I’ve seen it all throughout my adult life. There were times when my family’s income was great and we didn’t even have to think twice about our spending. And then there were other times when we weren’t making very much money at all, and we had to watch every penny just to get through the month.
As this article is written in 2022, with inflation higher than its been in decades and with a recession looming on the horizon as well, these times are particularly tough for most of us financially.
Sometimes you just do what you have to do. And that’s certainly been myself and my family. When times have been difficult, we just take everything day by day and month by month. I’ve always figured, if we got through the month with bills paid and mouths fed, that’s all that matters.
Here are some of the ways we’ve been able to keep spending to a minimum so we could pay our bills, feed our family, and finically get through the month!
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Cook At Home
I can’t say enough about cooking at home as a means of saving money. The difference in price between eating at home versus eating out is immense. Consider that even a cheaper fast-food meal can run about $20 for a family of three. I can cook and satisfy my family with a decent meal that costs me no more than (and this is no lie) $5, TOTAL. Of course, it depends what I’m making for the meal to come out that cheap, but it can be done. A package of hot dogs and a package of buns can cost as little as $5. Scrambled eggs with minced ham can cost even less.
Sure, we aren’t talking filet mignon, but the goal here is to make it through the month as cheaply as possible. Sacrifices have to be made. But that doesn’t mean that a cheaper meal can’t be filling and enjoyable. My better half and my son both love when I say we’re having hot dogs for dinner!
The hot dog analogy also shows that you don’t have to be a master chef to cook a meal for your family. Nor does it have to take a lot of time. Nor does it have to be the housewife who does the cooking. In my family, all three of us can handle making a meal. The same can be true of your household as well.
Shop Cheap And Plan Well
When you buy your groceries, go the grocery store offering the lowest prices. I know this probably sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to shopping higher prices, purely out of convenience.
The way to avoid that trap is to plan and plan well. First, check out what’s on sale at the store so you can save even more money. Then plan your weekly menu based on that.
Next, make a list based on what you’ve learned and the meals you’ve planned, and do so carefully, so you don’t have to make any extra trips to the grocery store during the week. I try hard to make sure I buy everything I need just in the one trip. More trips are just inefficient in terms of both time and money (specifically the cost of gasoline).
A great way to plan is to pretend that you are going to shop and buy your groceries online. Shop the online store and then print out your cart as your shopping list. You’ll know exactly how much you will pay and can eliminate anything doesn’t fit into the budget. Take that list with you when you shop and do your best not to veer off the list.
Here where I live, the cheapest national stores to shop are Aldi and, if bulk buying makes sense, Costco. We also have a meat warehouse nearby that has incredible prices near wholesale for all sorts of meat.
Utilize Local Food Pantries
If you are truly having difficulty making ends meet, there’s no shame in finding and using local food pantries. These tend to be run by churches, community organizations, and government entities. Here in my area, our local township has a pantry, and my church parish donates to it.
There are typically rules for use of these pantries. At our township pantry, there is no need to provide proof of hardship. But you do need to initially sit down with a counselor regarding what other types of help might be available to you and your family. You can only use the pantry once a week. And there is a limit on how much food you can take.
I know it might be difficult from a psychological point of view to use a food pantry. I’ve done it, and it was hard for me. It seems to almost shout “I’M POOR!” It’s easy to attach that and other negative attributes to the experience (I’m not successful, I’m a failure, I’m not independent, I’m not working, I’m underemployed, I can’t help my own family, yadda yadda).
But try to do a mindset shift and remember that this pantry is there to serve you when you need the help. No one is there to judge you. They are there to help. The other people waiting to go in are all in the same boat as yourself. You are doing this to be able to pay your bills and help feed your family.
And you can always promise yourself that when you are in better shape, you will personally contribute food to the pantry, to pay it forward to others in need. As I like to say, giving and receiving are the same thing. You might be in a receiving mode at some points in your life, but you’ll be able to give at other points too.
Sell Stuff You Don’t Need
With little exception, we all have too much stuff. I certainly have things I could part with, and I bet you do too. And when you sell something, it puts money instantly in your hands — money that you can use to help you get through the month.
I’ve taken things that are worth more than $100 to my local auction houses. There are two in my area that I use. One is for more “affluent” stuff of significant value. The other is for items worth much less. Both give you at least the change to get more for your things than you might be able to get on your own.
Another option is to sell your gold and silver jewelry at a precious metal dealer. You probably won’t get as much money as you could selling your jewelry on your own, but you’ll get money on the spot, and sometimes, timeliness is just as important as quantity.
Of course, you can also sell your things online. There are several routes to go. Probably one of the best known is eBay. But I personally gave up on eBay when a scam artist tried to get money from me as a seller. Luckily, I recognized it for what it was immediately. But it made me very uncomfortable, and I haven’t used eBay since.
Instead, since I have a lot of clothes and shoes to get rid of, I use Poshmark, which lends itself very well to the selling of fashion items. What I especially love is that they will charge the buyer a flat fee automatically for the shipping and then provide me with a shipping label for the package. I don’t need to figure out what the shipping costs should be. I just box up the item, slap on the label Poshmark provides, and put the package in the mail. DONE! If you’d like to give them a try, just click HERE.
Make Money While Online
Another way I make income during the month beyond my businesses and my employment is by using Swagbucks.
Swagbucks allows me to earn points (equal to about a penny a point) by doing what I do anyway — surf the web. As I surf, it will occasional ask me to put in a code that will give me points. It takes a while, but since I would be using a search engine anyway, I might as well earn points. Before you know it, I’ve got enough points to cash in for a gift card to one of my favorite places to shop. One of my favorites is Target, as I can get groceries there. You do have to download and use their software to search. But it’s powered by Yahoo, so it’s still a high-quality search engine to use. If you’d like to try Swagbucks for yourself, just click HERE.
When times are financially tough, it can also be a very scary situation for a family. But a little creativity and thought can go a long way in helping you get through the month successfully. Hopefully, you can use the above tips as well, to make doing so a little easier.