I remember the day Emily and I had less than $100 to our name. I remember renting that HUD Housing apartment for $275 a month. I remember fine dining being buying something from Taco Bell that wasn’t on the 29 cent menu. Fortunately, times have changed.
Maybe someday I’ll share about my philosophies about providing for my family. Until then, here’s the other side of the coin. Financial security begins with discipline. For Emily and I, we’ve made the decision that giving 10% or more of our income to the church and then saving 10% or more will come first. With that, we’ve had to be disciplined with the remaining 80% or less.
We’ve had a family budget since the early days of our marriage. We still have a family budget. Here are some current examples of how our family is intentional about spending less so we’re in a better position to do more:
- Avoid eating out. It costs us anywhere from $25 (Chik-Fil-A) to $50 (Applebee’s) to feed our family when we eat out. When we eat dinner at home, it’s only about $6 per meal for our family of 6.
- Buy used cars. We haven’t had a car payment for seven years, but I’ve never owned a new car either. We’ve committed to having no debt with the exception of our home.
- Pay off credit cards every month. Avoid interest expenses at all costs. That means planning ahead for emergencies and saying “no” to the stuff we really don’t need.
- Eliminate the telephone landline. This probably saves us about $400 per year now. We just use our mobile phones at home. We also shop around to save money on cell phone plans, insurance, utilities, etc.
- Refinance your house. If you’re planning on staying in your home for a year or more, now’s a great time to either lower your monthly payment or reduce the term of your mortgage. Either way, you’re paying less money on interest. That’s the goal.
- Use Vanguard for investments. Start with money market accounts then graduate to stocks and bonds. Saving money can become fun especially when you use a company like Vanguard that helps you save more of your money by keeping investment costs low.
- Shop at T.J. Maxx. You can get name-brand clothes at a fraction of the cost. One of our favorite dates now is hunting through the racks at T.J. Maxx looking for bargains on clothing.
- Use the library. Books, music and movies are essentially free. Ask for Killing Cockroaches. If they don’t have it, they can get it through the interlibrary loan program.
- Vacation off season. We shop VRBO.com for a condo that ends up being cheaper than a hotel room right on the beach. The same condo costs four times more during the peak season.
- Share date nights. Watch your friends’ kids one week and then let them watch your kids the next week. That means you have free babysitting twice a month.
- Carpool and share rides. We save gas and on vehicle wear and tear (and time) by sharing rides with neighbors and friends. With four kids going in four different directions, that adds up.
- Use sale ads and shop with a list. Our family of 6 spends less than $500 per month on combined groceries, paper products and health and beauty needs. (And with a face like mine, H&BA’s are essential.)
- Be responsible. Avoid late fees in every area, drive the speed limit and don’t buy double of something because you forgot you had it.
- Don’t own a pet. Even the fish that won’t die is costing us money we could spend on something else. Your kids don’t need a dog to learn responsibility. That’s a lie.
These are decisions we’ve made. Our decisions don’t need to be your decisions. However, I would encourage you to build a similar list and stick with it. Discipline in all areas of life leads to freedom. Because we’re disciplined with our finances in lots of areas, we have freedom to spend money in some areas that you don’t.
If you think President Obama and our government are going to bail you out, you’re in for a rude awakening. The bailout will never arrive. That’s not a political statement. That’s reality.
By practicing the disciplines of giving, saving and spending less, though, you can win financially.