Money-Saving Tips & Recipes To Help Families During This Time

Over the past 10 years, I have written a lot of posts that I think might be helpful to our current situation.

I decided to sit down and comb through my archives to make one big post that would compile all the relevant information in one place.

I hope you find this information useful!

Are you doing just fine right now? That’s awesome! In that case, you might consider reading the article GOOD GIFTS FOR FAMILIES IN NEED – Now is a great time to pay it forward if you find yourself with an abundance of supplies!

REVERSE MEAL PLANNING – HOW I SAVE A TON ON GROCERIES BY REVERSE MEAL PLANNING! – This version of grocery shopping is basically what we ALLLL need to be doing now. Most of us don’t quite know what will be available when we head to the grocery store nowadays. Reverse meal planning will help us make the most of what we already have on hand AND what we can gather during our quick socially distanced grocery trips.

HOW TO BECOME A BETTER COOK – LEARN TO COOK BETTER AT HOME TO SAVE MORE MONEY! – I keep seeing posts about friends and family struggling with having to cook more meals/more often than they are used to. Recipes aren’t turning out well. They are getting frustrated with the constant barrage of hungry people in their household. They only have ingredients to MAKE food and less convenience food than before. Learning how to cook can make this time of being stuck at home a more enjoyable and flavorful experience!

10 WAYS TO MAKE LIVING ON ONE INCOME EASIER – Some advice in this post might not be actionable right now. However, there are some tips in this post that might be helpful if you are suddenly one income short right now.

HOW AND WHY YOU NEED TO CREATE A BUDGET – If you have been living without a detailed budget, now is a great time to sit down and make one! Especially if you have lost an income stream or you anticipate a drop in income. When you sit down and write it all out, you might find places you can cut back and you might actually notice you have more money than you thought you did!

Garden shed with tools and flower pots

10 WAYS TO GARDEN FOR LESS! – Finding yourself with some extra free time? Maybe it’s time to start that garden you have always wanted! FYI, some tips in this post might be hard to take advantage of right now. However, you can order most supplies online and many grocery stores actually carry seeds/potting soil as well. If you have the spare room in your budget, this could be a great calming activity!

10 EASY WAYS TO BUILD UP THE EMERGENCY FUND – This might be difficult to do right now when you might be down an income or if you have uncertainty about future sources of income. However, having an emergency fund can bring you SO much peace of mind! It might be worth bookmarking this and coming back to it when life gets back to normal again.

LIVING HEALTHY ON A BUDGET: EXERCISING – Need some inexpensive exercise ideas? Here is an article that has quite a few!

MARRIAGE AND FINANCES – IT’S ALL ABOUT TEAMWORK – If you find yourself having to pinch pennies where you never have before, this could create some struggles in your marriage or your relationship. This is kind of our story about how we figured out how to manage our own finances as a married couple and the struggles that lead to where we are today.

FREE EDITABLE GOOGLE DRIVE SCHEDULE FOR DISTANCE LEARNING!!! – A great resource if your kids are currently embarking on a Distance Learning adventure! Fully editable for your own personal situation. This has REALLY majorly been a huge stress reliever in our household!

Finally, I have TONS of great frugal recipes on my site! Here are just a few that you might want to try out over the next few weeks:

Click here to see all of my recipes!

Also, here are to fun Easter treats if you happen to have the supplies on hand to make these!

SURPRISE RICE KRISPIE TREAT EASTER EGGS ON A SOUTHERN MOM

EASTER FUN: MAKE BUNNY BAIT WITH YOUR KIDS!

Here are some fun at home DIY/kid activity ideas as well:

I hope that some of these posts can help you and your family make it through this difficult time with a bit more peace, good food and cash in your pocket!

Let me know if there are any other ways that I can help! If you haven’t already, join my Facebook Group for more money saving advice, deals and resources!

Sleep Away Camp Essentials & Camping Hacks for Boy Scout Camping, Summer Camp, Etc

My son went to Boy Scout camp for the FIRST time a few weeks ago! He has been a Cub Scout since he was just a tiny little Tiger (1st grade), but for the most part, all of our camping has been family camping.

This was his first week long camp without myself or my husband present.

(trying to save up money to send your little one to sleep away camp? Learn how to create some wiggle room in your budget!)

To say I was a bit of a basket case as we drove away from dropping him off would be an understatement. However, he survived (and actually, I would say he THRIVED!) and when he came home we went over what worked well and what didn’t.

I figured these camping tips/camping hacks would be helpful for any parent sending their kid off for camp, so I decided to share it here on my FFF.

What worked:

Pack it all in a trunk

This was a Boy Scout recommendation, but honestly from now on, anytime either of my kids go on any kind of extended stay, we’ll be packing everything in a trunk!

These trunks are super affordable and tough. They also roll! We purchased ours at Academy, but you can also get it shipped right to your door from Amazon.

Write up a packing list

Our Boy Scout troop provided us with a basic packing list. Most likely, whatever camp your kiddo is attending will provide you with a packing list as well. Print out that packing list and use it to pack (of course), but also add to it where necessary.

My son had a few different bags with him. A day pack (his day pack is very similar to this one), a pack to go to the shower, a bag for when he went swimming, etc. We put a detailed list of what was in each bag on the packing list. 

We also gave him a highlighter so he could use the packing list as a reference when it was time to come home. Unfortunately, his tent mate left their tent wide open during a particularly heavy down pour and the packing list was ruined. Thankfully, he returned with all of his property.

He did say the breakdown of what was in each bag was super helpful though when he couldn’t find something he needed.

Send letters/care packages with your kiddo

This was a big one for us! My son LOVED this. Myself, my husband and my daughter all wrote my son letters. We split the care packages into one per day and told him that he had to follow the rule of only opening one per day!

My letters were very “Jesus loves you, so be good!” haha. My husband’s letters were basically a funny story that built on each day (I was dying laughing as I was reading them!). And my daughter basically wrote him video game references that she knew would annoy him.

I snuck in some fun items too:

Day 1 (first full day) – A journal with a few pens/pencils in hopes he would journal his week (he started to do this, and was excited to do this, but the journal was a casualty of the open tent during the rain storm 🙁 )

Day 2 – A few word search/sudoku puzzle books from the dollar store

Day 3 – Some flavor blasted goldfish, his fave! (although he told me next time, don’t pack these…because bears, duh)

Day 4 – Candy (starburst!)

Day 5 – Cash (we sent him with cash for the week, but figured by Friday he probably would be all out, so we thought it would be a fun last day treat)

Day 6 – A promise of something fun at home.

Package outfits in individual ziploc bags

This might not work for older kids, or if you are packing cold weather clothing. My son was going to be wearing t-shirts and shorts all week though, so this made life SO much easier (and was a LIFESAVER when his tent got wet…none of his clean clothes were wet! Because they were in ziploc bags!)

I have used this method of packing on vacations too. It works beautifully!

Send clothespins to hang wet items

Okay, full disclosure…he said he didn’t use these. I can tell by smelling his towel/swimsuit that this is true. Yuck. That was the grossest laundry I have EVER done. Regardless, maybe your kid will use them. I know I’ll bring clothespins camping with us from now on!

Next time, I think I’ll purchase some of these to send with him. I suspect these would get more use!

Send empty plastic grocery sacks for various trash/clothing items that get especially gross

Yes. Yes. Yes. You will have DISGUSTING laundry to do when your kid gets home. There is nothing you can do to change this. It will happen. You will open up their trunk and you will wonder what died in there?

However, the plastic grocery sacks can make things better. He was smart and put his super wet stuff in these bags.

Label EVERYTHING

Get a black sharpie and go to town on everything. EVERYTHING. Chances are, every kid in your kid’s cabin/tent/troop/etc will have similar items. If you want them to come home with what you sent them with, LABEL EVERYTHING. This includes clothing!

His camp chair and his cot (this is the cot he has, it’s great!), his flashlights, his water bottles, everything!

Send water shoes/shower shoes

Foot fungus. Enough said.

A spritz/fan can help a lot!

This was my son’s contribution to this post. I asked him what the MOST important thing was that he packed for his trip. He said a spray bottle with a fan (with extra batteries). This was one of those, eh…whatever I’ll just throw it in the cart purchases, but he said it really made a difference.

Where he camped, they only had 90 minutes of air conditioning a day (I know this because anytime we complain about being hot since he has been home, he likes to remind us about how he went a week with only 90 minutes of air conditioning a day, LOL) . The rest of the time he was out in the hot July Texas sun. He said this made a HUGE difference for his comfort and his experience.

My son had a GREAT time at Boy Scout camp. The memories he made and the experiences he packed into that one week make me feel good about the investment of money, time and how desperately I missed him.

Would I send him again? In a heartbeat!

Are you an old pro at sending your kids off to camp? Any camping essentials tips for me? Comment below! 

Sharing is caring!

8 Tips & Tricks To Decorate for the Holidays On A Budget

You want to have a well decorated home, but seasonal and holiday decorations can be really expensive! How do you create that festive atmosphere in your home year round when you are on a budget? Here are 8 tips & tricks to keep your home looking appropriately seasonal no matter what holiday comes next.

The Dollar Store – 

Did you know that dollar stores actually have pretty good holiday decor options? Sure, some of it is garbage, but honestly some of my most complimented holiday decor actually came from the Dollar Tree!

The trick is to get there fairly early when they first put out the holiday decor. The good stuff gets grabbed quickly!

Here are some cute displays for spring I saw at my local Dollar Tree the other day:

Hobby Lobby – 

Hobby Lobby ALWAYS has a 40% off coupon available! Just download their app and every time you go, you can use the 40% off one item at regular price coupon.

That said, Hobby Lobby puts their seasonal items on sale well before the holiday actually even happens. Their prices are generally pretty fair and reasonable and the quality is quite good!

Micheal’s – 

Michael’s is another one that almost always has a 30-40% off coupon in their app (in fact sometimes they even offer 50% off one regular item coupons!). They also will sometimes offer short periods of $x off $xx coupons as well. In some cases you can stack coupons as well.

JoAnn’s – 

JoAnn’s is another great place to buy holiday decor. I find that their decor is a bit pricier than the two above though, so I always try to check the app to see if there are any coupons I can stack to get a great deal.

After Holiday Sales – 

If you can wait to decorate until next year, be sure to hit up the after holiday sales! Some stores start their after holiday sales on decor the day OF the holiday, but most start it the day after. The problem is that everybody else knows this little tip too.

So you’ll need to get there early and be prepared to make quick decisions!

One of my favorite places to nab after holiday decor sales is actually Walgreens! They drop to 70% and then pretty quickly to 90%.

This is also a great opportunity to make some of those bigger holiday decor purchases, such as Christmas trees.

DIY – 

I hesitate to recommend DIYing holiday decor as a budget saver, because we are all guilty of buying $40 worth of materials to create something that would have cost $20 outright and then never using those materials ever again.

However, check out my tutorial for making a fall wreath here. You can totally use that as a base to make a wreath for any season! It uses all very inexpensive materials and you will have a lot of pride knowing that you made that!

Pinterest is filled with great holiday DIY home decor tutorials!

Buy Generic “Season” items – 

Rather than buying Easter decorations, buy mainly “Spring” decorations and you can keep those up for 3 months! Rather than Christmas, focus on “Winter”.

When you purchase for a season instead of a holiday, it allows you to get a bit more use and enjoyment out of your decor. Which makes investing in good quality pieces a bit more reasonable!

Decorate with Consumables & Otherwise Functional Items

Don’t underestimate the beauty of a gorgeous bowl of lemons on the table to celebrate spring/summer. In the fall, a bowl of gorgeous bright red apples will really cheer up any household.

Fresh cut flowers from the garden, pinecones from the backyard placed in an attractive glass jar (check out these, you could change out the contents for every season!), you can even use a wax warmer or a gorgeous scented candle to provide an attractive piece of decor and to add to the overall seasonal ambiance of your home with an appropriate seasonal scent.

Thrift Stores & Garage Sales 

I have a good friend that changes her Christmas “theme” every 2 years. I mean, she donates EVERYTHING that isn’t actually a family heirloom and does a whole new decor theme every year. NONE of her decor ever looks like it has been used, and it all ends up in the local Goodwill for anyone to purchase at a major steal!

Be sure to check out thrift stores and garage sales for wonderful seasonal and holiday decor. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Some of my favorite Christmas decor items came from a local thrift store because I just so happened to walk in the day they set all of the Christmas decor out!

What are your tips for decorating for the holidays on a budget? 

 

Spring Cleaning Budget Tips – Give Your Budget A Spring Makeover!

Whether you are a budget beginner or you have been living on a budget for years, these simple spring cleaning tips for your budget can make a HUGE difference for your finances! Don’t let your family suffer because you didn’t use this opportunity to plan and maintain your budget for the upcoming spring/summer. Check out all these great budget tips, most are super simple and quick!

Happy Spring!

Whether it is still snowing in your neck of the woods or the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping…it is now officially SPRING weather you like it or not (see what I did there? I can be very pun-ny 😉 ).

This is a great time to sit down with your budget and give it a little makeover!

Don’t currently have a budget? Be sure to start here to learn how to create a budget.

Here are some tips for giving your budget a bit of a spring cleaning: 

Start Preparing for Summer Expenses: 

I don’t know about you, but our bills tend to go UP during the summer. For one, the kids are home more. Which means all of a sudden, they think they need 2nd breakfast every day and 35-36 snacks a day. As a result, we do try to accommodate for a slightly higher grocery bill during the summer.

In addition, if you live in a warm (or HOT) climate, like I do…you will see an increase in your electricity bill due to your air conditioner running 24/7. In some climates, your heating/cooling even each other out, but here in Texas we pay MUCH less to heat our homes than we do to cool them. This bill will double or triple sometimes in the heat of summer!

If you know your children always participate in summer swim team, travel baseball/softball, etc during the summer, it’s time to start budgeting for those expenses. Don’t just think registration fees, also think about gear, clothing, possible hotel stays, etc.

Action Tip: Consider adding a “Summer Bill Increase Expense” line item to your budget. 

Set Aside Funds for Spring Cleaning: 

Ugh, who wants to spring clean? I know at least a few of you are excited about this. Not me, but a few of YOU are. First off, I have a great spring cleaning series right here on FFF. You can follow along and break your spring cleaning down into manageable chunks!

With spring cleaning will inevitably come some extra expenses:

Cleaning Supplies: Some dollar store supplies are amazing (READ: What To Buy/What Not To Buy at the Dollar Store)!

No need to spend a ton for pricey items when you can pay $1 for a huge bottle of awesome glass cleaner that works just as well! Also, consider using natural household items for cleaning. Plain white distilled vinegar mixed with water can clean mirrors, floors, windows, etc. (you can get the spray bottle at the dollar store)

If you SWEAR by a certain brand name (I am snobby about the toilet cleaner I like personally), check out Amazon’s Subscribe & Save! Read this post for more details on how to save BIG using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. 

Other Supplies: You might also use this time to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors, swap out your AC filters, plant a vegetable garden in your backyard, etc. Set realistic spending goals because these little items can add up and create a large dent in your budget if you are not prepared!

Action Tip: Consider adding a Spring Cleaning line item to your budget

Begin Funding a Summer Fun/Entertainment/Vacation Sinking Fund: 

Planning on going on vacation this summer (Read: How To Travel On A Budget!) ?

Most likely at this point, you have already started saving if you are planning to go on a BIG vacation. However, maybe you want to do a few road trips? Or have a staycation and enjoy your city (I live in Houston and there is SO much to do here!). Either way, now is a great time to start a sinking fund to plan for all those extra hours you have to entertain your children and to fulfill all those summer bucket list expectations!

For more details on setting up a sinking fund, click here. 

Action Tip: Consider adding a “Summer Fun” line item to your budget

Audit Your Current Budget for Excess: 

This has nothing to do with spring other than some people view spring as a fresh start. Sit down and audit your budget to see if it is still working for you and your family!

I have a great post here for where to find excess or flaws in your budget.

Action Tip: Consider DELETING some line items from your budget if possible! 

Do a Closet Audit for Everyone In Your Family: 

If you have children, especially young children…you already know about this. Maybe you have already had your first warm weather day. You pulled out last year’s shorts and realized that your 7 year old probably shouldn’t wear those Daisy Dukes to school this year.

It’s time to get into the closets and see what fits, what doesn’t, what can be passed down or donated and what just needs to be trashed (or you can thank it for it’s service if that’s your jam? ).

Now, I am a HUGE fan of thrift, resale and consignment shopping. I find SUCH great deals on items for both of my children (and sometimes even for myself) at the thrift store! Often I find new with tags items at the local Goodwill! In fact, I think I brag about this so much that eventually I am going to have too much competition from local friends at my local stores.

Here is a post all about shopping at thrift stores if you want to learn how to get the most bang for your buck.

Action Tip: Consider adding a spring clothing line item to your budget

Finally, take a moment to smell the flowers, to plan an outdoor picnic and to just enjoy the moment. We are already in season #2 of this year and it is amazing how fast life passes us by. Don’t let financial woes keep you from the joy of life!

If you need more help creating a budget or learning to save, be sure to check through my frugal living posts here on FFF. You can live a joy filled life on a budget!

Why You Need To Start Working On Your Christmas Budget Now

Whether you are on a tight budget, barely making it paycheck to paycheck, or comfortably setting aside a chunk of change into a robust savings account each week, it’s time to start thinking about your Christmas budget! Have a more joyful and stress free Christmas season by getting organized for Christmas NOW in 5 easy steps! 

It’s hard to believe, but Christmas is closer than you think.

If you are like me, I like to take life one day and one HOLIDAY at a time.

However, this can be short sighted when it comes to BIG holidays like Christmas. Preparation and good financial planning is important to truly enjoy these holidays that often come with a big price tag.

A well thought out Christmas Budget can make a HUGE difference in your enjoyment of the most wonderful time of the year.

Here are a few things you can do NOW to make your Christmas season a bit more stress free!

Christmas Budget Tip #1: Decide What Your Realistic Christmas Budget Will Be

What can you afford? This will involve you sitting down with whoever else is involved in the financial decisions in your household and having a conversation about what is realistic. Do you already have money set aside?

Do you need to start saving? What is a reasonable amount to save each week? Do you need to cut something that you aren’t really using anyways?

Some banks and credit unions offer special Christmas accounts that automatically take a set amount of money from your bank account each month and set it aside for you. This can be an awesome way to make adding to your Christmas Budget a bit less stressful!

Christmas Budget Tip #2: Write Up A List of Who You Need To Buy For

Who are you buying for this year? It’s time to make a list of alllll your loved ones and decide who is getting a gift from you this year.

In addition, don’t forget teachers, extra tips for hairstylists, etc.

Basically, if you even *think* you will spend more money on this person than you ordinarily would the rest of the year, include them on this list.

Christmas Budget Tip #3: Decide How Much You Will Spend Per Person

Now it’s time to decide how much you want to spend on each individual. It might be a good idea to write down your ideal next to everybody’s name and then work backwards. After you have all of the dollar amounts written down, compare that to the number you worked out in step 1.

It it’s equal to, or less than, your set budget…great job!

If it’s more than your set Christmas budget, you have a few options. First option is to go back and start decreasing the amounts you will spend on each person.

You other option is to see tip #4!

Christmas Budget Tip #4: Do You Need To Make Extra Money?

Maybe you only need a bit more money to hit your Christmas budget! Or maybe, you realized on your current income, you can’t afford Christmas gifts at all!

I encourage you to check out the following posts to learn how you can make OR find more money to add to your Christmas Budget:

Baby Clothes: How To Save Money and How To Make Money
10 Ways to Make Living On One Income Easier
WMFW: Small Trickles Make A Stream (Make Money Online)
How to Shop a Thrift Store
How to Start a (Money Making) Mom Blog
10 Tips For Learning How to Use Coupons

Christmas Budget Tip #5 Start Shopping

Start shopping right away!

I post deals ALL YEAR LONG. I highly encourage you to create a gift closet! If you periodically stock your gift closet all year long, not only will it help you at Christmas time, but it can also help you with birthday parties, housewarming parties, baby showers, etc!

If you have specific ideas for what you want to get each person, be sure to join my Family Friendly Frugality facebook group to keep up with the deals I post each day. You can also email me directly to let me know what you are looking for a deal on!

10 Ways to Make Living On One Income Easier

 

Nowadays, living on one income is harder than ever. Most families simply don’t think they can make it work. Unfortunately, most are right! However, if you do need to live on one income (or you just want to financially live as if you are living on one income) here are some tips to make it easier!

Bargain Shop:

First and foremost, you will need to learn the art of bargain shopping! This includes knowing how to use coupons and how to follow sales. Here are some helpful articles to get you started:

You might also find it helpful to shop at thrift stores and clearance racks. Set aside a day a week to go peruse the clearance racks and thrift stores. You might ask your local stores when they have their restock days or markdown days. You can start to form a weekly schedule to go check out what is on sale.

You can get some amazing deals if you stay vigilent and stay ahead of the needs for your family (for instance, if you know your son has a program coming up next month that he’ll need a white shirt for…put that on your list now so you don’t have to pay full price at the last minute!).

Make food from scratch:

This is a big one. For the most part (and especially if you are cooking for a family), you will save a ton of money if you make most of your food from scratch. Pre-prepared meals or meals that you eat out will almost ALWAYS cost more than you can get away with spending if you make it from scratch at home. This does mean more work in the kitchen, but the money you save will be well worth it.

Here are some great from scratch recipes that your family might enjoy:

If you DO decide you need a night out every once in awhile, be sure you are following me on Facebook either on my page or in my group. I try to post good restaurant deals there whenever I see them!

Get a side hustle

Just because you are planning to live on one income does NOT mean you can’t earn some extra income from a side hustle! My side hustle is this blog (learn how to make money blogging here!).

Depending on  your skills, some options are:

  • Tutoring
  • Sell on Ebay
  • Freelance writing (check out Fiverr!)
  • Freelance Photography
  • Selling on Amazon
  • Babysitting

There are so many different ways to make money from home. You can do one thing or many things. Chances are, every little bit of extra funds you can bring in will help!

Live minimally

If you have less, you’ll find you need less. This one is a struggle for me in my already very cluttered household! The truth of the matter is, the more you have to store, the more expensive your lifestyle will be. Live with less and you will be able to live ON less.

To begin this new minimalist lifestyle, you should have a yardsale!

Build an emergency fund

I have written extensively about having an emergency fund and on it’s importance. This emergency fund will be used and it will need to be regularly replenished. If possible though, don’t go down to one income until you have this well funded.

If you are already down to one income and do not currently have an emergency fund, read this article for details on how to build yours up quickly.

Use cash instead of credit

This could also be called just living within your means. If you can responsibily use a credit card each month and pay it off (and earn the associated perks), by all means, you can continue to use your credit card.

If you have a habit of letting the month get away from you and just paying minimum payments on  your debt, I would strongly advise paying cash wherever you go. Don’t allow yourself to drown in debt!

Downsize where possible

Move to a smaller home. Purchase a less expensive vehicle. Go to the lowest cable plan. Whatever it takes to trim  your budget to be more manageable on one income…do it! You might be able to live on one income VERY comfortably if you just cut some costs by downsizing!

Constantly shop around

Make a phone date with your electricity, phone, cable, insurance, etc providers on a regular basis. Pay special attention to special rates and when they expire. Do not let yourself get caught “off contract” and paying some overly inflated market rate because you did not pay attention to your terms and contract dates.

Sometimes loyalty pays off, but sometimes it doesn’t. If another company can give you a comparable service/product, then jump ship. If loyalty is so important to the company you have been with for years and years, they will be able to match the quote. This alone can take HOURS of your time, but it is worth it for the savings!

Make a budget and stick to it

This should have probably been first! The only way you can be succesful living off one income (unless you have an endless amount of discretionary funds, in which case you are probably not reading this article!) is by budgeting!

I have written a whole series on budgeting, so rather than reinventing the wheel, just check out these posts:

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

Sacrifice

Finally, you just might have to sacrifice. You will need to decide if the sacrifices you need to make to be a one income household are worth it. Maybe you won’t have the hot new bag the second it goes on the market.

Maybe you won’t get to go on a fancy vacation every year, or even every 5 years! You and your family need to decide if the sacrifices necessary to maintain a one income lifestyle are worth the trade off of being/becoming a dual income household.

Do you have any tips/advice for anyone planning to transition to a one income household? Comment below!

 

The 5 Biggest Budgeting Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them!)

Do you ever make big mistakes managing your money? Read this post to avoid making these budget mistakes! Stop living paycheck to paycheck. These are the 5 BIGGEST Budget mistakes and tips that you might be making. If you are still struggling with living paycheck to paycheck (or just are not saving as much money as you think you should be), you’ll want to read this post to learn how to STOP making these budget mistakes!

Do you have a budget? You should! (Here’s why you should and how to  create one).

Maybe you have a budget but your budget and your reality don’t always sync up. Basically, your budget is your best laid plans and your reality is that your budget is just a bit of busy work that gets thrown out the window each month the moment you walk away! I feel like this sometimes. Like we spend all this time on our budget. Doing the dirty work, having the discussions, only to discard all of that effort on a whim.

Here are some reasons your budget might not be working for you:

Budget Mistake #1: You are not being realistic

Look, it would be GREAT if you could feed your family of 6 for $75 a week. That would be amazing! Just because it can be done (although I’d argue it shouldn’t be done longterm unless you have a rocking garden!) doesn’t mean you are doing it.

Let’s be honest about your shopping habits. Have you EVER walked out of your local grocery store spending less than $150 a week?

No?

Then budget $150 a week.

If you spend only $75, perfect! Throw that money into savings!

Let’s be realistic though. Don’t create a budget where you pretend you won’t need new clothing a few times a year.

Budget for clothes.

Budget for entertainment.

Budget for EVERYTHING.

Be realistic. Don’t back yourself into a corner where breaking up with your budget is really the only realistic option to continue to live your life. Even Dave Ramsey suggests everyone sets aside some “blow money” if you can manage it!

Budget Mistake #2: Not staying vigilant

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you have to be vigilant. You HAVE to keep revisiting your budget! Talking about it. Tweaking it. Keeping great records. Categorizing new expenses. Looking at it, period!

Budget Mistake #3: Not negotiating lower rates

Every year, certain companies love to jack up rates. They can do this because a huge percentage of people just accept it and pay the higher rate.

Don’t do this!

Your electric company raises rates? Call and request to go down to a lower rate. Shop around. Threaten to leave them, and actually LEAVE if you can find a better deal elsewhere! Don’t get stuck feeling like you are chained to your bills as if they are stagnate balls and chains. You have your non negotiables, but everything else is up for discussion.

Keep track of your rates in your budget planner and be sure to keep it updated so when you hear about a special, you can just take a quick glance at what you are currently paying. Here are some highly rated budget planners if you don’t already have one:

Budget Mistake #4: Not sticking to budgeted amounts

This plays into not being realistic. However, sometimes your numbers ARE realistic, you just aren’t sticking to them. Look, if you want to spend more money on clothes, and you are already budgeting a realistic amount each month to spend, then you either need to get another job, or start shopping at cheaper stores.

If you  budget to a $0 balance, straying from a budget amount means you are robbing another category of funds. Which basically throws everything off!

Budget Mistake #5: Not viewing the budget as a living breathing revolving set of guidelines

This seems kind of redundant. This falls a bit under vigilance and being realistic. Realistically, you have to remain vigilant so you can see when your budget needs revamping.

It WILL happen.

Your bills will go up, normal inflation, someone will lose a job, someone will get a raise, you will use a large chunk of your emergency fund. The budget is not stagnate and you need to understand that!

Once you do, the weekly/monthly discussions will be easier because you’ll have a more open mind about adjusting things where necessary.

Have you fallen into any of these budgeting mistake traps? Comment below!

Create a Budget: Staying Vigilant and Diligent

This is one of the most important but overlooked budget tips. You MUST stay on top of your budget at all times! Living on a budget does not mean that your money is set in stone. Your monthly bills will flucuate all the time! The ONLY way to stay on top of your budget is to have regular budget meetings. Read this post to learn how to stay on top of your budget. Don’t make this huge budgeting mistake! #budget #budgetbeginner #beginner #budgetideas #budgetmeeting #familymeetings

Okay, this is my least favorite step. Probably because it’s where the rubber meets the road. I’m great at big talk, but not so great at sticking to the implementation of things.

This is SO necessary though and it will make or break your budgeting success. You HAVE to look at your budget often. You HAVE to be willing to reevaluate as often as possible. You HAVE to keep good detailed records. The longer you put off looking at your spending/budget, the more out of control it will become.

At LEAST once a month, sit down (if you are married, sit down with your spouse!) and go over things.

Wow, looks like we spent a lot on groceries this month. Why? Oh, we had our yearly neighborhood BBQ! Well, that’s a yearly expense, we need to work that into our budget. Oh look, we spent a LOT on clothes this month. Let’s be sure we hold off on spending anymore next month unless absolutely necessary.

Have I told y’all how much I hate this step? Having these money discussions can be uncomfortable. They demand accountability for your spending actions. As a natural spender constantly fighting to be a “natural” at being frugal, sometimes this is an ugly ugly reality check for me.

Sometimes I find that I need to read something inspiring to get me in the mood to tackle our finances. Here are some of my favorite financial/budgeting books:

You also want to sit down and have a discussion if something big changes. Insurance goes up, you buy a new car, you bring a new pet into the home, you get a raise (yey!), someone stops working, someone starts working, etc.

During these meetings, you can also check in on your savings. How is your emergency fund doing? Are you getting closer to your goal of fully funding it? Is it already full funded? Does it need to be replenished? Are you saving for a vacation? Is there anything you can cut to save more aggressively?

Having these conversations on a regular basis can take the sting out of them! Set aside time for budget meetings and make sure they actually happen. Control your money, life is too short to let it control you.

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

Create a Budget: Using Your Prioritized Bills List To Begin Your Budget

In our previous step, you should have calculated your net income and created a list of prioritized bills separated by category.

Now it is time to start paying your bills!

Here’s where I am going to be kind of purposefully vague.

How you budget for your bills (weekly,monthly,yearly) is going to depend on your consistency of income. Ideally you will figure out your yearly expenses in each category and divide those up over 52 weeks. Then you can create a savings account (Read more about sinking funds here) and set aside the money every single week so that when it’s time to pay your property taxes/insurance/other yearly fees, you have been saving for that bill all year long.

However, this might not be realistic for some of you who earn money on commission or who have seasonal work. So you will need to figure out how you are going to do things and create your budget based on your particular circumstances.

Everyone is going to start from the top of their list and work their way down.

Sadly, you might find that you can’t make it to the bottom of your list! This means that your expenses are too high for your income and it’s time to cut things out (or get another job). You have already prioritized your expenses, so this should be simple (although it could be emotionally difficult), you just start cutting things out from the bottom and working your way up.

You might delightfully realize you DO have money left. This can go into savings! You can use this to start a vacation fund. Or a home improvement fund. If your bills are paid and you have money leftover, you SHOULD be saving this money if you have tallied up all of your expenses correctly.

Create your budget to balance at $0 after all bills are paid. This means YOU are in control of where every penny of your spending goes. Not a penny that comes in isn’t in a designated spot in your budget. Congratulations!

Onto the last step of budgeting!

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.