We’ve all been there, putting in the work to come up with a household budget so we can focus on savings, paying down debt, making essential albeit large purchases – whatever the reason for your budget, if you don’t already have one, that’s another article altogether, because you should. But, sometimes, we try as hard as we might, we end up falling short and wondering how we’re going to make that week, pay period, or month’s budget last. This can be incredibly stressful as a parent or caregiver since you want to make sure you’re covering all the needs of the ones in your charge. So, let’s take a look at some ways to really make that budget stretch as far as it can. And remember, sometimes you may need to dip into an emergency fund; that happens, and it’s alright, but it’s best to see if you can do without and wait until your next budget cycle begins.
Evaluating Wants and Needs
Like so many of us, we sometimes have that impulse, mainly when things have been stressful (or even really happy) to purchase something impulsively. For a lot of people, shopping unnecessarily is even a result of simple boredom. When you feel yourself getting that itch to spend money (even if you’ve budgeted for it), it’s important to really ask yourself if it’s a want or a need. Wishes are wonderful, but make sure you decide if you already own something similar to it or if you’re really going to wear or use it often enough. Say you’re cooking dinner, and you suddenly realize you don’t own a stainless steel pan; that’s much more of a need than seeing a sweater in a window you think is cute. You get the idea. Mastering not acting on impulse buying is a skill that takes practice, but once you’ve got that kind of self-control when it comes to your money, not only is it a confidence booster, it also positively impacts your cash in the bank.
Sometimes you might find that there is so much satisfaction when you decide to DIY something instead of going out and purchasing it already made for you. There is a wealth of online tutorials out there that can help you make your own coffee table for pennies compared to the prices you’d pay in a furniture store. Say you’ve got some produce that’s about to go wrong in your refrigerator? There’s plenty of recipes online that can help you figure out what to do with those items, so they don’t end up in the trash. Ever heard of trash muffins? They’ll change your life! And, if nothing else, when you can’t salvage the produce, you should try composting it. Even if you don’t grow your own fruits and vegetables, your flowers will love you for it!
Swap With Friends
To keep your wardrobe looking fresh (or your children), a great thing to do is to create a monthly or seasonal clothing swap with your friends and family. Doing a clothing exchange helps people pass on pre-loved items (sometimes never even worn) to someone that will appreciate it more. And hey, that scarf that you bought last year and still haven’t worn might be precisely what they’ve been looking for. And, as we all know, when it comes to children’s clothes, purchasing brand new so often doesn’t even make sense! Our kids grow like weeds and only wear the clothes we buy for a few months at a time. So, swapping with friends or giving and receiving hand-me-downs is a great way to keep the clothing section of your budget in check.
At this point, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the movement that is minimalism. Followers of the minimalist lifestyle tout it being an incredibly liberating way to live. They typically can save their money at a higher rate than people who don’t practice minimalism. The idea is that less is more. So, when you’re not spending money on things you don’t need or won’t ultimately utilize, you’re already saving. When you downsize your wardrobe and realize how little of your closet you will wear, it’s a great lesson in why impulse shopping was never worth it, to begin with. And, if you’re a parent, minimalism simplifies your life exponentially as you have more time to spend with your children since you’re spending less time cleaning up after them and the countless toys you’ve spent money on.
At the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best that we can. Planning a budget and sticking to it is no easy feat if it’s a new skill you’re trying to master. But, with a bit of practice and a lot of discipline, the rewards are immense. Here’s to your savings!