My husband and I are working hard on becoming a debt free household. I am also working hard to teach my kids (now teenagers – almost college students) the value of money and how to live frugally. To me, it is so important to live within my means. When I first went through my divorce it was so important to me to be able to find a way to care for my kids and still make a good living. Initially I bought my kids everything, mostly out of guilt. I felt terrible because I could not give my kids a the storybook two parent home that I had dreamed about. However, it didn’t really do anything for my kids and it certainly did nothing for my budget.
After a year I finally decided I would do much better giving my kids the gift of life skills. As my chronic illness increased in severity I just had this sense of urgency that I needed to teach my kids how to be self-sufficient. I needed to make sure they would be okay if something ever happened to me. It was a way I dealt with the huge amount of anxiety that comes with being chronically ill and dealing with a serious illness.
So, how does this relate to saving money? I do not have a housekeeper. All members of my family contribute to household chores. My kids are almost 17 and 18 and they have been doing their own laundry since elementary school and have been helping me clean since that time as well. We all work together to clean. I do not believe in slave labor. Though there are times when I am so sick my kids do a whole lot. They are both pretty amazing.
That being said, my husband and I made a point of not buying a large house. I am not talking about the Tiny House craze that appears on television. Our house is approximately 1500 sq. feet. We are probably going to have a house that size or a little less when we move. (Though my husband may have a shop the size of a small house). For me, I cannot see making myself house poor. Having a huge mortgage just is not smart anymore. I would much rather have a small house and not spend all day cleaning it. A smaller house will also save you money on heating and cooling cost, cleaning products, furniture, and time. If I have learned anything in my almost 44 years is that life is not about the stuff. It is about living simply and asking less of life. So, start with the big stuff. Do you need a fancy new car or home? No. You need a roof over your head with enough room for your family to live comfortably. You need a reliable vehicle that gets decent gas milage. If you are upside down on your mortgage, think about paying off credit cards and and selling high priced vehicles and buying more practical cars and then paying down your mortgage if at all possible. It takes some sacrifices but it is worth not having the anxiety of debt. Your credit score will love you!
The other thing I did was learn to cook. My first marriage we ate out a ton. My kids were used to ordering what they wanted for dinner instead of eating what was on their plate. it was just a bad precedent to set. So, I learned some of the basics with the help of a few wonderful friends. I was amazed with how easy it was. I actually started to enjoy it. I have had my share of fails but it is something I am going to continue to work at. I love crock pot cooking. I also like cooking whole roasters and eating off of them all week. My family has even started requesting a lot of the things I make. Either way, it was a huge money saver. What is cheaper than jambalaya cooked in a crock pot? Whole roasters give you more meat, flavor and leftovers than chicken breasts alone. They really are not that intimidating to make either.
That brings me to coupons. I do coupon, but within reason. I have done major coupon runs but mostly to stock up on deodorant, laundry detergent, and things like that. I also own store cards that I can load coupons on from the store. It is a quick and easy way to save money on groceries. I do use Amazon Pantry quite a bit as well. Sometimes I am not feeling well enough to go to the grocery store. It just takes a lot of energy. I can save money on shipping with an Amazon Prime membership and I can even apply manufactures coupons from the site right there. I do find that they do have some great prices on drinks, snacks, and some beauty products. You just have to be willing to shop. They even have automatic shipping on things you use often such as toilet paper or diapers. I have friends that use that and say it is well worth not having to run to the store. If you think about the gas money you save it likely all balances out.
It seems each year I take on another money saving activity and this year it has been to start selling my arts and crafts on Etsy, selling goods on local garage sale sites, as well as buying things at auction and reselling them for a profit on Ebay. It takes time and work but if you take it a piece at a time, it is not too overwhelming. I even started selling some used books back on Amazon as well. It just is not that hard. Throughout this process my kids continue to be involved. My daughter helps me clip coupons. My kids go through their stuff and help me list things online and they even help me cook.
I have also started a small garden. Again, this does not have to be something huge. If you find you cook with onions frequently, why not grow them? If you have the room you can also grow your own tomatoes for salads. You will be surprised at how much you save. You do not have to can if you don’t want to, though I know a lot of people who do and make some great chili and spaghetti in the fall and winter. You will be shocked at how much better they taste when you grow them yourself. Tomato seeds are extremely inexpensive when you consider how many you get from one packet.
So now I have started taking an interest in making my own cleaning products. I am not sure if you have noticed how incredibly expensive cleaning products have gotten. I have stopped buying cleaning wipes and have now started making my own. I have found that I can tightly stuff a paper towel roll (I use any kind – the cheap ones work just fine) that is about 3/4 its full size. Instead of sawing it in half as I have seen in some tutorials, I actually keep it whole and put it in a Swiffer refill container and pour about 1/2 cup of Pine Sol and 1/2-1 cup of water in the bottom of the container. Sometimes I add a little vinegar as well because it works well on my floors. It works really well for me. I just roll the paper towel roll around and it absorbs the whole thing. If there is any left over I just rinse it out and start all over again each time. Make sure you rinse out each time. (That is the nurse/germ-a-phobe in me coming out). If anyone has another idea for wipes, please let me know! There are a lot of variations on this recipe floating around!
Another great cleaner is baking soda. It is great in the wash and great for dishwasher soaps. There are a ton of great recipes on the Pinterest. It costs a little bit to get the supplies but they last much longer. Again, you do not have to be Martha Stewart to do these things. I am about as far from that as they come! These do not take a lot of time and effort and can help you and your family. Involve your kids (if they are old enough). Not only will you be spending quality time with them, but you will be teaching them valuable life skills.
Got any other great money saving ideas? I would love to hear about them!