I’ll tell you right now: this is a boring post. No recipes or pictures of yummy food. No fun stories about how cute Little Man and Little Lady are. But homekeeping includes the non-glamorous jobs too, like budgeting. Our financial life has changed quite a bit in the last few years. In a short amount of time we went from DINKs (Double-Income-No-Kids) to Single Income with Two Kids (I don’t know of a fun acronym for that). In the DINK phase of our life, Big Man and I had a very loose budget. We spent less than we earned, but we had a lot more disposable income and our money management basically consisted of me checking the bank and credit card balances a couple times a month and paying the bills. Now, after losing my income and gaining the expenses of two kids, budgeting is a serious matter. Since Big Man and I are committed to living with no debt, the need for a hard-core budgeted lifestyle is very real. I’m the family “accountant” so the budgeting is my responsibility. I haven’t mastered it yet, but I am slowly working out a system. Here is a basic summary of what I do and some of the ways I have found to save a little extra money. My hope with this post is to: 1) keep myself accountable and stay on track financially and 2) provide some tips that might be helpful. I’ll be back tomorrow with a more exciting, yummy post.
Big Man and I do our banking and pay all our bills online, so that makes it easy to keep track of everything. Most banks allow online banking with things like bill-pay reminders and easy transfers. Automatic bill pay and transfers to savings are very helpful to me. I also use Mint, a free basic budgeting tool which allows you to see all your accounts (bank, credit card, investment) in one place and has a very user-friendly budget tool. I almost have our monthly budget all set up and it is nice because it will alert me if we spend over-budget in any category.
The way to save the most money is obviously to alter your lifestyle. Big Man and I did this in a big way when I quit my old job to start homekeeping. We sold our house, moved to an apartment, sold our new car with a loan, bought a used one we could pay cash for, and started our no-debt commitment. We cut back on entertainment (not that we can go out much anyway with the kids, so this one was pretty easy), dropped cable, got a smaller cell phone plan, and are working on cutting back on eating take-out. I use Ebates to get cash back by buying online things I would buy anyway (that is important), and also use Groupon, LivingSocial, and similar programs to save money on dates when Big Man and I do get to go out. I save grocery money by choosing generic brands for most things (some things I buy brand name because I haven’t found a good generic substitute, like cereal), buying meat in bulk and freezing it, and trying to plan meals that don’t use a lot of specialty ingredients. I get most of the kids’ clothes at consignment sales. Big Man and I are both bibliophiles, so we splurge on books but get them from Amazon or PaperbackSwap. In general, I think the biggest change has been to think about purchases before making them and determine if something is necessary or worth the money.
God has blessed us tremendously and provided for us even through the scary financial decisions like losing an income and selling our house in a down market. Big Man and I are committed to making the financial sacrifice necessary for me be a homekeeper. It is difficult to live on one income in Middle Class America, which is geared toward two incomes. But we believe this is what God wants us to do, and that He will provide for us when we follow His will. He has never not taken care of us, which is what I try to remember on those days when my faith wavers. And being a homekeeper is totally worth the material sacrifices we have made. It’s like that MasterCard ad: Cute red heels that I don’t need $80, overpriced cable TV $50, living debt-free and raising our kids instead of putting them in daycare: priceless.