This past month was a challenging one. My family and I took on the Family Financial Challenge and took a very close look at our spending habits and made a concentrated effort at saving more. After reading Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s “Money Rules”, I learned a lot about my family’s spending habits.
If you’re interested in saving or improving your family’s spending habits, I’d highly recommend reading Gail’s book. You’ll definitely find tips that are easy to put into practice. If we were able to do this, so can you!
What we learned during our 1 month family financial challenge
On the whole, we don’t spend outlandishly at all. I’m married to a frugal farmer, so I know a lot of ways to “trim the fat”, “stretch a buck”, and just not spend a lot of money while still feeding and taking care of my family. Lunches and meals have always been easy for me to save on. See how here.
As you can see from the above photo, we live a frugal life. I’ve had to leave my “fancy” life behind when I married a beef farmer. Living in the rural North has been a bit of a shock to me in terms of what luxuries I had to do without. I don’t spend nearly as much as I did when I lived in the city, but we could always save MORE.
I mentioned in my first Family Financial Challenge post:
As a working mom and as a frugal farmer’s wife, I budget for each month, I use coupons and take advantage of specials and deals, and I do not use my credit card unless it’s an emergency. I take advantage of P&G brand saver coupons, because every little bit helps. It all adds up to a lot of savings on products our family uses regularly. By using P&G brand saver coupons, we’re saving money on items like Bounty paper towels, Duracellbatteries and Crest toothpaste and mouthwash. Oh, of course, we also save on items that Hubby insists on having (like his Gillette products and his Head & Shoulders –the only shampoo/conditioner he ever uses).
When you already live frugally, how and what can you do to save even more?!
Some of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Money Rules that stood out to me:
Rule #6 – Set Some Goals: To be a smart goal, your goal has to be a) specific, b) measurable, c) attainable, d) realistic and e) timely.
Rule #8 – Everyone Needs An Emergency Fund: You NEED to have cash in the bank. Without an emergency fund, you’d have to resort to credit to fill the holes. A line of credit is not an emergency fund, but debt waiting to happen.
Rule #18 – Credit is Good – Debt is Bad: If you can’t afford to pay something in full TODAY, you’re indulging yourself and turning credit into bad debt.
Rule #19 – Write Down What You’re Spending: Keep a spending journal. Write down every purchase you made. Each time you withdraw cash, use your credit or debit card or write a cheque, deduct that from your balance.
Rule #21 – It’s Not How Much You Make – It’s How Much You Keep: If you earn a lot of money, but spend most of your earnings, you aren’t saving. Saving is the act of not spending. Having savings gives you options and flexibility.
Rule #52 – Set Up a Curveball Account: This is not an emergency fund like you’d need for major disasters like losing your job or becoming ill. It’s a slush fund from which you can draw when unexpected expenses arise.
Rule #53 – Don’t Buy the Minimum Payment Bullsh*t: Credit card minimum payments are meant to keep you in debt for as long as possible so that credit card companies can make loads of profit from interest charges.
Here are some lessons we learned last month during the #SavingMadeSimple challenge:
Make decisions wisely. Remember that needs always trump wants:
I am pretty good at not spending on myself. I don’t splurge and I don’t pamper myself. I realize at times I do need to allow myself the indulgence of a green tea latte with my friends. I don’t need it, but it’s not something I do regularly. When I was living in Toronto, I’d have my daily beverage at the coffee shop near the school I taught at. I’d also have it not once, but twice daily! I figure my once a month Chai tea or green tea latte won’t kill my bank account. When I was spending $5 a drink, twice a day in the city, that’s $10 a day x 5 days a week! That adds up very quickly! Now I only spend $5 a hot beverage once or twice a month.
I do have a bad habit of buying books and educational items for Little One whenever I see something innovative and the price is right. I need to rethink my actions. Yes, anything that helps cultivate our daughter’s creativity and development is a good thing. Do I need to buy her books and puzzles whenever I feel like it? Not really. I need to really think about what our needs are and what our wants are. Just like my latte, once in a while is okay. I used to tell myself and my husband, “But, it’s to help her become the smart kid we are trying to raise!” She really doesn’t need to have tons of new educational toys, books, activities. She has a lot already.
Money in the bank is key
I don’t use my credit cards. I have them, but I don’t use them. I’ve used them for things like booking plane tickets or hotel rooms, but other than that, I don’t really use them. I do use my debit card way too liberally. I learned that I really need to budget better. I used to just have a ballpark number that I knew I had for spending. Being able to chart everything in a spending journal is key. Cash in the bank is the most important thing. What was hammered home is that we need to make sure we’re spending less than we’re saving. I always just gone with “I know I have money in the bank” and spend without jotting down EVERYTHING. I need to be more mindful. When we charted all our spending, I was shocked! For a family who already doesn’t spend lavishly, we do have areas we need to work on. Ha! I thought, “How can we possibly spend any less than we already are?” Oh…it’s possible!
This past month was a real eye-opener. Though we live frugally (as many farmers do), there is always room for improvement. I think just knowing exactly what we are spending on and making smart decisions (wants vs. needs), we’ll be able to save even more.
Some Chai tea at home is always a welcomed ritual.
Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom/mamanP&G. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog are my own.