Inside: When you need to make ends meet (and avoid acquiring more debt), you find any way you can to cut costs. Here’s a growing list of things we aren’t buying right now to make ends meet – from the trivial to the really inconvenient!
Crunching the numbers every month and trying to find new ways to make ends meet gets old after a while. As much as I appreciate a new year bringing new possibilities, it also brings not so fun things like insurance hikes and higher internet bills.
With expenses increasing faster than our income, I (along with thousands of other American families) am always looking for new ways to cut costs. But as we search for new ways to save money, often we just need to do the hard things, like making inconvenient sacrifices for a few months, or even years.
You might not learn anything new from this post, but sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only sacrificing to make ends meet.
How to Make Ends Meet without Going Crazy
I spent years trying to cut costs in order to make ends meet. I burned out trying to live on a ridiculously low grocery budget and DIY everything.
Related Post: 5 Reasons I Stopped Clipping Coupons
After you finish decluttering, there is NO WAY you want to go back to the chaos that was your life before.
You start to question every purchase, “Will I be happy I bought this six months from now?” Ninety percent of the time, the answer is “Nope!”, and back on the shelf it goes.
Other items on this list are born purely out of frugal tendencies. I’m thankful that we’ve always been frugal – I can’t imagine trying to learn how to be frugal. If that’s you, I admire your tenacity and willingness to work hard at forming better money habits.
When Making Ends Meet Isn’t Fun
I admit it: there are times that I want to do exactly what SO many other American families are doing!
Getting a car loan.
Buying furniture with a sweet, no money down, no interest for six months kind of deal.
Signing up for a new phone (it’s only $10 more a month!).
These families’ lives look SO GOOD from the outside, and I catch myself envying them more than I’d like to admit.
- Wouldn’t it be nice to have two cars and the freedom to go places with my kids whenever I want?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to not need to clear my phone every day of all but the best pictures just so my 8 GB phone will function?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to buy my favorite pair of shoes every year even though I know they’ll wear out in less than a year?
All those things would be amazing!
But I also know the stress and the pain of debt. We’ve lived with it for ten years.
What you can’t see from the outside of those picture perfect homes is the financial stress that’s tearing those families apart.
I know that adding to that debt would just make things worse. So we keep on living frugally believing that one day, we will be free from debt ourselves.
Hopefully when that day comes, some of the items on this list might be conveniences we can enjoy every once in a while.
But who knows? When that day comes, we might not even want them anymore.
14 Things We Aren’t Buying to Make Ends Meet
1) A New T.V.
Our current television is TINY. The size is made worse by the fact that my toddler took a toy hammer to it last month (turns out toy hammers are quite powerful on screens). I should be thankful he didn’t break the whole thing.
It’s still watchable…sort of.
When our kids (or I) get annoyed that one quarter of the screen is obscured by blurs and cracks, I remind myself that it’s good to teach them that you don’t just walk out and buy something new when something breaks.
You wait, and you save up for it. Great life lesson!
2) A Second Car
We have been a one car family for ten years. In 2016, my husband had a work vehicle, which freed me to use the car during the day.
I’m not gonna lie – transitioning back to only one car this past year has been rough. However, last month, we all finally adjusted to being housebound. Christmas gifts from grandparents helped a ton.
3) Extracurricular Activities
Our kids currently participate in zero extracurricular activities. That’s right, I said “None. Zero. Zip.”
Guess what? They’ll be fine!
They play with neighbor kids a few times a week. We take them to parks. They got a trampoline and a basketball hoop from their grandparents for Christmas. They play soccer and basketball with each other and friends.
4) New Phones
Man, I miss the days when phone companies gave you a new phone for free in exchange for a 2-year contract. I am not a fan of the new system AT ALL.
While we do have iphones, they are way behind the newest model. I have only 8GB of storage space, which isn’t even enough to do software updates.
Renting new phones would cost $25 or more a month extra, and we wouldn’t even own them at the end of our contract.
New phones will have to wait.
With four kids plus homeschooling, we really feel this one sometimes. We do not have family living close by, and babysitting rates are pretty astronomical these days (as they should be – I’m glad quality childcare is valued highly!).
We trade babysitting once a month with friends, so we can have an occasional date. Otherwise, my husband and I take turns taking the kids out so the other can have a quiet house. We also rely on T.V. to give us a break.
6) The Right Sheets
I mentioned in this post that we use full-size sheets on our kid’s twin-sized beds. They tuck in and work just fine, although a dear friend did mail us some extra twin sheets when she heard we didn’t have any.
7) A House
We have been renting for over ten years now. While I truly appreciate being able to call someone to come fix my dishwasher when it breaks, we are ready for the permanence of owning our own home.
That being said, buying a home right now would not be a wise decision. We have no down payment and are still paying off student loans. So for now, we wait.
I love reading new books with my kids, but they rarely want to read the same ones more than a few times. Our library lends books for two week periods, and you can always renew them a few times if needed.
This is one that bothers me hardly at all, since our library has a great selection and a broad network to share books across libraries. If yours doesn’t have a good selection, check out this library hack I use to get the books I want to read for free.
9) TOMs Shoes
I love TOMs classic shoes! I got a pair for Christmas a few years ago. While they lasted, they were comfortable and went with a lot of my capsule wardrobe.
Unfortunately, they cost anywhere from $40-$54 a pair and only last a year. I added TOMs to my “When We Get Out of Debt” list in my bullet journal and switched to these Croc flats which are a fraction of the price (especially when you get them on end of season clearance) and last so much longer.
10) Sponges & Loofahs
I wish I could list paper towels here, but my husband just can’t break the habit. We have, however, drastically reduced our paper towel usage after starting a paperless kitchen this summer.
We ditched sponges, in favor of these dishcloths and a dish brush. These do a much better job than the sponges, anyways.
Related Post: Why Every Mom Needs to Try a Paperless Kitchen
11) Wedding Attendance and Gifts
We have declined several wedding invitations over the past few years simply because we cannot afford to travel OR purchase a gift. Although we were sad to miss the happy day, we look forward to seeing our friends another time in order to spend quality time with them, something most weddings don’t allow for.
When it does work out to attend a close friend or family’s wedding, we can’t always afford a gift.
This one might not be popular or proper etiquette. However, when buying a gift from their registry means putting it on a credit card, we just have to swallow our pride and hope that our presence is enough of a gift.
When we can afford a gift, it’s usually something from this list of wedding gifts that are under $20 each.
I look forward to the day when we can purchase the highest priced item on the wedding registry. We love being generous! And we look forward to being debt-free so we can be more generous than our current finances allow.
It seems silly to mention here, but I used to buy playdough once or twice a month. The cost adds up.
Now, we make our own.
Playdough-making is now an event at our house, one our children enjoy very much. They get to choose the color and help mix the ingredients. There’s something about warm playdough, fresh from the pot, that playdough from Target can’t compete with.
You can find our favorite recipe in this post.
13) Another iPad
We have four kids and one iPad. I’m thankful for the one we have, but I completely understand why parents get each child his own device – a tablet, an iPad, something. Instead, we deal with trying to make sure everyone getting choices and turns. Some days it works out well.
Other days? Oh, the screaming.
The upside is that they are learning to share and take turns…and that life isn’t always fair.
14) Expensive Vacations
Ever since we read through the Harry Potter series, we have talked about going to Harry Potter World. We talk about the world all the time. Maps hang everywhere in our home, and the kids talk about visiting the places we learn about in our homeschool.
Those kinds of vacations will have to wait.
For now, a day or two at the beach in a cheap motel once or twice a year is the best way for us to have a family vacation that fits our budget.
And guess what? The kids LOVE it!
Kids don’t need expensive vacations to create family memories. They just need the whole family and a simple trip.
Struggle with budgeting? Check out the Real Life Money Plan to get the help you need!
Just Making Ends Meet? You’re Not Alone
I know what it’s like to feel alone in a seemingly hopeless financial situation. Just when you think you’re getting ahead, an unexpected bill hits you and you’re right back where you started.
You look to your left and your right and see families who seem to have it altogether. They have more money, better stuff, and fewer limitations…or so you think.
Making sacrifices to pay off debt, stay debt-free, or just to pay the bills is really hard, especially if you’ve been at it for a really long time. It can feel hopeless, like your financial situation will never get any better.
Hold onto hope though: we need to believe that things will get easier. Practice gratitude, persevere and believe with me that this is not the way it will always be.
While you wait, take comfort in knowing that you’re not the only one.
You are so very far from alone.