Living on a budget has proven to be a job in and of itself. When my husband used the term “make our money work for us” when we discussed whether or not I would continue working and making the money work for the company, I took it on as a challenge. And it’s proven to actually be work. For those that think stay-at-home moms do nothing, I’d beg to differ. I can’t speak for everyone but I know that sitting down is a rare luxury for me throughout the day. I am usually up and down stairs about a hundred times, going from room to room putting away laundry and sweeping, doing dishes, dusting, playing with the baby, walking her around or cooking. Most of the time the only time I get to sit at all during the day is when I’m nursing the baby. Hell, to write this (which I basically wrote in my notepad on my phone over a period of a few days while nursing) it still took me a couple more days to find any down time to get it published.
It’s hard when you go from a double income / no kids to one income and a baby. We were really good at spending money so it’s been quite an adjustment. Fortunately I am good at managing money. I am good at numbers. (My husband says I’m good at anything I set my mind to. God love him.) The biggest hurdle to managing our money was going to be cutting out the ways we always blew it before and returning the luxuries to their not-so-frequent occurrence while making sure that we weren’t sacrificing quality on what was really a necessity – giving up eating out several nights a week and some of our more expensive routine purchases while making sure our home cooked meals are still healthy and fresh. Being on a budget doesn’t mean eating $1 boxed dinners every night with a can of mystery meat mixed in. It was important for me to make sure that we were still eating well even while saving money. Fortunately there are still healthy ways to eat and save – especially when your job is homemaking and you make every breakfast, lunch and dinner and can plan ahead. This is what makes staying at home an actual job. It’s not watching TV and eating all day contrary to those cliches about Bon-Bon’s and soap operas. It’s taking care of your child (who rarely naps and is a pretty constant gig alone) and planning weekly menus, scouring the weekly ads for sales and web for coupons, cooking and freezing baby food and making up breakfasts and lunches in advance for The Hub. It’s laundry and housecleaning and cooking dinner when he gets home. It’s really paying attention to your bills when you’re paying everything and balancing your checkbook to make sure you’re not overspending on things you don’t need or use and working to eliminate unnecessary charges. And lastly, it’s about learning to appreciate the simple things.
We used to eat out a lot. With both of us working it was often easier to just grab something than to try to come home and cook a big, fancy dinner after working all day. On the nights I did we usually didn’t eat until 8:00. I can’t speak for my husband but he surely isn’t complaining about having a home cooked meal every night when he comes home. We look at eating out as a treat now – the way it should be. And this may also be what’s helping us both to continue to lose weight. The Hub is down 25 pounds now and I’m finally only a couple pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight!
I’ve been really paying attention to the weekly ads and clipping coupons whenever I can. Extreme couponing is fascinating to me but I’m finding that the bulk of what you get coupons for are beauty items, cleaning supplies, and junk food. There are occasional baby items that come in handy though. It’s a bonus to get a few coupons we can use but it’s definitely not a single solution. I’m still so new to the frugal side of life and I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m finding that just planning the menus around sale prices though helps a lot and still enables us to eat healthy and fresh. I used to go to town on imported cheeses and wines and now I am more happy coming home and putting away the groceries and seeing a large basket of squash, gourds, pineapple and other fresh foods that are going to accompany our main courses over the next week (and to also be made into fresh baby food – which she loves). It’s my personalized food art in the kitchen. Real life still life. It also keeps the creative juices flowing when you’re planning menus and coming up with new things to try based on what’s on sale. (I created a really good dish the other night with rice, chorizo, black beans and some other fresh, tasty ingredients from the “food art bowl” that TheHub absolutely loved). It’s rewarding to hear him praise dishes you worked hard on or say that it’s the best he’s ever had and you couldn’t even buy something that good in a restaurant. It’s a great feeling knowing that even on a tight budget, we’re not just making it work but making it work well.
This is what homemaking is about. It’s raising my daughter and caring for my family the “slow cooked” way that I’ve always said made such a difference when I was growing up. It’s taking the time to not only do things right but with love and care so that they know how much I love them. The reward isn’t a paycheck every week. It’s a smile, a hug, a pleasant noise as my husband takes a bite of dinner. It’s the healthy appetite of my little one enjoying her homemade baby food. It’s in her laughter and how safe and secure she feels because of the home we have created. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had because there isn’t a schedule – it takes the term “full time” quite literally. There is no down time or personal time. Even my shower routine includes the baby. But even with a 24-7 work schedule and little to no breaks, the return is so much more rewarding than any paycheck. We may not have everything but life is good and we are truly blessed.
Got any money-saving or couponing tips of your own? Please feel free to share them – I’d love to hear from you! Sharing is caring people. 😉