Experiencing God’s faithful provision for our dining table challenge further instilled my perspective in the other areas I contribute to our household finances. With the power of persuasion, I might have been able to talk my husband into that table, but I chose to accept defeat and find an alternative without compromising our budget. Instead of using the power of persuasion, I opted to operate under the power of wisdom. As the women of our homes- we are by nature- the homemakers. Whether you work or stay at home, it is safe to say you perform the majority of the tasks that keep your home running like a well-oiled machine. We take weekly inventory of the household needs, we typically plan the meals and do the grocery shopping, oversee the decorating, buy the clothing items for ourselves, husband and children, and the list goes on!
After Jesse and I decided it would be my role to stay home, reality quickly hit that saving was no longer optional-it was necessity! My task was to learn how to save money even in the simple ways, which can easily be overlooked and may seem insignificant, but actually makes all the difference. But before we could create strategy in areas of savings, we first had to evaluate our spending. Jesse and I began by keeping every receipt and listing every purchase made over the course of one month. We tracked every coffee purchased, gas for our cars, entertainment, grocery shopping- EVERYTHING! For the first time, we had a clear picture of where our money was going each month- and it was eye opening. After reviewing our spending habits, we could easily figure out where our money was being spent and that knowledge pinpointed us to the exact areas in which we could save.
Some of my methods of financial budgeting may not be groundbreaking news, but they have stood the test of time and have proven over and over again to remain effective- I am testimony to that!
Here are my top 10 ways to contribute financially without earning a cent!
- Make a Grocery List and Stick to It. “The plans of the diligent lead to profit” (Proverbs 21:5). Sounds simple, right? But this actually requires a degree of self-discipline! If we do not go into the store prepared to buy what we need, will likely buy anything that sounds good and easily go overboard and over budget. If you still struggle with impulse buying, bring cash only to the grocery store and leave your cards and checks at home. You will be forced to only purchase what your cash value allows.
- Break Up with Cable. I know this is a close relationship for most Americans, but considering that the vast majority of things on TV are not very edifying and offer no greater purpose in life, we chose to break ties with our commitment to cable. But instead of completely saying farewell to TV, we decided to purchase an Apple TV and Netflix. The Apple TV was a one- time purchase that allows us to stream live TV, while Netflix is a monthly subscription of $10/month. So we still reap some of the benefits of watching TV, but on our own terms, so to speak. Not only has this decision allowed our family the availability to spend more time together, but we now save over $1,300 per year without cable. We thought it was going to be a huge feat, but honestly- we do not miss it!
- Collect Coupons. Think even outside the box of grocery shopping. If you search online and mail ads, you can discover coupons for recreational events, clothing, household items, take- out food, you name it! I once witnessed a customer in front of me at the check-out who had so many coupons, she actually got paid by the store for her purchases at the end of the transaction- I believe I witnessed a miracle that day. I do not profess to be one of those extremists, but why not save on every day purchases if it only requires us to utilize elementary skills with some scissors?
- Cook More and Eat out Less. “She (the Wife of Noble Character) gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family” (Proverbs 31:15). When Jesse and I were first married, I seldom cooked. We ate out for almost all our meals. When the Lord prompted my heart to stay home, I knew I had to turn over a new leaf in this area and limit take-out to maybe twice a month. Learning how to cook was a challenge of trial and error, but it has been beyond a rewarding experience. The nostalgia to sit with your family to a home-made meal is something to never take for granted- it will amaze some families what sitting together for a meal can do in a household.
- Shop Outlet Stores, Consignment Shops & Garage Sales. “The prudent gives thoughts to their steps” (Proverbs 14:15). Buying clothing and necessities for a family can be expensive, but sometimes changing where you shop makes all the difference. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to sacrifice quality on a humble budget. Instead of buying shoes at the mall, our family went to the Nike outlet and purchased all new Nike tennis shoes for our whole family for $100. You can barely afford one pair of Nike’s from department shoe stores with that budget. Children are hard on clothes, so consider buying at least play clothes items at a consignment shop, rather than pay full price for clothing that will ultimately become decorated with spaghetti sauce and finger paint. And like our dining table blessing, consider shopping at re-sale stores or garage sales for your furniture and household needs- furniture loses value quickly, so don’t spend a fortune.
- Eliminate Extras. “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Proverbs 13:11). Oftentimes, even the small expenditures in our lives make up a big difference in the grand scheme of budgeting. For instance, let’s say you buy a Grande Starbucks coffee Monday through Friday. This “little” purchase adds up to about $90/ month. Think of the possibilities if you re-direct that money to your savings instead. Opt for making coffee or tea at home and use a travel mug, if you’re on the go. Gym memberships are another area of extras, because you can exercise without a gym. Buy let’s be honest, running outside year round in Ohio’s inclement weather does pose a motivational challenge. Jesse and I decided while physical fitness was important (I’m married to a coach, after all), working out at a premier gym didn’t have to be a major monthly expense. So you may want to consider shopping around for a more feasible gym membership.
- Shop Around. “She (the Wife of Noble Character) is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar” (Proverbs 31: 14). I know what shopping is like with kids. I am pretty sure the term “pulling my hair out” originated from a mother taking her kids shopping. But sometimes limiting yourself to making purchases in one store could be more costly. Some items are simply cheaper at other stores- even with coupon discounts. I have tested this theory and discovered shopping at multiple stores saves my family an average of $20/week. Do not underestimate the power of small savings! That adds up to almost $1,000 a year.
- Budget-Wise Entertainment. Keeping kids entertained on a budget can be difficult- to say the least- but not an impossible mission. For instance, the Cleveland Zoo offers free admission on Mondays if you are a resident of Cuyahoga County, so our family treks to our local zoo on Mondays to take advantage of this opportunity. But if you live outside this range, consider other local places to enjoy family time- dollar theaters are an economical alternative to paying for the overpriced movie experience at traditional theaters. Even roller-skating rinks and bowling alleys offer community or family night discounts. The key is to do your research and find what savings await!
- Limit Advertisements. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). This is easier said than done in a society where ads are everywhere! Although I openly profess my love for HGTV, I had to limit my exposure to it. Every time I would watch a show, I either glowed with inspiration for an idea or felt green with envy. It was as if everything in my home suddenly became hideous and I felt compelled to just gut the whole house and start from scratch. I want my house to look beautiful, but thankfully, my family does not require an HGTV worthy house to come home to.
- Stay out of Debt. “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it! Revolutionary- I know! But it is a wonderful practice of discipline to avoid financing at all cost. Of course- this is a bit unrealistic for larger purchases, such as funding for college or a house. But try to practice patience even in the smaller areas of spending. If you really want something- save for it first. It goes completely against the grain in the way most Americans operate, but Jesse and I have probably learned the most from this lesson. It truly gave us a new insight on life- what’s really important and how much do we really need those earthly things we think we need? Considering I do the vast majority of the shopping, I play a huge role in maintaining debt.
As a homemaker, you may not be contributing with a second income, but do not assume you have no influence in your household finances. Our heavenly Father designed you and me to play an intricate role to help our husbands by making wise decisions with the resources He has provided. I want to encourage and challenge you to evaluate your spending habits. Pray and ask God for wisdom to make good spending choices, discipline to resist impulsive buying and increasing debt, and learn contentment with what you have already been blessed with.
The Humble Homemaker