Pinching Pennies



When I was in college I was horrible with money. Like I had to donate plasma and live off green beans. My parents attempted to help me, but I was wasteful and stupid. Then I met my husband. We got married at 21 and moved 6 hours away from our families. He was in law school and I was a social worker, as you can imagine – we were not rolling in dough. The first few years of marriage taught me so much, and most of it was about money. I learned to discern wants from needs and how to live off of $35 a week of groceries. My husband was the most frugal guy I ever met, so he taught me. I went down kicking and screaming. I learned painful lessons, but we have come out the other side and we are better for it.

We eventually both had jobs, good jobs and we could go on vacations, I could shop for groceries AT TARGET (this seems super ritzy to me) and there was a time I was even getting pedicures on a regular basis. Then, our first child came in to this world, I knew I had to stay home. I just really, really, really wanted to. So we said Good Bye to our two incomes, we knew we had been broke before and we could do it again. So we did. I tapped into my memory of penny pinching and I attempted to be a frugal, stay at home mom. I have failed a hundred times, but I have figured a few things out. These lessons have helped us to live off one income for over 7 years, live within our means and not go into tons of debt.

Shut it down!

We cancelled cable, stopped all of our subscriptions and switched our cell phone carrier. We have been loyal Netflix users for years. We don’t use anything else. Sure Hulu, Sling, etc – all sounds super fun. But $8 a month adds up. So we just binge watch anything on Netflix and don’t do anything else. We also switched to Family Mobile (Wal-Mart cell phone plan), it is only $30 a month for data, minutes, texts, etc. We don’t do iPhones, but we have Android phones and we aren’t paying out the wazoo.

All Aldi’s, All The Time

I would love to run to Kroger or shop at the fancy grocery store part of Target, but we can’t. So I take my quarter and carry my reusable bags and proudly go to Aldi. I have shopped there enough to know what they carry and what they don’t, and I can usually plan my menu around it. If they don’t sell it, I most likely don’t need it. We are lucky enough to be a family without allergies or digestive issues, so we don’t need special foods. I can not find better prices anywhere. Sure, Kroger might have 10 for $10 and one item might be cheaper, but I end up spending more in the long run, because I go to Kroger to buy their cheaper Cream of Potato soup and end up losing track of time and space and leave with a weird new kind of mustard – hence spending more money and more time.

I can’t afford Clicklist or any of the other grocery pick up/delivery services. I would LOVE to do them, but I can’t. I did try Clicklist once and it was glorious. I felt like a princess. I still spent more money than I would have at Aldi.

We cancelled our Costco membership. It goes back to my inability to walk away from new and shiny food choices. I understand that in the long run, buying 20lbs of meat from Costco will save me $7. But I need that $7 now. So I truck my 3 kids in to Aldi every week and buy just what we need for the week, just like the pioneers did.

Meal planning like it’s my job…because it kind of is.

Every week I sit down with my calendar, a pen and paper.  I look at my calendar and write down what I plan to make each night. It isn’t rocket science and it isn’t pretty. If we have something at school one night, then I plan to make something easy and fast, if I will be gone all day then I plan a crock pot meal. Listen, all you have to do is find a scrap piece of paper and write down 5-7 meals. Write the ingredients for those meals on another piece of scrap paper, take paper to Aldi, shop, save a bunch a money and feel like a rock star.

I would LOVE to order in each night, or make fancy gourmet food, but we can’t. So, we eat spaghetti, sloppy joes, chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup and tacos. If one week I am spending a lot of money on gifts or school supplies, then you better believe we are eating breakfast for dinner, cheese quesadillas, potato soup for the week. If momma got her act together and has a few extra pennies, then we might have pot roast.

Online shopping is super dangerous.

I don’t have Amazon Prime. I don’t shop online. I know, I know. But if I have to drag myself and my children to a store to purchase something, you better believe that we actually need it. If all I have to do is look at my phone, add an item to my “shopping cart” and buy it – all from the comfort of my couch, then I might not really NEED it. Again, I would love this convenience, I have tried it and it was so beautiful and easy, but we can’t do it, so we don’t.

$20 throw pillow will not make you happy.

I really try not to go to Target or Ikea, because I WANT EVERYTHING! I walk in and see a super cute purse that would organize my life or a beautiful tank top that would make my dreams come true or heaven forbid I would walk by the organizational stuff and I have to force myself to look away from all the plastic bins that would make me so very happy. See, I have bought that purse or tank top or 3 drawer organizational bin and guess what – my life stayed the exact same, well almost besides I had less money.

This was the hardest lesson to learn. I want the throw pillow, but do I need it? No. What would happen if I left Target without the throw pillow? My life would be exactly the same. What would happen if I left Target with the throw pillow? My life would be exactly the same minus $19.99. But if I make enough of these little choices, over the course of months and years, I will not be scraping by.

It ain’t glamorous, but it is glorious.

Being frugal isn’t always fun or easy or convenient. It means packing sandwiches instead of getting drive through. It means staying in when you would really rather eat out. It means eating scrambled eggs instead of steak. Being frugal has allowed me to stay home, it has allowed me understand what I actually need and it has forced me to be resourceful and creative. So it might not be glamorous, but the payback is glorious.