Ok, so we all know that there are very few folks rolling in the dough these days. My husband and I are doing little things here and there to cut down spending and pay down debt. It is amazing how every little step we make pays off big in the end. You think, "Oh, I am only spending $20 a week on lunches out and a coke here or there or a snack in the afternoon." However, if you and your spouse are doing the same thing, that $20 a week turns into $40 a week, which turns into $160 a month, and $2,080 a year!!!!! WOW! I know I would much rather do something other than buy snacks and drinks every now and then with that $2000. In order to keep finding ways to save money and cut back, we now have days where we each agree to a spending freeze! Yesterday we started our challenge for this week which is not eating out for a single meal before Friday. This is hard for us because there are nights each week where I have a meeting or my husband has something after work and it is just easier to load the kids up and go out for a quick meal. However, I keep reminding myself that if we give up a few meals out now we will be able to pay off our debt, take nice trips later on, send our children to the colleges of their choice, and one day pay off our mortgage!!! That makes these little challenges along the way much easier.
Want to give this a try? Here is what we do:
1- Decide when you will have your spending freeze and make a plan.
2- Set a budget for this time. We are trying not to spend any extra money at all during this week. That includes no extras for the children like movies or activities. This also teaches our children some pretty valuable lessons. For example, they don't need 24 hour organized entertainment. They have been playing with two moving boxes for over an hour this morning in the garage--- I think they will survive this week afterall and figure out ways to keep themselves entertained. We are also using more of the free activities available to us at the library and other places.
3- Meal plan for the week. This is a great way to save money no matter what. Pick one day each week, I ususally do Sunday afternoons, to look through the pantry and decide what you want to eat for the week. Make your grocery list and plan meals based on what you have on hand and what the sales are at the grocery store.
4- Shop one time each week. I do not like to take my children to the grocery store because we suddenly NEED all of these things we didn't need when I made my list. I like to shop in the evening or on the weekends when my husband can watch the children--- not always the best time to shop because of crowds, but it works better than having to explain 100 times why we will not be buying pop tarts and skittles. I also set a budget for my shopping trip. I normally spend between $60-$70 a week at the grocery store. This week I made a budget of $100 for all of our food for the week and some household things we needed.
Here is how we did:
Publix- Total= $83.76 After Coupons= $50.90 Saved= $32.86
Bi-Lo- Total= $53.72 After Coupons= $25.79 Saved= $27.93
CVS- Total= $71.55 After Coupons= 24.96 Saved= $46.59 and got $1ECB and a $10 gas card
Total spent= $101.65--- I was $1.65 over budget, but I don't feel too badly about that since we will not need to do anymore shopping for the week.
5- Use coupons. I know it takes time and can be a pain to cut them out and remember to take them to the store. However, for things like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, condiments, and yogurt it can really lower your grocery bill. We are by no means the healthiest family on the block, but I also don't buy tons of snack foods and junk. There are a lot of coupons for processed foods, so you have to decide what you will and will not buy for your family. If there are coupons for the things you want, use them! When you find a sale on mustard and have a coupon-- paying 20 cents is a heck of a lot better than paying $2. Plus, you can use that extra savings towards fresh fruit or meat.
6- Most important make sure you can stick to the plan and make a commitment as a family to do so. If you are going on vacation, that is not the week to go on a spending freeze. However,if everyone is on board it can be a fun game to see how little you spend in a week. Challenge your husband or children to see who can spend the least amount. That way it feels more like a game instead of a chore and who doesn't like a game where everyone wins in the end?
Have you and your family ever done something like this? Do you have any tips or tricks that worked well for you in paying down debt?
Have fun with it and SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!!!