Living Small: Budgeting

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So let’s talk budgeting.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I think we probably all do.  I absolutely LOVE making a budget.  Doesn’t it always look better on paper?!  But the part that I have a hard time with is… sticking to it.  Can I get an amen?!

In December Travis and I sat down and talked through some dreams and goals we have for our family this upcoming year.  Things that will take careful budgeting and discipline to make those dreams and goals a reality.  We talked through what worked this past year as far as our budget and what didn’t work.  We by NO means of the imagination are masters at it.  I think like anything you figure out what works best for your family.

One of the biggest requests I have gotten is for me to start back up our Living Small Series. I think the topic of budgeting and Living Small go hand in hand together.  Which is why we’re starting here!

So here are a few of the ways our family is going to cut back and save this upcoming year:

+Adjust your budget monthly: we have found that our budget changes every month.  Not drastically. But new needs come up and older ones are eliminated.  Kids need new clothes for changing seasons/growth, cars need maintenance, birthdays/holidays.  At the beginning of the month we pencil out the needs for that month and adjust our budget accordingly.

+Need or Want:  Oh man. This gets me good. We are really doing our best to put on our “Need or Want” mentality any time we are making a purchase. Obviously we’re only a few days into January but  I am amazed at how much money we have saved in this short amount of time asking ourselves this simple question. We are working on saying “no” right now so that later on we can say “yes” to some of those dreams!

+Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping Once a Week: Since having a baby in July I had not been meal planning as regularly as I should have.  Which meant we ate out a LOT more than we should have.  This year my goal is to do a weekly meal plan and get all of our groceries ONCE a week instead of going to the store several times or eating out because we don’t have what we need at the house.  Also– I am trying to use up all of our leftovers which is a big deal for me. I hate leftovers haha!

+Amazon Prime: I’ve been utilizing this for the past few months and LOVE it!  Thanks to my mom for encouraging me to take advantage of it. 🙂  I am now purchasing our diapers, cleaning supplies, toiletries and all paper products from here. I use the Shop and Save feature which helps to cut down on these costs! Plus I love that I’m not having to get all of these bulky supplies on my grocery runs. Free Shipping for the win!

+Eating Out ONLY Once a Week: We know that realistically we still will want to eat out.  Our favorite ways to save eating out are going to restaurants where kids eat free (hellooooo savings for our family haha!).  This past week we went out for Mexican and were able to eat for $20 total (4 free kids meals, 2 taco salads and 6 waters!).

These are the biggest things that our family is focusing on this next year as far as budgeting goes.  It’s funny how simple it really is if you think about it.  The easiest way to save money is to just not spend it!  I would love to hear what some of your budgeting tips are that work well for YOUR family!

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  1. These are some great tips! Thank you for sharing! I do enjoy your Living Small series, so glad to see it. And I have some budgeting/finance goals for this year as well. These tips really helped! Can't wait to implement some of them! 🙂

  2. We do the cash envelope system, which I HATED at the beginning of our marriage but now I realize it's super helpful. I also keep some of my own envelopes in a desk drawer that are labeled with things I'm saving up for. Whenever I have a little extra money from a category in a month, I'll just stick it in one of those special envelopes. For me, it is motivating to have the actual cash piling up rather than depositing it in our debit account where it may get spent on something else.

    Also, Aldi for grocery shopping. Almost exclusively.

    One thing I want to start doing is unsubscribe to a bunch of email lists. Those emails from Carter's, Old Navy, Nordstrom, whatever…they get me! I'm a sucker for a good deal, and they lure me into online shopping and then thinking, "oh I'll just take the cash out later". Which may or may not happen.

  3. Thanks for doing this, Ashley. I look forward to reading more of your posts in your Living Small series. I have to admit, when our family was just starting out and our kids were itty bitty, we were much more vigilant about living within a (very small) budget. I was a stay at home mom for 7 years until my youngest of two started school. I find it harder with two incomes to be as faithful to our budget. We live very modestly (my husband and I both work at Christian schools and don't have large salaries), but still. Knowing that we have a little more "wiggle room" makes it really hard for me to say "no" to extra purchases from time to time. It's almost as if I have a false sense of security or reality! Ha! So, your challenge to consider Need vs Want is so applicable to me, and I look forward to asking myself this every time I'm running an errand this week. Also, as a full-time working mom, I LOVE Amazon Prime. I do as much of my gift shopping as I can through Amazon Prime, and it's a game-changer. However, I've never thought to buy things like toilet paper, napkins, even toiletries through Amazon. I can't wait to look into it! Can you explain the Shop and Save feature? I'm not familiar with it. Thank you!

  4. Budgeting is hard!!!! This sounds silly, but I'm doing almost all of our grocery/household item shopping online. HyVee offers free delivery if you order $100, Sam's does drive up pick up and I love me some Amazon. I have to think through what I am getting more and not mindlessly grabbing junk. We also have so many sweet friend with kiddos and a lot of our kids are stair stepped. Hand me downs all around. We check to see if anyone has an item before buying and either return it or pass it along when we are done. I know there will come a day when my boys will have more of an opinion, but for now, this is so great! Glad your back in your blogging groove friend!

  5. Excited for your living smal series- yay! I am actually a huge budget nerd and this past year as we set down to start paying off our student loan debt (while I stay home with littles & blog), we finally figured out a few ways that work for us to be successful budgeting. You hit on most of them- need or want mentality. Also the mentality of my budget dictating my spending not the other way around. If my budget for the month says I can't buy it, i just don't. That was reeeeeally hard the first few months and got a lot easier with practice. In fact, now I feel panicky when I think about buying something outside the budget or overspending in a category. But as a "spender" (not a saver by nature), that took practice it wasn't natural for me. Another big thing for us has been- my husband and I each get a little spending money we can spend on whatever we want. No questions asked. I can save it up over several months to buy a new piece of art or buy coffee. Whatever. This is a nice category for all the extras and has basically eliminated any disagreements bc anything discretionary comes out of our personal spending categories.
    Also- we like every dollar the budgeting software. It's free or you can pay for it to connect to your bank account and import all your debit card transactions. We use debit instead of credit and then everything comes into this software. We sit down once a week or every other week together and quickly "click and drag" to categorize the purchases. Keeps us both accountable and it's sooo much easier than cash envelopes or manually tracking spending In a spreadsheet or something. The simplicity was worth the $99 annual fee for us.
    Btw- totally with you on prime! I actually get it for free thru this weird thing called Amazon shopper consultants. It's legit and they reimburse you for your prime membership. I explained it in a post a couple months ago. If you google "tune my heart blog every day I'm hustlin" the link and explanation is in that post- haha!
    Besides household supplies, we cancelled Netflix, Hulu and Spotify once we realized
    Prime has almost everything Netflix does and now they have free streaming music!! Win win on savings. Sorry this is long and rambly (tmi about budgeting?!) anyway- can't wait to read more of your living small series!! I've been decluttering and purging like a crazy preggo lady- the new years + nesting combo is dangerous! 🙂

  6. Ashley – you HAVE to check out It is THE BEST budgeting software in the world. Seriously, I've been using it for a year and a half and it has totally been a game changer for sticking to my budget. And with 5 kids and a variable income from myself and my husband – it works really well for an ever changing budget. Basically, when you get paid, you divy that $$ up into categories. Then you make buying decisions based on the category budget, not what is in the bank account. There's an app so right when I purchase something, I pull out my phone, enter it into the app and it updates on my phone, computer, and my husband's phone. And the goal is to live on last month's income. I think you'll love it! And you've convinced me to start buying my toiletries from Amazon 🙂

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