"Even when the rainbow seems to pass right by me....I'm still finding Gold in the clouds....."

06 October 2008

10 Tips for Frugal Living

It's Marriage Monday time again!
This month's topic, hosted by E-mom over at Chrysalis is about frugal living as a married couple. To read more Tips for Frugal Living just head over to her site.

Well, my hubby and I are not too frugal. We do like what we call "retail therapy" from time to time. But...we have learned to keep a rein on spending.

When we were newlyweds, we both were still paying off some undergraduate loans so we tried a budget. (we thank God neither one of us had to pay for graduate school tuition thanks to fellowship awards!) We were pretty good, in that we didn't overspend but....we also liked going out. A lot. As in every Friday evening after work for dinner. As in lots of movie rentals. Lots of camping and hiking trips. But...we did learn, once the 2 daughters came along, how to have fun as a married couple, how to pay a babysitter, how to decorate our home, how to vacation without overspending, how to live.
We were your typical early 1990's DINKS. (double income, no kids). The budget didn't really work for us because we were always blowing it! I took a one year maternity leave from my full time teaching job. During that year, we built a house here in the suburbs of the capital region of NYS. At that time we could build a new 3 bedroom sidehall colonial for under $200,000. Nowadays, in our neighborhood, this same type of home is going for just over $300,000. We are blessed by God to have been able to build when we wanted. We sure can't build a new home today. I was fortunate to be able, after working for one year full time with a baby in daycare, to become a SAHM for the next 4 years. I also had another child during that time. The Lord blessed my husband and I beyond our dreams. He allowed my husband to get a new job in a different company that allowed him to not to have to travel so much and get a higher salary. And...He allowed me to work part time. The work did not pay, however, as it was ministry. BUT.....during this time, the Lord taught us many things about finances. Today, my husband is pulling in a very good salary, which in this current economy is a true blessing from God, and the Lord opened up a door for me to go back to special ed, teaching every day, part time, so I can still be at home in the afternoons with my children and participate in some ministries of our church. A recent added blessing is that my husband is now getting a paycheck for being a "part time youth ministry leader"! God is faithful all the time. We also need to be faithful with what He has given us. We also need to be good stewards with what He has given us.

Here are some tips we have learned during the last 10 years:

  1. Tithe: this is a direct command from God. If you are a born again believer, you should be tithing. The Bible says to tithe your first fruits. For us, we tithe 10% of our income to our local church. My husband and I also pray about which ministries to support financially. Some years we can support several. Other years, less. But...tithing is never an option. We do it. If God chooses to bless us monetarily, then so be it. Sometimes the blessing is in different avenues.
  2. Pay off credit cards in full. We both have VISA cards. I have 3 store charge cards. (I recently closed 3 accounts to stores I rarely shop at) My husband also has a Mastercard. We use them instead of cash. Why? Because driving to the ATM is a pain. We have direct deposit so must make a point of getting to the ATM when we want cash. We write checks for bills or pay online. And for just about everything else, we use a credit card. Then when the bill comes, we pay it off in full. We also don't overspend on it. We don't allow ourselves to get over a certain amount. Sometimes we are successful, other times (like at xmas and late summer for back to school clothes) we are a little over. Either way, we pay it off in full. Don't carry a balance! It is throwing money away! If you want something and you use a credit card, think to yourself: if I had the cash in my hand, would I buy this? Do I have enough in the bank to pay cash?
  3. Cheap Vacations: we have never been to Disney World. We are proud to be able to say that! My daughters, especially the oldest one, has often asked us if we can fly down. The answer is always No. We are not against Disney. We love most Disney movies! But...what a waste of money, in our opinion, to vacation there. Rather, we have seen most of NYS as a family, including NYC, Niagara Falls, Central NY, some parts of southern NY, and of course just about everything in the Adirondacks, and what the Capital Region has to offer. This is true for the New England states as well. We look for free admissions to art museums. (and then we give a donation). We hike. We camp. We did fly out to San Francisco in 1997 to spend Thanksgiving week there but our oldest was only 4 so most of the attractions were free for her or very low admission AND we only had one child! Also, we look for coupons when we visit new cities. Most hotels offer local guides with coupons in them for restaurants, museums, etc. We go on spring vacations every other year and a week long summer vacation each August. It is affordable if you make if affordable and do a little research beforehand.
  4. Frugal Fun: we now only "go out" as a family (for dinner, lunches on weekends, ice cream) about once a month. In the winter, when our schedules are crazy, we do tend to eat out more or get take-out more often but this year we are trying something new: just going out to restaurants once a month. Again, this is easier for us as we only have 2 children. We watch for free kids meals. Our local Applebee's has a program where if an elementary child reads 10 novels, they get a free dinner! You just have to fill out a form! We buy soft ice cream at real ice cream stands rather than at more expensive places like Friendly's, the ice cream truck or we buy 2 desserts at places like Ruby Tuesdays and then share! We tend to buy appetizers as our meals so we have room for dessert (and $$ for dessert and coffee). We only rent movies now about once a month rather than each Friday evening. I bake rather than stopping by the bakery. My husband and I borrow books from the library rather than buying so many...or we borrow from family members.
  5. Cut Coupons: we get the Saturday a.m. paper which has 2 booklets of coupons for items we usually buy at the grocery or local discount stores (Target, Hannaford, Price Chopper, Rite Aid). I use about 6-8 coupons per grocery trip and save (usually) about $3-5 on my bill. I only use coupons for items we actually use. In other words, I don't use Sauve shampoo so I don't buy it even if there is a coupon for it! A mom can really save money this way.
  6. Buy Generic: I tend to buy certain generic products at the grocery store. For example: store-brand pb tastes just as good as Skippy; store-brand extra soft toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, shower spray (I do use name brand toilet cleaner and kitchen cleaner as I get more for my money). Things like ketchup, mustard, oatmeal for the kids, baggies, garbage bags, butter. I save money by buying generic.
  7. Cothing sales: I buy clothes at the name brand or trendy stores only when they are having a sale. For example: my teen is into the clothing from Alloy.com or Delia's. In the mall, Delia's is very pricey. Online, they have sales all the time. We got on the mailing list so she can persue the magazine and then we go online to shop. She was able to get an $80.00 pair of boots for $40. online! Now that's a deal! For my husband and I (we both like trendy clothes, especially me) we tend to buy online or at the store sales. I stock up on cheaper items like underwear, sox, stockings, about once a year at Target. When Victoria's Secret has their annual bra sale, I go online and order a couple. I do this for the girls' jeans, winter jackets, etc. It is alot cheaper and sometimes if you spend over a certain amount, the shipping and handling is free. Because we have an LLBean card, we also get free shipping with them so I tend to buy pj's, camping gear, hiking gear, kayaking gear, sweaters, gloves, etc. from them. Also, they constantly have online sales.
  8. Buy higher quality goods/clothing for long-term savings: this is huge with us. We do not buy clothing from Wal-Mart or made in China. Why? Because it almost always wears out faster, shrinks, or is just very low-quality. (i learned this when baby #1 came along and I bought "playclothes" from WalMart...ick...they shrunk, fell apart, were not soft....just not good quality at all..I felt like I wasted my money). We tend to purchase more expensive items so we can pass down certain clothes to the younger child or her cousins. Better quality clothing and goods tend to last longer, wear better, and look nicer. In the long run, you are saving money! For example: I purchased an $85.00 winter jacket from a Swedish clothing company when my oldest was 6 years old. Their clothing is such that you can usually get 2 years from it....it is made in such a way that even though a child grows during that year, she can usually get 2 seasons from it. THEN, I was able to pass it down to her little sister who is 5 years younger. It still looked like new. When I have purchased jackets from places like JCPenney's they never last. They tend to pill, shrink, or just fade. They only cost about half of what the higher end store costs but....the higher end stuff lasts! That jacket is now being worn by my niece! It is a 10 year old jacket. We also tend to do this with our kitchenware, bedding, furniture. We buy higher costs up front but the rewards of the items lasting a very long time without wearing out is definitely worth it. It is nice to still be able to wear the same leather clogs today that I wore when my youngest was born. Shoes made in Italy, Switzerland or Brazil tend to last longer. They just seem to be better made with better materials. Check labels! Look for organic cotton and all natural materials. (they don't shrink or fade). Air dry cotton shirts. Use Woolite on sweaters. Think High Quality and in the long run you will save $$!
  9. Manuel labor: I repaint everything by my self. Hiring a painter costs lots of $$. We do our own yard work and housecleaning. I have redone the family room, living room, kitchen and teen's bedroom. I added my own stenciling work, or put up borders. I shampoo our own carpets and once a year get the steam cleaner people to come. We invested in a Kirby vacuum, the 2nd summer we lived here. Yes, it was alot of money upfront, but it has never been broken, has all the attachments and shampoo system. This saves alot of money! I did hire a contractor to redo the preteen's bedroom this past spring but we purchased the wallpaper at an online discount shop so were able to get designer wallpaper and border for little money! We saved over 60% off the original price! We kept the same carpet but upgraded her curtains, accessories and bedding by shopping the sales at Target and when Country Curtains had their spring sale. Beauty on a budget! It works but it does take some time to research.
  10. Conserve, reuse, recyle: I can't stress this enough. We keep the heating down when we are not here. We set the thermostat to go up or down as needed. For example: during winter when we are at work/school all a.m. the heat goes down at 8 a.m. to 63 and up again at 1 pm to 68. For sleeping we have it set to go down to 62. We have chosen to buy the good fleece blankets to compensate. We also try to use the cloth bags for shopping, we drive more energy-efficient cars now (no vans or large trucks for us!) and we use cold water for dark clothes/towels/sheets. I use the conserve cycle on dishwasher depending on the load. We recycle glass jars to use as iced tea glasses or vases. We only turn on the central air when it is very hot and humid...usually just a few days in June, July or beginning of August. We make cards on the computer, often and have pared down our Xmas shopping, sending out of xmas cards, and print our own pictures. All these little things add up!
We praise God for the blessings He has bestowed on us. We praise Him for our work. For our home. For our children. For our stuff. He wants us to enjoy nice things. There is nothing wrong with that.
BUT....we also, as a family, believe highly, in good stewardship. We try to take care of the things He has blessed us with. We don't mind spending money on a vacation because it gives us much needed time away from ministry duties, school, work, and the house. We like to give to missions or other Christian causes. We tithe. We believe in taking care of our earth which is what God has made!
We do live frugally but we don't obsess about it. We try to prayerfully consider what needs to be done, or what needs to be bought, and we reward ourselves with little things along the way. To sum it up: don't live beyond your means but live in such a way that you can be hospitable when needed, to serve where needed, to relax when needed.....to live.
Pray as a couple about which "things" are important to you.
For us: education, church, ministry and having a home where people can meet and feel comfortable, family vacations. To do this we try to implement all the above steps. Are we perfect at it? Nope...but...we keep going and praying that God would help us with our decisions.

It's sometimes hard. Do what works best for you and your spouse/family.


MiPa said...

This is another great list! Bless you for sharing.

Jana said...

Great list! We do most of these things as well. I've never had a problem with stuff from Walmart wearing out - maybe the boys' clothing is made sturdier?? I try to never buy shoes made in China, though.

Anonymous said...

If you make $16,000 a year and are a single parent tithing is not an option, giving is and I believe that God honor that as well. It is easy for people to tithe who have a good income as they really get back what they have given from the federal government when they file their taxes as it is a write off. I wonder if they would all tithe if they did not get the tax write off and actually get the money back.

Amydeanne said...

never leaving anything on the CC is so important! great list!

Denise said...

Really great tips.

Andrea said...

I love your comment about manual labor. DH and I have learned that we can save our money and hone our home improvement skills at the same time. A great tip.

I also wanted to say that one can tithe even when they have very little. I have done it and we've been tremendously blessed! You'd be surprised at the blessings God pours out when you honor Him with what you have. We don't tithe because of a tax write off; we tithe because we are thankful for what God has provided us and we want to give a portion back to Him.

Thanks for the great post Faith!

Homemanager said...

You have a lot of great, well-thought out ideas for saving money. Thanks for sharing them!
We do many of them except the dining out and the vacations. Besides not having the time, a lot of our funds are tied up in college expenses, prepaid fuel for winter and saving for insurance and taxes.
One thing I can say though, our only debt is our mortgage. We refinanced about 6 years ago, but kept our payments the same putting the difference toward our principal, so our mortgage is dropping down quite nicely.
The college expenses are for books, fees and to help K with any unexpected expenses with her apartment.
I do agree that it is out of thankfulness that we tithe, but also stewardship. Everything we have belongs to the Lord and we are blessed to be able to enjoy it, but we also must not keep it just for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

If it comes between tithing and putting food on the table and clothes on my children's body and heat in their bedrooms I believe that God would have me take care of my children first. You could not begin to relate you don't even work for a living unless you call blogging work which you all seem to find plenty of time to do. Write to me when you and your hubby are living on 16,0000 a year.

Faith said...

Dear Readers:
my goodness. I had no idea people would zone in on the tithing principle.
First of all, I understand where Anonymous is coming from. when I was single, and not working as a teacher but rather, slinging hamburgers at BK, and subbing when I could get the work, it was hard to pay tithe. I just couldn't live on what was left after paying my church (actually my parents church) 10%. So, instead, I gave what I could.
However, now that I am married my husband insisted on following the command of God which is to tithe our first fruits. At our particular church, they tell all covenant members to tithe 10%. We don't do it because it is a tax write off and for the first couple of years of our marriage we never bothered claiming it. We tithe because it is a command from God...and because it is a step of stewardship that is important to us.
I do understand what Anonymous is saying though as I have had personal friends who had trouble making ends meet if they tithed 10%. However, we really are commanded by the Lord, as born again believers, to give God our first fruits. Maybe in certain seasons that cannot be 10% but maybe just $1.00 per week. It has been ingrained in me from childhood to give my first fruits to the local church. My dad used to make us give 10 cents after our $1.00 allowance!

a woman found said...

Great tips and wise advice!

Anonymous said...

Perfect timing for this post. Just as you and I discussed I believe that in this economy most are doing their best to cut back on spending any way that they possibly can. The financial advisors that I have watched all basically say the same thing, if it is a need buy it and if it is a want you have to wait and to pay off any credit card debt. I guess for me and all the pondering I have been doing lately on living more simply it boils down to something Billy Graham said, "Don't let your possessions possess you." As for tithing there have been times in my life when it was really impossible to give the whole 10% as we had next to nothing and had to sell furniture in our house to buy school clothes for my son. During those times I gave what I could. God speaks to each person's heart leading them as to what it is they should do, only he can convict, not my job to try and convince anyone and having been in a situation where I lost everything my home, my child support and my car (all during a time when I was tithing 10%) I just could never tell someone how much they should be giving, God will take care of that. I remember the tremendous amount of pressure and heartache I was going through during that time. God took care of my family it took many many years for us to recover financially but we did recover. I feel blessed every day that I have a job and thank God each morning for it when I get on that elevator, many are losing their jobs, I see it in my building. The stockbrokers are beside themselves it is awful seeing people stress out this way, they have mortgages to pay and families to feed. So as I lay in bed writing this I thank God that I have a warm house and bed to sleep in and if my family has food and clothes with this I am content. During these troubling times in the world the most comforting thing is knowing that God is on the throne no matter what happens with the economy or who becomes our next president! Sorry this is so long but I have such a place in my heart right now for those who are barely scraping by having walked that walk and knowing how awful it can be.


Anonymous said...

This is an unbelievably rich post. Wow. I'm printing it to cull for later. Good job, Faith! You really have frugality all figured out. :~D

Susanne said...

All very good tips, Faith! We do a lot of the same things. I especially like where you said to pray about what is important to you as a couple. I think that is so key. It puts you on the same page.

In the matter of tithing, I just want to add, that there are times in life when yes, in the natural, it is impossible. But if we could look beyond that and trust God, which is what tithing is really all about, He can move in miraculous ways. When we were first married we were living off my wages from a teacher's aide at 4 hours a day. As we were faithful to give or tithe God brought rent payments, bill payments and grocery payments in ways we could never have imagined. But as you say, each person should pray about that. We did and we felt strongly we were to trust God in this and He was faithful. He is a big God and He desires we seek Him in all things. If He is bringing thithing to your heart do not be afraid to trust Him in it. And if not, be obediant to what He is bringing to your heart.

Anonymous said...

"Every one of us shall give account of [concerning, with respect to] himself." I will not give account for you. You will not give account for me. Every believer will stand before God as an individual. Forget the other person--what he did or how he served. The issue is YOU. Every believer is personally accountable before Christ and must give account for himself. May our great ambition be to be well pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9). May we be abiding in Christ our Vine (our Life-Source) so that we will not be ashamed before Him at His coming (1 John 2:28). What could be more rewarding then for me to someday hear "Well Done!" from the lips of the One who died and rose again for me (compare Matthew 25:21)? What could be more satisfying than to be able to say, as Paul said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?

Faith said...

Dear Readers: WOW....what insight I have gained from reading all your comments.
To the first anonymous person: tithing is a command from God. Period. It is in the Bible. You are correct by saying that we all have to give an account for ourselves.
Only God should be the judge of someone.
however, tithing IS a command. There is no getting around it. How you tithe, is up to you.

I like what Susanne had to say.
I like what Erin had to say: God is the one in control no matter where our economy goes and no matter whom He allows to be president over this nation.
Isn't it great that He knows all these things? Now if we all could just rest in Him about these issues....

Anonymous said...

right on about tithing. when I was single I was making peanuts, living by myself, was laid off work different times and still tithed. God met my needs every time, with a babysitting job or by some other means.
If we put Him first He has promised to supply ALL our need.

Faith said...

Dear A H: Amen!!