12 Ways to Cut Costs on One Income

When Clark and I first decided that I was going to stay home, he didn’t have a job. He had just graduated from college and I had been our sole provider for two years. But I desperately wanted to stay home with Charlee so we began trying to figure out how we could financially make that possible. Four years later, we are entering into our first year of feeling like we can breathe a little, where finances aren’t quite so tight and we might even be able to splurge some. But before those number-crunching days are too far behind me, I thought I’d offer some encouragement and advice to those currently in the throes of (or just considering) a one-income household.

Disclaimer: I wanted to stay home because it was right for me. In no way do I think that it is the best way or only way to raise children. I occasionally think I might want to go back to work, and then I envision getting myself and all three children dressed and out the door by 7 am … and look down at my pajamas I’m still rocking at 3 pm and decide that it’s altogether impossible. All Hail to working moms. Y’all are amazing. I also realize that my situation is very different than others’. We don’t have thousands of dollars in student debt or medical bills to worry about. Some people literally can’t afford to stay home.  

HOWEVER, if you are wanting to stay home but are nervous about making ends meet OR if you already do but are barely scraping by (solidarity, sister), here’s a few tips and tricks from someone who has lived on one income all 7 years of marriage.

Let’s start by getting a few realities out of the way. I had to come to grips with a few things early on (and pretty much everyday since), some of which are really hard and some very relieving.

  1. I will not have the cutest _______. Fill in the blank. Clothes. House. Kids’ clothes. Decor. Hairstyle. When I feel myself “needing” something that I can’t afford, I have to remind myself, “In this season, I will not have the cutest _____. And that’s okay.” Sometimes it feels really important (because Pinterest) but if staying at home is more important, some of those things just can’t be.
  2. I am going to have to make some sacrifices. Not just me, but everyone. I am going to have to cook a lot, paint my own nails, buy less presents for Christmas, cut out some “major wants” from our budget. Everyone will still survive. And, dare I say, learn a few valuable lessons along the way.
  3. In the grand scheme, I am pretty rich. It’s really, really easy to look around and think, EVERYONE HAS SO MUCH MORE THAN US. And lament over all the things we are sacrificing. But I mean, let’s be honest. This post could probably be renamed “First World Problems” because the things we are giving up, are usually not, say, food.
  4. This is (most likely) the poorest we will ever be. Barring outliers, most people make more money the older and more experienced they get. So you might have to make a few sacrifices right now but it won’t be like this forever.

So now that we’ve gotten those basic principles out of the way, let’s get to it. I have wracked my brain to think of all the ways I’ve cut costs the past few years. I present to you,

12 EASY WAYS TO CUT COSTS ON ONE INCOME:

  1. Drink water. Don’t buy juice, coke, wine, beer, lemonade, tea. I know, I know. It sounds cray, but this is one of the biggest ways I have saved at the grocery store. Drink water. Not only is it healthy, it’s cheap.
  2. Buy in bulk. I use Amazon Prime Subscribe and Save. I buy all my non-perishables through them — diapers, wipes, ziplocs, trash bags, toothbrushes, face wash, shampoo, soap, detergent, etc. — and have them shipped to me whenever I need more. You get 15% off your entire order if you order 5+ items (20% off diapers and wipes). Yes, there is a Prime yearly subscription, but if I cut out cable (we’ll get to that in a minute), the Prime shows and movies more than make it worth it.
  3. Use cash back for holidays. I know Dave Ramsey would not approve, but we buy everything on credit cards that have rewards programs. Two years ago, I didn’t pay for a single Christmas present. We had accrued enough points to cover all of them. Last year, we used them to go on a trip for our anniversary. BUT, that being said…
  4. NEVER pay interest (if at all possible). We pay cash for everything. Pay your credit cards in full every month. When we remodeled our home, we paid cash. When we bought our cars, we paid cash. When we bought a new couch, we paid cash. If you don’t have enough money to buy something, don’t buy it.
  5. Buy necessities for holidays. My mom told me this trick. At Christmas, use stocking stuffers to buy things your kids already need — socks, underwear, pacifiers, sippy cups — things you would have bought them anyway. Wam, bam. Two birds. One stone. Merry Christmas.
  6. Use gifted money for splurges. This is my chance to splurge on myself. Two years ago, I used my Christmas money to restock my closet. Last year, I used it to redecorate my daughers’ room. This way, nobody questions how much money I am spending and whether or not we can afford it. It’s basically free, right?
  7. Do hair care on the cheap. MasterCuts and Family Cuts, y’all. Haters gonna hate, but they do good work. Also, box color. In 5 years, you can spend $150 on a haircut & color. But today is not that day. I promise, you will look stunning with your $15 ‘do.
  8. Cut the (cable) cord. It didn’t take us long to realize CABLE IS FREAKING EXPENSIVE. Here’s our solution:
    – pay for wireless only
    – get a streaming device (we have used AppleTV and FireTV and loved both)
    – subscribe to Amazon Prime and/or Netflix and/or Hulu (we do Prime and Netflix)
    – get an antenna for local channels
  9. Get rid of stuff. I am always amazed at HOW. MUCH. STUFF we have. Every time we move (once a year, duh), I end up with boxes and boxes of giveaway items. I’ve made some pretty good #cashmoney at places like Swap.com, Craigslist, and Facebook, but there are also the VarageSale and LetGo apps where I have bought stuff… and speaking of….
  10. Shop second-hand. Here’s the problem. I want my house to look like a high-end magazine. Here’s the second problem … I’m not savvy enough to figure out how to make my house look high-end on my low-end budget. My budget is an antique/shabby-chic/distressed-look budget. SO that’s my style… because that’s my budget. Second-hand shops (specifically the ones mentioned above) are a great place to find home decor. And did you know, a can of spray paint can work WONDERS.
  11. Make a budget. Budget is not a bad word. It’s actually very freeing to be on a budget. Bought a new shirt? Don’t worry hubs! I have a $25 clothing budget this month so I’m actually UNDER BUDGET. No arguing. No accusing. Everybody wins. AND GUESS WHAT? There’s an app for that. Mint.com is the bomb.com. This website/app will allow you to import all credit cards and bank accounts so that you can see all your expenses in one place. You can then create budgets and categorize each expense so that you know how much you are spending on each category each month. It’s also super convenient during tax season to have everything categorized and searchable. If not for any other reason, make a budget so that you can see what you spend most of your money on.
  12. Don’t stop giving. Budget tithing and giving first. There’s no better way to be reminded of how MUCH we actually have and how faithful God is than by giving SACRIFICIALLY. Buy gifts for needy children before your own for Christmas. Sponsor a Compassion child. It’s amazing how much further your money goes when you steward it well. There is no better way to live by faith, than by trusting that God will take care of you if you take care of his people.

I am by no means an expert. I still spend an exorbitant amount on groceries, and I have JUST GIVEN UP. I don’t understand coupons. They make me feel stupid and angry.

However, I hope these are somewhat helpful. AND PLEASE if you have ways that you save money, I would love to hear them! I am always interested in how other people cut costs!

Happy budgeting!

To the Mom Who Feels Underappreciated

But in my pouting about DOING EVERYTHING (even though, I do very short of everything) I missed the Lord whispering Look around you. This is your earthly reward. Is this not enough?

I like compliments.

I really wish I didn’t. I wish I was so confident that I didn’t need others’ praise. I wish I was so filled by the spirit that I was wholly dependent on the approval of the Lord rather than that of others. But, honestly, it feels good when someone tells me I’m doing a good job, that I’m really good at what I do.

Back in the day, I was a good teacher. I had coworkers and principals and supervisors and athletes and students that showed me gratitude and appreciation daily, that encouraged me and high-fived me, that told me I was good. I felt good about being good. It was easy to be proud. It was easy to feel fulfilled and successful.

This. This staying at home gig. This is not quite like that.

Today I started my day with a four-year-old all up in my pillow. I made three kids breakfast (and by made, I mean poured cereal). I comforted three crying children at different, yet multiple times throughout the day. I folded two loads of laundry. I stripped sheets (which have yet to be replaced with clean ones). I cooked dinner. I swept. Twice. I read books. I sang songs. I pretended to be a cat. I broke up 18,000 fights, pried baby fists loose from 2 screaming girls’ hair, and wiped 359 bottoms. I heard my name shouted post-bedtime 18 times. I went in to hear “I can’t remember” exactly 2 times.

And DON’T YOU KNOW? Tomorrow will be the exact. same. thing.

Day in and day out.

And sadly, most days end with a heaviness. I plop down on the couch with less of a feeling of accomplishment and more of a feeling of irritation. I couldn’t ever put my finger on exactly what it was that had a grip around me, suffocating me. What was it that stripped me from joy day in and day out? Why was I so bitter?

Then it hit me. Entitlement. I am an entitled mom.

I have completely lost sight of my blessings around me because I AM SO FOCUSED ON WHAT I’VE DONE. 

But I cooked.

And I cleaned.

And I wiped bottoms.

DON’T I DESERVE SOMETHING FOR ALL THIS?

Where is my reward? Where is the gratitude? Where is my rest?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though working for the Lord and not for man, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

But I bathed all three kids.

I swept the floor. TWICE!

WHAT DO I GET for all the things I’ve done?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though working for the Lord and not for man, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

I like being rewarded. I like getting pats on the back and feeling my ego stroked.

But in my pouting about DOING EVERYTHING (even though, I do very short of everything) I missed the Lord whispering Look around you. This is your earthly reward. Is this not enough?

You have three precious mouths to feed.

You have three precious bodies to bathe.

You have a husband that works incredibly hard to provide for you.

You have a beautiful home with floors to sweep and dishes to clean.

Is this not enough? 

Why do I need more than them? More from them?

Yes, this job is hard. It is the hardest job I have ever had. It is hard to feel good at it. It is hard to feel accomplished. It is hard to be fulfilled.

But my Heavenly Father knew I needed this. He knew I needed to serve without receiving a “Good job” or a “Thank you so much.” I needed to perform without someone to impress. Without expectation of a compliment. He wanted me to learn to serve just for the sake of serving others and serving him, not self-serving.

Staying at home for your kids is good, but I am not doing this job for my kids. I am not doing this job for my husband. I cannot expect my family to fulfill me. That’s putting WAY too much pressure on a three-year-old. In every dish I wash and diaper I change, I am working for the Lord, not for man. 

And even if I hadn’t already been rewarded (which I have been, a thousand times over), I can rest assured that my reward is coming, and it will be so much better than any compliment anyone on this earth has to offer.

Hi, I’m Jordan, and I’m an Idolater

Don’t you hate it when you accidentally feel convicted? Gosh dang.

My girl Priscilla (Shirer) called me out this week on some crap and I’m really hating her right now. She asked me this question (in one of her bible studies… if only I were cool enough to be her real-life friend) and I, regretfully, answered honestly. Regretfully, because I didn’t realize where she was going with it… and that she was about to tell me I needed to make some changes.

Here’s what she asked me:

Do you have difficulty being content without something?

Go ahead. Answer it yourself.

If I was going to be honest with myself, I knew there was an answer hiding, trying to crawl out, glaring down at my pen, but I was hesitant, a little embarrassed even, to write it down. There are certain obsessions that I would feel totally comfortable admitting to: my kids, my husband, books, fresh air, vegetables. These are things that are okay to want. Okay to miss. But then there are the shameful answers, the ones I don’t want to tell people about.

So hey, I’m Jordan, and I’m addicted to Facebook.

Yikes. That’s embarrassing.

It all started when I became a stay-at-home-mom. Not only did I have constant accessibility, but being trapped in isolation, literally having conversations with a mute day in and day out, the need for relationships became desperate. In college and while teaching, I interacted all day with other people. Face to face! But now, physical relationships are difficult to maintain on a weekly, much less daily basis. BUT. I found connections via social media.

Facebook became my community. You see, my real life community is … um … small. There are days when the only adult interaction I have from wake-up until 8 pm are via Instagram pics, blog posts, and Facebook comments. I know — I should get out more. It’s a catch 22: my sanity pulls me toward the wild outdoors but then my brain steps in front of the door and reminds me of nap times, budgets, imminent tantrums, and feeding schedules. Some days, it’s just not worth it. So some days, I’m a hermit. But then I get my fix on social media.

Here’s the problem. Priscilla told me that what we call “obsessions, cravings, bad habits, and issues” are actually idols. She says, “What if we got honest about what we’re really dealing with? Let’s call an idol an idol.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Idol? That’s a big four letter word that makes me feel reeeally uncomfortable.

Let’s define idol.

 1: the worship of a physical object as a god.

Haven’t bowed down or prayed to Lord Facebook.

But wait. There’s another one.

2: immoderate attachment or devotion to something or someone. 

Crap.

When it comes down to it, I spend too much time on my computer. An immoderate amount. This is a much more obvious issue if my girls are awake or my husband’s home. But it’s just as much a problem if I’m by myself. Here’s the kicker — I’m clearly an idolater because my relationship with God is suffering. There’s so many more valuable things I could be doing during nap time than stalking you. I’ve even written a list of those “more important than the computer” things and posted it in my room as a reminder. Just in case I forget.

I love that I’ve formed friendships with people I never would have otherwise. I love that I get to see my friends’ kids grow up. I love being able to communicate so easily with pretty much anyone I’m missing.

Those are the reasons I’m not completely deleting my account altogether… yet. But I’m going to set some restrictions. I’m still in the process of working out the logistics. I need to define some practical, but necessary, boundaries. And that’s why I’m posting this for all the world (well… my FB world) to see. Because I know myself, and I know I’d cave. And I know this is a big deal. There are big, important things to do in this world. And it’s time to shut the computer down.

So now I have a whole cyberspace full of accountability partners. Feel free to call me out. And feel free to join me. Seriously. If any of this sounds familiar to you, let me know (hashtagmommyfail@gmail.com, leave a comment below, or text me if we’re real life buds). This type of thing is way easier if you’re on a team. So let’s be Non-Facebook friends. 🙂