Wednesday, August 22, 2018

You Can Learn Quite A Bit During Periods Of Financial Stress

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have experienced tough financial times. Maybe it was short term. Maybe it was long term. Regardless, during those times, several things happen. You become aware of what you're spending. You learn the fine art of budgeting. You cut out unnecessary expenses like take-out and pricey date nights. You cook more meals at home. You embrace frugality. More so, you probably realize that your previous spending habits were a little out of control.

In early 2012, we were renting a guest house of sorts from a dear friend. At the time, Lisa had some monthly financial obligations that she was paying. We were assisting my Mom financially. We were doling out expenses for our wedding in July of that year. And, we were looking for a new home. Our goal was to move within the next few months.

Lisa got in touch with a realtor that June. Within a week, she found our home. Both of us were shocked. We didn't think she'd find a place for us so soon. But, she's great at her job. We signed the papers and moved into our home on July 12, 2012.

Finances were tight. Thankfully, we got a small loan to cover the expenses of moving in. But, we still had to fork out the remainder of the expenses for our wedding and settling into our new home.

After our wedding, and through the remainder of 2012, finances were tight. In addition to paying back the loan, we adopted Coco. He was very sick at the time. His medical expenses were through the roof.
However, we made it work.

Since then, we've had some tough months, but we made it through with flying colors.


Because we lived. We learned. And, we embraced the benefits of being broke and living on a tight budget.

Wait. What?

There are benefits of being broke?


1. Ditch the take-out. It takes less than 5 minutes to skim a menu and order dinner via phone or app. It saves you from having to stop at the grocery store. And, you won't have to deal with making dinner and doing the dishes. But, you're going to pay a hefty price for that convenience. Spending $25 or more for take-out several nights a week can add up.

2. Instead, make homemade meals and snacks. Instead of relying on take-out a few nights per week, we treat ourselves to take-out or a dinner out once a month. The rest of the time, I make homemade dinners. I always make enough for Lisa's lunch the next day. This also extends to snacks. Several times a week, I whip up a batch of cookies, homemade coffee cake, muffins, quick bread, and fruit squares for Lisa's work lunches. By doing this, we save about 50% off our food expenses per month.

3. Utilize what you already have. You don't need brand-new-everything. Repurpose what you have. A couple of years ago, we repurposed our old entertainment center into a combined entertainment center and dog nappy nook. Instead of paying over $150 for a new entertainment center, we spent $20 on paint and primer. We utilized wood and fabric that we already had. The finished product came out awesome.

4. Shop the sales. Back in 2012, we got really familiar with our local grocery stores. Their sales. Coupons. Perks. We signed up for their weekly ads and digital coupons. This has saved us up to and over 50% on our grocery bill per week. It helps out a lot because not only do we make homemade meals and snacks for us, we make them for our kids too.

5. Plan meals around fresh and seasonal produce. We go through a lot of produce in our home between Lisa, the kids and me. We plan our meals around seasonal produce. We also utilize the abundance of fresh produce that our neighbor family shares with us. It goes a long way.

6. Stock up. Occasionally, one of our local grocery stores has their Buy 1 Get 2 Free sale. We stock up on the essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, dish detergent, fabric softener, etc. In addition, we usually have coupons to stack onto those savings.

Also, during the Buy 1 Get 2 Free sales, we stock up on pasta, lean meats, beans, crushed tomatoes, and other healthy foods that I use for our homemade meals.

7. Electricity. We are much more aware of the electricity we use. If we're not in a specific room, that light doesn't need to be on.

During the cold weather months, we don't turn our heat above 63. During the warm weather months, our air conditioners don't run all the time.

If I work on blog columns at the kitchen table and keep our home office door closed, our home will cool off with only one a/c on low. Or, during the winter months, it'll be toasty with the heat on 62.

Our home office is the most drafty room in our home. Bottom line, if we're having a polar freeze or a heat wave, keeping that door shut and working from the kitchen table cuts our electric bill tremendously.

8. Our apparel budget. Although we're not fans of charge cards, one of the best decisions we've ever made was opening a Kohl's Charge Card a couple of years ago. We love their apparel. It fits us the best. They have awesome sales, incredible coupons, and extra savings for charge card holders. Twice a year, I place a big order for Winter and Summer apparel. Between shopping the sales and utilizing coupons, we save close to 70%. And that includes free shipping.

9. Always put money into savings. It doesn't matter if it's $200 or $20, always add money to your savings account. It adds up every week and it can be a lifesaver when finances are tight.

10.  Live simple. Lisa and I are not fans of extravagance, high fashion, date nights at 5-star restaurants, and keeping up with the Jones's. We live within our means. We budget. We plan accordingly. Most date nights are spent at home with foods we've made together or for our once-a-month-take-out splurge. At the kitchen table playing cards or Backgammon. Once in a blue moon, we escape to enjoy dinner out. It's always fun.

11. Living simple doesn't have to stop when you host parties. Lisa and I are old enough to remember Potluck Parties. For those younger generations, that entails everyone bringing a dish to contribute. When we host a party or a casual backyard fire, our neighborhood family shows up with scrumptious foods. In our world, food unites people. It encourages people to share stories and recipes. Good times.

12. Shop the After Christmas sales for necessities. A lot of people shop these sales for candy and wrapping paper and decorations. However, Lisa and I shop these sales specifically for the bath and body gift sets. We scoop up the sets that include body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Most years, we've been able to get enough products to last us until the following Christmas season. By doing this, we save 50% - 75%.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are mountains upon mountains of ways to save money and budget wisely when finances are tight.

You want to know one of the biggest things that we learned back in 2012?

Once you've overcome that period of financial stress, continue down the path of simple living and frugality.

At the end of 2012 when we paid off our small loan and was back on track, we didn't revert back to relying on take-out or spend friviously. We continued to challenge ourselves. Could we save more on on grocery bill this month versus last month? Could we get our electricity bill down a few more dollars? Etc.

At times, very occasionally, we splurge, but we never forget the times when we struggled. And, what we learned back in 2012 has stayed with us and will continue to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment