My Top Three Budgeting Tips

I wanted to share my tips and tricks for whipping your budget into shape!

  1. Homemade Food
    • Meal Plan and Shop Your Pantry – I cannot stress how much this SAVES you budget! When my husband and I really started cracking down on our budget, this was our kryptonite. We didn’t have a dishwasher in our rental (I can’t tell you how much I hate doing the dishes), and at the time it was just the two of us, so we went out to eat quite a bit. Well, eating out adds up quickly. When we sat down at the end of the month and looked at where we went over budget, it was consistently the restaurant category. I know you’re probably thinking, “Okay, but groceries are expensive, too. Won’t that go up and replace the restaurant budget?” I’ll let you in on a tip I discovered and helps you save money: shop your pantry! I created these handy dandy inventory sheets that you can download on the free printable page! When you use what you already have, you don’t have to spend as much at the grocery store.
    • Save on Baby Food – Another tip I want to let you in on: make your own baby food! I cannot tell you how much money this saved us. Baby food packets (if you want organic) run for $1.40 on average for one packet. Whereas you can buy a bag of whole carrots for a dollar or two more and make EIGHT (or so) packets-worth of baby food!! If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to make baby food.” I understand. My advice is to take one day and make a bunch of different varieties at once. I usually did all my batches on Sunday after church while my husband watched our baby. If you want more info on this, I’ll write up a post about it!
  2. Communication
    • Budget Meetings – Get with your hubby or wifey and go through your budget together so there are no surprises and arguments. You’ll thank me later.
    • Write it Down – One thing I had to learn about my personality is that if I didn’t record what I spent in the budget app right after I went to the store, I would forget and then the expenses would pile up. I’m still working on this one, but it’s nice to not hound each other trying to figure out certain transactions on your account you forgot about.
    • Fun Money – This is the best category you could have in your budget that will save you from money fights. You’re welcome. My husband and I each have a certain amount of money each month that we get to spend whatever we want with. If you try this method, you will have to find out what works best for your budget and family. It’s so freeing that I know how much I have to spend on makeup and clothes, for example. Yes, I said freeing. This category gives you permission to say yes to things you want, and vice versa for your hubby! Think of it as a monthly shopping spree.
  3. The Word “No”
    • Just Say No – This tip is probably the hardest one to actually put into practice. I even have a hard time with this one still! Sometimes, you just have to say, “No.” No more getting loans. No more financing things on credit cards. No more going into debt!
    • Stop the Impulsive Buying – Again, this was me. When I wasn’t living on a budget, I saw that cute top at the mall and bought it without even knowing how much was in my bank account. I was constantly going into the red at the end of the month. Now, when I want that cute top, I wait. I ask myself these questions, “Do I really need this?” “Do I want to spend my money on this right now, or do I want something bigger later?” If in a few days I still want that top, I’ll get it. I also believe the fun money budget category helps with this as well. When you know how much you get every month, it’ll save you from overspending. Do you really want that dress that’s $150 and you only get $100 each month to spend as your budget allows? Wait until next month and save that money this month. I know it’s hard. You can do it!

There you have it! These are my tips that I used and still use today to keep tugging along and keeping our family financially fit. What are your tips? I’d love to hear yours in the comments below!

With love,

Em

“Winning at money is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge. What to do isn’t the problem; doing it is. Most of us know what to do, but we just don’t do it. If I can control the guy in the mirror, I can be skinny and rich.” 
― Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Our Debt Free Story

My life has changed drastically in the last few years. From dating, to getting married, to finding out I was pregnant, to having a baby. All in the time span of three years. Yes, you read that right! Yet somehow my husband and I managed to pay off $80,000 worth of debt. It’s truly all a blur, but we managed it. It was all thanks to Dave Ramsey’s principles.

When my husband and I started dating, we discussed finances many times. If you read my other blog post here, you will know that we were not the beating-around-the-bush type. My husband is very numbers-minded and frugal, whereas I am a shopaholic and a free spirit. We both had to learn how to work together, and we did that with Dave Ramsey. I watched his videos every spare minute I could get – I was fired up and wanted to become debt free with “gazelle intensity” like Dave puts it. After we got engaged, we sat down and looked at our finances. We looked at each of the baby steps and figured out our timeline and goals. We set a budget for the wedding, and created a plan for our money after we were married. I brought two credit cards and a car loan, he brought a car loan and student loans.

I didn’t think it was possible to cash flow the wedding of my dreams, but we did it! I scoured Pinterest and found easy DIY ideas for creating decorations for less. We enlisted friend’s expertise, and hunted for the best deals throughout the months of our engagement. It was truly perfect. (We even cash flowed a week at Disney World for our honeymoon – another win!) And with that, we were finally married. Oh, did I mention that I also paid off both of my credit cards during this time?

“Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.” 

I thought budgeting would come easy, but for someone who never budgeted and just spent money willy-nilly, IT WAS HARD. I wasn’t on my own anymore. I had to consider another person in the mix. It was also the first time I lived away from my parents. Payments I never had to worry about came flooding in during the first month – insurance, gas, electric, rent, more insurance, internet, etc. Even though we talked this through beforehand, it was a wakeup call for me. I was not a child anymore. So I had to stop acting like a child in a candy store with my….wait, with OUR…money.

I know that I am a visual learner. So with the first few months of budgeting, the EveryDollar app really helped! It’s also free! It took us a while to get the hang of it – they say that it takes about three months to figure out one’s budget. I’ll tell you what. It took us longer than that. However, we did get the hang of it. Cue another life change.

Four months after being married, I found out I was pregnant. We were in shock. Our debt free plan did not include having a baby. “They are expensive!” “How are we going to afford this?” “How much is a crib?” “How much do diapers cost every month? How will we know how many we need?” The questions went on and on. Mainly coming from my husband.  Although we knew a baby was going to change our entire world (and our finances), being a nanny for years helped me figure out an estimate on what to spend monthly. I sought out advice from other mom’s and my employers past and present. I knew I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and that meant our income was going down significantly. Yet when you have a plan, it’s not as scary.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want.

As per Dave Ramsey’s advice, we paused our debt snowball and saved every penny we could. It was disheartening after only just getting started, but we knew it was for the best. However, to keep the momentum going, we paid off the remaining balance on my car loan! Fast forward nine months (little babe wanted to stay in for a few extra days) and we had our beautiful baby girl.

Having a baby changes you. Your decisions, your wants, the need for sleep; everything. The idea of getting out of debt became more of a requirement than a want. We moved into my parent’s basement to get rid of rent payments. We pinched and scraped. Slowly but surely we paid off my husband’s car loan. Then his private student loans bit the dust. We were making great headway! Then the coronavirus hit America.

COVID-19 seemed like a curse, but it was a blessing in disguise in some aspects. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of the disease, but financially it relieved some burdens. We were hardly driving, so our gas budget went down significantly (yet more cooking at home meant more groceries, so it balanced out). Thankfully my husband did not lose his job, but our income took a hit when his salary went down twenty-five percent. I will admit, it was a scary time. I was fearful of staying in this debt trap forever. Not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were so close to becoming debt free!

God had everything under control. Little blessings would come up when we least expected them. The government’s stimulus check, our government loans going into forbearance so the interest was gone, etc. We even sold my car. With rigorous saving and penny pinching, along with those unexpected chunks of change, we hit submit and paid off $21,000 in the span of three months. Our next goal now is to save for a down payment for a house! Wondering how we did this? I am going to be writing more about our budgeting tips and tricks – specifically my mommy tips on budgeting for a baby and meal planning. Talk to you soon!

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”

Luke 12:22-24

With love,

Emily