How my family paid off $10k in debt last year
I’m always looking for a way to save a buck around our homestead. In fact, I think it’s the smart thing to do. If you’re not vigilant everyday costs just keep creeping up and creeping up, and before you know it there’s another $50 going out of the budget!
We set a goal to be debt free a little over a year ago and got intense about it. There are many small steps you can take to begin paying off debt. These are the top 5 ways to save money in our household. They are so simple that almost anyone can do it and not feel too much of a pinch.
These simple strategies have helped us to pay off $10k in debt during the past year.
We are diligent about making and keeping to a monthly budget.
On the first day of every month, I balance our checking accounts and create a working budget. It includes all the regular monthly bills like electricity and house payment, plus any additional expenses we might have for the month. That includes things like birthday gifts and vehicle maintenance. Any extra money is put towards paying down debt. Every month our family talks about the goal of being debt free and what that will mean for our future. It motivates us to stay on track.
Any deviation from the original plan is discussed before the expense happens and we adjust the budget as needed. We budget with the “every dollar has a name” philosophy learned from Dave Ramsey. We also build in a “blow money” category so there is wiggle room. A budget does not have to be constraining unless you make it that way.
We only have one car.
When we moved from Oregon to Texas we sold our second vehicle. It didn’t make sense to trailer it 2300 miles. So far we have not replaced it and I figure it is saving us around $500 per month in car payments, insurance and gas. That’s a lot of money going toward our debt.
I realize that this may not work for everyone, but because I work from home it’s a good choice for us. We live in the country, so nothing is within walking distance. I schedule my grocery shopping and errands for the evening when I have a car. My husband has Wednesday’s off so I can schedule appointments as needed. It works for us.
I practice frugal gardening
This is really a series of small steps I have taken while creating a garden this year. I consider our garden an essential money saving strategy, not only will the produce we grow be better for us, it will also cost less in the long run. Here are some of my frugal gardening tips:
- Start seeds at home instead of purchasing plants
- Use recycled materials for seed starting
- If I do purchase plants I get them from local growers and farmers markets
- Build your soil with compost and mulch that you create yourself
- Learn to can and dehydrate what you grow.
This year’s summer garden will provide our family with tomatoes, summer squash, beans, cucumbers, winter squash, various kinds of peppers, and the joy of doing this ourselves. Our bodies get exercise and our pantry will be full. So, not only am I saving on my grocery budget, I guess I’m saving on gym membership too!
Eat home cooked meals
Part of our monthly expense budget includes groceries. Next to our house payment, food is one of the biggest line item expenses in our family budget. I try to minimize it as much as possible by producing our own food, buying in bulk, and by cooking from scratch. That means that for 29 or 30 nights a month we eat at home.
Eating at home every night requires planning ahead and practice. I will admit that we do get into a rut with our menu choices. It can be hard to maintain creativity. You need to shop with your menu in mind and a specific list of items needed to create those meals, otherwise, all kinds of extra items end up in the cart.
My number one money saving tip for grocery shopping – never go when you are hungry! My number two tip for saving money on meals is to have a stocked pantry and eat from it. Don’t go to the store every day, you’ll just end up spending more money in the long run.
I’m stingy with the furnace
Our next biggest budget line item is heating and cooling. During the heat of the summer, the air conditioner runs constantly; there’s no getting around it. No one is going to be comfortable when it’s 100° outside, so the air is a must if you want a happy family.
During the rest of the year, we keep the house warmer or cooler by not turning on the furnace at all. That means opening windows and doors in the morning to bring in coolness, using heavy curtains to block our intense sunlight, and covering up with blankets when you get cold. We have a rule; the heat doesn’t come on unless the house is colder than 65° and the air doesn’t kick on until the house is above 80°. Our tolerance for heat or cold has increased and so has our money saving. Last month my electricity bill was $42. That’s a big saving for a little inconvenience.
The bottom line
A little inconvenience goes a long way. These 5 ways to save money have allowed us to pay off over $10,000 in debt during the last year and we will be completely debt-free (except the house) in 3 months. I will share some of our other debt-busting strategies in another post. Imagine what my family can do with that extra money working for us instead of our debtors!
What is your best money saving tip? Share your ideas in the comment section below.
These are my go to Dave Ramsey Books, found at Amazon.