For as long as I have been a Dad, we’ve been a one income family. My ex-wife worked for a bit before Joshua was born, but her focus was being a stay-at-home Mom. She was good at it and thrived on it. So, budgeting with minimal money is something I am used to. Actually sticking to a budget with minimal funds is something I have never been able to hold to until now.
Let’s face it; budgeting is hard, right? Everything looks good on paper. On paper, I should be on Dave Ramsey’s baby step #7 right now. But I’m not. It’s the cards I have been dealt, and while I haven’t made it work in the past, I’m making it work now. Because it’s all I have.
The Dave Ramsey quote “Live like someone else, so you can live like someone else” takes the point. Today, we often see unnecessary things as required. Spotify, Netflix, fast food. But the whole point of a budget is to have some discipline, so the future is more stable. Below are some tips I have for those who are trying to budget on low-income.
#1 – The Radio is Free
Yep, the radio? 100% free. Don’t like commercials? No problem! Turn on Smile FM and enjoy. Spotify is great, I won’t lie. I love it. But, when you are trying to budget with little money, even $9.99 per month can make an impact. That’s $9.99 that could go into the savings account and help pay for a car emergency down the road. Switch back to the radio.
#2 – Cut the Cord
How often do you watch TV? Can you go without? Let me rephrase that. Can you go without TV without turning into a monster? Cable is crazy expensive if you can go without, do it. I flip-flop on this because I enjoy sports and sitting down from time to time and watching the Science channel. Only you know if it makes sense to get rid of cable, but if you do, you can save quite a bit.
#3 – Sandwiches Can Be Dinner Too
Ah, groceries. If you have kids, you’ll know that grocery shopping should be an Olympic event. But, grocery shopping doesn’t have to be crazy. A large meal doesn’t have to be prepared every night. While I wish my kids would eat healthier and not waste it, I don’t mind the times they will eat a can of spaghetti-o’s, or pizza rolls, or even a sandwich and some chips. I am working on planning some more substantial meals so that I can put some in the freezer for later use. I need a crockpot, but after that, This is Us episode, I’m still a bit tender when it comes to crockpots.
#4 – Merge Your Trips
Gas can be expensive. I drive the kids 30 minutes to school right now, and that adds up. So, what I do is I make frequent stops at Meijer after drop off. I have an hour or so to get back home for work. This is plenty of time for me to run in, knock some things off my list and get home. I set a time limit for it. I am the type of shopper who goes up and down every aisle and grab what is on the list. Most of the time, I can remember my list, though I always have it on my phone. All I have to do is see what I’m looking for and I grab it. I can get through almost half the grocery aisles in about fifteen minutes. Of course, once I start incorporating more healthy meals into the planning, it will take longer since I’ll be more picky with what I get, but for now, it works and saves me an extra trip to the grocery store.
#5 – Interest Hurts Your Budget
If you’re using a credit card every month, stop it. That card incurs interest, which you end up paying. Every month. Sure, your Capital One payment is only $25 per month, but that could be $25 per month put aside for Christmas gifts. If you’re in a position where your credit has to be improved, such as my situation where I’m working on getting a home loan, credit card usage helps your credit score. Be smart about it. Putting $25 into your gas tank through your credit card per month will be better than using $200 per month. Same $25 payment, but that credit use is higher. Be wise.
These are a couple of tips and don’t even include me getting too personal about it. The hardest part is sticking to it, and having the discipline to change your life. It’s hard, but you can do it. It’s taken me years to get to a point where I can say I wrote a budget and stuck to it, but this month will make the first time (month isn’t over yet, knock on wood).
What sort of things do you do to cut back when budgeting? I’d love to hear how you make things work in your home.