Question About Saving and Scrimping

Updated on June 18, 2009
K.S. asks from Fishers, IN
20 answers

I just had my 4th baby and am having extreme second thoughts about going back towork the middle of august. I am a preschool teacher who teaches only 2 days a wek from 8-2. I am torn b/c i don't want to be selfish. If we loose my income alot of extras for the kids will be gone. I reviewed our budget an dwe should be making it in my husbands salary but we have issues w/ blowing money.
What ways have you wrangled your finances and lived on the miniumu? thanks

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your suggestions - I have gotten away from Aldi's and spending just cash so thats back on board. We actually have already done the Dave Ramsey course - the biggest spenditure is eating out for my husband so that also will be reigned back in and cash only will work better. Also we have three cars and have been trying to sell at least one if not two of them so last month auto was well above the budgeted amount.
Again thanks for all the great suggestions........

Featured Answers



answers from Dayton on

It's already been said, but I can't recommend Dave Ramsey's Finacial Peace University high enough! It's awesome!!

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answers from Fort Wayne on

When I decided to become a SAHM, I knew I would have to cut out a lot of "fun" stuff. So we did. It's not hard. The kids don't need a ton of new toys or clothes all the time. We rarely go out to eat, and when we do, it's almost always buffet style where kids eat free (or at least cheap). If we happed to swing through a fast food rest, we eat off the dollar menu and no special kids meals for my daughter. If you do go out, only order water to drink. It's so crazy how much places charge you for soda! Buy generic brands at the grocery instead of name brands, they're usually cheaper. When you're out grocery shopping, look at the price per ounce or unit. That will tell you which "brand" is cheaper. Of course, use coupons for things that you need. Make your own baby food and use cloth diapers. The savings is amazing. Just go through your budget and cut out all the things you don't need. Start now and you'll know if you'll be able to live off one salary. Don't forget to figure in the money you'll be saving in gas and child care.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

My husband and I have been doing this for almost 10 years and its has been wonderful and not hard at all. We decided what the fixed cost were (mortgage, lights, water heat, daycare, car payment). whatever was left over was where we tweaked costs which is where we saved(groceries (our biggest one), fun money such as dinning out.
How we did it is we had X amt that was left over (lets say $1,000.00) We decided that $400 would go for groceries so we took out $400.00 CASH and put that in an envelope. If I needed groceries I would take whatever I needed from that envelope. (NO CREDIT CARDS)
I took this a step further and created a monthly menu for the family. I repeat the menu every month. Whats nice is you dont have the same boring things every week. In the beggining of the month I did one BIG shopping spree on groceries that cost about $300.00. the rest was my weekly visits for milk, fresh veggies or salad. Creating the monthly menu helped on us not eating out too.
we are only a family of 3 so its probably more managable than a family of 6.
The rest of the money we spent on other misc monthly expenses (bday gifts, car repair, car tags know all that junk that always comes up)
I wish you luck. This DOES work. It was really easy to do as well

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

Hi K.
I successfully run my business from home!!!! Do the research for yourself but I'm with a company that is almost 55 years old and going strong. We are the first company that is climate neutral and the #1 nutrition company in the country. We are also a company that trains educates and never leaves you alone to figure things out for yourself. I would be more than happy to talk to you and explain more. This could be the answer you're looking for.
Good Luck and I look forward to hearing from you.



answers from Indianapolis on

When I first started staying home, we used the envelope system. Get out the cash for each budget category each month, and put it in an envelope labeled for that category. Then when the cash is gone, you are done spending for the month. The first month may be a little rough, but you'll be surprised how quickly you adjust.



answers from Cleveland on


Don't worry about the extras for the kids being gone - they will love having more time with you, and the things you can do together, and the things you'll do for them that you probably don't have time for now (like baking cookies and stuff). When they grow up, they will remember your time together much more than anything you bought them because you were working.

Also, if you are not able to control the spending impulse, and can't follow the Ramsey idea of setting aside money to blow, and only blowing you have a friend or family member who is non-judgmental and can keep things to themselves?

The reason I ask is because I used to have a girlfriend who could not control her spending, but really wanted to save money for a downpayment on her first house. So, I helped her for six months by being her "money babysitter". When she would cash her paycheck, I would go with her. Then we'd buy a gas card that could only be used for gas, and a grocery store gift card that could only be used for groceries. She would write the checks for any utilities, car payment, cell phone, etc., and give anything left over to me. Then I would give her a small, but adequate amount for spending and save the rest. She was actually spending SO much money unnecessarily that it only took six months to come up with a 10% downpayment for her house. Do you have anyone that you would trust (or want) to do that? It's a very personal thing, so it's difficult for people to do. But I know that it really helped my friend when we did it.




answers from Cleveland on

Well you said it yourself, you have a problem blowing money. Keep track of every penny you spend. Even if it's DH hitting the soda machine at work. Once you know where your money goes you can see where you can cut back.



answers from Cleveland on

Hi K..

I decided after I had my first that I wanted to stay home with him. It hasn't always been easy but we try to do the little things that add up. Most of them others have mentioned already, but I do have a few other tips for you. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi's. I try to shop in advance for birthday and Christmas gifts when I find things on sale for a good price. I shop at the local consignment shop, Jelly Bean, to find deals on children's items. We don't have cable or a home phone. We borrow books and videos from the library and have cell phones. I like to make things from scratch. I make birthday cakes instead of buying them. (I took a cake decorating class at the library, which helped!) When we do go out to eat we try to go places that don't cost a lot, usually Subway, Ci Ci's, Chipotle or chinese. We're able to eat out as a family for less than $15 at each place (Two adults and two children.)

I also do things that I can do from home or make my own schedule (so we don't have to pay a babysitter.) I provide childcare in my home which brings in extra money each week. I also sell Cookie Lee Jewelry which is a fun way for me to get out for a few hours and my husband gets to spend time with the boys. I get to hang out with some women for a few hours and make money doing it! My husband and I are also Pre-paid Legal, Inc. Senior Associates. We make extra money sharing the awesome membership and income opportunity that Pre-paid Legal offers. If you're interested you can watch a short video at

Hope this helps! By the way, you won't be being selfish. When you're children get older they will be way more appreciative of the time that you devoted to them than a few extra toys or whatever!



answers from Kokomo on

We aren't 100% perfect at it, but here are a couple of ideas we have adopted:

We have followed Dave Ramsey's plan (for about 4 years now ( for the most part which has been life-changing. He suggests putting a "blow" category into your budget. You each get an alotted amount that you decide together each week and with that cash you are allowed to spend it on anything you want. Right now I only get $5 a week b/c things are so tight, but you would be amazed at how it curbs your spending. It still gives you the liberty to spend money within a reasonable amount.

Also, we put ourselves on "debit card time-outs" from time to time. When we see that we are swiping the debit card too much, then we leave them at home for a week or so. It is hard, but if you are budgeting correctly it shouldn't be impossible! ;)

Good luck - you can do it!!




answers from Cleveland on

We cut alot of our splurging after our first was born 5 years ago. We eat out only once a week and a movie...well, thats few and far between. I shop for food according to the sale fliers of our local grocery stores and we shop at Aldi as well (They have no overhead, so the prices are lower). I clip coupons and also get E mails from coupon websites. We paid off credit cards, buy used cars with cash and save when we can. It's not easy whenn we were used to splurging, but we disciplined ourselves and so, our kids are worth it.



answers from Columbus on

I think everyone's cutting back given the economy.
Keep eating out to a minimum, use coupons, pay off your credit card every month, cut back your cable/internet package, utilize netflix in place of going to the movies, take advantage of the weather~stay home (go to the park) instead of going places...there's a lot of seemingly "minor" cut backs you can take and actually save a lot. I think with 4 kids I would work those two days for your mental health! :)



answers from Indianapolis on

You have to become accountable for what you buy. Get rid of credit cards and the check book and take out a set amount of cash each month. Get an accordian-style folder (the size you use for coupons is good) and split up the cash between different things - food, essentials like clothes (but no buying just because you like it or it's on sale), gas, etc...Any time you buy something, put the receipt in the place you got the money from and keep a record of all purchases.
Agree that unless it's something you can't go without, you won't buy anything without discussing it with each other. And agree that unless it's an emergency, you won't take any extra money out of the bank, or from one designation to use for another (no taking cash from the gas fund so you can have McDonalds).
After a few months, you will be much better at budgeting and paying attention to what you're buying.



answers from Cleveland on

Hi K.,

I would recommend reading Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette books (hope I spelled her name right). she has many ideas.

Garage sales, hand-me-downs from friends/family, and thrift stores for clothing.

I also read a book from my La Leche League group library years ago that may be out of print by now, not sure. It was "The Heart has its own Reasons", about wanting to stay home with your kids. It had good ideas too about cutting expenses.

Plant a garden.

How do you afford child care while working and still make any money? or do your kiddos get to come to the preschool with you? Remember that if you stay home you will reduce work-related expenses and that will help.

Good luck

K. Z.



answers from Dayton on

Hi K.,

The first thing I would do is go back and look at your budget and see what you could cut out if you were to cut things to the bone. For instance, if you changed your cell phone plan to fewer minutes, or if you went to basic cable instead of digital (don't know if you have any of that stuff but you get the general idea), do you have a dvr, do you pay for long distance on a home phone when you have unlimited on your cell phone and so forth. Then when you cut it all out, see how much money is left and how much of what things you can afford to add back in.

One thing that has made a change for us is the way we buy groceries. I make a menu for every meal including snacks. Then I only buy what is on that list plus cleaning essentials. I agree about using generic or store brand anywhere you can. I learned really fast not to be married to a brand. I can feed all of us including snacks (and thats two adults and 5 children) for about $500/month and that includes diapers, wipes, cleaning supplies, toiletries and all that. We don't buy frozen waffles, but instead I make pancakes in advance and freeze them. We don't buy fancy snacks. We buy apples, bananas, graham crackers. We only buy name brand when it is on sale for cheaper than store brand and we love coupons.

Hope this helps,




answers from South Bend on

I cannot recommend Dave Ramsey enough. His program on money is amazing and has done amazing things for everyone who tries it. Check the library for Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace.



answers from Cincinnati on

There are loads of freebies which help with incomes. I know you can cut back we have., Neither of us have been able to work for years and live on FS and cash assistance of $115 a month. We lost everything over a year ago. My childhood home for one. I go to resale shops Goodwill and St Vincent De paul stores. Also I go to food banks and clothing banks. I am also on Freecycle which is a group off yahoo. Can get some reall great stuff there. I don't buy books or movies any more ( that was my passion) I go to the library. Start a movie exchange with friend and family. We do that also. If you have a car note consider trading it in for an older chjeaper car or keeping it when it's paid off and lowering the insurance.
What about watching children in your own home. So many do that now. I was one for a while but when my health got worse she terminated me withoiut warning. Also your clothing needs will be different when your home. Less gas and up keep on a second car. Unless you were brown bagging already for work food expense will be lower. Have the children help with budjeting extra things let them understand incase if they don't that it takes so much money to visit the zoo or Kings Island and where doi we get the extra from. If you must go to the movies take avantage of coupons and afternoonb showings as they are usually cheaper. Instead of eating out. Have a picnic at home and sit on the floor on a blanket.



answers from Cleveland on

The best way that I know to learn how to save is by coming up with the monthly budget, what is the normal amount of money that you spend on bills. If you find that you spend money because you have your debit card or credit card with you, then buy gift cards at your local supermarket for the different types of stores that you spend money at. You'll learn to save money also if the current balance of your account is on your mind before you shop.



answers from Indianapolis on

We cut out renting movies, we borrow them from the library. We quit going to fast food restaurants. Bike rides, picnics, trail walks, croquet, family ball games, trips to a pool when they lower the rates (like once a month), back yard camp outs, and playing in the sprinkler and a yard pool took the place of a lot of other activities. We learned to play board games, card games, charades, and put together puzzles and the winner got to pick out a special dessert. We baked together instead of buying cookies. We learned to make pizzas at home instead of buying them. We got rid of the cable type TV and started reading together as a family. We planted a small garden and grew things like beans, peas, etc., and learned to weed it together. We had weeding contests in the yard and the one who pulled the most clover, plantain, and dandelions got to pick out a special thing for everyone to do on Friday night as a family. Find some other SAHM's and plan days at the park together, maybe a once a month trip to the zoo or a musuem and watch for the "cheap days".
Little things like those can save a lot of money. So can making sure you turned off the lights etc.
You may find you actually need the few hours you are teaching to make yourself better about yourself and keep in contact with other adults after a year or so of not having that time, but you can always go back into it if you would like too.
Good luck.



answers from Cleveland on

K., I am also a mom of 4 kiddos. I know saving can be hard. The one piece of advice I will throw out is to see if you have a farmers market in your area. I go ever monday to one that is about 15 minutes away. I can buy veggies, fruit, lunch meat, dinner meat cheese, and bread to last until the following monday for about 75$. The only things i have to get at the store are milk, cereal and any canned goods. I can usually budget on 100$ a week (and i am not a coupon user). I live in the middle of the city, but just a short drive away is a farm area. Good luck :-)



answers from Fort Wayne on

I suggest investing in a deep freeze and storage cabinet. When things are on sale that we use quite a bit, I buy it up and store it away. I also only buy foods that are sale and ones that I normally use. I only shop at discount food stores and buy generic whenever I can. I keep a calculator in my purse and run the numbers for the cheapest (and healthier) options for meals per pound, ounce or serving. Things that I always buy on sale are chicken, beef, lunch meats and bread. Those are easily stored without much extra re-packaging for the freezer. Canned foods are really easy to stock up on and just put into the pantry.

When I make meals, I always make extra for leftovers. I try to use those ingrediants in multiple different recipes during the week or freeze the remaining amounts.

I have also gotten into picking my own fruits and veggies. There are usually multiple areas in town that offer the ability to pick strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, green beans, etc. You usually pay maybe a 1/4th or less compared to store prices. We put them in freezer bags or vacuum seal for packages that will be used longer than 3 months into the future.

I find that myself and my kids are more likely to make health food choices if they are easy to grab out of the fridge or out of the pantry. I keep multiple snacks in baggies in the fridge and in a "snack box" near the pantry. The kids know exactly what snacks they can have between meals. Plus, when I am short on time or energy, several snacks can be used as meals. Also, by keeping them ready to eat, I find that less fruits and veggies are wasted due to becoming soggy or moldy. I put keep regrigerated foods into ready-to-eat servings in baggies such as salad, carrot sticks, grapes, orange slices, apples, cheese cubes, etc. I also keep sandwiches and serving sized bowls of leftovers in the fridge. That makes it easier for quick meals, lunches or snacks. I always keep this as part of my "after dinner" cleaning up process... to separate leftovers into serving sizes for quick meals.

I would schedule time for going out to eat, movies and other entertainment items and stick to those times, so you do not spend outside of your budget.

Perhaps try to buy school clothes ahead of time. You could try shopping at second-hand stores or garage sale-ing. Many times when I go shopping, I find items that look brand new and some still with tags. Other things are a bit more used, but they are okay to use as play clothes and gym clothes for kids. If shoes are not worn out, I try to fix them up so they are more comfortable and look new. I have used shoe polish on imitation and real leathers. I have used Clorox 2 for Colors on shoes to brighten them up from the dingy and dusty look. I put the Clorox 2 directly on the stains and soak them in a gallon of water with the detergent dissolved in the water... perhaps up to line 2 on the Clorox 2 cup. I have used this method on shirts that do not look as white, grass stains, blood, etc. and then stains come all out or definitely look much lighter. Shoes are brightened up. I wash the shoes to get the Clorox 2 out. Sometimes I wash them twice to get any odors out. Then I buy shoe inserts and remove the old insoles. That helps the odor and gives a renewed lift to how it wears.

I try to get my kids to wear different shoes for different reasons. They have shoes to wear to gym, shoes for school, and play shoes. Play shoes are generally the ones worn out from school or gym.

When I know my kids want certain name brand clothes, and I know I cannot normally afford them... I will take them shopping to try them on for sizes. Then I go online and find deals. Many times if you go to online stores or the online name brand store, you can find discounts. When my kids like the same brands, sometimes that makes it a bit cheaper to buy online because there are discounts for buying over a certain amount or buying more than 1 pair.

I also make lists of what I need or want before going shopping. I restrict buying to exactly what is on the list. If it isn't, then I write it down. If I still want it the next day or the next time when I go out, then I will go back and buy it. I realized that I spend at least an extra $20 on impulse items each time I shop. I always think that spending an extra couple bucks doesn't make a real difference, but it adds up over a month and a year. That money can be saved for summer trips, activities for the kids, special date-nights for you and hubby, etc.

I also make want and needs lists for family members and friends that like to buy my family gifts. I let them know about the things that I cannot, or will not, buy for the kids... such as the really expensive name brands or a new game for their X-Box, etc. I let them know the kids need underwear, socks, shoes, a new school bag, or whatever. In this way, others have the opportunity to get them new things... which most family members tend to do... kids are happy that they get those things... and it helps to keep your spending budget down.

Also, my mom used to have a budget for new school clothes each fall. We knew we had so much money. My brother often wanted all name brands. He ended up with like 3 pants, 5 shirts and two pairs of shoes. I shopped around at second hand stores, outlets and looked for sales. I always got between 14 to 28 outfits out of my funds. I learned how to shop, save and budget at a very early age.

Also, I would encourage the kids to do small chores to earn money. They can earn their allowance, if they get one. They can offer to help neighbors mow the lawn, rake leaves, pick up sticks, pick weeds out of their garden-patrio, trimming bushes in landscaping, babysit, dog walking or indoor chores like sweeping or dusting another person's house, etc. You can help the kids learn responsibility, take pride in their efforts, build their character, build networking-socialization skills, manage time and manage money through work and relationships with others.

You can have the kids put a percentage of their earnings-allowance into a fund. This fund can be split to save for college, a special trip or event, spending money for entertainment, etc.

Keeping the kids involved in multiple activities also helps keep them out of trouble. They learn to have fun in whatever they are doing and do well at whatever they attempt. Kids can try to take responsibility for themselves and help out the family. We all must work together to keep the family going. I do not feel that parents should take on every responsibility themselves and not have kids try to build a work ethic. If you do not want them earning money in that light, you could have them commit to volunteering as well. This helps them learn and build the same skills as well as building compassion and acceptance of others.

Other ways to help out are building a budget. Often our checks are deposited directly into our bank accounts. I think this is great because we can determine where the money goes without putting direct effort into it. You can have money deposited into multiple accounts (through services at your workplace) or by using transfers at your bank. I put a specific amount of money into separate accounts for utilities and rent, another amount of money into a grocery and entertainment account, a savings account for school bills and school items and the regular checking account for extraneous items. You can have online banking systems automatically pay rent, mortgage, utilities and some entertainment expenses directly out of accounts. Since the money is directly deposited or transferred, all of these things take care of themselves. You do not have to worry about paying those bills or spending over your budget, because you do not access those accounts with your checking or VISA Check card. You always have the option of manually transferring money online if there's too much or too little in the budgeted accounts for bills. In this way, you cannot spend over your budget because once it's gone... it's gone. For example, there's no entertainment for the rest of the month if you spent all the budget in week one.

I also suggest looking at how much you spend on extra items such as junk food, soda, small toys or whatever. You might find that you could reduce that amount by drinking more water, using a water bottle, buying small toys from the Dollar Store or a second hand store, limiting how much or how often junk food is bought, car pool for children's activities. You might consider going through your closets and finding old clothes and toys. You could sell them on, CraigsList, yahoo groups for sales in your area, second hand stores, etc. Also, I have started going to the library to borrow DVD's, VHS, games and books. Kids like the activities and looking around. It's all free, so it's worth checking out. Around here we have a company called RedBox. They have movies... even new releases, that are only a dollar a day! We rent them. If we like them, sometimes my friend will give me a copy of theirs or make a copy for me.

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