The following is brought to you by Emma Lewis– a loving mother, a devoted wife and a part of the team supporting Spacer – the AirBnb of storage space. Emma is also a staunch supporter of the sharing economy and often mentions its benefits. She lives and works in the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia.
This guest post is very timely because I’m driving my family to Canada first thing in the morning for our much-awaited summer vacation. Hurrah!
A few years ago, I was struggling to pay the bills and feed my family on what seemed like a tight income. I was making the minimum payment on maxed-out credit cards, then using the balance I freed up for basics like gas and groceries. We hadn’t been able to take a family vacation in over 5 years because we just couldn’t afford it. I finally reached a breaking point and decided to do something about it. It took some serious dedication and commitment, but a year later, I had managed to get my family finances under control and improved my cash flow.
Tackle the groceries first
I was stressed out, working too hard to catch up with everything, and stopping by the grocery store almost every day to buy dinner on my way home. I almost always wound up spending $30-40 each day at the store, averaging $250 a week. That’s $1000 a month that I was spending to feed a family of 5. It also meant a lot of processed and convenience foods, since it was all I could think of on short notice.
Here’s how I fixed it:
- I decided that I was going to set a budget of $100 a week for food and stick to it.
- I spent 30-45 minutes each Sunday morning making a meal plan based on grocery store ads.
- I went to the store with a list and stuck to it.
- When there is a particularly good deal, I stock up. A local store offers a huge pork loin for $1.49 a pound every so often. An 8 lb. cut costs about $12, and I can get 4 meals out of it. I buy two, cut it into various portions and then freeze them.
- The store that’s 2 minutes from my house costs 30% about more than another store, which is only about 8 minutes away. I started taking the extra time to drive to the discount store.
Not only did I save myself both time and money, I reduced my stress levels. I used to tell myself that I didn’t have time for meal planning, but I was wrong. Instead of spending 30-45 minutes at the store each day, I only do it once a week, and when I get home, I know what I’m cooking for dinner. I even managed to get the grocery budget down to $75-80 a week, leaving me an extra $600-700 each month!
Tackle the credit cards next
Take the extra cash that you’re saving from your grocery budget and throw as much as possible at credit cards and outstanding debt. We were spending almost as much in interest payments on credit cards as we were on our mortgage. Use the snowball method, and you’ll quickly free up more money each month, and will end up paying much less interest.
Cancel subscription services
It’s not always the case, but many households are paying twice for simple things. Why have a cellphone and a home phone? Ditch the home phone. Have internet access and cable? Get rid of the cable and try streaming services instead. Do you have a home monitoring service? Many families are switching to DIY smart home systems to save money.
Put your house to work
If you have some extra space, why not rent it out? If you have an empty garage bay, try renting it out to a neighbor for extra storage. A 10 x 20 storage space costs an average of $100 a month. Our neighborhood doesn’t allow boats and RV’s to be visible in driveways. A neighbor now pays us $50 a month to keep his boat (on a trailer) in our spare garage bay, which saves him money as well.
Trying to get out from under a tight budget may seem overwhelming, but it can be done. A little bit of creative thinking and time spent planning can go a long way. We’re now planning our first family trip in years!