This is a post that I have been super excited to write about, because who doesn’t love talking about money. I have always enjoyed making and saving money and Dylan and I have been able to live a very comfortable lifestyle without the stress of living pay check to pay check. Now there is a disclaimer, the really big advantage we had that some may not have is Dylan and I both had really good paying jobs right out of high school and saved a fair amount of “nest egg” before we moved out with each other. This “nest egg” allowed us to get the whole cohabitating thing down without stressing over where next months rent was coming from. But over the last 2 years that we have lived together we have learned where to pinch to make a difference and how to stretch a dollar to make it last. With implementing these few tips along with great support from our friends and family we have both been blessed with being able to stay home and not have to worry about money or paying our bills during Dylan’s treatment.
My very first tip is actually something I did out of sheer convenience and later realized it saved huge money, and that is Meal Planning. Whenever people come over to our house the first thing they usually notice is my huge chalk board hanging on the wall that has the meals of the week listed out and on a good week when Dylan was working I would also plan out his sack lunches. Meal planning allows two things for me: it allows me to construct a well planned grocery list, and also for me to check what exactly I already have. When I began really researching on how to cut grocery costs the number one tip I continuously ran into was to shop your pantry, cupboards, fridge and freezer and then meal plan around what you already have. This saves on money and waste and you don’t end up with 8 cans of cream of mushroom soup in the pantry. Then while meal planning don’t forget to take into consideration your weekly schedule, if you have something on Wednesday night that requires you out of the house around dinner take that into account either plan a quick easy to go meal or plan on eating out that day. But whatever you do PLAN that night so you know in advance. Another tip for meal planning is try to re use ingredients, so say on Monday you make meatloaf and mashed potatoes try to reuse that meatloaf. Our favorite way to reuse meatloaf is to make fried meatloaf sandwiches (our favorite is from Damarius Phillips on http://www.foodnetwork.com/ ). Use what you have and get creative in what you make, and I always get when I tell people they need to meal plan that it takes to much time and effort, and really if you plan the week before you go to work you know what to set out to thaw or what to throw in the crockpot to allow it to cook while you are at work. Find the TIME, its worth the little extra effort trust me. When I sat down and did the numbers one month we spent over $500 in groceries for just the 2 of us. That means that in 30 days we consumed $250 per person, and that is ridiculous. The national average spent for groceries is about $100 per month/per person so for me and Dylan we should only be spending around $200-$250 per month in groceries. I now spend about $250 and month on food groceries (this does not include toiletries or dog food). That little bit of effort cut my grocery bill in HALF. So take 15 minutes to go through your kitchen and strategically create your meal plan for the week.
My next tip kind of goes hand in hand with meal prepping and that is make and stick to a grocery list. One of the worst money mistakes you can make is going to the grocery store with no plan . You end up going in for dinner ingredients and end up leaving with 7 different types of cookies an avocado and some frozen pizza. That is not proper adulting, so Sunday after you shop your kitchen and make a meal plan sit down and make a list of the rest of the food you need for the week. Again it takes a few minutes and will allow you zip in and out of the store as well as save money.
Now this tip takes a little time and patience. You and/or your spouse need to have a meeting to sit down and discuss income verse expenses. This is a crucial tip that every human being trying to be an adult should understand and I have tried to explain to people before and it hasn’t clicked so ill try to make it clear. IF YOU DONT HAVE THE MONEY TO SPEND, DON’T SPEND IT! This is so frustrating to me, I have had friends that will look at our lifestyle and get kind of jealous because we are 21 and 22 we own 2 pickup trucks a Honda Pilot a camper and we enjoy going out, and the first comment they make is how we make huge money. And I’m sorry to say but we don’t make HUGE money, we make good money for our age but the key to our lifestyle is that we live within our means. I sit down at least 8 times a month and look at my spread sheet that is tailored to our finances. If Dylan comes to me and says he wants a new pair of boots there is at least $500 right there, and we don’t make the decision of yes or no until I reference back to our spreadsheet. If after all of our bills are paid and all of our savings accounts are within the range I like to set them in and we have $500 to spend Dylan will get his boots. This is not saying that we every so often don’t splurge because we do but there has never been a time where neither one us had to worry about paying our bills.
Set aside money goals, after you have sat down and reviewed your income v. expenses set monthly goals. Right now I have 4 different accounts that have 4 different goals. These goals are things like; Christmas accounts, and New car account for Caitlyn, an Emergency account, and a vacation account. These accounts have a monthly stipend that goes in before any bills are paid. Paying our savings before bills ensures that our savings doesn’t get forgotten about and if we don’t have any money left over that month after bills and savings then Dylan doesn’t get boots or I don’t go get my nails done (rare occurrence even when we have left over money). Along with setting your money goals it is pertinent that you create a budget The way I set my budget up is that I start with our income for the month on the top line and subtract all our expenses. So first is our consistant expenses like rent and our camper and truck payment. Those come first because those are set and have to be paid by a certain time every month and almost never fluctuate in cost. After those expense I factor in utilities then food, then fuel, then extra expenses. And as you go down the line subtracting your expenses from your income if you run out of money before you get to all your bills you have to pinch where you can. We save at least $60 per month just because we choose not to have a cable package, we use Netflix, amazon prime, and YouTube for entertainment. It is so important to know where you are spending your money and to also understand the concept of living within your means.
The last tip I have is to implement the debt snowball rule that was brought into the financial world by Dave Ramsey and to cut back on debt. So this could also work hand in hand with your money goals I talked about earlier, if you have student loans make it a goal to pay X amount every month to get rid of that debt as fast as you can. Another rule I have to be sturdy on is the amount we have in debt. If it was up to my husband we would buy whatever we want because we could just get a loan. We would have the newest and greatest cars and toys and vacations galore, but I like to keep our debt total low and therefore we have to either sell or pay off a financed item before we can purchase or use financing for another item.
I know this is a long one but hopefully you guys were able to stick it out the entire time, and although it was all money talk I hope you guys enjoyed the read and maybe a few of my tips and tricks can help.