Learning to Budget on One Income
If you’re like me, anything related to budgeting usually makes me yawn and want to take a nap from boredom, and math is just not my thing. But, our family has come to realize the importance of a budget now that we are living on one-income.
We put off budgeting in our family for a LONG period of time. It’s easy to ignore the fact that we need to be accountable for how we spend money, when we live in a world that constantly bombards us to have whatever we want, whenever we want. And there are plenty of excuses for not look at spending habits, but in the end, we are the ones accountable.
For those discouraged by debt, I can tell you that we had quite a bit of debt from my school loans, some credit cards, car payments, and medical bills, but thankfully, God enabled us to pay this debt off in about three years (before baby). And we were close to six-figures in debt, so this wasn’t a measly task.
It took some time, dedication, and sacrifice, but in the end I’m so thankful to be standing on the other side. It’s difficult to send a lot of hard-earned money towards debt, but when it’s gone, it’s a wonderful feeling. So I definitely encourage those who are still trucking along, to keep at it! One debt at a time!
The Next Goal
The next goal for our family is building our savings and to stay debt free. In the past, we have managed our spending, but we didn’t necessarily have a strict budget to stick to or an end goal in mind. We began to notice this catching up to us after we had our son, and we realized we needed to make a change.
We are closely following the Dave Ramsey book Total Money Makeover, and I’m also a huge fan of Jordan Page from FunCheaporFree.com. She has five children with her husband and is living fully on a small budget; if you haven’t checked her out, I highly recommend stopping by her page.
What We Use to Keep on Track
Now that I’m home more often, I identify part of my duties as not only a wife and a mom, but as a homemaker. And part of making the home is learning to find ways to save money for our family, and to be creative with it! I’ve tried couponing- I’m not a fan, and honestly, I don’t recommend it since most of the sale items don’t have coupons. (Anyone disagree with me here? I’d love to hear if you coupon). But, I can share some useful apps and resources that we’re using to help us stay on track with our budget.
A good old-fashioned binder, with large sheets of a transaction register, is great for our family. We keep track of our spending here, and color code based on what type of item was purchased. For us, I feel this is great because I love pen and paper, and it helps us to see based on color, what the majority of our spending is towards. As you’ll read below, we also use Google Sheets, and I do prefer to do both. The transaction register sheets specifically line up with our bank account spending, whereas the Google Sheets line up with any cash that we used as well, so that we know exactly what the cash was used for in a purchase. For example, if we took out $40 cash from an ATM, we track how that $40 was spent on Google Sheets, but the binder will just say ATM, $40.
Google Sheets is such a life saver! My husband and I both have this app, and it enables us to track our spending no matter where we are or what we’ve purchased. We categorize our purchases in order to better understand our money usage, and it’s very similar to Excel. We’ve just started using the Google Sheets for our budget, but it definitely seems like it will positively influence our spending.
GasBuddy is another great app that has helped our family. It allows us to find the cheapest gas prices in our area or any area we are traveling. I would typically go to the same gas station to fill up my car, and I did a terrible job of planning when to fill up. I always seemed to need to fill up when I was already late going somewhere. Does anyone else do this? I can’t say that I always plan when to get my gas, but I do a much better job now. Thanks to GasBuddy, I’ll pull out this app and check gas prices in advance, and plan when and where to make my trek to the station. Planning when to get gas definitely helps our budget, rather than waiting until the last minute to fill up somewhere when I’m on “E” and having to go to the nearest gas station regardless of price.
Flipp is a grocery/shopping app, but it’s unlike other grocery apps that I’ve tried. This app brings up all the flyers within my area for any type of store. So, if I’m looking to make a last minute diaper run, I can quickly type in “diapers”, and it will bring up the cost for diapers at each of the stores closest to me. This app also allows users to add credit cards and clip coupons for easier check-out; I have not used these features, but they seem like good options. Flipp also allows users to create a shopping list, and it will identify sales and coupons related to the items on your list. Just download the app and check-out how great it is!
RetailMeNot is probably one of my favorite websites. It doesn’t matter if I’m looking for a deal online or in a store, I check out what coupon codes or deals are available through this website. It’s especially helpful anytime I’m ordering products online. I ALWAYS type in the website, business, event, conference, or store into the RetailMeNot search engine, and it will bring up any possible deals. I’ve searched for deals on conference events, Bath and Body Works, Schwan’s Food Service, Paula’s Choice, Kohl’s, RedBox, etc. It pulls up anything and everything that could possibly be a discount or deal, and it gives feedback from other users on what coupon codes were used most recently and were effective at check-out. I never pay for anything online until I first checkout RetailMeNot.
More Money, More Happiness? No Way!
Beyond saving money and learning to be a healthier budget-er, I can’t describe how much joy we have gained just by enjoying the simple things in life. We’re appreciating just being with one another rather than spending money on more things or big and expensive activities.
By staying at home and living on one income, we’ve discovered the beauty in our area. We’ve realized how much there is to do that is completely free and still just as fun as the stuff we used to pay for. I found joy in learning to pack picnic lunches for our family instead of stopping for fast food. We’ve found creative ways to cook at home, and be inspired by new recipes rather than new restaurants. We’ve learned to do things around the house on our own, rather than paying someone to do those things for us. Most of the time, it just takes preparation and a little extra time to save some money.
Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy a date night at the movies or a dinner out, but they don’t happen as frequently. I believe it’s helped us to appreciate these activities even more than we used to. We are more humble and thankful because of the change and sacrifice that has been placed in our lives.
Our tithing has also not changed very much with the variation in our income. We find it really important to give back what God has so graciously bestowed to us. We realize that looks differently for each person and each family, but for us, we are thankful we can give to our church and other organizations that are making a difference for His kingdom.
From this point forward, I’m excited to see where God will lead us in our financial journey. No one can predict the future, and what may lie ahead may not be what he had planned, but we always want to honor Him with how we use our money.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also.” -Matthew 6:21
What About You?
Do you keep a budget? What apps help you with managing your money? Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to comment below!