When I first found Judi and Amy's blog Livin' Large - Tales of a Blended Family, I was intrigued. They are a family of 10 and are very good at budgeting. They share their success and failures on their blog.
When Keli first approved me about writing a guest post for her, I immediately came over here to peruse her blog (I am now an avid reader!). I was amazed that she can feed a family of four on $25 a week! I was perplexed as to what I could offer you, hr readers. However, I am a firm believer that everyone has something to offer. Even if someone garners a small tidbit from what I have to say, and it makes their life easier, then it is all worth it.
About 12 months ago, we signed papers to purchase our new home. As a condition of our mortgage, we had to pay off 3 credit cards completely and close them. We had to take a good look at our finances if we wanted to achieve this. So we went about creating a budget which included saving, debt repayment and cutting down on fixed and variable expenses. Since we had no idea how or where to start, we used Gail Vaz-Oxlade's website to help us. There you'll find a Budget Worksheet which we used to create our budget.So far, it's one of the best tools I have seen to create on, so go do it!! Don't delay.
Once you have a budget sticking to it is the hardest part. It does take effort and patience and discipline, but it's worth it! Here are a few ideas we use for helping us to stay on budget. Our ideas are definitely not new and we ourselves gleaned a lot of this information from fellow bloggers.
We all have to eat and we all have to make that weekly trip to the grocery store. I personally hate to grocery shop. However, we go in with a plan and it becomes relatively painless.I cannot say enough that planning your meals for the week will help you save money. We write out a list of exactly what we need for our meals for our meals and for lunches and breakfasts and stick to the list! There are times that we will see a deal and we will pick that up and use it in the following weeks meal plan (for instance, last week we picked up a huge ham on sale for $7... that will provide protein for at least 2 meals). It's best to try and shop once per week and avoid extra trips to the grocery store. Extra trips to the grocery store mean more chances for impulse buying and going over budget.
We try and shop around the outer perimeter of the store and avoid the aisles. If you look at a store, you will find produce, meat, bakery and dairy around the outside of the store. It's generally cheaper to buy fresh and make recipes from scratch. If we do go in the aisles, we stick to store brand products rather than name brand. There's generally very little difference in taste between brand and generic products (except for a few things...we splurge on Heinz ketchup because we feel like it just tastes so much better!). You'll also notice that the highest priced products are at eye level...look down and up and you might find the same thing for much cheaper!
Clothing and Gifts
We do a lot of shopping at thrift stores for clothing. Patience here is key, but worth the little extra time to look. You can find great deals on high end labeled merchandise. We never buy clothing at full price, we look for sales and buy a lot of second hand stuff.
Do you have a bunch of friends who have kids? Sure you do... why not arrange a clothing exchange? You all bring clothing that your kids have outgrown, or you don't wear anymore and swap it with your friends stuff! Our kids wear a ton of hand-me-downs and they get excited when we get a bag in from our friends.
For gifts, we are always on the lookout for deals throughout the year. We start our Christmas shopping during the summer. Create a gift fund if you can and put a little money away every week and when you're ready to start Christmas shopping, it will be there.
Having fun with your family does not need to cost a fortune. See what your community has to offer. Do a web search for free things to do in your town/city. Do you have a fun place that you like to go, but can be kind of expensive? Check and see if they have season passes or memberships that will allow you to visit unlimited times during the operating season. This year, we purchased a membership to the Toronto Zoo. For $200 our family is enjoying all the zoo has to offer for an entire year! We pack a lunch and snacks and spend the day. Often, members and season pass holders will get discounts throughout the attraction, and/or discounts elsewhere.
Go for a walk, a family bike ride, institute a family game night, have a movie night where you make a big batch of buttery popcorn and snuggle in together on the couch with a nice blanket. All these things are free or
fairly free and it has you spending quality time with your family.
For couples, have a 'stay at home date night'. Put the kids to bed and make a nice romantic candlelight dinner .We have "appetizer night" where we make a bunch of nibbles and have that for dinner (our favorites are escargot and spinach/artichoke dip). Invite another couple over and ask them to bring something and play cards, board games or chit chat.
There are lots of little ways to save money and stick to the budget...it's not nuclear physics, just a lot o common sense. I would like to thank Keli for asking me to come and share a bit here. What I would love to hear from you all is how you stick to your budgets? What do you do to save money on groceries, family fun, etc.? Remember, everyone has something to offer, however small, so please share!
Judi is co-author of the blog Livin' Large: Tales of a Blended Family. She lives, along with her co-author, Amy and Amy's husband, somewhere in the Great While North. Together the 3 of them raise 7 children on a tight budget and lots of love.