Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Around here, we’re always saving for something. We’re either just back from a big trip and paying off whatever credit we might have used or we’re planning the next trip and putting away as much cash as possible for it. We don’t make more money than other people, but by using it differently, we’re often able to cram more fun into each year than others.¬†All it takes is a few quick budget fixes to start having more money in your account for doing the things you love, whether it’s traveling, going to concerts, or something else.

You Can’t Control What You Don’t Know

The first thing you must do to lower your weekly spending is to figure out how much you’re spending and on what. Make a list of all of your obligations – not just bills but the other expenditures you must make, whether it’s lunch money for the kids or taking your turn buying coffee for your colleagues. Then, keep track of what you’re spending during the week – all of your spending, whether cash, debit, or credit. And yes, you have to count Amazon shopping, too, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re really spending money (my weakness, made worse by Alexa).

Save Hundreds by Shopping Smart for Groceries

Dave does most of our grocery shopping. We live in a town where there’s only one real grocery store, and they’re ridiculously overpriced because they have a mostly-captive audience. We shop there, but only for the sales. We plan our meals (we are feeding 7, remember) around what’s on sale, whether or not we can get to Corning to shop at a different grocery store, and what we already have on hand. If it’s too expensive, we don’t buy it. We will sometimes hit two or three different stores to buy what we need, but in doing so we save $40-60 a week on groceries.

But Buy Groceries So that You Can Cook Instead of Eat Out

Even the most expensive grocery store is far less expensive that eating out. We got gift cards to a famous burger joint for Christmas and we all went out. It cost $113 (plus a tip) to feed the 7 of us at a reasonably-priced restaurant. $113 in a grocery store can feed us 3 times or more. Plan meals at home, eat at home, and skip the restaurants as often as possible.

Do You Really Need a Second (or Third) Car?

I was driving to a meeting with a client one day when a woman turned left in front of me and I slammed into the side of her van. It totaled our car. The insurance paid us out and rather than try to fix the car, we sold it. We could have purchased another car, or got another loan, but we decided to try living with just one car for a while since I’d recently started working from home full time. That was over 10 years ago. We’ve survived on one vehicle just fine since – which means one (or no) payment, a smaller insurance bill, less gas and upkeep expenses.

Sometimes It’s Cheaper to Quit and Stay Home than Pay Daycare

Some women want to work, others would prefer to stay home. If you would rather stay home and your job is earning just enough to pay for daycare, commuting expenses, work clothes, and all the associated expenses that come from working outside the house, it can be cheaper to stay home. It was for us, especially when the second baby came.

Little things Add Up

Stop at Starbucks, or take coffee from home? Pack a lunch, or eat out every day? Buy the newest piece of tech or keep using the one you have that still works but is slightly outdated? It’s amazing how much you can save with a simple mind shift.

Affording travel (or anything else you want) isn’t about being rich or going into debt. It’s about priorities. While we have worked hard and have experienced our share of luck and privilege to be in the place that we are, owning our own business and finding success, how we spend our money has made all the difference in what kind of fun we can afford.