Okay, so how do we do it? After all, the price of living has only gone up since the 1950's when most women did, in fact, stay home. I'll admit, again, that I do not have all of the answers. I have, however, complied a list of things I have learned along the way that may help you learn how to live on one income!
Here's how we do it:
1. The number one rule that we do not break is that we will never rob from God. (see Malachi 3:8) He is the giver of all we have and we happily give back to Him a minimum of 10% of it.
2. East at home with the food you prepare. We do not eat out...well, rarely. I do mean rarely too! We maybe eat out 3-4 times a year at the most. It is so much cheaper to buy groceries and prepare a meal at home (not to mention the health benefits). In addition to buying food from the grocery store, try to stretch the food you buy so that it lasts as long as possible. My grandma (from whom I inherited my cheapness) always added pasta to things like chili and soup so she'd be sure to have enough to feed 5 kids. I'm still learning other tricks like that to make our meals feed more. One thing I have always done is water my kids' drinks down 50 percent. I didn't start this to save money actually. I started when they were about 1 year old or so giving them about 10 percent juice to 90 percent water. I eased it up over the months until it was 50/50 and just never stopped. I do it with Kool-Aid too. They don't need all of that sugar anyway. I realize that I won't always be able to do this, but I have a friend who was still doing it with an 8 year old, so there's hope that I'll be able to keep it up for a while!
3. Plan ahead. I try to plan out what we're going to have for dinner all week. I like to write it down, but that doesn't always happen. I at least try to have it in my mind, though, when I make out my grocery list. Then, I take my list to the grocery store and stick to it! The only exception is when I spot a really great in-store deal. I can't pass up a good deal. Which leads us to...
4. Be a bargain hunter! Each week, I scour grocery adds from 2-4 different grocery stores and make lists of what I want from each store. When I find items really cheap, I stock up on them. At any given time, we have about 20 lbs. of meat in our freezer. I buy it on sale, divide it up, and freeze it. My theory is that if something you use is cheap, go ahead and buy as much of it as you can store. My most recent "stock up" item was salad dressing. A local store had name brand dressing for $1 per jar. I bought 15 of them. It's fun, also, to see the looks you get from the check out people. :)
5. Use the same theory when it comes to clothes. I am a rummage sale addict! There is just nothing like getting a $10 pair of jeans for 50 cents! If I find a rummage sale with really cheap prices, I buy any clothes my kids can wear or will wear in the next few years. Even if a few of the items don't fit in the right season (it occasionally happens), I can resell the item for the same price (if not more) in my next rummage sale. Just a few months ago, I found a rummage sale with a table full of boy's jeans and shirts for 25 - 50 cents each. They were name brand too! I nearly cleared the entire table off! I put them all in a big tub in Wyatt's closet and I get them out as he grows into them. I have enough clothes for him for the next 2 years and I didn't even spend $10! Okay, you can tell this stuff really excites me.
6. Avoid debt whenever you can. We do our very best to avoid debt, but I will admit that this is one area in which we are still trying to improve. We aren't credit card free, but we're not far from it. We feel like we're doing ok as long as we keep our balance under $1,000, and then we use our tax refund to pay off the balance each year.
7. Probably the biggest secret to our money management is that we always buy used. From cars to clothes to furniture to gifts (yes, gifts). If you are willing to put in a little time, you can find quality items at a fraction of the price you would pay new. Plus, when you buy used, you can usually get a higher quality item. If you have $300 to spend, you could go buy a cheap new couch. If you buy used, though, that same $300 would buy you a high quality used name brand sofa. It's the same with clothes. I can go buy a brand new pair of jeans from Target for $10. They're fine, but they tend to wear out sooner than jeans from Children's Place jeans (which I buy used for $1). Our family is so committed to saving money that a few years ago we started what we call "Second Hand Christmas." We made it a rule that when you buy a gift for someone, it either has to be used or off of a clearance rack. The kids love it because they get more presents, and the parents love it because we are all spending half as much!
8. Another rule that I think most people don't live by is this: You have to get past what I call the "just one dollar" mentality. It's never "just one dollar" around here. A dollar can buy so much! While it's true that a soft drink might be just one dollar, we always realize that instead of a drink, I can use that one dollar to buy a shirt, pair of jeans, and even shoes for one of my kids. Trust me, I've done it!
9. Finally, try to find things for free....yes, free!
a) If aren't already a member, I encourage you to become a member of your local Freecycle group. Freecycle is an online local group in which you can give away things you don't need anymore and get things from other people in the group. It's wonderful. It's not just trash that people want to get rid of, either. Our best Freecycle find to date was our trampoline (with the safety net). Our kids love it, and we likely would have never put out the money for a brand new one. We have also gotten things such as a package of diapers, shoes, and many trash bags full of clothes for the kids.
b) Get acquainted with your local library. We go there at least once a week for movies. They have all of the latest DVDs if you are willing to wait until you can find them on the shelf. We watch movies a lot, so this saves us a lot of money each year. Also, familiarize yourself with the library's website. I found out about a year ago that I could request a book or cd and the library would purchase it and put it on hold for me when it came in. How easy is that?
c) Find free places to go for entertainment. Our kids look forward to the first Thursday of each month because it's the free night at our local children's museum. Being so young, my kids think it's only open once a month. :) They love it, though, and we don't have to pay $100 to be a member!
So, those are my secrets of the trade, if you will. I realize this post has been a little lengthy, but I wanted to pass along every tip I could think of that I've learned along the way. I'm still learning too, so there may be more to come soon! These tips help our family live on one income, and it allows us to teach our kid the value of a dollar. Our children will probably never dream of going out to spend $50 on a pair of shoes. Wyatt proved to me just last night just how much he's learning from watching us. I was putting his pj's on him before bed and he noticed they were "new" (new to him). He said, "I like these, Mommy. Which rummage sale did you get these from?" We had to laugh. He made his momma proud!
Hope this helps you save a dollar here and there. Afterall, there's so much you can do with a dollar! Please share any of your money-saving tips here as well!