My Story: How Can I Limit My Spending without Being "Different"
contributed by LJC
My family seems no different than the other average families out there today. However, what you see on the outside is not at all the way we live. I live in northern NJ, where the cost of living is high and the cost of childcare is even higher! We have three very young children (all under 5). We seem to live like those around us, if not better. Actually, we are living better because we do not spend outside of our means and we have our lives in perspective. Here are a few things we changed along the way:
- Four years ago, I read Smart Couples Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner by David Bach. This was a milestone in changing our lifestyle. I highly suggest reading it from the library, and if you like it, find it on a discount website and buy a copy.
- I set up budgets for every aspect of our lives. We did the 2003 version of the "envelope" method (When the money is out, you stop spending.), but we transferred the money to a savings account and I had a schedule showing how that money was broken down. For example, we may have had $5,000 in that account, but $1,000 was for car repair, $160 for clothes, $2,000 vacations, etc. Each time I took money from or added money to that account, the schedule was updated. If there is no money in that account, you can't spend any./li>
- I began shopping on the off-season (which is very easy). Winter clothes have been on clearance here for the past month and we still have two months to go with cold weather! In spring, I will get out my children's clothes from last year and see what fits. Then I will get out all of the clothes I bought for them on last spring/summer clearance, noting what we need for the season. They always have plenty to start out with until the sales begin. Spring clothes are clearanced already in May as the summer clothes are coming out. I have not bought an item for full price in about seven years. Each year after Easter, I go to the 60-75% off sales and get Easter dresses for next year and I do that for each special occasion. I shop at Kohls, Carter's, Macy's, etc. and I have seen clothes at my local consignment store selling for higher than what I pay for new clothes.
- I limit my trips to certain towns/areas on errand day. Even seven to ten miles add up if you run for everything as needed. I have a small notebook I keep on me and jot down things I need to do or buy when I think of them. On errand day, I can knock out five to seven places in a row in as little as two hours.
- I do not limit my grocery shopping to my list. Now I know that sounds like what you shouldn't do, but I have gotten the very best deals by walking down every aisle in the store. They have "Manager Specials" on many items that are not in the sale paper. Yes, I stick to my list for what I need, but you can't imagine the sales that I find. You must know your prices to use this. I have a way with numbers and keep them in my head, but I know others use price books to know if sales are "real." One thing I do is head to Wal-Mart first for any food items that I can get much cheaper and then I head to my local grocery store. I do not have a super Wal-Mart here, so I am limited on the food.
- My husband and I started taking an allowance. By giving us each a set amount of money, we stopped arguing about who spent what at this place or that place. If I want another purse, then it's my money. If he wants a new electronic toy, then it's his money. This amount would be different for all couples.
- We live below our means, which is the most important tip of all. When we made the budget five years ago, it was with what we could live on then. Add in five years of raises and you can bet we have a comfortable buffer. Yes, prices have gone up on a lot of things, but we are very proud to not live paycheck to paycheck. We have an emergency account, retirement accounts, life insurance and Aflac insurance. All of these things were started since then.
These are just a few things that have saved us money. When I am at a school function and listening to another mom talking about how they are going on vacation or buying this or that when she was just complaining that the mortgage was late again, I just shake my head. It's a great feeling to live life to its fullest and not have bills hanging over your head.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by MyStory@stretcher.com
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