Sunday, September 23, 2012

Budgeting When Money is Tight: Part 3


Welcome to part 3 in a series about some practical tips to budgeting when money is tight.  If you missed them, check them out here:  Part 1, Part 2.  Today I will present two more tips to help you as you begin saving money, living within your means, and Budgeting When Money is Tight!


#5: Tithe 

"Giving" is not usually at the top of most people's budgets when money gets tight.  Ben and I have always, without fail, tithed to our church body (the word "tithe" literally means "tenth").  Regardless of the difficulties we have faced over the years with finances, tithing FIRST has always been a priority. I believe God honors our faithfulness and obedience in this area.  How do I know that?  Well, even when there was no possibility of paying for all our necessities, God always provided for the missing areas in miraculous ways!  Every.  Single. Time.  We call it Jesus math.  The numbers don't always add up to us, so God must be working His own numbers into the equation!  Plus, nothing helps us break the hold of money over our lives quite like giving it away! 

Why would we tithe if we can barely meet our bills/payments?  Well, God has asked us to do this.  Being faithful to God is far more important than the numbers on my budget sheet, and the fear of "not having enough" is something that I want to stay away from.  Being obedient to Him is so important to us that this is not even a negotiable line item in our budget.  

Giving costs us something, but I've never met someone who was disappointed in their decision to give. Tithing is an action demonstrating that all we have is God's anyway.  Tithing is an important aspect in dealing with our money.

Do you tithe?  If not, I encourage you to pray and think about it!  Maybe take baby-steps to work up towards a full tithe... or, just jump right in.  Ask God to help you trust in His provision for your finances, and to have JOYFUL heart in giving!  



#6: Cutting Back

Don't freak out.  Breathe.  Okay.  Now it's time to look at that budget and make it all work!  When money gets tight, we often have to re-evaluate our budgets to make our expenses fit within our income. This will usually mean cutting back in some areas.  This will require an open mind and some creativity!
  1. Groceries:  One of the best areas to work at cutting back is your grocery spending.  Did you know that in 2011, the average American family of 4 spent between $610-$1200 PER MONTH on groceries?!?!?!?!  Our family of 6 budgets $400 per month for ALL consumable expenses (including groceries, toiletries, dog food, paper/ plastic consumables, etc.).  Now, if you are anything like the "average" American when it comes to grocery spending, this may seem a little overwhelming to you.  Let me remind you that I indeed used to spend around $1000 a month, and have been working at lowering my grocery bills for over a year now.  It may take time.  Some ways to cut back in this area are: menu planning, using coupons, playing the "drugstore game", making items homemade, freezer cooking, and meatless dishes (I will expand and explain each of these at a later time).  Set small goals for yourself (try cutting your spending by just $10 a week at a time until you can adjust). 
  2. Dates: Dates are an absolute essential to every marriage!  That being said, dates out can be expensive.  Factor in a trustworthy babysitter, dinner, and an activity, and the cost of your night out quickly adds up!  The good news is that this is an area that is very easy to cut the costs from.  Babysitting can be covered by a willing family member, or you can even trade babysitting nights with another family.  Dates can be relatively cheap if you purchase food/activity vouchers through sites like groupon.com, livingsocial.com, restaurants.com, and many others.  Be sure to sign up for coupons and deal alerts through your favorite restaurants.  Often times, you do not even have to make a purchase to receive a free dessert, appetizers, etc.  And finally, you can always pack a little treat and take a walk together to a local park to eat it together under a beautiful tree!  Totally free!  Be creative, and you can easily cut some (or all) of this expense from your budget.
  3. Cable:  Whoa.  I know. That's a big one.  Ben said "no" to this option for a couple years before finally going for it!  If you aren't yet willing to give up cable, try changing providers or switching to a smaller, less expensive plan.  If you do cancel, you can always sign up for HULU, Amazon Prime, or NETFLIX for pretty cheap ($8ish each per month) and still watch most of your favorite shows and many movies for a fraction of the cost!  Sports programs are a little more difficult, but I'm sure everyone has a sports-fan friend who'd be happy to have you over and watch sports together!  (Read my post here about how we cut cable, save $800 per year, and STILL watch all our favorite shows).
These are just a few areas where cutting back is decently easy to do.  We have done all of these.  Getting your grocery bill down will take practice, but it is so worth it!

Think about the areas where you want to try cutting back.  Write down a list of goals, as well as some baby steps to help you achieve your goals.  Give yourself grace as you learn to spend less in certain areas.  


(Updated 3/3/15)

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