Last week I shared how you can begin to tackle debt with some simple steps. This week I want to share with you more of the “how to” – what it actually looks like.
Now, remember that each and every family situation is different, but if you are all in and truly want to experience the freedom that comes when you aren’t carrying debt, it takes precise strategies and intentional decisions – which are not easy.
Over the past month we have hammered our budget down – cutting the fat out (fat being anything that truly is not necessary). You may think of our steps as pretty drastic, but honestly, we’ve lived with many of these strategies for years and I think they have served us well.
Reducing Family Entertainment Expenses
This is one where we have been incredibly intentional with our spending. To be honest, many of these philosophies really came out of true necessity when I was a single mom. There were no funds for movies with snacks and adventures to theme parks and such.
As a family of six, it is a big treat and something we budget for in order to enjoy a large entertainment expense. We do love baseball, so we may attend one major league baseball game during the summer. That is all. It is a considerable expense and we have chosen to make it a very special occasion rather than a normal activity that tends to not have as much impact for the money spent. We do not attend movies at the theater either. The last one was four years ago.
Taking that “fat” and placing it in other areas of our budget (paying off a car payment or putting toward our mortgage) has a much better return. If we owe money, we really have no business sowing into more waste. On the other hand, you can be creative and find very low cost family entertainment or even FREE activities! We love hiking, day trips, and small group activities with friends.
Here is another area we intentionally restrict. We may eat out once a month as a family – period. It is planned and not done in haste or last minute. I am sure you can relate. We often spend way more on these items when we fail to plan for dinner and then end up over spending and sowing into more waste. Rather than do that, why not truly take the time needed to plan meals so that you can efficiently spend your money and sow into being frugal and wise rather then wasteful?
Dining out is a very special occasion for us, and even when we do, we typically always have a coupon! And it has been budgeted for.
Owing for Vehicles
If you are paying a car payment – stop! This one is a hard one for many because we live in such a “want it now” society, but this is the biggest waste of money ever. For us, we were so close in paying off the second car we had owed on that it was better for us to keep it and attack that debt rather then sell it and buy a car we had the money to afford. However, if you have months and months of payments, I highly suggest you determine if paying out that money is the best thing for you.
Caring for Yourself
This may be an area you don’t really give much consideration to, however over the past three years I have learned a lot of food choices that can help our bodies stay healthy and choices that will deteriorate our health. We have changed up our food budget in order to accommodate better choices at the grocery store – more fresh vegetables and fruits, locally sourced meat, raw milk, and less and less processed food. Processed food is certainly much cheaper, but it is literally making an investment in poor health.
We’ve also taken greater care with making choices using natural alternatives to support our immune systems as well as our emotions, which results in many great benefits. Less time sitting at a doctor’s office, less money paid to medical facilities, we feel better, miss less school and/or work, and our schedules run smoother. It’s an investment in ourselves which will pay huge dividends in the years to come.
Eating from Your Pantry
This is a huge one. We are a society of choices and excess. I am sure if you looked in your pantry you could find at least a week’s worth of meals to fix without having to go to the grocery store. When I returned from a conference a few months ago, I took the challenge and began using more of the items we had in our pantry instead of just planning all meals with new ingredients. I can tell you we don’t always eat exactly what I might be in the mood for, but it has been a great experience on using what we have and not wasting. I challenge you to do that same. Use that extra money that remains in your food budget at the end of the month to go towards paying off a bill you have!
I share a lot of my saving secrets in my Become a Frugalista eBook too. If you need some steps and some encouragement, go over and grab it now!
So, what area is your first to attack? I would love to hear your strategies and goals.