Kids are naturally curious and tend to get excited about sports, musical instruments, and all sorts of group activities. While you may appreciate their enthusiasm, you also likely have to balance your budget. I’ve learned over the years that paying for extracurriculars without breaking the bank is possible.
The capacity of a family to fulfill basic needs is a vital measure of its economic well being and stability. The family’s budget secures an acceptable living standard in their immediate community. Responsibilities become manifold when you become a parent. [Read more…]
Do you ever read those outrageous headlines that read, “How I Feed My Family of Seven on $75 a Month” or something similar? They always manage to make me feel like I’m missing something. The grocery bill for my family (of four) would never come close to being that small for one month. Therefore, it got me thinking.
What is the average grocery bill for a family of four?
The Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture provides guidelines based on “a nutritious diet where all meals and snacks are prepared at home.” The guidelines are based on four levels of spending: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal. Furthermore, they are divided by age and gender.
According to the FNS, a four-person family made of one female age 35, one male age 37, one boy aged five, and one girl aged eight would have an average monthly grocery bill between $612 and $1,707. By comparison, the break-down between plans is $612 on the thrifty plan, $792 for the low-cost plan, $989 under the moderate plan, and $1,207 under the liberal plan.
Admittedly, $1,000 on a moderate budget for a family of four eating solely at home seems high to me.
However, if you factor in organic food and the cost of living in highly populated cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and NYC, this seems more reasonable.
Three tips to decrease your grocery bill
Each year, the cost of food rises. Typically with the cost of inflation, but often more due to the state of the economy and other factors such as natural disasters and other weather-related incidents. However, when trying to cut expenses in our budgets, groceries are one of the first places we look.
If you find yourself on the high end of the averages listed, here are three tips to help offset some of the rising costs and/or bring down your grocery bill.
1. Meal Plan
Meal planning is one of the best things you can do to eliminate food waste and to spend your grocery dollars with intention. Try planning one week at a time, including multiple meals with the same type of protein, which allows you to buy the most expensive item on your meal plan in bulk.
2. Use Money Saving Apps
Couponing has gone digital. Specifically, Ibotta, Fetch Rewards, and Checkout51 are a few of my favorite money-saving apps. Sit down with the meal plan you created above and add any items on your list directly through the app. Scan your receipt after you shop and instantly save. After you’ve accumulated so much in savings, you can transfer it in the form of PayPal or gift cards. It takes some time to get used to, but I’ve found them to be worthwhile.
3. Shop Your Pantry
Before you sit down to meal plan, take a look around your refrigerator, your freezer, and your pantry. I guarantee you have enough for one meal. You may have to get creative and hodgepodge a few items together, but you’ll be surprised how much you already have on hand. Not only is it a great way to reduce your grocery bill, but also be a good steward of the environment.
How much is your average grocery bill in your family? Let us know in the comments below.
For a multitude of reasons it becomes difficult to get away sans kids. We’re bad for not making it a priority. Part of the reason for us is that quite honestly we enjoy having our daughter around. It’s not too often that we’re eager to get away from the responsibilities of parenting and be alone but we know it’s essential to our marriage.
You don’t realize how little engagement you and your spouse have until you’re in a situation where it can happen. Though we get away or go out, we usually have our daughter with us and no fault of hers, she consumes almost all of our attention and conversation. She’s at an age now where if we tell her we need a few minutes to talk or whatever she gets slightly offended so it’s more appropriate to just plan an evening or day where she can have fun doing kid stuff (with a sitter) and we can have uninterrupted time alone.
Dates don’t have to be expensive.
When we were planning our anniversary last month we decided to take a little afternoon road trip instead of spending a bunch of money on each other and something like a fancy dinner out. We were home by supper time but it was so nice to sit in the car together for a few hours and just chat. We stopped for lunch and went for a little walk around a few local stores. Including lunch and gas the whole day probably cost us $100 this is, without a doubt the most we’ve spent on ‘’each other’’ in a long time.
When you’re on a budget you really feel the pressure when it comes to dating your spouse. Start with easy areas to save, we started with nixing unnecessary gifts. It really is the thought that counts and saving your money to reach your financial goals will keep you much happier than a materialistic item. Discuss this if you decide to do it though so feelings don’t get hurt. Budget or not I’ve never been on who wants gifts. I just don’t really like ‘’stuff’’ and if we’re going to spend money I’d rather save it for an experience together rather than something like a fancy watch.
Dates at home can be fun. Buy a few cheap treats at the store, and watch a movie together. This is something we don’t do enough and have few excuses as to why not. Getting a babysitter to even run errands together can be fun. Sounds dorky but we love a kid free stroll in Costco! Learn a card game, cook dinner together when kids are in bed…
Having a date with your spouse is about the time together not money spent. It be hard to get past the traditional ‘show up with flowers and wine and dine’ your spouse but especially after becoming parents you’ll quickly realize it’s about making the time for other person, regardless of what the event actually is.
What’s your favorite cheap date?
When my husband and I moved into our first place, a nice one bedroom apartment, our lease stipulated one vehicle included, anymore and we would have to pay extra for an additional parking spot. Given that we were looking to save as much money as possible for our upcoming wedding, we decided to sell my little old car.
My husband had the more reliable vehicle and I opted to use public transportation instead of paying extra just to park my car. I work in a downtown core where parking is incredibly expensive as well so driving to work is quite the added expense, selling our second vehicle made sense for so many reasons.
Fast forward six years and we’ve been married, moved into a suburban home and had a baby. My job is the same, my husbands has changed slightly requiring more frequent out-of-town day trips. I’m still taking public transit which, to give our city some credit, has improved in the last six years. Though I thought it would be a temporary thing, six years later we’re still a one car family.
The only way this is possible is me either taking public transit or carpooling on some days. Though I could drive to work faster than me taking public transit I simply cannot justify this added cost right now. Monthly parking at my jobs location is $150 per month. If we bought a second car, not only would we have the upfront cost of the vehicle, we would need to pay for gas, maintenance and insurance. Even without paying for parking it would still cost us about $250 per month to own said car. With parking and bridge tolls, closer to $500.
I currently pay about $60 per month for public transit, a significant savings from the $500 we could be paying!
The inconveniences of being a one car family….
The biggest inconvenience we’ve encountered with being a one car family happened two years ago when our public transit went on strike. We ended up spending more than double our gas (almost $400 per month in gas) with my husband driving me to work everyday or us giving gas money to other people for me to carpool with. The strike lasted months and was a huge headache to deal with. My normal 30 minute driving commute was upwards of two hours some days with the sharp increase in vehicles on the road.
As our daughter gets older we’re expecting a few more inconveniences as she gets involved in activities and needs to be at places. Given that I now rely on my husband to pick me up from a major transit depot close to our house, if he needs to have our daughter (dance or soccer) at the same time we’ll be in a tough spot with me trying to get home. My work schedule is very rigid and can’t easily be changed so I foresee this being a challenge.
We’re lucky that we currently live in an area with public transit, I suspect our next home will be out of the city and away from major transit lines where owning two vehicles will be a necessity given our work schedules.
At this point in our lives, being a one car family works. We’re ”saving” almost $450 per month. Money we just can’t justify when we’re working to pay our debt off. Once our debt is paid off we will likely get to the point where having a cheap second car will be a necessity either because of where we live or the direction our lives takes us.
Are you a one car family? How is it working out?
With kids being out of school for a few weeks during the Christmas break, it’s easy to run out of ideas on how to entertain them. Growing up, my mom would send me to the mall with friends, handing me $40.00 to basically entertain myself for the day. While a nice treat once in a while, for most families, especially during the holiday season, this would quickly add up to be a big budget buster. Here are a few ideas to entertain the kids (young and old) while on their Christmas break:
Host a Gingerbread House Building Party
This is loads of fun for kids of all ages. Have your child invite their friends over, either with a gingerbread house kit in hand, or you can provide the house for them (using an easy recipe and template). Have candy provided in dishes (on your well wrapped table, it will be messy!) and let them have fun creating. Don’t want to do a whole house? Try decorating gingerbread or sugar cookies instead.
Have them Volunteer
While volunteering with your children year round is encouraged, Christmas is usually a time when extra help is needed. Soup kitchens and food banks in particular are often looking for extra help during the season. If your child is under the age of 16, you may either need to grant permission or be present. Check to see if your local mall needs gift wrappers. Many malls offer gift wrapping services, often provided by volunteers, with funds raised going to local charities. Although this should never be the only reason why one does it, volunteer work looks great on university and college applications too.
Host a Christmas Themed Pajama Movie Party/Sleepover
Have a few of your kids friends over for a fun night of watching Christmas movies in their PJ’s (sleepover or not, you have to be comfy!). Provide a few snacks or have them help you make a homemade pizza and you’ve got yourself a budget-friendly party.
Go Outside and Play
Especially in today’s technology driven world, we forget about the simplicity of encouraging outdoor play without an abundance of toys. Encourage them to explore; pick up a stick and use their imagination! Make sure they’re well bundled if you’re fortunate enough to live in a cold winter environment and let them enjoy the fresh air.
Have them Help You Prep Meals for the Holidays. Most kids like to explore in the kitchen. It’s a great opportunity to have the learn some kitchen skills from you and your family.Yes, it will take longer than if you did it yourself and yes, your kitchen will likely be much messier but the skills that you’ll be able to teach are much more important than some spilled flour.
Check to See if Your Local Theater Offers Christmas Break Discounts
Most movie theater chains will offer discounted tickets during the local school break as a way of encouraging the movie-going experience so check it out!
Have your kids make everything from Christmas cards or gift tags to tree ornaments. The possibilities are endless and most require very few supplies. Who wouldn’t love a homemade card from your young one?
Encourage the Inner Entrepreneur
If you have older kids, encourage them to use their time off to make some money during their break. Ideas include: shoveling driveways, offering to get groceries (or run errands) for people who need extra help, or dog walking for people who may be away or just too busy to do it themselves.
Christmas can be stressful enough, you shouldn’t have to worry about what your kids are going to be doing while off from school. With a little creative planning, you can quickly fill their time without breaking the bank!
What holiday activities have you done with your kids?
I love buying clothes. Doesn’t it make you feel fantastic to be wearing something you truly love and feel amazing in? For me the answer is yes! Since becoming a work-at-home-mom, I haven’t really invested in clothes that make me feel awesome. Instead, I usually choose items that are more practical, this way when I get paint, glitter or glue all over them I don’t freak out. It’s not that I wear sweats or yoga pants all the time — I’m actually more of a jeans girl. Now that the boys are getting older and we are way past the spit up stage, I think it’s semi-safe for me to wear things that are comfortable but perhaps a bit more fashionable than what I have been wearing over the past 4 years. This means that I want to invest a little more money into my wardrobe but of course I don’t want to spend a fortune doing it either.
In the past (before kids of course) I would have headed to the mall and shopped my little heart out without considering what I was buying, how much I was spending or considering that I might be able to find the same item – or something similar – for less. But alas, those days are over. Actually, even if I wanted to be that frivolous, we can’t afford it — plus, I have learned so much about saving money since having the boys that even if money wasn’t an issue, I couldn’t do it without thinking about how silly I was being just throwing money away. So I have come up with some simple and painless ways to expand my wardrobe without busting our budget or adding credit card debt.
1. Shop Secondhand
I have learned a few things about shopping secondhand over the past few years. It’s easy and it can save you so much money!!! My secondhand stores of choice are consignment shops. I have taken the boys’ gently used clothing and toys to one of my favorite children’s consignment store in our area and have gotten some amazing deals! Depending on how much money I have earned from the sale of the boys’ previously worn items, I can get a bag full of “new” clothes for next to nothing. Even if I don’t have any credits I can still get great name brand clothing that looks new for an amazing price. There are women’s and men’s consignment shops too. At these stores you can purchase designer clothes for exceptional prices. Many times the items in these shops are not consigned because they aren’t stylish, often it’s because someone has either lost or gained weight — or they just like to clear their closets so they can buy more clothes. Go ahead, give secondhand shopping a try.
2. Visit Discount Stores
There are many stores such as Ross Dress for Less, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, and others who benefit from overstocks or store clearance. I have purchased some beautiful items for amazing deals. These stores are also great for purchasing fashion accessories, shoes, handbags and even home decor at super low prices.
3. Surf the Web
You can get some great deals by shopping online. Amazon, Ebay, Esty, etc. are ideal for finding good deals on clothing and accessories. Even shopping from some of your favorite department stores online can save you money. Many stores offer better deals online than they do in store because they don’t have the overhead of a brick and mortar store. Many stores offer free shipping if you pick the item up at a store near you. Be sure to check for coupon codes before you checkout; this will also help to save you money. Make sure you know the return/exchange policies before you buy. Most stores make returns and exchanges easy as long as you have the receipt. Shopping online also gives to the ability to quickly price check to find the best deals.
4. Shop Clearance
End of season clearance is the BEST time to buy new clothing. You can save 50%, 60% or even 80% when stores are clearing out thir inventory to make room for the new season’s fashion. I just picked up a Simply Vera (Vera Wang) purse for $25 it was regularly $125. I almost bought it when it was 1/2 off but decided not to since Christmas was just around the corner. Boy am I glad I waited. It certainly paid off! Often times you will still get a lot of wear out of an item before the season actually ends. It’s January and I’ve already seen bikinis and other summer fashions proudly displayed (at regular price) in stores. I bought a swimming suit last year for 75% off because it was September. I don’t have to worry about getting one now, I just have to worry about getting in shape so I’ll look good in it.
5. Make the Old New Again
Take inventory of what is already in your closet and find new and exciting ways to wear them. Mix different pieces, patterns and colors together. Just take some time out to play around with the clothes you already have. Put things together you may not have thought of before; you might be very surprised how how good certain things look together. You can also buy new (or new to you) clothing pieces like sweaters, jackets, scarves, hats, etc. to jazz up these well-loved ensembles and make them feel fresh and updated.
6. Host a Clothing Swap
Get some of your favorite girls together and even some of their friends and host a clothing swap. These ladies can bring in things that they are tired of, don’t fit in or wonder “Now why did I buy this? This is so not my color.” Make a fun girl’s night event out of it. If you want to bring along kids clothes to swap to, that can be double the fun. Get creative and enjoy!!!
I hope I have been able to give you some great ideas.
Do you have any other tips on how to save money on your clothing budget? I’d love to hear them!
Smart spending is a practical approach to handling the family’s finances. It is also a great practice to pass on to your children. Some things you can do to raise a family on a budget really boils down to a lot of practicality and common sense. For me, it is all about knowing what the important things are- the things you need, the things you want, and the things you can live without.
Make sure you can afford your home
First, it would be good idea to look at where you are living or where you want to live. Live in a house you can afford. Ok, it might not be the house of your dreams just yet but you will be able to reroute the money to other items that are more important at the moment. I live in a small townhouse with reasonable rent and it is not the house I want to stay in forever but it is more than enough for my two kids. They feel safe, happy, and comfortable here and that is great.
Make sure to limit wastage of any kind. I really try to live by this. Switch off lights when not needed and limit the use of electricals when you can. I live in a tropical country so it is often important to have an air conditioner at home. The use is timed though, very strictly. And during cooler months like now, we use the ac to cool the room rather then use a ventilator. This really cuts down the electricity bill.
Do you need that car?
If you own two cars, consider having just one. If you are going to purchase a car, do this on a cash basis so you don’t have installment payments with interest to look after in the coming months. You may have to buy a second hand car but this will be good enough to get you to where you need to go. I do without a car at all. I use public transportation and I find that this is saving me money even if it is harder. I plan to get a car but only when I can afford its maintenance and gas prices.
Start every year with a budget. I’ve blogged about this ad nauseum but I really think budgeting is essential. Be sure to include occasions like birthdays and Christmas, where you are sure to spend a bit of money. But when these occasions come, stay within your budgeted amount. Remember, it isn’t the cost but the thought that counts. You should also set priorities with your budget, such as funding a college or a custodial account for your kids, and saving for your own retirement. This is an important lesson your kids will learn as well.
Live on cash
Live on cash. I really advocate this. We do not need to focus too much on credit here, unlike in other countries, so this is really easy to do. But, if you must use your credit cards, pay them all off every month. If you only have your house to pay off, you will have a much easier time.
Finally, forgo repeated extra expenses like outings and meals outside. Include these in your budget but remember that you don’t always have to spend to have a good time. A home-cooked meal and a rented DVD, a treasured story book from the library, other good books and toys from garage sales, an afternoon picnic in the park are all things and activities that cost very little money but make for wonderful teaching moments and warm memories with the kids. Plus, think of all the money you can save for a college fund! My kids enjoy watching Barney on YouTube in my room as the movie of the night. They also enjoy simple sheets of stickers and pieces of candy as great prizes. Raising kids to like simple things helps make a budget work as well.
Now, raising a family on a budget isn’t easy. It is often very hard to resist buying that thing you have been eyeing but not really needing or giving in to the times and getting a computer game or something similar for the kids. But resisting has made a tight budget work for a small family. We are better than ok. When you see how well your kids are learning about the value of resources and how happy they will be with what you are providing, you will feel satisfaction unlike anything else ever. I hope to increase my earnings to have a bigger budget, of course, but I am so grateful that I can provide what I am providing now. It’s something to feel proud about, in my opinion.
How do you save money to raise your family?
I don’t know about you but I always like to sit down and plan things as best I can and as early as I can. I find this is really important, especially as a single parent. Since I’ve started planning my year, I’ve been able to keep my budget and time in check . Here are some tips that you might find helpful.
According to E-Home Fellowship,
A good budget is a spending plan that includes everything you will spend money on and stays within your income. A wise budget includes everything you will spend money on, savings for a ‘rainy day’, savings for large purchases, giving, savings for kids, and investment for retirement and still stays within your income.
I think it is important to do this activity at the start of the year as it sets your expectations and gives you an idea bout how to deal with the coming events over the year. Plus, just remember the 5 Reasons You Should Save Half Your Income!
Get the whole picture. Start by collecting all checking account and credit card statements for the last year. Hopefully, you will have limited this or, as I have done, stuck to a strict cash or debit card only rule. Note any and all expenses you regularly make. If you keep receipts, this will help you a lot. If not, maybe you should start for recording purposes only.
Record the whole picture. Use all the stuff you collected to record a ‘picture’ of what you spent last year. This might be depressing or not but this is important to give you a good basis of comparison for the next budget.
Make sure you don’t double-list items. Check off the lines on your documents as you account for them in a budget item. this way, you also do not forget anything.
Note your net monthly salary, combined with any extra work you might be doing as well.
Create a monthly expenses worksheet.
Create a worksheet for non-monthly expenses like Insurance.
Include everything you regularly pay cash for in the Cash Budget-Monthly section.
After you total everything, you may be surprised to discover your expenses are larger than your income. This happens to everyone so do not fret. If you have a larger income figure than your expenses however, place this amount in your savings.
Review your budget worksheet. Check if you’ve listed expenses accurately then look to see if you are being too excessive with some items. Also check those items you anticipate will increase within the year and make your adjustments.
Try your best to have an emergency fund that equals around 6 months of your net income. After you’ve saved this amount, you cans start investing anything over.
After doing this you will find that you will be relieved to have a better picture of how your year will play out financially. While this is never a sure thing and while plans ALWAYS deviate in some way, you will probably stick to this basic picture for the next 12 months. You can also use this to plan anything extra you might want to do to earn more or to plan for points in the year when you know you will need to spend.
However you decide to go, let’s make 2011 a better year and the start of a better-budgeted decade.
How are you preparing for the new year? Are you doing anything different financially?
Happy New Year everyone! I had a pretty good 2010 and really looking forward to seeing what 2011 will bring.
We had a party at our house last night and really had a blast. Nothing too crazy, nowhere near as big as my parties used to be, just a few close friends and family, music, games for the kids, beer and drinks for the adults and a good cigar to say goodbye to 2010. With all that going on last night it meant for a rough start to 2011 but it was worth it. Every new year should start with at least a little bit of a hangover so things can only improve as you go.
My debt story
As I have mentioned in previous posts, my wife and I are in significant debt from a business that we ran for several years that ultimately failed. Shortly after it’s failure at the end of 2007, I was able to sell what assets we had left in the business and secure a job for me and my employees with the company that bought me out. Later in that same year, my wife, who used to work for me, got a great job in her chosen profession.
2008 became the year we started over but we were starting over with a huge pile of debt that really hamstrung us. We sat down, created a budget and created a 5 year plan to eliminate the majority of our debt. We would do without most perks and focus on two things; our debt and our two boys. 2008 and 2009 were VERY difficult years but we stayed on track, stuck to our plan, tightened our belts and made it through them. 2010 was still a struggle but it was the first year where we really started making some progress.
I am very happy to report that 2010 ended with a bang, it was the first year in a long time where we had a little breathing room and could enjoy ourselves a little more while dealing with a little less stress. The Ecommerce company that acquired my old business had it’s most successful year ever and I have been able to gain some ownership in that company. My wife’s job continues to go well and we have much to be thankful for.
It was looking a little bleak for awhile but with the success of 2010 and the hopes that 2011 brings, it’s looking better and better that we will be able to pay off the majority of our debt by the end of 2012.
How optimistic are you for the new year?