You know what they say: Christmas is a time for giving!
But unfortunately in western society, Christmas is also a time for over-spending, extravagance, and going into (more?) debt.
It has become so ingrained in us that we need to buy everyone everything that their heart desires, that most people don’t even bat an eyelash at spending way more than their finances allow them to and racking up some credit card debt in the process.
So in this post, I’m going to show you how we create a realistic Christmas Budget for our family, without going into debt… or missing out on any of the holiday fun!
1) Determine Your Budget
This is where most people make a mistake when it comes to budgeting for Christmas: they start buying first, and they don’t look at their budget until after they have already spent too much… or committed to spending too much.
Start by looking at your budget first and figuring out exactly how much money you can afford to spend.
I recommend never going into debt for Christmas and only putting things on your credit card if you can (realistically) pay it off in the same month that you spend it in.
If you are already in credit card debt, don’t go any deeper into debt and stick with the bare minimum. Think one small gift per person for your immediate family bare minimum. Trust me, Christmas isn’t worth increasing or going into debt for.
(If you want to check out how we got rid of $20,000 in debt in 18 months, read this post!)
A lot of parents have a hard time with this because they are worried about their children feeling left out. But honestly, it’s just part of life!
If our kids wonder about their friends receiving more than they do, we talk with them about money.
Check out this post if you want more tips for how to not worrying about keeping up with the Joneses.
Decide on an amount that you will spend on Christmas that will work with your budget, and determine to stick with it no matter how awesome that cool new toy is!
2) Start Saving Early
The earlier you start thinking about the Christmas Budget, the better prepared you will be to purchase the gifts on your list without going into debt.
Have a Christmas Bank Account
One way to plan for Christmas all year round (and to let yourself spend a little more if you want to) is to create a Christmas Bank Account.
To start a Christmas bank account, all you need to do is take the amount of money that you would like to spend on Christmas and divide it by 12. Then, each month, take 1/12 of the money and put it into the bank account.
Then when Christmas rolls around, you will have all the money saved and ready to use.
I often like to follow the “want, need, wear, read” rule, but I don’t use it every single year. Some years they don’t get any new clothing, and sometimes they have multiple needs. But if you are trying to have a simplified Christmas list, it’s a great place to start.
5) Talk To The Grandparents
Getting the grandparents involved is a grate way to save money and still get your children presents that they would love.
Like I mentioned in this post, almost as soon as I know what I want the girls to receive for Christmas, I call my mom and see if there is anything on the list that she wants to get them.
This helps us save money, it reduces the clutter in the house because I’m just re-distributing the gifts that I already wanted them to receive, and it helps my mom know that I will approve of everything on the list even with my Minimalist preferences🙂
5) Then Decide on Extended Family Gifts
Only after you’ve figured out what you can afford for your immediate family should you figure out if you want to exchange gifts with your extended family.
This concept might seem strange if you’ve always given gifts to your extended family, but you actually don’t have to continue doing this… especially if you are on a tight budget.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change What You’ve Done in the Past
Before we had children and had two incomes we did extended family gifts for both sides of the family every year.
But once we became a single-income family, we decided to change how we did things.
We now only exchange gifts with the side of the family that we are spending the holiday with.
Another way you can save money on extended family gifts is to draw names instead of just buying something for everyone.
We did this even before we were on one income.
It’s a nice way to spend more money on a nicer gift for someone else, and it allows you to receive one nicer gift instead of a bunch of things that you don’t really want or need.
If you are reading this and thinking that you haven’t saved enough money for Christmas this year, here are some things you can do:
1) Sell Some Things
We love making some extra cash when we need to declutter anything, because, well, who doesn’t like earning some extra money… and selling some items will also help you get rid of a few things before you get a bunch of new stuff in your house that you need to declutter.
(Just kidding… I love Christmas, just not clutter that can sometimes come with it :D)
2) Decrease the Number of Gifts
If you don’t have enough money to buy your kids all the gifts on their list, scale things back, and just give one or two gifts per child.
You will probably be able to get them something a little nicer this way than if you buy them a lot of cheaper gifts.
3) Buy for Less People
It can be hard to decide not to exchange gifts with extended family or friends, but I promise that you will be far less stressed about sticking with your budget if you have fewer people to buy for.
And remember that just because you decide to buy for less people this year, doesn’t mean that you can never do gifts with your extended family again.
It’s overwhelming to think about where every dollar needs to go and how to pay off debt and save money!
Plus, you are supposed to keep track of all the money in one or two bank accounts, yet somehow remember how much you have left to spend, and what is supposed to stay in savings? Yikes!
Luckily, there is a much easier way to keep track of your money. And that is to have multiple bank accounts.
7 Bank Accounts?? That’s so many!! Why on earth would you need to have 7 bank accounts unless you own a business???
Well, here’s an example of why it is helpful to have multiple bank accounts when organizing your budget:
Let’s say that you are getting ready to clean your living room.
Your kids have toys laying around, your husband has some work things sitting next to the door, the remnants of a craft project are over here, and some laundry that is needing to be folded is over there.
Would you just open up a closet, shove everything in it, and close the door quickly behind you?
What would happen if you did that not just once, but every time you cleaned?
I would lead to a huge mess in the closet!
What would you do when your child asks you where the toy they were playing with two days ago is?
You have to dig through everything else in the closet to find it.
What about when you need to find something that you put in the closet a week ago? A month ago? A year ago??
It gets very difficult to know where things are, when they were put into the closet, and what they are supposed to be used for.
The same is true for money in a bank account.
Month after month we throw money into one (or two!) accounts, cross our fingers, and say a prayer that all of the money goes into the right place.
But if we divide up the money into multiple bank accounts, it becomes very easy to track how much money we have for each item in our budget, and how much money we have saved for the future.
Having multiple bank accounts is the easiest way to organize your money when you are starting a budget.
(By the way, if this sounded like the way that you clean, you may want to check out this post!)
Why Have Multiple Bank Accounts?
Let’s say that you want to put $100 away each month for a new car, $100 each month for a vacation, and $100 each month for your kid’s college savings.
If you are using one savings account, then all $300 dollars would go into the account every month.
In a year, you will have $3,600 in that account.
Now you thought your old car would last you a little longer, but you get rear-ended and now need to look for a car before you were planning on it (don’t ask me how I know…). You check your bank account and decided that you have enough to put $2,500 down on the new vehicle. You purchase a vehicle and take $2,500 out of the account.
But how much money did you really have saved for the vehicle? Only $1,200! So how much money do you have left for your vacation? How much money do you have saved for college?
Nobody knows! You accidentally borrowed from one of the other accounts!
And let’s be honest, you probably borrowed for the college savings because when it comes time for your vacation, you will still go with your family.
When you have multiple bank accounts you are able to track exactly how much money you have saved for each item, and you won’t be accidentally stealing money for other accounts.
Now, let’s see what happens if we have multiple bank accounts.
Using the example above, you would put $100 into your car savings account every month, $100 into your vacation savings account every month, and $100 into your kid’s college savings account every month.
At the end of the year, you have $1,200 in each account, and when you need that new car, you know exactly how much money you can afford to spend on the car.
You can still borrow from you vacation account if you want to, but you won’t be accidentally draining your kid’s college fund.
How Do You Keep Track of So Many Accounts?
If all of your bank accounts are at the same bank, you can easily see how much money is in each account through the dashboard of your bank.
If they are through different banks (or if they are through the same bank but you want to be able to track how much you are spending on each category within each account) you can use Mint.com to track everything.
Mint.com is a completely free budget tracking tool so you can see everything all in one place.
Ross loves using Mint.com to keep a close eye on our budget!
Will It Hurt Your Credit to Have Multiple Bank Accounts?
Nope! It hurts your credit when you don’t pay your bills or debt payments on time.
If you use this method correctly, it will actually help your credit because you will have a more organized approach to paying your bills.
7 Bank Accounts Every Family Should Have
A Checking Account is an account that you have a bank card attached to. This is separate from a Savings Account because you don’t want to be able to access your money in savings at the swipe of a card.
Here are some important checking accounts to have:
1) Staging Area Account
This is the account that all your money comes into… temporarily.
Your paycheck, tax returns, refunds, and any other money that you receive all go into this account. (Unless it’s money specifically for your birthday or Christmas, then it could go into a fun money account/or a personal account.)
But the money won’t stay here long because this is your staging area. This is where your money comes to wait for its assignment.
Link your auto-drafts for all of your recurring monthly bills to this account: your mortgage, your rent, your utilities, your insurance… anything that is an expense that you know will happen every month.
It’s also smart to auto-draft your savings first thing when you get your paycheck because we to be sure that we pay ourselves first and the money doesn’t mysteriously “get lost.” throughout the month.
2) Husband’s/Wife’s Checking Accounts
Almost everyone likes having money that they are personally responsible for and can use as they see fit. That’s where the Husband’s/Wife’s Checking Accounts come into play.
There are two ways you can use these accounts:
You can divide up the monthly responsibilities and put the money each person is responsible for into each account. For instance, if the wife is responsible for groceries, you would put the monthly grocery budget into her account and she would pay for groceries with the corresponding debit card.
The second way to use this account is to deposit some discretionary money into this account. This is money that you can use how you see fit without needing to chat with your spouse about it first. This could be for anything from having money to use when you go out with the guys, get a pedicure, or save for an expensive coat that you have been wanting.
We use these accounts the second way, but either one is a good use of these accounts.
Emergency Savings Accounts are for exactly what they sound like… emergencies!
This is money you don’t want to have a debit card attached to, but you want to be able to access the money fairly easily.
Having your Savings Accounts at the same bank that you have your checking account at works well for this. You can easily move the money into your checking account if you have a need for it, but it isn’t in your wallet at all times in case you decide you really need that new grill right now and “you’ll just pay back your savings later.”
Pro Tip: Don’t borrow from these accounts! Only use them for true emergencies. Trust me, money doesn’t get paid back as easily as it gets drained!
3) Emergency Savings Account
The most important savings account you can have is an Emergency Savings Account.
This account is used for exactly what it sounds like… Emergencies!
Emergencies are things like a job loss or a house loss. A medical emergency could also fall into this category, but I recommend having a separate Health Savings Account for this (see #2 below.)
If you don’t yet have an Emergency Savings Account, open a savings account, and put every bit of cash you can spare into the Emergency Savings Account until you have at least $1,000.
If you want to stop once you reach $1,000 and that feels like good padding between you and any emergency, then you can move onto the next account.
But I recommend not moving past this step or creating more accounts until you have at least 3 months of your expenses saved into this account.
If you are using the 70/20/10 Rule for Budgeting, this is where you want 20% of your net income to go until you have your base in this account.
Ideally, you want to continue contributing at least half of your 20% savings (or 10% of your income) into this account until you have 6 month’s to a year’s worth of expenses in your Emergency Savings Account.
4) Medical Savings Account
I recommend having a separate savings account for your families healthcare.
There are two ways to do this:
Medical Savings Account Option 1
Insurance companies often have a Health Savings Account (HSA) option if you get your insurance through your employer.
These accounts typically have tax benefits such as being able to put in the money tax-free and can generally be used for any medical needs from a co-pay at a doctor’s appointment, to a dental check-up, to major surgery, to any expenses associated with having a baby.
The only downside to this type of Healthy Insurance is that you have a very high deductible.
If you are healthy, and/or/ single or newly married, this a fantastic option.
Before Ross and I got married, he had an account and contributed to it every month until his yearly deductible was met.
(Often if you have one of these accounts through your insurance at work, your employer will also match your contribution when you contribute so it helps you reach your deductible more quickly.)
Once we were married and on the same insurance, I also got an HSA plan through our employer and I contributed the maximum amount that I could every paycheck until we reached our yearly contribution limit.
One of the best things about having an HSA is that if you switch employers, you take the account and the money with you so you don’t lose anything.
With the money we had put into our accounts, we were able to pay for my prenatal care and birth expenses for both of our girls without having to pay our deductible out of pocket. The money was already saved!
I highly recommend having this type of insurance if you are planning to have children down the road and are a healthy person.
Medical Savings Account Option 2
Now that we have children, we wouldn’t want to have a high-deductible insurance plan. Kids get sick a lot more often than adults do and tend to be accident-prone.
After our younger daughter was born, we used the last of our HSA money that we had from our previous employer, so we decided to make our own account.
We are going to open a regular savings account at our bank and treat it like an HSA (unfortunately it won’t be tax-free money, but it will still do the trick).
We will put money into this account every month until we reach our yearly deductible. Then, if we have a medical emergency, we can use it for the bills and replenish the account throughout the following year without having to dip into our emergency savings account.
If you are using the 70/20/10 Rule for Budgeting, once you have the minimum amount in your Emergency Savings Account, you can either put the whole 20% into this account, or you can split the 20% and put 10% in your HSA or Medical Savings Account while you continue to put 10% in your Emergency account until you have the year’s worth of expenses in the Emergency Account.
A sinking fund is an account that you put money into when you are saving for something specific, often to replace a depreciating asset like a vehicle.
You aren’t expecting to grow your wealth with these accounts, you are setting the money aside for a specific use.
5) Large Item Sinking Funds
Car Savings Account
A car savings account is for… wait for it…. anything to do with your car!
We get a discount on our car insurance by paying for it bi-annually. It’s great to get a discount, but that means that twice a year we have a large payment. So we divided out the total annual amount into 12 monthly payments and put the payment each month into our Car Savings Account.
Pro Tip: Check with your insurance company to see if you can get any discounts for paying in lump sums!
Then when the payment is due, we have the money sitting in this account ready to go. This way it doesn’t mess up our monthly budget when we have to pay for it.
We also put money into our car savings account for car emergencies. You never know when something will need repairs or replaced. It is always better to have the money ready to use for your car than to have to dip into your Emergency Savings Account.
You can also put some extra money into this account if you want to upgrade your vehicle in the future. Then when it is time for the purchase, you will have the downpayment (or hopefully the full payment!) ready to go.
House Savings Account
If you plan on purchasing a house, it is never too early to start a house savings account.
It’s ideal to be able to put 20% down on a house when you decide to purchase, and this is a great place to build up and store the money!
Having a separate account for the house ensures that you won’t be accidentally using this money for something else and allows you to see how close you are to your goal quickly.
6) Fun Sinking Fund Accounts
Fun sinking funds are great to have for recurring fun items that you would like to set aside money for. These accounts make sure you are also having fun with your money and will keep you from digging into the important savings accounts when you want to do something fun.
I recommend having your Emergency Savings Account set up and funded before opening these accounts. But they are wonderful to have after you reach that goal!
Trip Savings Account
We love taking trips! But vacations can be expensive if you aren’t budgeting for them in advance.
Even though you aren’t generally at home when you take a vacation, you will still need to pay your mortgage/rent, utilities, insurance, and all of your other monthly bills. Food on vacation generally costs more than your monthly food budget too because most people eat out more often on vacations.
The best way to save for a trip is with a sinking fund. Put some money every month into a separate account specifically for a trip or vacation.
Then when you go on a trip, you have the money set aside and ready to go!
If your family isn’t into trips/vacations, you can use have a “fun things to buy” account and use it for a trampoline, a swing set, or a pool for the backyard.
Christmas and Birthdays are so much fun, but they can also be expensive!
Especially if you enjoy giving many gifts and doing many activities around each holiday, but aren’t financially preparing for them all year round.
To set up a Christmas sinking fund, figure out how much money you want to spend on Christmas and/or Birthday Gifts through the year, and divide the total amount by 12. Then each month put the monthly amount into the fund.
Savings Accounts For The Future
Sometimes it can be a challenge to save money for something that is so far in the future like retirement or your kids going to college.
But saving for the future is so important. Not only because you want to have some money set aside when you get there, but the sooner you start saving, the more money you will have when you get there!
Due to the time value of money, the sooner you start saving for the future, the better!
7) Retirement Savings
Everyone should have a retirement savings account, no matter how old you are (but the younger you start the better!)
Set aside some money every month for your retirement in a ROTH IRA, a 401K, or other retirement savings account.
If you are a young single person, or a young couple without kids, I highly recommend contributing the maximum yearly amount toward your retirement.
The more money you put into these accounts in the beginning, the more money you will have down the road!
College Savings Accounts (Optional)
If you don’t feel like you should help your children pay for college, that’s completely ok, I’m not going to try to convince you that you should.
There are pros and cons to paying entirely for your children’s college education and you have to choose what is best for your family.
BUT, if you want to help your children with paying for college even a little bit, you should start saving for it now.
College may seem like a long way off, but if you think your children may want to go to college, it is a great idea to set up a College Savings Account now. As in today. Actually, do it yesterday if you can.
You can set up college savings accounts for your children either at a local bank in a regular savings account, or you can set up education-specific funds.
The only downside to an education-specific fund is that it has to be used for continuing education after high school.
So, if your children decide that they do not want to go to college or trade school, you can use the money for some other form of education, but nothing else.
We decided to get education-specific funds for our girls because we want to encourage them to go to college or trade school, and if they don’t, we have nieces and nephews that we could help with their college education.
Even putting $25 a month into an account for college will help soften the financial blow to your children if they decide to go.
We opened a college savings account for each of our girls just a couple months after they were born, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do it even before they are born!
Pro Tip: If you have more than one child, open an account for each child. You don’t want to drain all the college savings money on child number one and have nothing left for child number 3. Having an account for each child ensures that each kid gets the same amount of help from mom and dad and no one is crying “unfair!”
Wedding Funds (Optional)
Just like college, weddings may seem far off, but they can be really expensive… and sneak up on you if you aren’t expecting it!
We also opened a wedding account for each of our girls not long after they were born.
We don’t contribute a lot to these accounts because we don’t plan on having more than three to five thousand dollars saved up by the time they get married. We had a very small wedding ourselves and don’t think that we need to provide a lavish one for them, but we would like to be able to help them out should they choose to get married.
If they want more money than that, they can choose if they want to make up the difference.
Even if you have boys it can be nice to help out with the wedding, or give it to to the couple as a wedding gift, or give it to them for a down payment on a house.
We figure if they don’t get married, we can let them put the money towards a down payment on a house or some other wise investment.
Bank Account for Each Child (Optional)
When your kids are little, I prefer to teach them budgeting with this simple cash method for kids, but as they get older, and their savings jar gets full, open a bank account for each child’s personal savings.
You may want to have an account for their spending money as well. But if you open the account when a child is too young, they will have a hard time understanding that their money is still in the bank.
I plan on opening bank accounts for Miss Claire when she is about 7 or 8 years old.
Spare Change Account (Optional)
If you want some incentives for being more frugal with your money and coming in under budget each month, a Spare Change Account is a great option.
A Spare Change Account doesn’t have any money budgeted toward it. You only deposit money into this account when you are under budget in another category and have money left over.
So if you have $100 per week budgeted for groceries, and you only spend $80 at the store, you would put $20 into your Spare Change Account.
The only catch with this account is that you have to use it for something fun and something specific! If you are planning to use the money for something boring, you will have very little motivation to try to be under budget.
If you don’t have something specific in mind for this account, you will just use it for going out to eat again when you don’t feel like cooking. If you have a specific goal in mind, it will make you think before you spend it and force you to decide if you want something now or later.
This is a great option if you have a little wiggle room in each category of your budget and want to motivate yourself to tighten your belt.
It works better for my personality to have a budget where every dollar is accounted for and the money I have allocated in each category makes me be frugal at the store, but this is a great option for other personalities.
These seven bank accounts are just a starting point. Open as many as makes sense for your family and financial situation!
Let me know in the comments what other bank accounts your family uses and you think everyone should have!
Ready to Get Serious About Saving Money?
If you are ready to get serious about paying off your debt, saving more, and spending less, check out Jordan Page’s Budget Boot Camp.
Jordan is a budget guru who paid off her family’s $10,000 debt in 13 months and teaches others how to do the same.
Her program is a fun way to Whip Your Wallet Into Shape!
Is it just me or have groceries gone up by a lot since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic?
At first, I didn’t notice a huge change…
A couple of things here and there were more expensive, but it made sense that people like me would have to pay more for toilet paper (you know, since minimalists aren’t hoarders at all and Costco was out of TP for months ;).
But over the past year, I have noticed a gradual climb in my grocery bill.
At first, I wondered if I was the only one noticing a difference.
Then I realized that since I meal plan in such a Crazy Way, I have a fairly homogeneous grocery budget throughout the year.
And because I have been meal planning this way for over 4 years now… I know that my meal plan hasn’t gotten magically more expensive this year.
Which made me think that this was a good time to bring out this old post and do a video about it for the channel!
So if you are looking for ways to save money as prices keep going up, you’ve come to the right place.
This post will give you a lot of ideas for how to save money on your grocery bill.
If you don’t like to eat leftovers in the same week, freeze your doubled recipe and you just cooked a meal for your future self. You’re Welcome!
6) Create a Shopping List (And Use It!)
Before you leave your house, check your weekly meal plan and write your shopping list.
Having a shopping list takes out all of the guesswork when you’re at the grocery store.
If you’ve hung out on this blog before, you know that grocery shopping isn’t my favorite hobby, so the least amount of time I can spend at the store the better.
Knowing exactly what I need to get at the grocery store is one of my favorite things about meal planning. (Check out my post The Pros and Cons of Meal Planning for Moms if you want to see if Menu Planning might be beneficial for you.)
Creating a Shopping list is only half of the equation though, you need to remember to take it to the store, use it at the store, and stick to it at the store.
7) Shop At Your House First
When you are making your shopping list, go through each recipe that you are making and check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer for items that you can use.
You might find that you don’t need to buy any of an ingredient, or you might just need to buy a small amount that you can add to what you already have. (The bulk section is awesome for this, see below!)
This is the most important step when you’re creating a list if you are looking to save money.
Buying things that you already have at home is a waste of money. Don’t be a money-waster!
8) Have a Pantry Week
Most of us have way more in our pantry than we need.
So if you are struggling to shrink your grocery bill, have a pantry week!
Throw out your regular meal plan for the week, and make meals using only the things that you have on hand.
We don’t do this often because I only buy what we will use in a week (aside from having a few staples on hand).
But last week we were able to do this!
Some friends of ours were moving and they had quite a bit in their fridge, freezer, and pantry that they gave to us (yay!).
I went from spending over $150 a week (thanks, Covid) to spending only $50 on some fresh produce!
9) Buy in Bulk
Aside from the produce section, this is where I spend the majority of my time when I grocery shop.
I love the bulk section at my grocery store because I can get everything from whole-grain pasta, to flour, to spices, to health food.
Buying in bulk saves me several cents per pound as opposed to purchasing packaged products.
I also use the bulk section in a way that most people don’t think about (because it kind of goes against the name of the section).
I love using the bulk section to buy tiny amounts of things that I need.
If I need one cup of something that I don’t use very often, I will go to the bulk section and buy one cup of that item.
If I need a spice for a recipe that I need that I will probably not use again (or at least for a while) I will go to the bulk section and buy exactly how much of the spice that I need for the recipe.
Buying spices in bulk saves me so much money.
I’m always amazed when I have to buy a spice in the baking isle because they are out of it in the bulk section or they don’t carry it in bulk. It is usually five times (or more!) as expensive as the spices that I buy in bulk!
To store the spices, I got some spice jars and I just refill them when I go to the store. If I get a spice that I don’t use very often, I just keep the small amount in the bulk bag until I use it.
10) Buy In Season
Buying food that is in season will save money while also letting you eat healthier.
Food is typically the cheapest when it is the freshest. Why would we not want to take advantage of that?!
If you like to eat fruit all year long like we do, stocking up and freezing fruit in the respective seasons will save you money.
We live in the Pacific Northwest and seasonal fruit-picking is a hobby of every money-saver in the area.
Starting usually around April or May with strawberries, and ending in October in with apples, there is a constant stream of ripe fruit, ready for the picking.
The girls and I go and pick almost once a week.
The rule we use is we pick enough for us to use all year round, but no more.
Our freezer has to be completely empty by the time strawberry season begins the next year. (More on the reasoning behind this below!)
Sometimes I can find amazing deals on seasonal fruit at the store, too. One year there was a surplus of strawberries and I was able to get several flats for $1 per pound!
12) Buy Generic Brands
Ross and I still laugh about how he didn’t know how to buy generic until we were married.
We would go shopping together (because everyone does that when they’re first married, right?) and he would excitedly grab every box that was brightly colored and had the words “NEW” or “LIMITED TIME” on them and throw them into the cart.
I would then point out the box (that was usually right next to the flashy one, just with less exciting packaging) that featured the exact same thing for a fraction of the price!
We saved a lot of money, simply by switching to generic brands.
Generic brands have the exact same ingredients as the Name Brands, but for much cheaper.
If you usually buy Name Brand, make the switch and you will save a lot of mulah!
13) Buy Large Quantities… Sometimes
Buying larger containers of food will (almost) always be cheaper per ounce.
If we have something that we use a lot, like almond milk, we buy the largest size at the store if it is the cheapest per ounce. (Check those small numbers every time, they like to switch things up on you from time to time!)
If something we use a lot is cheaper to buy at Costco, we will buy larger quantities there about once a month. We may or may not go through a lot of peanut butter and toilet paper.
But cheaper per ounce, doesn’t always save you money. If you aren’t able to finish the entire amount before it goes bad, it doesn’t save you money. In that case, buying a smaller quantity will save you more money than getting a large container than you can’t finish in time.
14) Only Buy What You Will Eat in a Week
Aside from our seasonal stash in our freezer, and our large quantities of peanut butter, we only buy what we will eat each week.
This saves money because you are eating everything you purchase instead of purchasing things just in case you are in the mood for it at some point in the future.
15) Shop at Cheap Grocery Stores
These days we have a lot of options for where we can buy our food. There is a wide range of grocery stores for every shopper out there.
If you are looking to save money, find the cheapest place to get your groceries and shop there.
If you don’t know where your cheapest place to find groceries is, do a test.
Have an identical Meal Plan for four consecutive weeks and buy your groceries and the four stores that you think might have the best prices.
At the end of the month, compare and start sopping at the cheapest place!
(Just be sure that you bought everything the same each week instead of stocking up at the store on some weeks or eating more from the pantry for others.)
For us, the cheapest grocery store is WINCO. They don’t accept credit cards, you have to bag your own groceries, and it isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done and is a lot cheaper than the other options around us.
You probably don’t have a WINCO if you don’t live on the west coast, but there are discount grocery stores in every town like Aldi or SuperSaver.
Sometimes you just have to do a little looking around!
16) Grate/Chop/Cut/Bag Your Own Food
Any time that someone else preps the food for you, you will pay extra.
This includes grated cheese, baby carrots (yes, they are the same thing as big carrots, just cut smaller!), cut Brussels sprouts, bagged apples, and the list goes on.
Instead of looking at the pre-packages salads, try making them yourself.
Placing fruit and vegetables into a bag instead of getting the pre-bagged ones will always save you money . (Almost always. Be sure to price check because you never know when those bagged items will be on sale.)
A little extra work in the short run will save you money in the long run!
17) Don’t Buy Drinks
If you have a problem going over your food budget, stop buying drinks.
Drinks may not seem expensive, but they can really add up over time.
Water is essentially free, and better for you than anything you can buy! You can always add some lemon to your water if you don’t care for the taste.
Yes, I know that buying organic food is usually the right thing to do.
But here’s the thing, it’s also the most expensive thing to do.
If buying organic is important to you, but it’s also hurting your wallet, you can try doing one of these things:
1. Only Buy Organic If You Can Afford It.
Remember when we made that grocery budget above? That’s going to come in handy now.
Our weekly grocery budget is $100. But if I know that I will probably only be spending $50 on a given week because we have a lot of leftover ingredients from last week, or we spent some time at my parent’s house, I will buy more organic ingredients on that grocery trip than I normally would.
But when I need to buy more ingredients, I stick with the standard ones.
2. Only Buy Organic for the Dirty Dozen
Another alternative organic food buying option is to only buy organic for the dirty dozen foods. These foods tend to have the highest pesticide levels, so some people will buy organic for them while buying regular items for everything else.
3. Continue Buying Organic and Lower Your Budget in Another Area
If you want to continue to buy organic and can’t seem to lower your food budget enough in any other way, you may need to lower your budget in another area.
Can you drive a less expensive vehicle? Only put your children into one extracurricular activity instead of two? Lower your insurance payments?
Ultimately, something somewhere will have to give if you need to save money or avoid going into debt.
Typically, grocery stores put the most expensive items at eye level.
They want you to purchase them, so they want you to see them first.
Looking above or below the most convenient items will usually save you money.
20) Use Ibotta
I was never a coupon person… until a friend who is always looking for a good deal got me hooked on Ibotta.
Ibotta is essentially a free coupon app that helps you get deals for things that you are already buying. Cha-ching!
All you have to do is download the app. In the app, you can search for deals by the store that you shop at and add them to your list. Once you purchase the item, just upload a picture of your receipt and it will take care of the rest!
You can even earn money by shopping online, as long as you go through Ibotta.
The only catch is that you have to get $20 to cash out. But there are so many items that have coupons on them that it doesn’t take long at all.
Usually, there is at least one coupon for each store that is “any item.” This means that as long as you purchase anything, you can redeem it.
21) Grocery Shop Once a Week
If you limit your trips to the grocery store to only once a week you will spend less on groceries.
Every time you set foot inside a store, you increase the likelihood that you will buy something you didn’t need… usually just because it was on sale or it looked good at the time.
By limiting the number of times that you shop each week, you will save money.
22) Don’t Buy Single-Use Items
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again:
Single-use products will waste your money!
Single-use products are anything that is designed to be used once, then thrown away.
I’m looking at you, plastic sandwich bags, paper napkins, and paper towels!
Even if you buy paper towels at Costco, you could save over $40 a year if you stopped using paper towels alone and switched to using cloth towels instead.
That may not seem like much, but if I handed you $40 right now, what would you do with it? Would you wipe up the juice your toddler spilled, or would you spend it on something just a little bit nicer than that?
2. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. (But keep the paper napkins you get with takeout and use them on road trips or when you are out and about!)
We’ve been using ours for about 9 years now and they are still as good as new!
3. Re-use your plastic freezer and sandwich bags until they cannot be used anymore.
Just scrub them with a little soap and prop them upright on your faucet and/or soap dispenser to dry… good as new!
The next time you run out of plastic bags and need to buy more, consider bags that are made to be reused like these.
4. Try replacing parchment paper with a Silicone Baking Mat to cut down on waste and cost in the long run.
23) Buy Seconds
If you buy groceries from farmer’s markets, farm stands, or fruit farms you can usually find “seconds” which are much cheaper than “firsts.”
What are seconds? Seconds are fruit or vegetables that have visual imperfections or are smaller or larger than the preferred size.
I remember getting apple seconds from orchards when I was growing up and the only problem with them was that they were too big. (I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an apple being too big, but apparently, there is!)
They tasted exactly like the apples that were smaller. Shocking, I know.
Occasionally seconds may be a little overripe (which is perfect for juicing) or under riper (they will ripen if you sit them on the counter for a few days).
Buying seconds is a great way to save money while still getting high-quality produce.
24) Eat Simple Breakfasts
At our house, we eat the same quick, simple, and healthy for breakfast every day of the week except for Sunday.
Eating simple breakfasts will keep your Meal Planning simple, it will make your mornings easy, and it will save you money.
The large numbers that you see on the shelf are the price for the entire item or container that you are buying.
But if you want to know which item is cheaper, you have to look at the small numbers that are usually below the large ones.
This tells you how much you are paying per ounce, or per individual piece.
This is the only way to know which one is the least expensive.
28) Compare Prices EVERY TIME
Maybe this isn’t true for all grocery stores, but at ours, they change the prices frequently, and the cheapest brand changes from time to time.
The almond milk that is cheapest is different almost every week! Sometimes it’s the largest container you can buy, sometimes it is a smaller one, and sometimes it is a completely different brand.
Just because something is cheaper one time when you visit the grocery store doesn’t mean it will be the next time.
29) Don’t Buy Impulse Items
Everything next to the checkout is placed there to make you spend a little bit more money… even if you hadn’t planned on it.
If you really want chips and candy, go to the chip and candy aisle and get a much better deal. If you really need that drink, go back to the drink aisle and get twice as much for half the cost. If you forgot to write gum on your list, go back to the candy aisle and get three packs for the price of one at the register.
But whatever you do, don’t buy impulse items.
30) Make Your Own Detergent and Hand Soap
Another great way to save money at the grocery store is by making your own laundry detergent and hand soap.
Xanthan Gum: 1/8 – 1 tsp per batch depending on how thick you like your soap. I use 1 tsp because I like thicker soap.
Cold Water: 1/2 Cup
Hot Water: 1/2 Cup
To make it, just wisk the Xanthan Gum into the very Hot Water until it is dissolved. Then add the Castile Soap and Cold Water.
31) Pay Attention at Checkout
Sometimes advertised prices are not reflected at checkout. Be sure to keep an eye out for anything that looks a little strange.
Several times I have had to ask the checker about the price and they will typically send someone back to check.
Just this last week, someone punched in the wrong number for an item and it would have cost me $15 more if I hadn’t caught it!
Always check our receipt after shopping if the final number seems off to you.
32) Eat More Veggies
Eating more vegetables and less meat and dairy will save plenty of money at the grocery store. Money.com says that true vegetarians save about $750 per year!
33) Plant a Garden
While you’re eating more vegetables, start a garden!
Growing your food yourself is the cheapest (and highest quality) way to get more produce into your diet.
Grab a regional gardening book (I like this one if you live in the Pacific Northwest) and get started!
34) Use Your Own Bags
Where we live, stores charge you 5 cents per bag if you need to use paper or plastic bags to put your groceries in.
If you purchase your own grocery bags, not only does it save you money in the short run, but at one of the stores we like to shop at, they will actually give you 5 cents for every bag that you bring in to use!
I know that 5 cents per bag doesn’t seem like a lot either way, but it adds up! I use 5 of my reusable grocery bags every time I go to the grocery store, so over the course of the 2 years that I have had them, I have made $26!
If you also want to use your own produce bags as well to reduce the amount of plastic you use, this set has both produce bags and grocery bags.
35) Store Your Food Properly
Everything lasts longer if you store it properly. Check out this article to find out where you should store common food.
36) Have a Small Amount of Staples
I keep condiments and things that I use every week, like milk, eggs, and peanut butter in stock. But I’m careful not to go overboard.
Keeping too many things in your refrigerator without a plan to consume them will waste money. Having too many things on hand increases the likelihood that something will get lost in the fridge and go bad before it is eaten.
In the pantry, I keep a few staples like dried beans, lentils, rice, flour, and honey at all times. But on a weekly basis, I only purchase what we will be using that week (unless I run out of one of the staples.)
If we needed to, we could live out of our pantry for a couple of weeks on the beans and lentils. But having an overstuffed pantry isn’t any better than having a cluttered fridge is for your wallet.
If you have a pantry that is completely full of food that you don’t plan on eating in the next week or two, then you have money sitting on your shelf for an indefinite amount of time.
Not only that, but you probably have food that has been expired hiding out at the back of your shelves.
37) Declutter Your Fridge, Pantry, and Freezer
If you have too much food in your refrigerator, it is hard to know what food is good, what food has expired, and what food is stuck in the far corner that will never be seen again.
If you declutter your fridge, then regularly stay on top of it, you will be more likely to eat the food that you buy before it goes bad.
Aside from the condiments in the door, and the peanut butter from Costco, I don’t have more than one week’s work of food in the refrigerator.
Except for special circumstances, our refrigerator is empty, aside from the condiments, before I go shopping again.
How do you declutter your pantry without wasting money?
Go through your pantry and decide which food is still edible and decide if you will actually eat it.
Throw away everything that is expired. Everything that is still good but you don’t have any intention of eating, donate to a food pantry.
Now, for the next week, or two, or three plan your meals around the food that you already have sitting in your pantry.
Once you have your pantry decluttered, keep only what you are eating on a weekly basis, plus a small amount of food for emergencies.
Aside from that, keep your money in your pocket.
The freezer is the easiest place for people to lose food forever.
Especially if you have a chest freezer, whatever occupies the bottom third of the freezer will most likely never see the light of day again.
That’s why I only allow food to sit around in my freezer for one year at the most. By strawberry season, everything must be consumed, or I won’t pick as much in the coming months.
This ensures that we don’t waste any money for food that will only be used as a shelf for the food that is placed on top of it.
We keep track of how much we pick of each fruit each year and that helps us know how much to pick the following year depending on when we ran out.
Don’t buy food that’s just going to live in your freezer and never be used!
If you need to declutter your freezer. Take inventory just like you did in the pantry. Toss expired and freezer-burned items, and use the rest in your meals for the next month or two until you have your freezer stash down to a manageable amount.
Once you have the clutter down to a minimum, organize your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Designate different shelves for different items.
I always keep my leftovers at eye level to be sure they are seen and eaten. Condiments go in the door. New food that is to be used for cooking that week goes on the bottom shelf. And I store bread and eggs on the top shelf.
Go with whatever feels natural for you… just be sure that you tell your family so you don’t end up fixing it every day.
I use one basket for everything I will be cooking with in the coming week, one for tea, one for chips (we mostly eat unprocessed, but corn chips are my weakness!), one basket for hiking snacks, one for tea, one for baking items like cocoa powder and shredded coconut, and one basket for food storage items like tin foil and baggies.
Keeping the pantry organized dramatically cuts down the time it takes for me to make a shopping list.
I have two main rules for organizing my freezer:
1. Never put something different on top or in front of something else.
So peaches can’t go in front of or on top of blueberries. They each get their own stack or shelf.
2. Never put something new on top of or in front of something old. The something old will sit there forever, and ever, amen. I promise.
You will save money if you take a little bit of time to put the old things in front of the new because it makes sure that you eat the old stuff first.
What is your grocery budget goal? What would you like to do with the money you save if you hit the goal?Let me know in the comments below!
Ready to Get Serious About Saving Money?
If you are ready to get serious about paying off your debt, saving more, and spending less, check out Jordan Page’s Budget Boot Camp.
Jordan is a budget guru who paid off her family’s $10,000 debt in 13 months and teaches others how to do the same.
Her program is a fun way to Whip Your Wallet Into Shape!
We all want our children to be able to manage their money well and make good decisions with it.
But when we should teach them about money isn’t exactly clear.
If most adults struggle to manage their money, is it too complicated for a child to understand?
Even if we knew when to start, how would we begin?
Money has gone from something concrete that we hold in our hands to an abstract concept.
Most children never see their parents use cash so it is easy for them to think that there is an endless amount of money on that plastic rectangle that their parents use to buy everything with.
This last Christmas, when our oldest was exactly four-and-a-half, we knew it was time to be more intentional about the conversations we had with her about money.
We were sitting at the dinner table one evening and she began explaining to us that when you run out of money, you just get more… Whoops!
That’s not how any of this works!
Ross and I looked at each other and had one of those conversations that parents have with their eyes, and started trying to explain how money works and the responsibility that money requires.
After the kids were in bed, we continued to talk about how she was at the age where we needed to start teaching her good money habits.
About a week later, one of her grandparents texted and said that they wanted to give the girls money for Christmas. They wanted to know if we just wanted it as an Amazon gift card, or if we wanted cash.
My first instinct was the gift card to Amazon, because, where else do you buy things?
But I quickly remembered that this would be a great opportunity to begin her monetary education! I changed my answer and received the money via a cash app.
In this post, I’m going to share with you exactly how we started teaching our daughters the value of money.
How to Teach Your Kids About Budgeting
1) Let Them Choose 3 Jars
The first thing you need to do when teaching your children about money is to get three containers.
Since children are extremely literal and visual in how they understand and learn, I like to use mason jars. That way they can see the money even when the lid is closed.
It helps make the process more concrete since they can see that their money is still in the container even when they aren’t touching it. This will come in handy once the money is transferred to a bank later!
You don’t have to use mason jars though. I used three small boxes for my younger daughter’s money because she is still a little young to care and the exercise with her money was more for my older daughter’s benefit than hers.
Since most of my mason jars are in use, I took the girls to Goodwill and let her pick out three fun jars for her money.
We couldn’t pass up this awesome “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds” jar that we found there!
2) Determine How to Divide the Money
When I was determining how I wanted to teach my girls how to divide their money, I decided that I wanted to use the same basic structure for their budgeting system that Ross and I use for ourbudget.
I suggest dividing the money among three categories for young kids and older kids who are new to budgeting. Dividing the money into too many categories can make it complicated if they aren’t ready for it.
The categories we use for our girls are:
Now choose a percentage of the total that will go into each category. I suggest working smarter here, not harder.
While kids could afford to save a higher percentage of their money than adults can, they will have a harder time sticking with the amounts if they feel like it takes too long to build up their spending money.
Teaching your kids to save 50% of their income is great, but it isn’t sustainable once they have to pay for rent, groceries, and their vehicle when they are living on their own.
Teaching them to save 20-30% of their income is much more sustainable throughout life… and it will be more motivating for them to keep saving instead of wanting to dive into their savings account all the time.
Habits we start in our childhood are incredibly powerful in shaping our lives, so start your kids with successful and realistic money habits now.
So what percentages should you use?
I highly recommend keeping the spending money to 70% or less of the total.
Why do we use 70 percent?
You can read all about my 70/20/10 rule that we use for our budget in this post if you want more details. But for now, just know that it is a good goal to live off 70% of your net income for your entire life. Teaching kids to only use 70% of their income sets them up for financial success later.
What percentages you decide to use is completely up to you, though. Just make the percentages realistic. If you only teach them to spend 10% of their income, they will get tired of trying to budget!
There are two basic ways to divide up the money that will be sustainable throughout the teen years and adulthood. I recommend choosing one of these options for your children:
Option 1: Easy Math Option:
The first way is to keep things super simple. This option will be easy for even young children to wrap their heads around.
You can read more about this method and how why it works well for budgeting here.
Option 2: Teaching Net Income
The second option is a little bit more complicated to do the math, but it teaches kids an important lesson about Net Income vs. Gross Income (or Salary vs. Take-home pay).
(You can see more detailed information about Gross Income and Net Income in this post.)
This is the way we are teaching our girls to allocate their funds.
For a couple of reasons:
1. In our family, we have chosen to base our giving off of our gross income (the total salary before taxes).
We decided to teach our girls to do the same thing we do.
*I’m not saying that every family needs to do this, it’s just how we have decided to give in our family*
2. I want them to start to understand that we don’t get to keep every bit of money that we earn in life (even if they are mainly earning it by having birthdays at this point!)
This gives you a tangible way to teach them about gross and net income before they have to deal with taxes later on. And that’s an important concept to understand in my book.
Here’s How It Works:
First, give based on the Gross Income: Take 10% of the Gross Income.
Net Income (=) Gross Income (-) Giving
Put 30% of the Net Income in the Savings Jar.
Then set aside 70% of the Net Income for spending money.
Here’s an Example:
3) Do The Math
Next, figure out the dollar amount that is going into each category.
If it’s been a little while since 5th grade and you aren’t super comfortable with percentages anymore, here’s how it works:
Whatever percentage you want to use, just move the decimal over two places to the left, then multiply that new number by the total.
(Also if math isn’t your thing, stick with the Easy Math Option at first.)
10.% = .10
70.% = .70
10% of $25 = .10 x 25 = $2.50
20% of $25 = .20 x 25 = $5.00
70% of $25 = .70 x 25 = $17.50
Depending on the age of your child, you can do this step by yourself or have them help you.
When we did this the first time, my oldest daughter, at four and a half, was too young to understand percentages so I just did the math by myself.
4) Get Small Bills and Exact Change
Once you know exactly how much money you will be putting into each jar, figure out exactly how many dollar bills and quarters, dimes, nickels, and/or pennies you need.
Since my oldest was too young to understand that a $5 bill is equal to 5 $1 bills, I wanted to get the money in $1 bills to help her learn the concept.
If your child is older, they may like having larger bills. Just be awarethat counting out 15 $1 bills and putting them all in your spending jar can be more motivating than putting one $10 bill and one $5 bill into the jar.
When the girls each received $25 for Christmas, I went to the bank and got 46 one-dollar bills and $4 in quarters. Yeah, it was a little weird to ask for, and no, it didn’t neatly fit into my wallet; but it worked well for teaching!
The teller didn’t seem phased about getting such a strange request, she just asked if I was doing a fundraiser and needed to have change on hand.
I know that my younger daughter is way to young to understand the concept, but I separated out her money, too.
This way my oldest daughter could have extra practice with counting and she could see that this is what we do with money for everyone in the family.
5) Explain As You Go
When you are counting out the money to put it in the proper jars (or containers), have them do everything with you.
As we went down the list, I had her count out the correct number of bills and quarters for each amount.
Then I had her do the same thing with her sister’s money.
It was good counting and budgeting practice to have her do everything twice!
The most important concept to explain is the right order of budgeting.
Each time we go through the process I ask, “What jar do we fill first? Which jar do we fill next? What jar do we fill last?”
When Ross got home she asked him, “Do you know when to fill each jar?” and she was so excited to tell him the answer!
6) Give First: 10%
We are teaching our daughters to put their giving money aside first.
Because people are generally selfish and if we wait until we have leftovers to share with others, then there won’t be anything left.
Putting the money into the giving jar helps us think of others before ourselves.
(If giving doesn’t line up with your personal values, just bump savings up to be your top priority!)
I go into more detail about the order for allocating your money in my Budget Percentage post.
7) Save Second- 20-30%
After giving, savings should be the top priority.
Talk to your children about how they need to prioritize their savings.
People are naturally impulsive and have unlimited wants, so if we wait until we are done spending to save, there won’t be anything left!
Which Percentage Should I Use for Savings?
In our Budget, Ross and I save 20% of our Net Income, but for the girls, I am teaching them to save 30% of their “Net Income” using the Teaching Net Income Option I showed listed above.
Why? Well, kids don’t have any necessary expenses. At least mine don’t at this point.
They don’t pay rent, they don’t buy food, and we pay for their clothing and swimming lessons.
Everything in their spending jar is just for fun.
Even if they are saving for something practical like the watch like my oldest just purchased for herself, I still felt that it was a better experience for her to not have every bit of money at her disposal to buy it.
It’s a great opportunity to get into the habit of spending less and saving more.
I think it’s a good habit, even from a young age, to live on 70% or less of your net income as I explain in this post.
Later if they find that they can only afford to save 20% once they are on their own, it will be an easy adjustment to make.
It won’t hurt anything that they saved a larger percentage when they were younger, and they will probably be glad that they did.
How do I know that? Well…
As I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of a miser as a little kid. I loved making and saving every bit of money I could get my hands on.
One day my dad called me and told me he had just found a mason jar in his closet that I had asked him to keep safe for me when I was about twelve years old.
It had over $700 in it, which was very helpful to a newly married couple living on a small income!
That wasn’t all the money I had saved as a child, I had some healthy bank accounts as well from birthdays and jobs anyone would give me… this was my *extra savings*.
I was glad that I had chosen to save more than 20% of my income as a kid when I didn’t have expenses.
I highly, highly, highly recommend teaching children to keep their spending to less than or equal to 70% of their income. It’s a good idea for them to get in the habit of keeping their wants and needs in control.
You can read more about the 70/20/10 rule that we use when budgeting here if you’re interested.
This jar is for anything and everything that their little hearts desire. (Within reason, of course, Mom and Dad have veto power in our house.)
Anytime that our oldest decides she wants something, we tell her “You’re welcome to earn some money to buy that!” or “You can use the money you have in your spending jar if you’d like.”
Then she has a choice to make about how she wants to spend her money.
Often she decides she really didn’t need it in the first place, and other times she starts finding ways to make money.
7 Ways to Teach Children the Value of Money
Now that you know the process for teaching kids how to allocate money when they have it, here are Seven Additional Ways to teach them about the value of money.
1) Give Them Ways To Earn Money
In our house, chores are compulsory.
They aren’t optional, debatable, or up for discussion.
They are a way that we can all participate in making the house run smoothly.
However, once their daily chores are completed, they can earn money by doing extra, more involved chores.
When my oldest daughter told me that “her kids” (her dolls) needed Christmas presents this last year, I told her she would have to earn some money if she wanted to buy them presents.
(I explained that I already had bought Christmas presents for my kids and I hadn’t planned on spending any money on hers.)
I was deep cleaning my kitchen at the time and told her I would pay her for helping me.
Pro Tip: Don’t overpay your children just because you love them and are proud of them for trying. Use this as an opportunity to teach them that they have to work hard for money and pay them for their skill level. If you overpay them, they will expect making money to be easy when they get a job and not be prepared to put in much effort.
Since she was only four and needed a lot of assistance, I paid for the effort and the principle of working for money more than actually paying for the help I received.
After she had her money, we went to the dollar store and she found her kids (doll and stuffed animals) some cars and stickers.😂
She was so proud of the presents and wrapped them up and helped Little Jane (her favorite doll) open them on Christmas.
I don’t think she would have been as excited to give them the gifts if she hadn’t worked hard for the money herself.
2) Let Them Buy Things
Later she wanted a watch because most of her little friends had received them as gifts.
We told her how much money she had in her jar and let her do some shopping. (She ended up shopping with our help on Amazon because that seems to be the only place to find things that don’t have branding all over them…)
She picked one that she liked and was within her budget and waited anxiously for it to come!
The day that it came, we let her open the package, then told her to get her money. Ross had her count out the exact amount of money that she needed to pay for the watch.
After she counted out 14 dollars she said “But that’s all my money!”
We reminded her that we had told her that this would take all of her spending money as she was watch shopping. We told her if she wanted the watch, she had to trade the money for it.
After weighing for a minute if it was worth it or not, she decided that she wanted the money
That’s exactly what we want to happen! We want our children to realize that everything that we buy has a cost.
3) Set Boundaries with Gifts
Setting boundaries with birthdays and Christmas and any other holiday presents is an important step in teaching children the value of money.
If every holiday they receive anything and everything on their wish list, they won’t see any need to be careful with their own money.
They also won’t learn how to weigh out different options and make a decision about which item they would like more. This is a valuable tool that many children are missing out on because of so many generous people in their lives.
If a child wants a bike and a scooter for his birthday and ends up with both because each set of grandparents got him one, he didn’t have to learn to save his money and decide which one he really wanted.
Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to have a conversation about keeping gifts to a minimum.
While you certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, we have had great success with having honest conversations with all the grandparents in our girls’ lives.
More often than not, family members will understand and appreciate the values you are trying to instill in their grandchildren.
We still get our girls’ birthday presents, and sometimes large ones, but we usually have all the grandparents go in on one gift if it is a large item instead of having every one of them get several individual smaller gifts.
It works out well for us and it allows them to have the opportunity to learn to save her money for things when she wants them. (Plus this helps keep the clutter under control!)
4) Talk About Money
Money is something that we talk about in daily life.
When the girls ask to go out to eat, we explain to them that it costs a lot more money to go out than it does to eat at home.
When they ask for something new, we explain how many dollars it would cost them and ask if they would like to do some work for it.
When they ask why Daddy is at work all day, we talk about how everything in life costs money and he is making money so we can afford our house, food, and clothing.
As they get older, the conversations will change and get more specific. But I don’t think children are ever too young to start learning that money is something that has to be worked for.
5) Get More Jars
As soon as they are old enough to want some larger items like a bike or scooter, show them how they can separate out some of their spendings to save for a larger goal.
Grab an extra jar, label it with whatever their goal is and help them decide how much of their spending money they want to save for the big item. A good start is 50% toward the goal, 50% in their regular spending jar for smaller items along the way.
Let them have a say in how they want to save for it though, if they want to put everything toward their bike, they will get there faster!
The older children get, the more items they will want. Let them use several jars to keep track of how much they have saved for each specific item.
It will be more motivating for them to be able to see the separate amounts and know where they are in relation to each goal than it would be to throw it all into one pot and guess how much they have.
6) Help Them Set Goals
Sometimes children get stuck on buying trinkets and have a hard time realizing how much more fun they could have if they used their money for larger items.
Try suggesting some larger items that you know they would enjoy spending their money on.
Depending on their age, have them consider a watch, a fun dress, a new bike, getting a pedicure…the sky’s the limit!
7) Get Bank Accounts
Once the Savings and/or Spending jar is full, help them set up bank accounts.
Especially for savings, having a bank account will keep them from wanting to dip into their saved money and use it for spending.
It can also be a good idea, as they get older, to get them a checking account for their spending money, but I wouldn’t do this until they are old enough to understand more abstract concepts.
They need to be able to understand that the money is in their account at the bank and that they are still exchanging dollars for goods even though they are only using a card.
If they have a large amount of money and you want to keep it safe, but don’t think they will understand that concept yet, you could always open a checking account for them. Then before they are ready to buy, take them to the bank to get cash. This will help them see the money in action.
This time it’s going to be different. You’re going to create a budget… and stick with it!
Only, it’s never different. Time after time you’ve tried to get your finances under control, and time after time you’ve failed.
But what if I told you that there were two tricks that you could use to change that?
By making these two small shifts, you’ll be able to stick with your budget and meet your financial goals.
Not only are these tricks super easy, but they will work for any budget.
“Will these tricks work for low-income families?” Yep!
“What about if I just want to save more of my money instead of blowing it?” Yes!
“But we are a single-income family, can it really work for us too?” Definitely!
We’ve been using these tricks since we got married and were living on one very low income. We used it when we were both working outside the home. And we continue to use it today as a single-income family with two kids.
So I would bet you money that it will work for you. 😉
It all comes down to a mental shift
Most budgeting problems can be solved by two tiny little mental shifts.
“Really, Kassy? That’s all it takes? Changing how I think?! That seems too simple.”
I wouldn’t have believed me either, if I hadn’t tried it! But stick with me and you’ll see how this works:
The Two Important Paradigm Shifts for Success
1) Think of your budget in terms of percentages instead of dollar amounts.
When most people start budgeting, they go straight to the numbers. They don’t bother looking at what percentage of their money they are spending, saving, or giving.
They think that the numbers in their budget are fixed and unchangeable. So they let the numbers control them.
Here’s where the shift takes place: If you decide the total amount of money that you can spend on expenses before you begin your budget breakdown, you are in the driver seat.
Not only does using percentages put you in charge, it will allow your budget to work on any income.
2) Reverse the way you allocate your money.
Most often, when people are looking at their numbers, they look at their expenses first.
What’s left after all of the expenses have been met is saved.
And if there is anything left over after that, then they give.
If you have an unlimited pool of money for any and every expense you want, your expenses will grow until they drain the pool.
There will never be anything left for savings, and there will never ever be anything left to give.
If saving, paying off debt, and giving are important to you, you must allocate your money in reverse!
So how do you change these habits?
With a little bit of math.
First Things First
If you are new to budgeting, I need to quickly go over a small detail: Gross Income vs. Net Income.
This little distinction will save you so much frustration!
Never, under any circumstances, base your budget off of your total salary or hourly pay.
If you do this, you will be frustrated every month because you will never have enough money to cover your expenses.
It just won’t work.
(If this is boring or obvious to you, go ahead and skip down to How to Use Percentages, I won’t be offended.) 🙂
Your gross income is your total salary or paycheck before taxes.
This is what your employer tells you that you make. But let’s be real, you don’t actually see that amount of money.
If you base your budget off of your gross income, you are making a huge mistake and setting yourself up for lots of frustration and probably failure.
The only time you should worry about this number is when you are job hunting.
Net Income is commonly referred to as take-home pay, or what you make after taxes.
When you are building your budget, you can obviously use any percentages that you want… It’s your money after all!
But I’m going to show you the percentages that we have used (and still use) on a variety of income sizes in our almost 10 years of marriage.
These percentages will work if you are just starting out, paying off debt, or have plenty of money coming in!
The 70/20/10 Rule
The 70/20/10 rule is going to give you the most basic structure for your budget.
You’ll decide the total amount for every single item on your budget once we get this structure set up, but be careful not to needlessly increase your expenses as your income grows.
For example, you don’t need to increase your food budget just because you make a little bit more money.
Giving yourself a broader outline allows for you to make adjustments and add things into your budget as needed, without needlessly growing the amount of money you spend on transportation or housing, for instance.
Here’s how it works:
Expenses (Everything it costs you to live): 70% of your income (Take-Home Pay)
Savings/Debt Payment: 20%
Let’s get into the details:
When you use the 70/20/10 Rule, your expenses should be less than or equal to 70% of your net income. Never More.
Expenses (<) or (=) 70% of Net Income (Salary-Taxes)
How do you know what 70% of your Net Income is?
Take your Net Income and multiply it by .7. The answer is 70% of your net income.
Example: For easy math’s sake, let’s say your Take Home Pay is $2000 per month.
$2000 (x) .7 (=) $1,400
In this example, $1,400 would be the maximum amount of money you can spend on expenses.
Debt Payment and/or Savings: 20%
The next 20% is allocated to Debt Payment and/or Savings.
Debt Payment/Savings (=) 20% of your Net Income (Salary-Taxes)
So if our take home pay is $2,000 a month. Our Debt Payment/Savings amount would be:
$2,000 (x) .2 (=) $400
If you don’t have any pressing debt, this money goes directly into savings.
If you are just starting out, begin by building up an emergency savings account (check out this post for how many savings accounts you should have to easily manage your money).
How to Handle Debt:
If you have any debt, your first order of business is to get rid of it! Preferably as quickly as possible.
Use this 20% of your income as additional payments on your debt until the debt is gone. Then go back to putting this money in savings.
Notice that I said additional payments. Your car payment(s), your student loan payment(s), and your mortgage should all come out of your expenses. This 20% of your income is for extra payments!
I’ve found that everyone has different logic as far as good debt/bad debt qualifications. You have to decide for your family what is important for you to pay off.
But here’s the thing, any debt that you can pay off is more money that you will have at your disposal each and every month from now until eternity.
Yep, it’s true.
Think about it:
Every car payment you make could actually be going into a savings account for that amazing family vacation you’ve always wanted to go on.
Every credit card payment could be saving for a kitchen remodel.
Every student loan payment could be allowing you to stay home with your kids.
Here’s How We Handle Debt:
Like I said above, you have to choose what debt is worth it to you to pay down.
In our family, these are the types of debt we would pay off quickly: (And when I say quickly, I mean we throw every bit of money we can find at it until it disappears.)
Debt We Paid/Pay Off Quickly:
A lot of people consider student loan debt to be good debt. We didn’t.
We did the math and realized how much extra we would be paying on our loans if we made the minimum payment every month for years on end.
We paid off our loans as quickly as we could and saved ourselves thousands of dollars in interest.
That’s a lot of mulah that we now get to keep in our pockets!
Paying off our student loans is one of the main reasons I am able to stay at home with my girls without having to worry about making a full-time income.
A lot of people think that having a car loan is a fact of life. Again, we don’t.
We only purchase cars that we know we can afford to pay off within a year. Worst case scenario, we know we can do it in two. Then we drive that car until someone else totals our vehicle… It’s happened twice now.
Not having a car payment is another reason that I am able to stay home with my girls. So it’s worth it to us to pay our cars off quickly. Then to drive them until they die.
Credit Card Debt:
Credit Card Debt Payments would belong in this category as well.
If you tend to get into debt using credit cards, pay the debt off quickly… after you cut the cards up and throw them away.
Don’t get any credit cards again until you have all your debt paid off and have a handle on your spending.
We make money off of our credit cards because we only use them when we know we can pay off the balance at the end of the month… then we take the rewards to the bank!
The reason we chose to pay off any debt quickly was that we had a goal of becoming a single-income family when we had kids. Not having debt gave us the freedom to do that.
Pro Tip: If you can pay extra money, make sure every penny is going against your principal amount only and not toward the interest on the loan. You will pay it down a lot faster that way!
Don’t just make double loan payments when you’re paying off debt!
Debt we don’t pay off quickly:
The reason that we aren’t paying off our mortgage quickly is that we were transitioning to a single-income household when we purchased our home.
While we were careful to purchase a house that we could afford on one income, it would be a big stretch for us to make additional payments on our income.
Even if we were able to make extra loan payments, it would still take us a very long time to pay off our house.
For us, it was more important to spend the money that we would have been using to pay off our mortgage on swimming lessons, music lessons, and a family vacation here and there.
But if you can afford to pay off your home and it is a priority for you, go for it!
You need to evaluate your debt for yourself and your family. Pay off what you can, and make your regular payments on the rest.
In our family, we tithe 10% of our income to our church.
If you don’t belong to a church, or you don’t want to give to your church, there are other things that you can do with this 10%.
Give to a charity, find a cause, or help someone pay for college… Get creative and give back.
No one ever regrets giving to charity and making the world a better place.
Obviously, you aren’t required to give any of your money away, it’s your money.
But I highly encourage you to do something with the money that is bigger than yourself, even if it is just putting the money into a college savings account for your own children.
For our $2000 net income example, we have been using, the charity amount looks like this:
$2,000 (x) .1 (=) $200
Gross Income vs. Net Income Giving
Now, remember when I told you that you could give off of your gross income (your total salary) instead of your net income (your take-home pay) if you wanted to?
Some people, ourselves included, choose to give this way.
(Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you to do this. You should do whatever seems right to you.)
But I wanted to walk you through the process in case you wanted to give this way as well.
Your numbers won’t work out beautifully if you do this. You can’t give 10% of your gross and still expect to spend70% of your income on expenses and 20% of your income on savings.
Something else will have to give.
If you choose to give 10% of your gross income, I suggest you take the extra giving out of your expenses instead of your savings.
Here’s How You Do The Math:
Calculate your Giving:
10% of your Gross Income in this scenario
Calculate your Savings:
20% of your Net Income
Use the Remainder for Expenses:
For us, this works out to be about 67% of our net income for expenses.
If you prefer to use the nice round numbers of the 70/20/10 rule, you will have to do everything based off your net income.
Now Think in Reverse
Each month when you allocate your money into each category, I want you to do it backward!
1) Give First
Take your 10% of each paycheck and make a payment to your church, charity, cause of choice, or college fund.
Do this before you do anything else!
Why do we give first?
If we wait until the end of the month and give last, there won’t be anything left to give. Everyone is naturally selfish and if we don’t set aside the money that we want to donate, then there won’t be anything left at the end of the month.
Money has a way of sneaking away undetected if we aren’t intentional with it.
2) Pay off Debt and Save Second
The same logic applies here. If you don’t pay yourself next, you won’t get around to it!
Twenty percent of your income won’t be magically sitting around at the end of the month waiting to be saved.
Have your money auto-draft to your savings account or have an automatic loan payment set to go out the day you get your paycheck (or the day after you get paid, just to be safe, you don’t want to overdraw.)
Pretend that the money never existed!
3) Use the Remaining 70% or less for your Expenses
Now that the important stuff is out of the way, use your remaining 70% to live on.