Category: frugal living/saving money
Whether you really need to trim your budget, or you want to be a good steward of your finances, or you want to save your money for more meaningful purchases, a little creativity and time can go a long way! The magic of money is that a little adds up to a lot. A few dollars, saved across many areas of the budget, over time, adds up to significant savings. This is the thinking of the wealthy.
Perhaps these ideas (most of which we started implementing when “we couldn’t afford children“) will get your creative juices flowing!
- Homemade cleaners–cheaper and better for you. Here’s one link for homemade cleaners. Savings/year: approx. $150
- Easy self-manicure–It is virtually impossible to tell store-bought french-manicure nails that glue on apart from a professional manicure. Go ahead, try it and see! Cost: $5. Estimated savings/year: $360 for those who get regular manicures.
- Hair highlights–I’ve used these mutliple times (my fine hair simply requires something to keep it from being so limp and unmanageable), and it’s so easy. Cost: $10. Savings/year: approx. $800
- Hand-made cards–I used to never even consider buying a card; they were just too expensive for our budget and I knew how cheap it was to make them. Use your printer, stamps, photographs or even leaves/pressed flowers for the most beautiful, memorable and affordable cards. Savings/year: approx. $60
- Handmade gifts–We made these to give and sell and we still have a few left from years ago, that we use for gifts! My daughter made the bags–super easy for basic sewing skills, my son drew the picture (you can print them from the computer too) and I ironed them on with iron-on paper from Walmart. Super special and easy! Savings: not sure . A onesie with iron-on print costs about $2, and the bag probably costs about the same. Compare that with what you would normally spend on a baby gift (you can add other baby items to this too, if you wish).
- Mixes/sauces/spices–in our age of conveniences, we assume there are certain things we must purchase already made. But a return to more homemade food would not only save us money, but aid our health as we avoid all the preservatives packaged food must use. Here is a great link for over 100 homemade mixes.
- Haircuts–a simple hair cut isn’t hard to learn, even from Youtube videos! I gave my daughters a super-cute layered cut with a very simple technique I found on youtube. Boys are easy too, with clippers. Savings per year could be substantial, depending on the number in your family.
For more ideas, check out Finding Financial Freedom.
I’ve written extensively here about the economic advantages of a woman who well-manages her home.
I’ve discussed the hidden costs of working outside the home, earning money from home, family economy, cutting the grocery budget, paying off debt, and a bit about our own personal journey of my leaving work to come home. One of my first ebooks, which now helps supplement our income, spawned from one of the darkest times in our lives.
For this post, I’d like to do more of an ‘inspiration overview’ of what it looks like when the home is the center of economic affairs, one of the characteristics of home that began this series, and how a woman, together with her family, can live life with home as the source, not the sacrifice of it all.
We’re One Family
Understanding the economic dynamics of a healthy family is crucial to even begin working toward the goal. First, members must all see themselves contributing to one “purse”. It’s not my money, his money, their money–though saving for personal goals has its place, but for the basic functioning of home life, we are a family and we all work together to that end.
So all should work together to save and to earn, to use money wisely and to be resourceful. It is my opinion that children should be involved, not shielded from the monetary responsibilities of running a household. They should grow up with a good sense of what bills look like and understand the cost of living. The earlier they learn the “work for pay” model, the better prepared they will be for real life. (This, as opposed to simply getting an allowance.)
While children shouldn’t necessarily be required to contribute directly to the paying of bills, they should be required to be good stewards of utilities and the consumable comforts of home. A pattern of wastefulness may be countered with monetary consequences until he learns the value of resourcefulness.
Multiple Streams of Income
Kevin Swanson calls his family a “seven-income household”. In a typical, American home, the children are largely financial liabilities, with parents spending to provide them with many wants and desires outside of what is reasonable. Giving gifts is a good thing; going bankrupt to help your children keep up with the neighbors is not…not for a family and not for the child.
We encourage our children to find ways to make money to spend on items they want. But occasionally, they also offer to pay for their part if we eat out or chip in on something the family is saving for, etc. It’s only logical that we should be helping them develop healthy saving and spending habits. I think it’s safe to say that a poor practice of financial control by individuals has morphed into one of our nation’s biggest problems.
As children get older, it is reasonable that the family would benefit from everyone’s income–if everyone eats, uses electricity, enjoys vacations, etc., why shouldn’t everyone pitch in? It’s counter-culture, perhaps, but something families of the past understood made it all work.
Time = Money.
Frankly, the more time we have, the more money we can save and/or earn, which is an important aspect of having a manager at home. She can use all the powers of her mind and all the facets of her gifts and abilities to reuse, create, produce and multiply her resources. We may think of a woman coming home as “reducing to a one-income family”, but a woman who understands her potential can continue creative income-earning opportunities in addition to saving and stretching the money they make.
God Blesses Family Economics
I have lived through turbulent economic crises, we have been the scorn of those wondering why we would be so “irresponsible” to have children on such a tight budget, we have been to the desperate place of, “What are we going to do?” and I have seen God do the unthinkable and miraculous on our behalf. He is a faithful Father, and though hardship can and will come, I have never seen Him forsake the righteous.
When we give to Him what is His, He promises to take care of our needs and I think we need a grass-roots return to that fundamental truth in a way that causes us to live out our faith in shoe leather.
And beyond His provision, I believe He wants our homes to be beacons, even financially, providing enough even to always be ready and willing to extend our hands to the needy around us.
“Father, help us to resist the fear and temptation around us to forsake Your promises for what the world tries to offer. May we be good stewards, wise, resourceful, creative, and above all, acknowledging that it all belongs to You.”
“…as women raising and shaping the next generation, we need to be physically optimal to keep up with the demands of our Kingdom building work. It is also part of our job to protect the health of the family we are raising….
With that said, I’m also a very busy mom living on a budget who still wants to give my family the best nutrition possible. Here are some practical ways I try to implement a healthier diet without breaking the bank or spending all my time sprouting wheat berries.”
Seeing “home” as it should be seen, not as it has come to be viewed by society (i.e. “house”, place where people sleep, place where our stuff is kept…) requires us to peel back the layers and look at all the elements that once more clearly defined “home”.
In the article that prompted this series, Pastor Wedgeworth said,
“The home used to be a center of agriculture, economic affairs, and education. For the woman to be a “homemaker” was to be an executive over the central nervous system of society. It was to be a master of arts. It was to be a farmer. It was to be a maker. It was to be a temple, a sacrament, a superlative.”
So I wanted to walk through these, one at a time. (Stay tuned for the conclusion where “agriculture” may mean something different from just growing your own food.)
Certainly this is an area where largely, and for many reasons, home ceases to flourish. It is my opinion, that when home WAS the center of agriculture, it naturally solved other problems.
Unity & Purpose
Agriculture forces a family to work together for their livelihood. It brings worth to each member of the family, and satisfaction in the accomplishment of surviving together.
But more than that, nothing creates a dependency on God more than trusting Him to provide “our daily bread”. The beautiful, visual analogy of seeds being planted, then dying, then bringing forth fruit is important for our faith.
Nothing builds work ethic quite like farming where our survival rests in the extent of our responsibilities and perseverance. A much-needed and missed trait among this generation (and a few back).
Whenever I read, from Proverbs 31, “She reaches her hand to the needy”, I picture a woman who is ready and equipped, practically speaking, to meet the needs and opportunities that come her way. Having a “storehouse” of food (which one can do whether they farm or not) is one way our homes become centers of agriculture. Whether we grow it ourselves or “bring it from afar”, we are to manage our homes in such a way to prepare us to minister to the needs around us. Books have been written on the subject, but I offer the brief reminder here.
Then there’s an entire aspect of health and nutrition, which prevents illness and saves a family money on doctor’s and prescription bills.
But for many reasons, agriculture is no longer feasible for families. So what to do? Can we capitalize on any of these benefits living in a suburban home?
I think we should try! Here are a few suggestions…maybe you have some?
- Buy from a local farmer’s market in the summer (it can be cheaper than even planting a garden) and learn to can, freeze and preserve food in a variety of ways. These skills are extremely wise to learn in the case of economic crisis.
- Use the ground you have. It’s becoming popular to “grow a garden not a lawn”, using even 1/2 acres of yard to plant food. Why not? There are also creative ways to grow mini-gardens on your back porch. (Pinterest has some great ideas!)
- A neighborhood garden. We’ve never done this, but I’ve always thought it would be smart to have a neighborhood garden where everyone plants, works and harvests. I’m sure the logistics would be tricky (it might look more like The Little Red Hen), but if it’s your only option, it would be worth a try.
- Consider other agricultural opportunities: milk cow, laying hens, etc.
If Growing Your Food Isn’t an Option
And if none of these are options to you, remember the heart of it and start at the beginning. We’ve gone from growing our own food to not recognizing the harm of pre-packaged food (or how to circumvent it). Producing your own food may be, for some of you, learning to make more things from scratch. Recovering some basic, healthy habits in the kitchen is a GREAT place to start with agriculture. Learn to make your own bread, pancake and/or dessert mixes, salad dressings, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, white sauces (instead of can cream soups), etc. Just these small changes can save you money and are healthier. Don’t forget the importance of passing these basic skills to your children too!
Now, a few disclaimers. First, I have five children age six and under, girls who eat like birds. That makes a big difference. Secondly, we have two deer and a cow in the freezer that were free (aside from labor). Another huge difference.
Nevertheless, every woman can find creative ways to stretch the food budget and feed her family for less without sacrificing too much nutrition, especially in lean financial times.
I normally make a grocery trip once a week. But this week, our budget was tight and so I determined to “make do” with what I had bought last week, with the exception of a small run for a few perishables.
It has been really fun and challenging to see how far I could stretch everything. As a side note, a little pre-planning can help to ration out things better.
I’ll share a few “tips and tricks” I used in the hopes it encourages and inspires you to be able to make cuts, when necessary, in the kitchen department!
Approximate spending: $180 for two weeks (including one night with 4 other guests)
I had 2 small, frozen chicken breasts, a wilted stalk of celery half an onion, 4 mushrooms and some rice.
Boiled the chicken in water with celery stalks, a bit of oil/butter and onion. I sauteed the (finely chopped) mushrooms with some garlic, then made a creamy sauce in that pan with oil, some of the broth and milk (I think I used half and half). Browned the chicken and put it in the blender, chopping rather finely. I poured everything over rice (which I cooked in the chicken broth) and it was SO yummy. Served with salad. I had cheers all around. (I set about 1 cup of excess rice in the fridge for later.)
*Deer roast stew
One night I made deer roast in the crock pot (with potatoes), served with left over pinto beans and green beans and cornbread.
I only had a fist-sized portion of meat left over and some broth and potatoes, but the stew I made the next day was delish once I added that leftover rice in the fridge, with a few stalks of celery and some garden-canned tomatoes. It fed us all with some still left.
*Homemade hamburger helper
I like this one because you can stretch it with so many things. I used a little ground meat (can’t remember, deer or beef), cooked with a sliver of onion, and mixed it with cooked macaroni noodles and 2 or 3 cooked, diced potatoes. I also sneaked just a handful of cauliflower in for health Made the sauce with ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar and seasoning.
On some occasions, I have found that instead of using all of an item, half gets us by and the other half is saved for another meal. For example, we stir-fried vegetables several times this week using a small pack of zucchini, squash and cauliflower. A half of each, a half onion, a few mushrooms and it stretches pretty far instead of cooking it all up and then having the soggy leftovers grow old in the fridge.
I stretched the milk with some half and half and water one day, used more water than milk in the cornbread (there was no difference), and honestly, we could all do with less meat and more bean protein, so I’ve tried to remember that a small portion of meat is OK with other sides in abundance.
A few of our breakfasts this week:
Oatmeal casserole (oatmeal, honey/molasses/brown sugar, butter/coconut oil, flavoring, eggs, milk, etc….virtually anything you want to put in, and bake.)
Oatmeal cereal: oats, milk, yogurt (plain), frozen fruit, flavoring (optional), granola (optional) Mix and store in fridge overnight.
Oranges slices and raisin bread.
Breakfast casserole: eggs, sausage, grits, milk, cheese (optional), onions/bell pepper (optional)
Cereal. It’s cheap at Aldi.
I’d love to hear your fun, frugal ideas! Sometimes I know I repeat the same ones, but if you’re like me, I need reminded!
For more ideas, check out Simple Cooking to Save You Money