Cutting Expenses

How to Cut Your Expenses in Half

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My husband and I cut our spending down to one salary, and I was able to quit my full-time job to be a stay-at-home mom!

It wasn’t easy, and my husband and I have made a lot of sacrifices, but we made it happen.  How did we pull this off?  How did we manage to reduce our spending by half?

We completely overhauled our life, learned to meal plan and cook, and made a budget that worked for us.

Move somewhere you can actually afford.

The biggest expense in our budget was our rent—so we found an affordable home somewhere else.

The amazing apartment we were leasing was in one of the most expensive counties in the country, and we were paying over $1,800 a month!  That worked out well when we pulled in over $100,000 a year combined, but cutting out my salary meant we had to find another place to live.  Goodbye, community pool!  Goodbye, 15-minute commute!  And goodbye to a private wrap-around porch!

We spent months praying for God to show us where in Northern Virginia we could afford to live, but time and time again, the numbers did not add up.  We would be broke—and fast—if we stayed in the area.  So we extended our search a little wider, and a little wider, searching desperately for somewhere we could live.

It was one of my husband’s coworkers who eventually led us to the answer.  He lived in West Virginia, about an hour commute from the school, where housing prices were exponentially lower.   Long story short, we bought a small townhouse about an hour and fifteen minutes away from my husband’s work.

We have cut over $13,000 from our yearly expenses by moving! My husband has a long commute now, but we have a safe and comfortable home we can actually afford.

I know that many people are not in a situation to buy, but even renting out here is much cheaper.  And to really save money, buying is a smart option.  Make a long term plan, save money while you are both still working, and research affordable mortgage rates available to you.  There are special deals for teachers, law enforcement, and firefighters out there, as well as special financing programs for people planning to live in a rural area (FHA Loans).

For more information on how we found affordable housing, check out this post.

Stop eating out.

Oh boy, did we love to eat out!

We used to go to amazing restaurants multiple nights a week.  We ate like kings, and almost every night was date night—it was wonderful.  But it was a luxury we had to give up if I was going to be a stay at home mom.

For the cost of dinner at one of our favorite sushi restaurants, we could buy groceries for a week.  In an average month, we would spend just shy of $400 on restaurants!  This is a huge unnecessary expense—and it doesn’t even include the money we spent on groceries!

I am not going to lie, it was really difficult to change our lifestyle this drastically, but we did it.  We now save up for a date night every month or so, but the rest of the time we are the people who bring a calculator, a stack of coupons, and a screaming baby to the grocery store.

Which brings me to my next point…

Start meal planning on a tight budget.

Meal planning and cooking are learned skills.  If you don’t know how to cook, it is time that you learn.  Nothing will save you more money on your day-to-day living expenses than cooking for yourself and your family.  If you aren’t sure where to start, there are a few inexpensive recipes on this blog to get you started (Italian Casserole is really easy to make, and it only costs $4.00!).

Meal Planning is something that I had to learn how to do.   It was a trial and error process for me. Because my husband and I love food so much, our first attempts at meal plans were extravagant and didn’t save us very much money at all!

I have since learned how to put together a meal plan on a tight budget, and I have even been able to pull off a week’s worth of groceries for only $25 on weeks that we were really tight.  It is a good system to have in your back pocket if you are trying to cut your expenses drastically.

Stop spending money on things you don’t need.

For us, this meant cutting cable.

I never thought I would be one of those people who doesn’t have cable and has not seen at least the major blockbuster hits at the theater.  But I am that person now.   When we looked at our expenses, we realized we could not justify spending money on both internet and cable.  So we chose the internet.

Cable companies charge $50 or more a month where we live, and for under $9 a month we could get Netflix or Hulu.

This was probably one of the easiest adjustments for me, because I love Netflix, but it meant my husband can’t watch football at home.  Instead, for the cost of a beer (or two), he goes to the local sports bar when he really wants to catch a game.  And that works for us.

We rarely go to the movies anymore, because $12 a person feels like a lot more on just one salary.  Instead of going when we are bored, or when we happen to find a sitter, we plan on seeing just the movies we are looking forward to.  You can bet I will go to see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this February!  And that will probably be the only movie I go to see before Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them comes out.  Yes, I have my movies for 2016 planned out—because I have to.  I will save up a little spending money, find someone to watch the baby, and go see these two films.

What else do you spend money on that you really don’t need?  Do you go to the movies a lot?  How about shopping for clothes that you rarely wear?  Take an honest look at your spending and think about what you don’t absolutely need…then cut.

 Find ways to cut down on family expenses.

We have a little one at home, so cutting down what we spent on baby stuff was critical to cutting our expenses in half.

I started making my own baby food,  found a way to save over $1,000 a year on baby formula, and I used cloth diapers (it saves thousands of dollars, and it isn’t as hard as you might think!).

When we first had the baby, we bought way more baby stuff than we actually needed.  So if you are expecting a little one, check out this post on the absolute minimum you need for a new baby.

Learn how to write (and stick to) a budget.

I went the first 24 years of my life without knowing how to write a budget.  I just spent money without any real plan—but that doesn’t work when you want to cut your expenses in half.

If you aren’t sure where to start, check out these posts about why you should use a zero-sum budget and how to write one.

Simply writing a good budget has allowed us to pay off over $8,000 in labor and delivery medical expenses (yikes!), AND cut up two credit cards, all while going down to one salary.  It can work for you, too!

Unfortunately, sticking to a budget is a lot harder than writing one.  We use the cash envelope system with great success—it helps A LOT with impulsive spending.

It took a lot of sacrifices to cut our expenses in half, but being a stay-at-home mom makes it all worth it for me.  We moved somewhere we could afford, we stopped eating out and started meal planning and cooking, we said goodbye to expenses we didn’t need (including stuff for the baby), and we put our heart into budgeting.

Now I am a stay-at-home mom, and I get the privilege of seeing my child all day.  You can do this, too!  Take a look at where your money goes now, and brainstorm ways you can cut down. You might be surprised at what you find—and how much money you can save.

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