4 Ways to Cut the Fat … out of the budget

Now that the decision has been made to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s time to cut the fat out of our budget.  Cutting our income in half, is tough, but with hard work and budgeting it is possible to still have a great life.  Going out to eat 4 days a week is now out of the question, but so far, I haven’t missed it.

When I say “cutting the fat” I am referring to really looking at what our family needs and loves, not just wants.  After looking at the budget, there were four main areas to focus on: Insurance, Cable/Internet, Groceries and Entertainment.

Insurance

I was brought up in a home that put a high importance on insurance.  Whether it was because of cancer, heart disease and accidents that have plagued my family, I stopped and realized I was probably actually over insured.  Before I made the “cut”, I had whole life insurance, term life insurance (two policies), short-term disability through AFLAC, car insurance, boat insurance, home owner’s insurance.  When we sat down and looked at what we were paying compared to what we really needed, I was shocked about how much money I was throwing away for a virtual safety net.  Don’t get me wrong, I think insurance is one of the best and most needed things out there for everyone.  But, more is not always better.

I sat down with my husband, and we decided to shop around.  We looked at several options and sat down with our trusted advisors.  Ultimately we found that staying with my current State Farm rep, but cutting back on some of the insurance was the right decision for our family.  I also cancelled AFLAC, since I am no longer working I technically don’t qualify for the short-term disability insurance.  But remember, it is our responsibility to make sure we are not throwing money out the window.  EFT’s are a wonderful convenience, but it also feeds the procrastinator in all of us, which I may be the queen of them all.  Lastly, I now have one term life insurance policy that meets are family’s needs in case of an emergency.

So, after looking over our insurance needs, we ended up saving just about $215 a month.

Cable and Internet

When my mom and dad were bringing up my sister and me, these bills did not exist.  And I am sure that is true for many parents out there.  But now, these bills can seem like a must, but are they?

Looking over our wants and needs, we determined we liked cable but it was almost a crutch for us.  So we decided to go cold turkey.  We called up Comcast and said we wanted to cancel.  Of course, as soon as you call, they try to keep you and give you some very tempting deals.  We had to look at what was really important to us and resist the temptation.  But, we had cable and internet service bundled together, so for a few months I didn’t have internet or wi-fi either.  Now that was weird.  We used our cell coverage and luckily we had a good grandfathered plan so we had a lot of data available to us, which I realize now is a little more rare.  That saved us over $150 a month, which felt amazing.

After three months of it, I realized that internet was a need, not necessarily a want.  I tried to behave but couldn’t do it.  I needed internet access and at least some Good Morning America (one of my favorite ways to start my day).  We had gotten old fashion rabbit ears, but that only worked for one television in our house (which we still use to this day).  So next I shopped.  I called Frontier, Century Link and Comcast again.  I also looked at Dish, Hulu, Netflix and really any other viewing options.

Well, since we had left and I was never on the old contract, we were able to get a lot of new customer discounts.  Frontier, who my parents and many friends loooooved, was not available in our neighborhood.  We looked at Century Link and almost went with them, but didn’t like the idea of the contract.  So, we ended up going back to Comcast (it sure shocked me).  With Comcast we have very very basic internet, very very basic cable and they threw in free HBO.  Our family has found a balance with our basic cable and Netflix and the kids have learned to not only survive but enjoy the simpler life.  We pay about $50 a month, which means we are still saving $100 a month from what we were previously paying.  Wooohooooo!!  I’ve got my Good Morning America back!!!

Groceries

I find grocery shopping a necessary evil, and I always have.  It’s not something I enjoy doing but it is something we have to do.  This is also one of the biggest places where most homes spend money, especially if you have kids.  I have a child that needs formula and two other kids that just keeping growing and growing and eating and eating.  Being one of the few mothers in my area that stay-at-home, our house has seemed to constantly attract more and more kids after school.  So, snacks are a necessary part of our home as well.

My answer to the grocery battle is apps, coupons, weekly ads and signing up on the most popular brand websites for coupons and codes.  Now there are Extreme Coupon people out there, and many shows about it, but I do not have that skill.  And it really is a skill.  I am just not an organized enough person to achieve that amount of savings, and I don’t think I manage my time that well either.

There are many amazing apps out there for saving money, but I have a few favorites: Target, Cartwheel, RetailMeNot, Safeway and Fred Meyer.  On the department store apps, you can usually download many manufacturer coupons directly onto the app, which means I don’t have to fumble with paper all of the time.  For many of these stores, they also offer in store coupons, which sometimes they will let you add-on.  The Cartwheel app is a different animal, and I love it as well.  Weekly I check the app and you can add special discounts that are available throughout the store and can also be added on top of the other weekly ad prices.

Coupons are amazing, and as I stated I can never be an extreme coupon person, because I am not organized enough.  But, from the weekly newspaper, watching the weekly ads for my favorite grocery stores and receiving great coupons by email from brands like Kellogg’s, Infamil, Betty Crocker and many others, money can definitely be saved by just keeping your eye out.

Lastly, keep your eye out for the sales.  I normally shop at Winco because they have unbelievably great prices and I don’t mind bagging my own groceries.  The sweetest people work at my Winco and they always have coupons as I enter the store that are Winco exclusive.  But, keep your out for weekly flyers and watch for the monthly Costco mailers as well.  I absolutely adore Costco, but remember not to go overboard and only buy what you need.  Costco has been a life savor for me with their Organic foods and diapers for my growing little man.

With hard work and patience we have consistently cut back our grocery bills by $150 a month.

Entertainment

Okay, so we don’t go out to eat four nights a week anymore and going out to a movie is now considered a very special occasion.  But guess what, life is good.

When it comes to entertainment it’s not so much cutting back the fat but making a budget.  We love Red Box and when the kids see a red case when I come home from the grocery store, they get all excited.  It is now considered a treat.  And when it comes to cooking at home, NOT one of my favorite things, the kids get to participate in preparing meals and choosing more of what we eat, within reason.

And yes, I still get date nights.  Sometimes we will go out to dinner at a cute restaurant or maybe going out for $5 Tuesday movie nights.  Other times it is me and my husband holding hands walking through Costco slowly and having a piece of pizza at the food court.  It seems funny but the entire point of date night for me is spending one on one time with the person I love, not necessarily what you are doing or how much you spend.  We give ourselves a monthly entertainment budget which is cash in an envelope and if we have extra money at the end of the month, we hold it over to next month.  It’s fun and always a little exciting to see what we have in the envelope.

Final Thoughts…. 

Ultimately, I know I could probably cut more fat out of our budget, but we are lucky that we are still doing well.  We save about $465 a month, compared to what we used to pay when I was working.  Life is good.  Of course I would love to get all of my wants now, but I have an amazing family and a great life.  Wants will always be there, but family won’t.  Life is good.

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