Need Budget Tips Please!!

Updated on March 22, 2010
J.M. asks from Fox River Grove, IL
11 answers

Hi mamas,

I am going on maternity leave soon and really need some penny pinching tips that we could use. When I write our budget down on paper (and it is totally realistic) we should end up with like 700 dollars at the end of the month. However, that never happens and we are having to not spend any money for like the last 5 days of the month every singe time because the account is almost empty. Its like 30 dollars here, 20 dollars there and it kills us every time. So ANY ideas you guys have - about food, activities, utilities - ANYTHING would be appreciated. The one thing I know I will not ever be successful at is cutting coupons - no matter how hard I try I always fail after like 2 times. So besides coupons do you have any other ideas?? Thanks!!!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I feel you! In order for me to stay home we have to stick to a strict budget! The key for us, is to take out the cash at the beginning of the month and just use that. We remember to take out money for gas, extras, eating out, groceries, and the cat! This way we can really see where it's going, how fast and what we have left. If you only have a certain amount with can't spend more. In a few cases, we needed more than we had budgeted in an area, but since we had managed to save some, it was OK. We try also to budget according to holidays and birthdays to have separate money for that too. Hope this helps! We've been doing it a couple years and it really works for us!
Good luck.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Hi Jamie,
This is totally my area! I was a single mom for 13 years and had it down! Yes, I used coupons and it was very successful for me. You can pay only $1 for your regular brand deodorents and get some other really great deals.

For food, if it is something I can go generic on than I do it. We had mac & cheese last night with garlic bread. I am very picky about my tomato sauce, so I had to get my brand there, but I bought any brand diced tomatoes and drained the juice and threw it in there. You just have to watch for more stem buds in a generic can. The Texas toast will be toasted and not used for a sandwich, no one will taste the difference once it is toasted, that was generic too. I saved about a $1 on the toast. A dollar here and there really makes the difference. I would say I save anywhere from $5 to $8 dollars per shopping trip from a spendy full blown brand name trip. That is about $28 a month.

I used to give everyone their own piece of meat, but noticed I could use less meat in a casserole. I can serve 3 - 5 people off two pieces off two pieces of boneless chicken in a casserole. After a while I realized no one eats their entire piece of meat when serving steak or chicken breasts. I cut them into smaller pieces and we have plenty left over for the next day. If it is just my husband and I, I only buy or cook one piece of meat and we are just fine. My hubby is a big 6'2" guy.

Try finding nice jeans on Ebay for the kids or even yourself. I was just at my friends house and she received two pairs of jean shorts for her little girl and said she paid next to nothing for them.

You may want to place a request here on mamasource for anyone who has clothes in your childs size that they don't need or want to sell for cheap. I responded to someone who asked and just took the clothes to her and gave it to her for free. You never know, people sometimes just donate it and if someone needs it then just give it away. In return, announce your childs outgrown clothes and do the same.

Don't get your small children accustomed to designer clothes. There will be time enough for that. No one really looks at the brand of your 2 - 7 year olds clothes. They just need play clothes and one or two dress up clothes per season.

If possible buy bulk rather than individual prices. Bulk is usually cheaper. Just make sure it will last. For pizza night I buy Costco frozen pizza or their fresh pizza. I don't dig pizza like I used to so I don't have a major preference.

In our house, bottled waters are for "on the go". If I place them in the refrigerator, they will drink them ALL! So I only put them in the frige when we are going somewhere.

I changed the thermostat. I now have a preset digital thermostat. It goes way down when we are away and resets the temperature when we are due to return back to the house. This has made quite a difference in our power bill from my year to year graph.

GAS prices, ew! I am purchasing a small used car for running around. I can't ride a bike, for one thing I live in Vegas and it is not safe, but I also have a baby to tote around. A small car will do just fine. I have done everything possible to reduce my trips or make one round trip. when I can I call and change my appointments to all be in one day and one round trip. It also makes my day a little easier.

My husband will not use pocket change. I pick it up right behind him and if possible, I will give a store clerk $3 in quarters and then pay the rest of the bill. Most places are able to enter cash and then provide your balance that you can place on a debit card (or whatever).

Take a look at your budget and see what or who is causing you trouble. It is amazing how much money you can save when you budget right.

Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi Jamie M.
Having raised 9 kids I had plenty of "slender spending" occasions. I wrote out the menus for 2 weeks at a time on the family calendar. This would need to take into account practice days, church activities, like pot lucks, etc. Then I would plan my grocery shopping list and purchase the items needed to prepare those meals minus the items I already had on hand. My pantry usually was stocked with only the basics, flour, sugar, rice, pasta and baking items like baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. This was also a good time for me to learn to make a lot of things from scratch. I made noodles, graham crackers, tortillas, pizza dough, breads, rolls, english muffins, and many other things. Just being able to prepare some of these items is good in case you are out of it sometime. But I found they usually taste much better then store-bought also. Some of our recipes to stretch a meal became "family favorites" many years later. One recipe I'll give you: Rice and Gravy. One pound ground beef or turkey, 2 Pkgs brown gravy mix (when they are .50 ea) otherwise mix beef bouillon with water, 3 cups rice in 6 cups water with a little oil in the water. Brown meat and drain. Then add 3 cups water with 3-4 Tab. bouillon and cornstarch(enough to thicken)(Mix well. Use a wisk or shake some water, bouillon, and corstarch in jar first before adding to meat mixture. At same time bring 6 cups water with drop of oil to boil and add 3 cups rice. Stir, bring to boil again, then cover and reduce heat and simmer about 20 min or until rice is tender but does not stick to pan. Pour gravy mixture over scoop of rice, enjoy with fresh cooked carrots, & green salad. Also if your town has farmer's markets that you are able to purchase economical and very fresh produce. We also grew a garden. Zucchini, tomatoes, carrots, raddishes,strawberries, crookneck squash are pretty easy. You don't need a lot of space. Container gardening is a good place to start too. Friends with childen older would give my kids hand me downs. My kids also would go to thrift shops to find things they liked. My Daughters still are bargain shoppers today. Good luck, I know you can do it! D. K.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My advise is to limit your visits to retail establishments. If you have free time, go for a walk, go to the park, visit a neighbor, friend, or relative and have a cup of tea.

Have a cash only policy and plan what you are going to buy before you go to the store. Debit and credit cards encourage over spending. So just stay out of the stores! Fill your time with people and and the outdoors.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Most the time my hubby does the shopping. I'm too much of an impulse shopper and get stuff we really don't "need." Needing and wanting are two very different things I have to tell myself.
Do have enough things on hand for meals. If the fridge is full, it's hard to justify going out to eat.
Take only cash with you out so you know what you have to spend.
You can freeze credit/ATM cards in a cup of water so it's out of the way for everyday use and easliy accesible for emergencies.
Start on your budged now and bank the extra $$ for things that could happen unexpectedly.



answers from Los Angeles on

My husband, 2 kids and I always end up spending more money on food because we shop like mad at the grocery store, don't use everything and end up throwing a lot out. We also eat out in the middle of the week.

What has worked for us in this area is making a weekly menu and sticking to it. That way, I can save all around- like eating leftovers and packing lunches. For example, I can cook a whole chicken on Monday and we eat soup. I can use the leftover chicken meat the next day to make enchiladas, then it's quesadillas on Wed, etc. I've also found that it's cheaper to eat veggies and fruits than it is to eat meat and bread. Of course, my husband wasn't terribly happy about this- he's a meat eater! So, I've just made sure to always have a salad with dinner and some cut fruit for dessert. That way, he can fill up and isn't hungry.

Along the same lines, we make a list of things we need and try to stick to it when we shop, especially at Target. I find that I need one item, and almost always walk out of the store spending $50+ dollars. So, lists are useful.

Best of luck,



answers from Reno on

I have just found a company that you can purchase almost all of your household items, like cleaning supplies, laundry deterent, toothpaste, etc online. It is not only a little bit more convienent but the prices are great compared to the name brands you buy at the store. It also saves you from going to the store and purchasing the items that you might not need. If you would like to know more about them please call me at ###-###-#### or email me at [email protected] I hope things are getting better because I know exactly how you are feeling. I am in a similiar situation.



answers from San Diego on

There is a program called Golden Share foods. Look up the website or a church near you may host it. You can get great grocery deals. I have used it for years and the food is always top quality. I don't have a paper at the moment but if you message me I can look up the one near you. They have a sale after the delivery and I go to that to pick up this and that extras. It is out in east county, El Cajon.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi J.M. I would recommend checking out this blog: It's a personal finance blog that deals a lot with budgeting, frugal lifestyles, bargains, coupons, etc. I think it sticks out because it's run by a mom. She just posted this post the other day about being a mom in the working world

I've found it really inspirational, so I hope you get as much out of it as I have!



answers from Los Angeles on

I am/was also, but I have learned over the years to budget to make my money last. At the beginning of the month when I get paid I have seperate envelopes for the various expenses. I have laminated the envelopes so that they last and I could reuse them. 1 envelope for food, utilities, clothing, etc. I also keep an evelope for entertainment and vacation. The vacation money I don't use on a monthly basis, but it adds up for the summer time. This way you have a set $ amount for each area and I can budget easily. This way I can keep track of how much I started with and how much I have throughout the month. This has really helped me curve my speding and to distribute it accordingly. Good luck, budgeting is not easy and if at first you don't succeed, don't give up and try again.



answers from Reno on

It's funny you mention coupons because I thought I could NEVER do it but after spending $200 week on groceries ALONE and now I spend about $100 a month or LESS I found a way to start clipping coupons. Go to they're wonderful there and teach you how to get your groceries for cheap or FREE. It's been so great since we just can't cut back anywhere else and now we have more money for family activities, etc.

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