I read somewhere that finances are one of the leading causes of divorce, and after sharing bills with another person, I can easily see why. Mr. Cooper and I are like other couples in the sense that we bicker over things like socks being left in the floor, who last took the dogs out, who ate the last snack cake, etc. Bills are the only thing we ever really argue about though, and if I’m being completely honest, it can get pretty ugly.
I like to budget, plan, and save, but Mr. Cooper likes to spend, and he has some of the most expensive hobbies imaginable. Do you have any idea how much turkey season cost us this spring? Or how much money he has invested in his pedal board? That being said, we’re still new at this adult thing, and while we have decent jobs, we’re still starting out and by no means are we rolling in the dough. We have two car payments (never again!), a mortgage, full coverage auto insurance, utilities, etc. Because of our pitiful expenses to income ratio, we have already started cutting back on spending, but now that I have accepted a new job with social services, I’m going to have to go a whole month with no pay because of how the pay period works. When I was informed of this, I went into panic mode and immediately began doing mental math. We would still have Mr. Cooper’s income, but that wouldn’t be enough money to make ends meet and something somewhere was going to have to give. A few hours later, I realized this was an opportunity to show Mr. Cooper that we are not broke, we simply spend a lot of money on things we want rather than things we need. In other words, challenge accepted!
I know I’m constantly searching Pinterest and every other online resource for tips on how to save money, how to create a better budget, how to cut your grocery bill in half, whatever. Anything and everything that promises money saving tips, I’m on it! So, I thought it would be a good idea to invite y’all on our journey over the next month. It’s bound to be helpful to someone, right? So without further ado, here is my first post of many detailing our extreme penny pinching.
1. Learn to budget
This was something I really struggled with at first because budgeting is not something I was taught in school and it took me a while to get it down to something that worked for us. Once I finally figured it all out, it made all the difference! We keep a bill binder containing all the things we need to pay bills (stamps, envelopes, checkbook, etc.) along with a spiral notebook where I keep track of everything. It’s not fancy, but it’s practical and it works. Basically, each month gets its own page in the notebook (I try to budget a month in advance) and I write down every bill in the order that it’s due in a list form at the top of the page. I write down the due date, and as things come in, I write down the amount due. Then at the bottom of the page, I list each week along with the income for that week and all the bills due that week. It works out nicely because our pay days alternate each week; I’m salary and Mr. Cooper’s paycheck is usually in the same ballpark, so I’m able to budget accordingly. I know how much money we have coming in that week, I know how much is going out, and that allows me to calculate the amount we have for groceries and whatever else we want/need. I know this sounds confusing, so if anyone wants a more detailed post about my bill binder, please let me know! I’d love to help!
2. Get rid of your cable/satellite bill
Mr. Cooper and I love movies and tv, but we were paying over $80 a month for DirecTV when we really only had a handful of shows that we watched regularly. Mr. Cooper watched History Channel, football, and random stuff when he was bored, and I religiously watch Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead. End of list. We found ourselves using Netflix way more than we ever used our over-priced satellite. Because we were very close to the end of our 2-year contract, it only cost us around $100 to cancel. Netflix is a whopping $8 a month and is now our sole tv source which is fine by us because there are no commercials and we spend in a year what we spent in a month for DirecTV. There are tons of options as far as online television services and you can even buy shows the day after they air. Unless you’re like my best friend’s mom and keep your DVR completely full of shows, it’s going to be cheaper for you to pay $2 an episode for a show on Hulu than x amount of dollars with tv services.
3. Meal plan
I can’t stress the importance of this one. Since
we I started meal planning, my grocery trips are shorter and cost us far less than before. Why? I plan out exactly what I need for each recipe after taking inventory of our kitchen, so I have an organized shopping list instead of wandering the aisles, I don’t spend money on things I don’t need, and food isn’t going to waste before we can eat it. I first decided on what we’re going to have, often times planning day 2 meals where I use leftovers from the night before to make something totally different. I write down the meal and the required ingredients for that meal for each day, then I make a shopping list that’s organized by category. For example, say I’m making spaghetti and using the left overs to make a pasta bake. I write down the ingredients: noodles, sauce, meat, cheese for the pasta bake, etc., then I take those ingredients and place them in categories by aisle to make my trip smoother. I hate getting to the other side of the store only to realize I’ve forgotten something and I then have to go back while I’m still thinking about it. This way, I know what I need down the can aisle, I know what I need in the pasta aisle, and I know what cuts of meat I need. I usually plan our meals based on what the store has on sale as well, and I compare the sale prices to those of other local stores. Sometimes this requires trips to more than one place, but when it comes to saving money, convenience isn’t always an option. When I get back from the store, I write down all of our meals on a menu board I made for our kitchen. It’s decorative and it makes it easy for me throughout the week because I don’t have to decide on what to cook when I get home.
4. Make things from scratch
I know that this is more time consuming and sometimes it feels worth it to spend an extra $5 on something you just heat up, but again, when it comes to saving money, it’s either you save time or you pinch pennies. Time I have, money not so much, so I don’t mind making biscuits, soups, cookies, and pretty much everything else home made. It’s cheaper and it’s better for you, which is a win/win.
5. Utilize cash
When Mr. Cooper and I met, he didn’t have a bank account and he relied entirely on money orders and running errands on Fridays to pay his bills. I got a bank account as soon as I turned 18 and prefer online bill pay. As you can probably guess, we have butted heads over this for a while. For a while, he paid some bills his way and I paid some my way, but we eventually went entirely to bank accounts and debit cards. Mr. Cooper could not stand it. He liked having something physical to show him how much money he had and didn’t want to check the bank account every time he went to make a purchase. After all, it is difficult to maintain a balanced account with two people, especially when one of them NEVER BRINGS HOME RECEIPTS. Anyway. Now we compromise: we leave at least enough money to cover the bills that come out automatically or that I pay online, and then we withdraw cash for groceries, gas, and extra spending. The bills get paid and no one overspends. For whatever reason, it’s much easier to spend money with a bank card as if there’s an endless supply than when you have cash.
I’m going to be doing more frequent posts to update you all on everything we’re doing to save as much money as we can before I start this new job. Is there something you do to save money that wasn’t listed above? If so, let me know in a comment! I can use all the help I can get!