I started my blog, Spendwisemoms – home of the $50 GroceryChallenge, to prove that a family of 4 could eat a well balanced diet on the amount of money people would receive if they were getting Welfare. I read an article that expressed the difficulty of trying to live on such a limited amount and decided that I would challenge myself to do the same thing.
I was spending about twice that much on our groceries at the time, but I was committed to succeeding. I went through a coupon phase for a while, saving tons of money, but it took a lot of time and I was shopping several times a week. Checking out was really frustrating. There were always problems, it seemed. We didn’t even use a lot of the things I bought. It was easy to buy more than we need. After watching Extreme Couponing one night, and seeing a guy who built a room just for toothpaste, I decided that it wasn’t for me. If we build a room in our home, it will be for the family, not toothpaste.
I had come across the Grocery Cart Challenge and saw how Gayle went shopping once a week, didn’t use coupons and seemed more at peace by the posts on her blog. Most of the other blogs I used to read had to do with couponing and were always advertising deals and how to get more things for your money instead of just spending less money and getting what you need. This made me think about what I was doing and if it was really what I wanted to do. I realized that I wanted my life to be more focused on what I need and want rather than focusing on the great deals. I didn’t know if I would be able to still make it in our budget of $50 per week without all the coupons, but I did and it wasn’t too hard.
Now my focus is on simplifying our lives and trying to be more eco-friendly at the same time. We have also done the following things to simplify our lives:
- Go shopping once a week. If you find that you don’t have something you need for a recipe, substitute or make something else.
- Grow a garden and preserve the extra produce by canning and freezing to last through the winter. I like knowing what is in my food and that there aren’t preservatives, artificial flavoring and artificial coloring.
- We set a limit of how much money we will spend and stick to it. You may have to pass up some deals, but you can. There are always good deals out there. Don’t let them run your life.
- Stop buying junk food: chips, crackers, soda, etc. Make your own snacks and treats. There are lots of recipes on the internet. Get away from the processed items and make it yourself.
- We sold most of our DVD’s and CD’s and opted for an Ipod to put music on instead. This has decreased some of the clutter in our home. We cut back on the books we own, and use the library instead.
- I have given up most disposables. I use cloth napkins instead of paper. We use rags instead of paper towels 99 percent of the time. We use lunch boxes instead of paper bags. We put things in containers instead of plastic bags. I also use containers with lids instead of using plastic wrap. We rarely use foil. We have 1/3 to ½ less trash than we used to, so we buy less trash bags. I used to spend a lot of money on disposable items, but I don’t any more.
- I have used or donated all of my cleaners in my cupboard and only have baking soda, vinegar and castile soap now. No more toxic fumes. This leaves more space in the cupboard and is much easier to clean on a regular basis. I occasionally use rubbing alcohol to clean if someone is sick, but this happens rarely.
- Since I shop less, we use less gas in the car and that saves money.
- I got rid of a lot of clothes that don’t fit or that we didn’t’ like. No one needs a closet full of clothes. I got rid of tablecloths that were the wrong size and kept one set of sheets or towels for each bed or bathroom in the house. We kept our favorite games, puzzles and toys and got rid of the others. Getting rid of stuff makes cleaning much easier and I don’t feel like my house is a burden to clean like I used to.
- We are happy with the things we have, and don’t want to get back on the treadmill of materialism again. We used to buy too much and eat too much. I save a lot of money just by buying less. The way we save money is to “not buy something” instead of “get a good deal”. Even if you get a good deal, you still spend money and if you don’t really need the item, you could save more just by not buying it.
- We set a budget at Christmas time, and have the kids prioritize their lists. Instead of going out and buying tons of gifts for great deals on black Friday, we start at the top of the list of what they really want and go down as far as we can with the money we have budgeted. The kids are happier and we don’t waste time and money on things that they don’t want, even if it is a great deal.
- We don’t waste food. We freeze anything we can’t eat in a reasonable amount of time.
- We recycle what we can. I pay attention to what is in our recycling and try to find ways to cut it down by avoiding those purchases in the future or making an alternate item from scratch.
- We cleaned out our filing cabinet and shredded any papers we don’t need or warranties or items we no long have. I try to avoid printing things unless I really need to. If we do use paper, we try to use both sides before tossing or shredding.
- I am more careful about what comes into our home. I rarely garage sale any more, and if I do I am very careful about what I bring into the house. You can get so many things for hardly any money at garage sales, so it is easy to overbuy. It is also easy to buy things you don’t need that are a great deal. No one needs 100 baby outfits that are all the same size. Even if you can get them all for 25 dollars, you still don’t need that many.
So much of living the life you want is in your attitude. It doesn’t matter what you have or how big your home is as long as you are satisfied. Everyone has different goals, and I prefer to have a simpler life with more freedom and save for our future. We can reach our financial goals earlier by focusing on the important things instead of trying to keep up with others. Everyone needs to find the balance they feel good with, regardless of what anyone else does. Figure out what really matters to you and have the courage to follow what you feel is right.
Marianne is a stay at home mom who enjoys reading, baking and saving money. Her blog, Spendwise.org focuses on saving money, especially by spending only $50 per week on groceries. She has 5 kids, but only one daughter in high school that is still at home.