A mom who likes to live outside the norm

How my family lives on a minuscule budget

Last night when getting ready for bed, I told my husband: “Life was so much easier when my mom watched the kids and I spent my day working with adults.  We could buy everything new, we ate out more, and we didn’t worry too much about money”.  He replied: “Want to go back?”


There are huge trade offs for convenience:

I am with my kids and raising them.  It would be horrible if someone else raised them instead of me.  At least I was blessed in my mom “raising” them when I was at work, but I feel so bad for people who feel trapped in a bad daycare situation.  And a blessing of staying home is that I am available to help people who want a family option for childcare.

I make the food we eat.  I have time to make nourishing meals.  I don’t rely on a box, or expensive healthy options.  Yes, we don’t eat out much, but it’s a treat now.

Learning to be self-sufficient is fun.  I honestly like making used things seem new.  Gardening is rewarding.  Making soap is actually interesting and fun!

There are many reasons to live frugally.  Saving for retirement.  Saving for a big purchase.  Paying of debt.  Making one income work.  Or if you’re like me, it’s a combination of paying off debt while trying to make one income work.

My goal every month is to live off of $500.  This is not debt payments, utilities, etc.  This is gas, food, clothes and entertainment.

First gas.  With rising gas prices, I try to limit driving.  Thankfully my husband works close to our home, so he used to ride his bike.  He now has a scooter which is great with the heat and it takes so much less time.  I try to plan busy days, so that only 1-2 days a week are in the car.  I fit errands and such around days I already leave for things like Bible study or story time.  This not only saves gas, but it keeps me from randomly shopping.  Unless I’m already out, I walk to the post office or to close stores.  Our gas purchases are usually around $150 a month.

With food, I try to shop seasonally.  It’s really easy this time of year to get cheap produce, especially if you have an Aldi.  I also utilize Shop N Save’s $10 off a $50 purchase day.  That is really the only time I groceries at places other than Aldi and the Farmers market.  With a tight budget I can’t shop organically, but it is totally doable to buy real food.  Ways to save: we don’t eat meat every meal, sometimes not even every day.  Store brand pasta is easy and quick, and you can do all kinds of topping options (pasta sauce, butter and seasoning, parmesan cheese, mozzarella).  Buy fruit and veggies in season fresh, and others frozen.  I do splurge on eggs and some meat at the farmer’s market, but it’s only adding about $10/month to what I would spend at the grocery store.  I garden to save a little, but honestly I haven’t seen much savings with the heat this year, though when my perennial plants (strawberries, raspberries) mature, I’ll save a ton. And, even only having enough for a few meals, I still saved a little.  I feed my family of 5 (one nursing) for around $250 a month.  As a plus for my family, eating this way means fewer calories and weight loss.

Clothes.  Can you say thrift store?  I save even more by only going on discount days.  Especially with kid’s clothes, there are great finds that are barely used.  I’m picky on what I buy, it is clean and in good repair.  You don’t have to buy the ratty or dirty stuff!  And if you have the time, you can find good stuff in the adult clothes.  90% of the clothing purchases for my family is from resale, and you couldn’t tell by looking at us (at least I like to think so).  The remaining 10% is mostly socks and underwear.  And, you can expand your budget by selling what your kids outgrow.  I save the few things I know I’d want the next to wear, and then head to the shops that buy kids clothing.  What’s left I save for garage sales.  What’s left I donate…I hate to store tons of stuff.  You never know what will be in season when the next kid grows that size, so I get rid of it!

And, I save by buying paper goods in bulk on sale.  That way I don’t have to buy it when we need it at whatever price is charged.  Off brand stuff is usually pretty good.  I save a ton by making my own laundry soap.  I’m trying out several kinds of homemade soaps for hand washing and body wash.  I cloth diaper so that I don’t have to put diapers in my monthly budget.

Finally, new toys and entertainment are rare treats.  Birthdays and Christmas are usually the only times my kids get things new.  Occasionally they get things at thrift stores and garage sales, but it’s usually with money they save.  Honestly, kids don’t need a lot of toys…a good box of dress up (thrift store!!!), legos, cars and dollhouses are great options that use the imagination.  The play can be different every time and covers a large spread in age.

What tips do you have to save money and expand your budget?

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