Do you worry about money? Do your bills outweigh the amount of money you bring home each month? Are you paying the bills but want to have money left over to increase your savings? I’m sure a lot of you answered “yes” to at least one of these questions. The cost of living today is expensive and it will just keep increasing. If you have kids, they burn an even bigger hole in your pocket. According to CNN Money, it will cost an average of $233,610 to raise a child who was born within the last two years. That’s a lot of money! Since money doesn’t grow on trees (although that would be nice wouldn’t it?), I’m going to give you 5 ways that can help you afford your expenses.
Live within your means
To help you afford your family you need to live within your means. The key to live within your means is to buy needs not wants. This can be a hard for those who like to shop, want the latest gadget, or think they must have the most popular item to keep up with their friends and neighbors. Let me be blunt here and say, I’m sure those things are nice, but you can’t take them with you when you die, so why waste your money on them? Now I’m not saying you need to have an ancient cell phone or anything, you definitely need something that works, but you don’t need the newest model EVERY TIME ONE COMES OUT. Trust me, there are SOOOOO many things I would love to go out and buy right now, but you know what I love even more, not oweing anyone money! (I’ll get to that later). If you focus on only buying what you need to live, such as food, gas, bills, etc., and stop wasting money on wants, you shouldn’t have to worry about how you are going to pay your next bill, and may even be able to start saving!
2. Know where your money is going
This is very important, especially if you have a joint bank account. You need to know what areas you spend the most in, so that you can find areas to cut back your spending. Do you know how much you spend on gas each month? Is it more than you spend on groceries? How much do you spend on things you don’t really need? There are many ways to help keep track of your money. There are computer programs like Excel, multiple apps you can download, or you can do it the old fashioned way by keeping all your receipts for the month and writing down all your expenses in something like the Mead Organizher Expense Tracker. If you share a joint bank account, like my husband and I do, you need to be even more vigilant about where your money is going. You could easily overdraw if you both think you have enough in your account to buy what you want and assume the other person isn’t spending it. You need to communicate about who is going to buy what, and check your bank account daily. If you make a bigger than normal purchase, be sure to tell whoever you share the account with, so that they watch their spending.
3. Use coupons, apps, points programs, and discount stores for food
I love this one! I have saved so much money using these, and I hope you will too. There are lots of different ways to get coupons. You can get them online, in a newspaper, in the mail, or directly from the store you shop at. Some people go to the extreme with coupons and get all kinds of products for free, which is awesome, but I don’t have time for that. I just use the coupons my grocery store sends me, and it saves me a lot of money. They even send coupons for free items that I buy regularly. Another thing I do is use coupon and cash back apps, like Ibotta. I really like this one because I don’t have to have my coupons BEFORE I go to the store. I can wait until I get home to click and redeem coupons for items I already purchased. Points programs are great too, but this depends on what your grocery store offers. I usually shop at Kroger, and what I spend in purchases gets me fuel points to save money on gas. Discount stores for groceries are great too. My favorite is Aldi’s. You do have to bring your own bags, but you will save a lot of money there!
4. Shop consignment
How many times has your toddler said “mommy is this shirt used?” or “I want to wear Under Armour.” I’m going to guess ZERO. Little kids don’t care what they are wearing, so why pay full price for clothes?? My kids have all had hand-me-downs or clothes from consignment stores, and I have still been able to dress them in super cute stuff. Kids consignment shops especially have great clothes that are only about 30-40% the cost of retail. There are also big consignment sales in my area that happen twice a year, like the Duck Duck Goose Sale, where you can find any kid item you could want or need. You can sell your used items at these sales as well, which can give you some extra cash and unclutter your house at the same time! I will say that as kids get older they become a little more picky when it comes to clothes, but while they are little save the money and shop consignment!
5. Pay down debt & save
This is another very important one. Like a mentioned above, I love to by stuff, but I hate owing people money. I try to live debt free, and I encourage you to do so as well. It’s not always easy, but it can be done. Once you get ahold of your spending habits, buying only needs not wants, and you see where your spending is going, start to take any extra money you find as you do this and pay down your debt, starting with the smallest debt first. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to not be in debt! Think how much extra money you will have once you don’t have those car payments, credit card payments, student loan payments, etc. Now this won’t happen overnight. It may take years, but it will be WORTH IT. Start now! Once you have paid down your debt, you can then start to save. Saving takes away a lot of financial worries by making you feel prepared if something happens and you can’t work. What if you lost your job tomorrow? Do you have any savings to fall back on? It is important to try to have at least 3-6 months of living expenses in savings. We never know what life will deal us, and we need to be prepared for it. A great book I recommened is Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. It gives you a proven plan to get out of debt and start feeling financially secure.