Hello, and welcome to Sally Saves! In case you were wondering, Sally is my childhood nickname. Since I'm not the expert here - I'm just sharing our experiences - it seemed appropriate to give the advice a nickname too!
So as promised, here's the first installment of our money-saving series, in honor of our family's quest to save for a down payment. Each post in the series will cover a different way to save money or live more frugally. Some of them are things we've already started doing, and some ideas will be new to me in the form of some fabulous guest posts we've got coming! Now, I'm not an expert at sticking to a strict budget or living a completely frugal life - generally, I can make just one change at a time and actually make it last. I know I'm not the only one who works this way. If I was, no one would ever make the same New Year's resolutions, year after year! Our plan is to incorporate these ideas slowly, so we can make them work for our family. We're still pretty new to the money-saving journey, but from our experience thus far, I'd recommend this approach when possible. It's so much easier when you give yourself time to really try something for several days or a few weeks and learn to live your life with it (or without it, as the case may be!)
I came across this first money-saving method rather by accident. Over the past year, while pregnant with our twin daughters and adjusting to life at home as a new mom, I realized something. For years, I'd worked as much as possible, thinking that if only I made enough money, things would fall into place and we'd be able to be debt-free and save up for a down payment. It was like running on a hamster wheel, though - the more money we made, the more it seemed like we needed to spend. When I found out I was pregnant, the complications struck quickly. There were only about 15 weeks out of 40 that I was able to work my usual schedule. As my hours dropped, however, we noticed something - we spent less money when I was working fewer hours. I could take the extra time to prepare food and cook, because I was already there and had been there and it just seemed simpler than leaving the apartment. When I went shopping, I had time to think about what we really needed instead of just rushing in and filling my cart, and I made fewer impulse purchases because I needed to be intentional with the money I was spending.
Once our daughters were born, our life became even simpler. Going shopping is tricky with baby twins along for the ride, so a list became essential and impulse purchases are few and far between. While I once thought it was easier to just pick up a latte in the morning, I now know it's ten times simpler to start a pot of coffee when I get up and drink that. It's ten times cheaper, too! And there's no type of take-out that's as easy as eating cereal or PBJ for dinner! Best of all, I can set a budget and stay pretty much within my limits.
Obviously, not everyone will start living a simpler life because they are pregnant with twins, but the principle of saving with simplicity still applies. Think about the complicated seasons of your life - or is it one long complicated season? Do you go through the drive-through for dinner on the way home from one activity because you're rushing to get home and change clothes for another activity? Do you wish you could shop around for a good deal, but get stuck buying everything at the same store because you just don't have time? Working fewer hours may not be an option, but cutting down on outside activities might be, or even spending fewer hours mindlessly watching TV or using the computer. Two or three hours a day adds up to between 14 and 21 hours a week! Even five hours a week could be enough time to spend planning simple dinners, shopping for the food, and preparing the meals. You'll save money- and your days will go more smoothly, meaning you will have the mental clarity to incorporate other money-saving lifestyle changes! Ok, I'm still waiting for the mental clarity - it doesn't come standard with pregnancy or parenthood, but I promise, you'll notice a difference. :)
How will you simplify your life? What small change could you make with a little saved time that will save you money?
Coming tomorrow: Sally Saves! #2, Stacy from Catholic and Crunchy's post on saving 50 percent of your income to prepare for staying home with kids!
If you'd like to contribute to the Sally Saves! series, leave a comment below or email me with your ideas!