Sunday, November 1, 2015

How we save money.

This is an odd post topic but in the last few months I've gotten asked this a lot and maybe it's just a hot topic with moms but it seems like we pass around tips a lot at parks and games and play dates and it's always interesting to me so I thought I'd share too. Let me preface this by saying it feels like we are professional live-with-little-ers. In our married life we've basically never known a time where the money rained and in an odd way it's made it easier to "do without" because we've never had them in the first place, ha!

All of our grandparents have been the best to talk with about those early "living on love" years. Hearing their stories of renting studio apartments for $40 a month or pulling out drawers from a dresser to lay their newborns in are just the best. One of my favorites is from my Grandma and Grandpa Meiner. When they were "going together," they would put a quarter in a jar each time they went on a date. By the time their wedding came around they used the money they had saved to buy their wedding bands. Nicholas Sparks couldn't make that up.

We cut the boys' hair ourselves. Zach has a trimming set and Aunt Debbie gave us a cape and the boys are buzzed about once a month. If we were to pay $10 a kid that would be $30 a month. That is $360 a year in our pocket- easy.

I make my own laundry detergent. It probably doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that with three boys we have a lot of laundry. My friend gave me this recipe and I have no complaints what so ever. Plus the jar in the laundry room looks super cute too.

We don't have cable. We purchased a $40 antenna that gets some local stations and then we pay about $29.99 a month for internet and then stream Hulu through our tv to watch shows. We never ever watch anything when it airs anyway so it's not a big deal to wait until the day after.

I dilute things to make them last longer. I started this in college because even though Reagan mostly drank water and milk, occasionally I would buy apple juice. Zach still tells stories of being chastised for drinking undiluted juice but now the joke is on them because they can't drink anything without it being watered down for it is too rich for their precious taste buds. Cleaning products (once you've used them half up) are a good one to dilute too.

We rarely eat out, not necessarily because it costs money but because with the kids it's not exactly enjoyable. But we'll run through the drive-through and split meals. My kids get a happy meal maybe twice a year, otherwise we split everything. Think about it, each happy meal is around $3.50 these days, times 3 would be $10.50. I can order a 20 piece meal that comes with two fries for $5.50 and it will feed me and the three boys.  

On the subject of food. Groceries. I've tried just about every method- clipping coupons, ecoupons, surplus stores, etc. I've found what works best for us, and is the less time consuming, is doing Aldi and Sam's Club. Sam's for diapers, paper goods, cleaning products and lunch ;) As far as meals, I do meal plan before I go and I only go to the grocery store once a week. If I run out of something, it's usually the day before I go back to the store anyway so we just do without. I found if I go more than once, even for just a couple things, I get way more than I was planning and they're just not things I need. One trick I use to stretch a buck: buy a whole chicken and cook in the crockpot then shred it and divide it into 1 lb packages and freeze. Perfect for soups or casseroles. Gift meat! My mom came up with the idea a few years ago to give family a portion of a cow for Christmas. She's done it a couple times since then and I know my dad's done it once too. It's awesome!

No money fun. We strap a kid to each of our backs and Reagan tags along while we hike trails around here (Starved Rock, Morraine View, Funk's Grove, etc.) I can tell you the pros and cons and rogue bandaid count of every park and splash pad in a 15 mile vicinity. If one child has an activity, it is everyone's activity. For instance, we sign Reagan up for baseball. So yay for Reagan, he gets to see his friends and play every Tuesday and Saturday. Our whole family goes to the practices and games so to Shep and Levi, they have just as much fun playing in the unoccupied fields and bleachers and therefore look forward to those nights as well (I know our time having only one child in an activity is fleeting.)

Reagan is naturally a saver. Just tonight I put tattoos on him and he begged to keep the package they came in so it has probably found a cush spot among his collection of pencils without erasers, a pair of goggles whose elastic has snapped and 5 tattered pokemon cards (WHERE DO THEY COME FROM? we don't buy them! {re: the topic of this post, we're cheap. and because we're cooler than pokemon.}) Anyway, so I don't think it's necessarily anything we've taught him. But he willingly saves his money for things he would like it buy himself. He knows if it's not on sale we don't buy it. This is the first year he's understood some people have less money and some people have more.

Reagan: "Mom, he is like really rich."
Ashley: How do you know?
Reagan: "He has this thing in his lunch box that makes his food warm."
Ashley: That's called a thermos.

That's all I've got for right now. Maybe I'll come back to this and add to it if I think of something else.  We don't do a monthly budget (maybe we should??) we just try to spend as little as possible. Then if things come up (because they always all happen at the same time, right?) then we're good. I've never ever ever felt like we've "done without" because I keep it all in perspective. Just living in America automatically makes us stupidly privileged so if I buy food with artificial coloring and high fructose corn syrup this month because suddenly our brakes need to be replaced and I cleaned the washer filter incorrectly so it overflowed and leaked through the kitchen ceiling than SO BE IT, I will not feel bad. We are healthy and happy. The end.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe I totally missed this amazing post!! It's so great how easy it really is to save so much money!! I'm so proud of you!!
Love, A. Debbie

Marjaneh Sara said...

I'd like to know how you get internet for so cheap!