“Instead of searching after what the Lord is going to do for us, let us inquire what we can do for ourselves.”Brigham Young
As His saints, the Lord has commanded us to become self-reliant. Getting a budget under control is a huge step to developing this. After all, it’s really hard to build up a food storage, or prepare other things if all your money is tied up in bills! So this week, I’m giving you 10 easy tips to help you boost your budget, and help you become more independent.
Keep Up on Repairs
When I was in college, my laptop fell off a photography studio column, and it wouldn’t turn on. That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach was real. When our washer went out the day after bringing home our first baby, we felt overwhelmed. Unexpected repairs can be expensive, and cause a lot of stress. Keeping up with repairs can help keep these costly surprises to a minimum. Regular oil changes keeps the car running well, and allows you to catch repairs early, to avoid big problems later. Changing the air filters in your home improves the air quality, and helps the AC/Heat run more efficiently (which saves on the bills too!) Some regular home & vehicle maintenance may include:
- Oil Changes
- Replacing Tires
- Rotating Tires
- Replace the filters
- Check fluids (like coolant, window washer, etc.)
- Clear the toaster
- Clean appliances (fridge, dishwasher, oven, washer, dryer, etc.)
- Replace air filters
- Replace vacuum filters
- Clean electronics
- Replace charging cords
Meal Plan Based on What You Have
We live in a world blessed with so much abundance. Let us be certain that the resources with which we are blessed are never wasted.L. Tom Perry
You probably have heard of meal planning, or even already do it. Sit down with the weekly calendar, and plan out the next week’s food, so that you know what to get at the store, and aren’t as tempted by those sneaky Costco samples… But instead of just planning meals, plan by picking recipes based on what you already have. Plan to use up the produce and meat that is already in the fridge, so that you have less wasted that ends up in the trash.
Productivity Blogger, Jordan Page, has lots of great ideas on her blog for how to base your meals on what you have. She even has tips (Check out her Shelf-tember blogs) for how to do this for an entire month with only buying the perishables.
Only Go to the Grocery Store ONCE
Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.Benjamin Franklin
This may seem like a silly suggestion, but often, we end up “nickel and diming” ourselves as we go to the store for something quickly. We go multiple times and remember, “Oh yeah, we needed that too,” or something fun catches your eye that maybe wasn’t planned. Going once focuses on what is really needed, and helps stay on target. (This doesn’t mean don’t go if an emergency occurs, like sick babies, or something needed breaks, but keep those down as much as you can.)
Get Creative for Date Night + Family Activities
Going out for date night and family outings can add up soooo quickly. But if you’re like me, you still want to be able to make memories, and relax a little. Finding free or affordable entertainment can be challenging, but with. some creativity, you can do it!
One way we save money on activities in our family is using Facebook Events. My sister-in-law and I like to watch local Facebook pages, or search events for fun activities for the kids that the community is putting on. These have included things like farmer’s markets, Halloween and fall festivals, local celebrations, and Christmas light shows. These events have usually been free or had a minimal entry fee, and have had sooo much fun for our family outings.
Look for opportunities to win or earn free passes or discounts! My husband also likes to enter radio contests and Facebook giveaways for baseball tickets, or restaurant gift cards. A lot of our local shops or businesses have rewards cards that can earn free food, or have rewards points that can be traded in for gift cards.
Date Night adventures can also be expensive. Finding fun ways to spend time together doesn’t need to cost a fortune. It could be a romantic walk, planning quality time to cuddle on the couch sans phones (gasp, no phones?!?), or baking together after the kids go to bed. It could be getting sodas at the local pop shop drive through, or going thrifting or window shopping together. Maybe it’s a board game night for some friendly competition. For more fun date night ideas, you can also check out The Dating Divas.
Use the gospel plan to set proper priorities. The Lord instructed, “Wherefore, seek not the things of this world, but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”Keith B. McMullin
Another way to trim up your budget is to go through and analyze whether or not you want to keep your subscriptions. It seems like almost everything online these days is tied to a subscription! If you aren’t sure what subscriptions you have, go through the last two months’ bank charges, and look for the same company with the same amounts. Then, ask yourself some questions about the subscriptions you find:
- Am I using this subscription enough to justify paying for it every month?
- Is this subscription helping me?
- Is there a cheaper (or free) version of this that I could use instead?
Compare Companies and Plans
One thing we did as we prepared for me to start working from home, and make less than I did when I taught in the schools, was go price comparing.
We sat down and requested quotes from other insurance companies, and go in contact with our insurance agents to see if it was possible to get a better rate. (We ended up staying with the same company because the coverage was much better, but we got a better deal to fit our needs.)
We compared phone companies to see if we could save money there. Because of where we live, we couldn’t change utility or internet providers, but those are other things you could check out to see if you could save a few more dollars!
Shop for Next Year Ahead
This next one will probably seem crazy to some, and completely normal to others. But we buy some of the holiday things AFTER the holiday, and just pack it away for next year. Holiday decor, wrapping paper, tags, etc. Several things go on clearance right after the holiday (especially Christmas). It makes it a great time to grab some of those things you use every year for less than HALF the price!
Use Digital Coupon/Rebate Programs
You can also save a little extra cash (or earn a little back) is using rebate or coupon programs. There are SOOO many out there. One I use is the Honey Chrome add-on, which searches online coupon codes. So when I am shopping on a website, it searches and tries all the current promo codes, and applies them to my cart! It also can tell me if items are trending a decrease or increase in price in the last few weeks.
I also use Fetch, where I snap a picture of my receipts and earn points back for what I bought. Some companies have deals where items are worth a lot more points than normal. We used Shopkick for a while, an app where you scan items throughout the store. You can earn points for items you don’t even buy (though you earn points if you do) but found it a little too time consuming with two babies, so we switched.
Looking for more ideas like this? Here’s some more to check out, and see what works for you! (Disclaimer: I haven’t tried all of these.)
Revisit Your Budget Regularly
Set regular times to come back and go over your budget. Double check that you have enough money to cover the upcoming bills before the next check comes. If you went shopping and Target won this round, make sure that money is accounted for. My husband and I check the budget the day before or at least the morning of a big day of playing.
For example, if we are going to the zoo with family, we make sure that we have enough to cover all remaining bills and groceries, and then try to make a hypothetical map of the day. We make sure we know what the entry fee is. We talk about whether or not we get the kids souvenirs or treats. Maybe we have plans for all the food, but we’ll try to leave room for a meal out if needed. Then we talk about the other activities that may come up so we have a rough estimate of about how much we could spend. We try to keep it under that number, but then we are both on the same page, and don’t have to feel like spending some money is out of the question.
When you revisit your budget often, you know exactly how your finances are shaping up that month, and you don’t get caught by surprise when you check your bank account.
Sometimes it is hard to find any wiggle room in a budget. With some creativity though, you can find ways to stretch those hard earned dollars a little farther, and reach your goals, whether it’s saving, or getting out of debt!