We are back to living in the States officially now. We’re still missionaries and we’re still living on the same amount of support that we lived on in South America. I’ve had a few conversations lately about what our friends are doing to save money. We don’t have it all together, but we are doing just fine even living on a small income. So, I thought I’d just write down a few of the things we do to save money. I’ll start with:
The first week we had to buy groceries in the States, I went way over our budget, didn’t get everything we needed, and came home and cried. I didn’t know if the prices were good, if I’d been ripped off, or how in the world we would ever buy groceries on the limited budget we have to live on now. We decided that the next time we went shopping, we’d go to Aldi’s.
Yup, that’s all we needed to do. It was wonderful. I came out ecstatic because I got everything on my list and stayed under our measly budget of $80 for the entire week. Way under. Like, I think that bill was about $40. Our new strategy is:
- Shop at Aldi’s weekly. We may not be able to get all the low-fat, exotic brands and the veggie/fruit selection may vary, but overall, we get everything we need.
- Stop at Walmart once a month for the extras, like TP and vitamins.
- Set a strict weekly/monthly grocery budget.
- We found a great butcher down the road and that’s now where we get our meat – about every other week or once a month we fill our freezer with deals (last week, found a whole chicken, all doctored up for the barbecue, for $3.47!).
- If we’re over budget or can’t find it on the weekly trip, we don’t need it.
I love eating out. I love restaurants, new food, being served, the smells, and the people watching. I love the whole shebang. I could eat out constantly. But, my waistline and my wallet don’t allow for that. So, even though we would love to eat out all the time, we don’t. Here’s our thoughts on eating out:
- If there’s something we really love to eat in a restaurant, but can’t afford it, I try to duplicate it at home. It’s normally cheaper and then we can adapt it to our tastes – like all the sauce we want on the chicken.
- Limit eating out to special events, trips, or days when you honestly need a break (like the day we were unpacking our kitchen and it turned into basically a remodel job!).
- Try to only order specials. I’m totally with Joey Tribbiani: “Lisa doesn’t share food!” Not even with my lovely husband. So, getting one big meal to share has never worked in our home. But, we do try to stick to just the specials menu.
- Our expensive restaurant picks are saved for truly special occasions and only if we have the extra cash so it’s not coming out of our normal budget.
- No “kids meals.”
They are normally a rip-off! Check out the prices and compare to the rest of the menu. Order side dishes, like a side of mashed potatoes and a veggie instead of a large, fried kids dish. Or, sometimes we would just each donate parts of our meals to E – part of my chicken, a few of Brian’s fries, a sippy cup from home, and a few bites of our dessert. Voila, no extra money shelled out on a kids’ meal you’ll probably mostly just take home anyway.
- In Peru, we ate out every Sunday afternoon at a cheapy Chinese place we loved. Well, we can’t all eat for $3 anymore, therefore, we can’t really afford that. But, I hate coming home from church and having to cook or figure out lunch or have big clean-up, so I use my crockpot, the grill, or save my pennies and get $5 subs from Subway. Regardless, the meal is planned in advance and normally fuss-free. Tomorrow, for example, is quick pancakes (using my bananas that are over-ripe in place of sugar) done on the griddle my sister returned (we haven’t used it in six years!!), sausage patties we bought last Sunday that are thawing in the fridge as I type, real syrup made by my bro-in-law, and eggs. Yum.
Saving on clothes for myself is pretty simple. I hate shopping. I hate trying on clothes. I hate looking in a mirror. I hate spending the money on something I don’t think looks good anyway. I hate the entire experience. Dread it. It reminds me of how badly I want to lose weight and how impossible it has been to do so for the last ten years. However, shopping for shoes, bags, or for my children are totally different stories. My strategy?
- Before shopping, honestly evaluate the needs of the household. Do the kids need those shoes or are they just cute? Do I need a new bag or would it just be nice?
- Toss to make room for the new. I really do try to use everything in my wardrobe and to part regularly with the stuff that hasn’t been worn or used.
- Start at the truly cheap places, like Goodwill, and move up from there. Thrift stores, hand-me-downs (especially for the babies!), and yardsales are God-sends. I truly believe that. From there, hit the places with the genuinely good prices and sales – Kohl’s, JC Penney, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, etc.
- I only shop when I absolutely need a clothing item and I try to limit myself to only purchasing the needs, not all the wants I see along the way. In all honesty, actual clothes shopping happens maybe once or twice a year, if I’m lucky. At the moment, I could use a new wardrobe, but since I honestly can’t afford it, I’m restraining myself.
- It’s super hard for me to go into stores that have clothing, shoes, whatever that I want when I know I don’t have the money and shouldn’t be shopping. Therefore, I avoid them. We live near a great mall, but we haven’t been since we got back from South America. Absolutely no reason to set foot in there. Just went to Kohl’s this week for the first time since we’ve been back and it was so hard to look and not try on or purchase, because even though I hate it, I hold out the hope that something will fit! It just isn’t worth it to me to enter into a store where I can’t shop. So, I wait until I have cash in hand.
- No online shopping for anything. The only thing I purchase online are free Kindle books.
- Two words: Craig’s List. If it’s not there, we don’t need it.
- Two more words: Yard Sales. Same concept.
PHONE, INTERNET, ETC.
- We use an antennae and pay for Hulu Plus and Netflix. We watch them on our TV through our Wii (which was a gift a few years ago). The only time I miss real cable is when we’re at my mom’s and I see the Food Network. sigh. Oh well. I can live without it. We only have both Hulu and Netflix because Netflix has oodles of cartoons for the kids and Hulu has all the current shows we’re interested in.
- Internet is paid for where we’re currently living.
- Phone is through Vonage and we have a little trac phone. We cannot afford any cell phone service, so even though an iPhone sounds appealing, we can’t afford the monthly payments. Our money is much better used elsewhere… like for diapers. We rarely truly need a cell phone, so the added expense is just not worth it to us.
- We buy all our diapers and pull-ups on amazon. Best decision ever, especially for pull-ups! Those suckers are expensive! Thankfully, it looks like E is basically potty-trained finally, so that bill should go down soon!!
- The better decision would’ve been cloth. I would suggest that for those who can handle it.
- I nurse as long as possible and then make all my baby food, except for the cereals. Saves a BUNDLE.
- Never, ever buy special meals/foods for the kids.
I feed them what we eat. It improves their palate and is quite helpful when we’re traveling to new homes and visiting friends and supporters. Picky eaters do not make for good missionary kids. Besides, special kids meals are super expensive – and it’s always healthier if you do it yourself anyway.
- Basically all the kids’ clothes are hand-me-downs or from thrift stores.
alll hand-me-downs! right down to her new favorite cowboy boots!
Very, very, very few items for either child have been purchased at full price. And when I say “very”, I mean, I could count them on two hands. Literally.
- Toys are also either gifts or from thrift stores/yard sales. We don’t just buy toys because we want to buy toys. I also keep some back so there are “new” things to pull out occasionally. For example, E got a beautiful play plastic tea set for Christmas
the tea set
that is still unopened in her closet because she currently has plenty of stuff to play with and doesn’t need it. It’ll make its grand appearance in the coming months… when something else disappears and gets donated or saved for baby brother.
- We don’t buy a lot of gender-specific toys. This will make it easier for when J gets big enough to play. They will learn to share and it will save us a bundle.
- The kids also will share a room when J finally moves out of our room later this year. They won’t need to have separate rooms until they’re closer to their pre-teen years.
This list is super long – a lot longer than I’d planned on! But, I hope there’s some tips in there to help you out with frugal living. If we can live on a South America missionary salary in North America, you will be okay with your current salary! 🙂 Learn from us:
The more you give away, the more the Lord will return it to you.. normally in triple-fold.
Our God supplies our needs. Trust me.