to get swept away in the pins that will end up only costing you more money.
The best things in life are actually free
Sometimes it’s hard to see others going on exotic vacations and buying fancy new vehicles. But, I have learned that the best things in life are actually free. Try to find joy and contentment in the simple things in your life. Going on a family bike ride, dancing in the kitchen, and snuggling with my kids while reading books are all moments that I will treasure forever. No amount of money is worth more than these quiet times with my children. When we learn to find joy in these special free moments (something I am constantly working on) those lavish vacations won’t seem near as tempting.