I know how it is to live on a tight budget. My husband makes a good income, but we are a family of 8 soon to be 9. I have one that will begin several therapies soon, and he is also on a pretty strict diet. Money certainly doesn’t grow on trees, well at least I haven’t found that tree yet. It was only after writing out a budget and telling my money where to go, did I learn 6 big secrets. I’m here to share with you, my 6 Secrets to Finding Extra Money Hiding in your Budget!
I don’t have any extra money, we barely make it, and I’ve already tightened my budget.
I know what that is like. We really don’t have extra money as well. There is debt that needs to be paid off. Children who constantly seem to outgrow their clothes. Something is ALWAYS breaking, like a leak in the front yard that took days to find before it took 20 minutes to fix. Money seems to go out as fast as it comes in.
I used to live in a scarcity mindset of never having enough. It was one of the worst times of my life. I was afraid that there would NEVER be enough. Come to find out, there was always more than enough. I just had to go looking for it.
So, you mean that you’ve already spent into the next paycheck before you even have it? I totally get that. I did that for 21 years, and it SUCKED! It sucked the life out of me, and of our marriage. We were constantly fighting. No one was happy, in fact, everyone was miserable. There never seemed to be enough, and it was killing us.
We don’t have cable TV. I have the cheapest cell phone plan you can get for 4 phones. We have the lowest internet you can get, and believe me we feel it. We have 2 vehicles, but I don’t go anywhere except on paydays and to church on Sundays. I found that if I go out, I spend money. I thought no one could beat me in saving money, but even I have something to learn.
What’s the first thing I need to do to find this money?
I’m not talking about selling everything, except the kids. That’s a post for later. I’m talking about in your budget already.
First off, if you don’t have a budget you are really missing out. I’m talking about sitting down with your spouse and writing out where ALL your money is going. This includes going out for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even coffee. You need to know where EVERY penny is going, so you can tell it where you want it to go.
For me this was the hardest part. By tracking my money, I knew where I was wasting it and could no longer hide my over spending in certain areas. It was humiliating to learn that I would waste money, but it was needed so we could move forward.
I never said it was going to be easy, but the process isn’t exactly hard either. It doesn’t require you to do anything special to find this money, but it does require some work on your part.
To me it has become more of a game. How much can I find this paycheck? How much can I store away for our trip at the end of the year? Is there enough to sneak in an extra date night with my husband?
So where is the money?
There is only 1 part of your budget that you have complete control over. You can only go so low with your utilities. Everyone needs a phone of some kind. You can cut out cable TV, which is what we’ve done for about 7 years.
You must pay your mortgage or rent.
People will always need clothes, whether you go to a thrift store to buy them or not, you still should have clothes.
Whether you bought your car out right or not can change things, but you still must maintain it and pay for insurance.
Do you see where I’m going with this? The only place you have complete control over your spending is in buying groceries.
My food budget is ¼ of budget. This used to be true for me as well, BUT I’m going to show you how I’ve cut back on my, give you some tips, and you can see if you can learn 6 Secrets to Finding Extra Money Hiding in your Budget too.
Secret #1: Make a menu
When I wrote the Hows & Whys of basics Menu Planning, I didn’t realize how many people don’t menu plan. It has become part of how we do things around here, so it seemed common.
The key to menu planning is finding food your family will eat, and then slowly changing up the ingredients. This is how my Mexican Casserole was created. I’m not a fan of peas so I changed up a family recipe to make something the whole family would love, and it worked.
Secret #2: Shop your pantry and freezers first
When my teens were planning the menu, I had them shop in our house first. They started this by doing a quick cleaning and organizing of the pantry and fridge. I’m not talking about taking everything out, but just a quick clean up. They tossed the bad food, and took inventory.
When they began to write out their grocery list, they knew what they already had and it cut back on what they had to spend. There’s no point in doubling or even tripling something if you already have things on hand.
When we write out our grocery list, we write them out by sections. On my list you will find Produce, Meat, Dairy, Canned Goods, Dry Goods, Baking Goods, Frozen, Baby, and Misc.
Produce: veggies and fruit.
Meat: all forms of meat.
Dairy: all forms of diary and anything in that section including eggs.
Canned Goods: this includes fruit, meat, veggies, pasta sauce, and salsa.
Dry Goods: includes cereal, pasta, bread, and anything else dry.
Baking Goods: here you will find spices, flours, sugars, cupcake liners, and anything you will need for baking.
Frozen: anything in the freezer section.
Baby: anything my little ones need diapers, wipes, clothes, and sipper cups.
Misc.: here is where I put things like garbage bags, pet foods, light bulbs, and anything that doesn’t fit in a category.
Secret #4: Shop the ads
Once your list is complete, and you have shopped in your pantry, the next thing is to write down what is on sale and where. This will allow you to know where to go for the best deals.
There are only a few store choices in my area, Sam’s, Walmart, Meijer, Kroger, Jay C, and Aldi. I know which ones have the best deals for me and they are usually my go to stores, but I write down the sales from each of these places so I know if I need to hit those just in case.
You won’t find an Ad for Sam’s but I keep a list of what I buy there and their prices on hand so I know if someplace else has a better deal.
I use my favorite colored pens to write out the sales prices from each store. It makes it fun and easy to read.
Secret #5: Eat before you go
This may be completely silly, but make sure you and your children eat before you go. If you can go without your children it would be even cheaper. I tend to spend more when they are there.
To make sure I eat before I go into the store, I will even grab a sandwich at McDonalds. Anything to put food on my stomach. That sandwich may cost me a couple of dollars, but I will save more than that by eating before I shop.
If we shop when we are hungry we have a tendency grab snack foods, quick foods, and even junk food that we not only don’t have on the list, but aren’t good for us. These foods can quickly become the bulk of your grocery budget if you aren’t careful.
Secret #6: Shop at the cheapest store first
This is a HUGE thing for me. I ALWAYS start my grocery shopping at Aldi. The more groceries I can purchase at Aldi, the more money I save. I can fill a grocery cart at Aldi for about $150. That will be most of my grocery shopping for my family of 8.
This final step makes all the difference in the world. If I start at the expensive places, I tend to spend more money that I need for food. It may not seem like a lot, when you are talking 75 cents an item, but if you have 150 items it starts to add up to about $100. That’s money I could spend somewhere else.
6 Secrets to Finding Extra Money Hiding in your Budget
These may seem simple to some, but they are the foundation of how I’ve begun to let go of 20% of my food budget to be used for other things. That 20% is different for different people. To some it may not seem like much, but it does add up over time.
If your budget is $150 for 2 weeks you could save $60 a month. What could you do with that money? That’s going out to eat 2-3 times with my husband.
In the world of money, every penny counts, and the only place you really have to control that money is in your grocery budget. Once I took charge of my food budget so many things fell into place. Money started appearing seemingly out of no where. I had money to buy my kids new shoes when they outgrew them. I had some extra money to go out on a date with my husband.
How much money can you find hiding in your budget? I bet it is more than you realize.