Thursday, November 11, 2010

diligent with our dollars

news alert: i am not an expert on couponing or budgeting or saving money. far, far, FAR from it. truth be told, i am terrible at math and especially money. however, as i grow into my role as Home Manager of All Things Domestic, i am learning tips and tricks for making the most of one income. it's challenging, but i take my role seriously. if i can't contribute an income to my family, the very least i can do is contribute by finding ways to save money.

the bottom line is this: i want to be a Proverbs 31 woman.

"A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.
She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She’s like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.
She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day.
She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she’s put aside, plants a garden.
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; 
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.
She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.
Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers.
She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.
Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile.
When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, 
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her; 
her husband joins in with words of praise:  
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.  
The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God"

i imagine her my "mentor." she is The Ultimate Home Manager of All Things Domestic, and she is definitely wise with her money.

i have been asked by friends how much we spend on groceries, and how much is budgeted each week for playdates and outings, special events, gifts, and things of that sort. when i tell them the dollar amount they are shocked. because it's not a lot of money. yet, we eat organic and whole foods, and we participate in outings regularly. i'm not going to divulge specific numbers here but i will say this: my weekly grocery bill, for 3 healthy meals a day for a family of 4, is less than $100 a week.

again, i'm no expert, but something that we are doing is working. so i am going to share some of our tips and tricks for saving money*

1. we operate on a cash system. if we don't have the cash, we don't buy it. instead of asking "how much will it cost per month?" we ask "how much?" our goal is to have more money at the end of the month, rather than more month at the end of our money. having this mindset and these goals clearly established makes it easy to say no to extra expenses.

2. i plan our menus each week. breakfast, lunch, and dinner, i map out what we're going to eat and what ingredients we need. this helps me make my grocery list and stick to it. why buy tortilla chips if it isn't on the menu? here is my free printable menu planner.

3. i clip coupons. i'm a big fan of, and i also scour the internet for coupons for specific items i know i'm buying and specific stores i know i'm shopping. i make my grocery list and search for and print my coupons based from that. i won't print a coupon for an item that i wouldn't normally buy. i don't care how good the deal is. i don't need 15 boxes of instant mashed potatoes in my pantry even if they are only 2cents a piece. we don't eat instant mashed potatoes so it doesn't make sense for me. 

4. we buy our staple items in bulk. groceries that we know we use a lot of: dog food, Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, vinegar, shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, all-natural Parmesan cheese...those sorts of things. we invested in a Costco membership and take advantage of the savings over the course of the year. did you know Costco carries a large selection of organic groceries? for cheap! organic peanut butter is about $6 for 2 big jars there. they also have organic strawberry jelly, and 100% whole grain bread 2 loaves for $4! big savings there.

5. we buy most of our meat from a local farm. it is all-natural, cage free, hormone free and all that good stuff. and? it's cheaper than similar quality meat in any grocery store. it's so fresh and naturally delicious. i just love supporting local farmers, too.

6. i stockpile giftables. when i have a few extra dollars in my weekly grocery budget, i'll pick up an inexpensive item for an upcoming birthday. clearance aisles are great for this. i have a nice stash of gifts ready to go!

7. we buy minimally processed and minimally packaged foods. you know you're paying for the packaging, right? and it's no secret that processed foods are not good for you. plus, the use of excess plastic packaging makes me sick.

8. i clean with vinegar. white vinegar in a spray bottle is the best cleaning solution and the cheapest! seriously- i have used it to successfully clean fabric and carpet, Sharpie marker, rust stains, and so much more. so i spend about $3 every 2 months on bulk vinegar and use it for ALL my household cleaning. did you know vinegar is a disinfectant too? the odor goes away after just a few minutes. did you know "clean" doesn't have a smell? vinegar is brill!

9. for major investments, we shop around and wait until we can get the best deal.

10. we are content with what we have and count everything a blessing. we don't give in to envy or wanting to "keep up with the Joneses." the Joneses are probably knee-deep in credit card debt anyway. if you struggle with envy or a constant desire for material things, pray about it. God doesn't want you to live a life of want. He'll take care of you.

11. we give over and above any chance we get, and we believe this gives God the opportunity to bless us. have you ever heard of how Isaac sowed a seed in a famine and in the same year he reaped a hundredfold? every time we give, we pray that our dollars are seed into someone's life and that we will be blessed with a harvest.

12. i shop at Dollar Tree. even though i spend $5 every 6 weeks on organic unsalted butter, there are some things i won't spend more than $1 on, like giftwrap, nail polish remover, school supplies, party supplies, and dental floss. to name a few.

13. we pack drinks and meals when we're on the go. it's healthier and cheaper. i pack an organic spinach salad and dinner leftovers every day for my husband's lunch. we use BPA-free reusable bottles for our water, reusable travel mugs for our coffee, and this keeps us from buying drinks on the go. (i do, however, have a portion of my allowance budgeted for Starbucks. this is my "me time," my one indulgence.)

14. i use to sell things that i can't donate. i don't make a lot of money doing this but the little bit that i do make i put into savings for Christmas gifts or extra vacation fun money.

15. i use swagbucks to buy gifts online. this is my first year using swagbucks and i'm excited to redeem my bucks for freebies. so easy and it costs me nothing.

16. i enter giveaways on other blogs. even if the prize is something i don't need or won't use, if i when, i could put it in my gift stash! so even if you don't need an iPod Shuffle, you might consider entering to win so you could gift it to someone this Christmas!
17. we limit dining out to once a week max. and when we do, i check online for restaurant coupons or current specials, especially Kids Eat Free.

so those are a few saving shortcuts that we use to be diligent stewards with our dollars. i would love to hear your tips for saving money! feel free to leave your specific questions in the comments and i'll answer as best as i can. remember, i am not an expert. just a mom making the most of it!


*{we did not by any means invent these tips and tricks. i'm sure there are experts out there who will take full credit for these ideas and we are so THANKFUL for their professional wisdom!}