What Can the Average American Do to Save Money?

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What can the average American do to save money?

I had a reporter from CBS News call me today asking how average people who are living paycheck to paycheck can get a savings account going.

I told her that one of the first things they can do is stop eating out. She later told me, “Well, you hear the stop eating out thing all the time. I want to know what normal, average people can do to save money who are living paycheck to paycheck.”

Most “normal and average” middle class Americans who are having to live paycheck to paycheck aren’t doing so because of something unpreventable like medical costs. They are doing it because they are spending more than they earn on stuff they don’t need.


What are some of the areas where you can save?

Stop eating your way into debt! Yes, families do spend literally THOUSANDS of dollars a year eating out. Add it up. You will be shocked. If you only go out once a week you will spend almost $3,000 in one year. We had one reader email and say she and her husband stopped eating out and saved $22,000 in one year!!!

Too much stuff. Stop shopping. I spend $350 a year on clothes for our entire family. How many clothes do we need? We don’t need that many clothes and I buy most of our clothes at thrift stores and yard sales. Stop shopping just to have something to do.

Too many activities. It’s not abnormal now for people to have kids in two or three activities per week each. That’s crazy! Let them do ONE and one only. You will save money on the fees, gas driving there and eating out because you “don’t have time”. The “average” family will spend $300-$500 a month on activities for just one child.

Groceries– Do you buy a bunch of junk food you don’t need? I spend $350-$400 a month on groceries. The “average” family spends $500-$900 a month, not including what they spend eating out.

CarsStop buying new cars you can’t afford. Why are you buying a car for $30,000 when you earn that amount in a year? Add up the interest, extra insurance and taxes. It does add up to that much. If you can’t pay cash, you shouldn’t buy a brand new car.

Treats– You don’t need a Starbucks coffee or other “treat” every day.

Electronics – We now have convinced ourselves these are needs and they aren’t. Unless you make your livelihood with them you don’t need them – even a cell phone and especially a cell phone for every member of the family. Out of curiosity I was watching a home shopping network the other day. They were selling big screen TVs. In just a few minutes of time they have sold out of over a million dollars worth of  these TVs. We are talking $1500 for a TV. Oh my, poor us and these hard economic times.

Housing– Why do you have a 3000 square foot house for a family of four? Get something smaller that you can afford and doesn’t cost as much to heat.

Now, you may not be in this boat and if you’re not then congratulations, but a LOT of middle class paycheck to paycheck Americans are. It’s time to stop whining about the “bad economy” and start taking some responsibility for your finances.

      -Tawra and Jill

photo by: Molly DG


  1. Anonymous says

    Tawra, we LIKE what you call your “soapbox” in this post!!!

    That’s because we are paying off major–and I do mean MAJOR–debt by doing all the things you’re describing here to cut our cost of living. And it WORKS!!!

    And, you know, we don’t miss all that other stuff hardly at all….things like eating out and having the latest clothing styles have faded in their importance by FAR to getting that debt paid down…PLUS enjoying much more time at home, together as a family, and with friends, and volunteering moreat church and in the community, etc.

    Our debtload by the way, is due to unexpected medical bills and a couple of other things out of our control, just like you said. We also drive 11-year-old cars that we bought (very!) used, etc., etc.

    Thank you again for all the wonderful stuff we get from your blog and Website!!!

    In Indiana,


  2. Anonymous says

    Well hot diggity! I can also attest to what it means to choose people, relationships, and security over money! I am appalled at the number of people I personally know who “make” more than we do, yet struggle financially/emotionally to the point of depression (compounded by avoidance of addressing the real issues of priorities and self control).

    I sum it up this way…you can either try to fill a never ending hole (in yourself, your relationships, you name it) by purchasing things and stuff, or you can “stock a pantry” that provides for a clearview of what is most valuable in your life (your relationships, yourself, your family)and gives you a sense of security and a great base from which to move forward.

    In peace and love,

  3. Anonymous says

    I like your soapbox too. Your ideas are all absolutely true and I am debt free and have been for 3 years because of them. Love how the reporter discounted it when you said the most crucial thing to stop doing! Thank you for that.

  4. Anonymous says

    Dear Tawra on the Soapbox:

    Everything you say is true. My daughter is allowed to have one activity – she does jazz dance. Some of her friends’ schedules are crazy — gymnastics, cheerleading, etc. and then the moms wonder why their kids are up late at night trying to complete school assignments, to say nothing of the cost. Let kids be kids!

    Also, I have never made a purchase at a Starbuck’s. What a rip off that place is.

    My one weakness is that I love to eat out on weekends. But, I don’t smoke or drink, so I guess eating out is my one vice. If I do go shopping, my favorite store in the mall is Barnes and Noble — that is more fun than clothes shopping.

    Hope you are feeling better.


  5. Anonymous says

    The word is “accountability!” Everything you said is about being responsible and accountable for our decisions. Somewhere in the American culture, we went from being accountable to feeling entitled. We have been provided for far beyond our eyes can see. Being frugal or resourceful isn’t hard. It is a choice. Thank you for encouraging the group! Robin in CA

  6. HEATHER says

    Tawra, I agree so much!
    I have learned so much from reading your column and book. Loss leaders (at the chain grocery stores) were something I had learned in college, but had totally forgotten until I started reading your blog. I can say that you totally changed my way of shopping. I was a snob about Aldi’s. I would buy what ever brand name products they had but would not use their brand. Well forget that-now we buy a good portion of our groceries at Aldi’s. Their graham crackers and animal crackers are positively ADDICTIVE!! Their canned veggies are the same quality of those brand names that I bought for years. We do still do more take out than we should due to having bad Fibromyalgia days, but I have been trying to keep more of the frozen selections from Aldi’s in the freezer for those times. They do offer the family size Stauffers meals and some really good frozen pizza’s too. Keep up the good work!

    • Maria says

      My husband and I unfortunately have had to retire early due to health issues. So we generally shop once a month now. Aldi’s is our first stop. If you go early in the morning, you can get great deals on fresh veggies before they’ve been picked over. Other items we buy there: canned veggies, coffees, chips, butter, stuffing mix, dog treats and bleach, to name a few. Our second stop is Sam’s Club. Peanut butter, pork loin, milk and cat food/litter are our mainstays there. (the pork loin gets cut up for 4-5 meals) Sometimes we buy our gasoline there as well, if it’s the cheapest in town. Next is a local poultry plant outlet store for about $20 worth of mostly boneless/skinless chicken (several meals) and then Wal-Mart to round out the trip for price-matching when possible and for all the other things we can’t get elsewhere. Our monthly budget for groceries/household goods is $350 for 3 adults. The hardest thing is to get everyone on the same budget and stick to it. So we still go over budget each month but we’re improving.

  7. Anonymous says

    Love your soapbox. I just wish that the CBS reporter would have quoted all of what you said. I doubt the reporter even understood the financial significance of not eating out. Keep up the good work. Bellen

  8. Anonymous says

    You just stay right up there on that soap box, TJ! That is the reason your family is so well known now! You and Jill practice what you preach and are the success stories to living frugally. My family has learned so much from your family and are better for it. Keep up the good work and I’ll keep recommending you to everyone I know!

  9. Jennifer says

    Tawra, the problem with what you told the reporter is that people don’t want to stop eating out and frankly, many people see it as a necessity. that is why she wanted something different. People aren’t willing to give it up. you are right though!

    I love to eat out, at least I used. Having 4 kids and 1 with severe food allergies has totally limited our eating out. It has been great for our budget and I really don’t miss it often.

  10. Anonymous says

    Well, I agree with what you said. I do think that something the ‘average’ pay day to pay day person can do too is to let the bank take a small amout of each pay check and put it into a savings account. Just 1% of your check..say $10.00 is enough to start. I know it will take time but time is something we have more of than money…(most of the time anyway)
    We eat out once a week. It is our ‘date night’ with friends..we go to our favorite Mexican food joint and then come back to the house and play cards…that is our big entertainment for the week..we do not rent movies, we do not go to movies, and we do not shop for the ‘fun’ of it. I have not been in a mall is 10 years. (I am not kidding) I shop for things ONLY when I have a real NEED not just a want. Big difference..yes, I have kids too. I shop for their needs at thrift shops, garage sales, and the usual Wal*Mart and Target. They do not lack for anything believe me…
    Thanks for all you do. I enjoy the newsletters a lot. Take care of yourself.

  11. Lutheran Lucciola says

    Tawra, I like how you put it all plain and simple!

    People have to learn to break certain patterns and habits, and I think the reporter just wanted a magic wand. So much of our busy-busy-busy stuff is automatic, it’s not important.

    The eating out advice alone is a huge money saver.

    Speaking of smaller houses, check out the Tumbleweed portable house idea, and other small house movement stuff. I think you would get a kick out of the idea.

  12. Anonymous says

    you are sooo right tawra… yep, if people would just stop doing the things that are costing lots of money, then they would have more money to use towards saving or paying down that debt!…
    i love to eat out (who doesnt?)… but bc i am soooo frugal, i dont want to spend the money… not unless i go to a buffet and pay lunch prices when its close to the dinner time price change… or to olive garden (all you can eat soup and salad… and yes, i do bring home a doggie bag!)… and also on tuesday’s, at cracker barrel (not sure if you have one of those but the food is home cooking and well, its awesome!)… on tuesday’s they have “butter baked chicken”… and well, its 1/2 (yes 1/2!) a chicken and 2 sides!!!… and biscuits and/or corn muffins for one low price.. well, i normally bring 1/2 home to my husband…
    but we only do this once in a while… and only as a treat!..
    you are sooo right about the kids having too many after school things… no wonder they are sooo tired in the am … my kids didnt have any of this when they were growing up… bc well, we couldnt afford it.. oh we did try to get our son into scouting… it was for like $10 to sign up but then you had to pay for the uniforms and the other stuff and the camping and etc etc etc… dont get me wrong, scouting is wonderful but we just couldnt afford it and not only that, we work as paper carriers and well, we couldnt take off at any time… that was how we made our money!…
    did they suffer?.. nope … and well, they worked with us from the time they were young, and yes we gave them an allowance and if they wanted to do something extra, and if it wasnt too much, then we paid for 1/2 of it… it gave them a responsibility… my dh and i came from very very poor families and well, our parents never gave us anything extra except what they could give us, food, shelter, love, their time, you know the basic needs…
    you keep standing on that soap box tawra.. you, mike and jill have helped not only me but countless of other people and for that i am truly thankful… i thank GOD everyday that i found your website!!!…
    i am constantly recommending your website to everyone i meet online and with my friends and family…
    thank you sooo very much for all you do for all of us..
    rose wilson..

  13. Anonymous says

    Bravo Tawra!! The eating out thing is huge. My family used to go out for a big dinner every Sunday. We decided to cut back to once every other month and the savings was huge. We next tackled the fast food and lunches out and that made a big difference too. People really are eating their money!

    On a somewhat less serious note, my other pet peeve is that home decorating channel! I found the more I watched that channel, the less content I was with my own home, which of course is the whole point of those shows. I think they have convinced America that life is not worth living without a huge house, granite or marble countertops and of course stainless steel appliances and a flat-screen TV. Almost all those shows are surrounded by commercials for mortgage companies, banks and those big box home stores. Well now the chickens are coming home to roost!

    Oops, I guess I drug out my soapbox, too!


  14. Anonymous says

    Carol I am so glad you said that! I get so mad when i see those home makeover shows too. I am not willing to put myself deep in debt for something as unimportant in the grand scheme of things as home decor. Our home is ours, no mortgage, we own it free and clear. My vintage original 1962 kitchen is so out it’s in. I love it and will never change it.

  15. maria says

    Hi Tawra,

    You are so right about the eating out and “too many activities for kids”. It’s a real “blow up”budget.

    Kids need to be kids and have some free time to just “do nothing”. They don’t need to be constantly involved in “boxed” activities.


  16. Anonymous says

    I definately know the eating out thing is a major factor, it is so easy to “forget” about the small purchases until you see the credit card bill and it will really open your eyes to what you spend. Even shopping, I do shop at Goodwill but I also catch some really great end of season sales that are as good as something from Goodwill at times. It pays to look around and know what exactly it is you really need for your family before mindlessly going to the stotres and never wait until you have to have something if you don’t have to. There’s nothing worse than shopping when you are deperate to find anything that looks decent or acceptable for an important event/special occasion. Tawra, I went from having awful credit to being up to 895 and climbing. Thank you ever so much for your sound advice and just being real. Tami

  17. Jenny says

    3/1/11 – Tawra, I am having difficulties finding an “apartment” that I can afford. Most of the apartments in the area where I live are overpriced and are too small for my furniture, etc., but I must stay witnin a certain price range. I have given a lot of my clothes to Goodwill, but I still do “not” have enough closet space. Because my income is low, I have to stay within a certain housing price range. Rent is half of my take-home pay. I am depleting my debt. It seems hopeless sometimes.

    • says

      Jenny, I would say keep looking. Before I was married I was living on $600 a month. I wanted to move to one of the most expensive places in Colorado in the mountains. It had always been my dream to do and honestly, I wasn’t going to let money keep me from doing it.

      After a lot of looking I finally found a place I could afford for the $300 a month that I could spend, in the mountains and it was WONDERFUL!!

      Keep looking, something will come up. You might also try a roommate type situation or something like. You could also sell your furniture and buy something that’s used and smaller.

  18. Brena says

    I just received my first email newsletter and am blessed to hear REAL comments for real people. Responsibility starts with the individual! Thank you for the great letter.

  19. Trish says

    I love it!! People need to start taking responsibility for their finances! We have all made mistakes but it is when we don’t learn from them or expect someone else to bail us out that it becomes a national problem. I have a Bachelor Degree in Family Finance and the one thing I find in counseling is that people don’t want to make the changes to get out of debt they have taken years and many bad habits to get into. They want someone to call someone to lower their bill or their rates. People let’s get responsible for what we choose!

  20. Kelly says

    Right on Tawra! I’d like to add something else: too many gadgets and gizmos! I have a cell phone but refuse to sign up for one of the fancy “smart” phones because even if I can get the phone for “free” with my renewal, I would be required to sign up for the $30/month data plan that goes with it. With taxes, etc., it would probably end up costing more $35/month which is over $400 per year!

    I have a friend who is constantly whining about lack of funds yet she recently bought an I-phone (complete with data plan) and a brand new couch. This is someone who just 3 months ago was complaining that she couldn’t pay her bills. She got a new job with a slightly better income and voila! New stuff! I just shake my head in wonder…..

    • Fay says

      Cell phones–what a scam to fall into. DH and I have phones. We are on the cheapest plan out there and no contract. I refuse to get roped into a contract. DH just bought a new phone, it has all the bells & whistles. However, he bought it “unlocked” directly from Japan for $600 less than the American price–he paid $69. He needs a certain type of phone due to a visual disability. It just so happens it is the newest, hottest phone out there. Because it is “unlocked” he can use it without a data plan. However, he can use the internet anywhere there is free WIFI. We already have WIFI at home & if he needs it when he’s out he just goes to one of the hundreds of places that offer free WIFI these days. Our sons who are super tech savvy couldn’t believe that he got this phone at such a low price, has no contract, has the lowest monthly rate out there and no data plan. The salesman at Best Buy also couldn’t believe it (we went there for a screen protector for it). He compared every function to the $669, everything worked beautifully. Guess us in the Gray Divide can still teach the youngsters something.

  21. Freeda says

    You go, Girl! You have hit the nail right on the head! My husband and I lead financial classes at our church and this is exactly what we are trying to teach the class members. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I love your newsletters!

  22. Cindy says

    I agree with everything. My husband and I are debt-free. It is so discouraging to talk to others sometimes, though. An acquaintance just signed a cell phone contract with data plan for each of her three kids. They have home internet and satellite TV, yet they get food stamps. Aargh!

  23. says

    I just love getting your newsletters! Today, I just have to say a HUGE “Amen”!
    My fiance’ and I write down every thing we spend money on, so we know exactly where our hard-earned dollars go. We rarely eat out – only on special occasions. When we spend a day running errands, we take a picnic lunch.
    We spend only $150-200 a month on groceries for 2 adults – we make most meals from scratch and can a lot of fruits and buy in bulk from costco.
    If the average family just took the time to write down where their money goes and look at it every week, they would be shocked. I would estimate that for over a decade I wasted over $800 a month – and I made less than $50,000 a year with 2 children.
    Spending money within your means just takes self control – which many people are lacking.

  24. Mary says

    There is more savings to not eating out than just the cash, I quit eating out in the middle of November 2010 because of a completely gone income. I have saved thousands of dollars in the past 4 months but the biggest benefit was I lost 50 pounds. When I went in for my physical last week I saved even more. If I had not lost all that weight I would be checking my blood sugar 3 times a day and doing insulin shots. That is a huge expense even with insurance. I also managed to clean out closets that were filled with clothes that no longer fit. I also started cooking from my freezer and we eat better now than we did when we were eating out 4-10 times a week.

    Another thing I did was I went around and unplugged anything that we were not using. If we are not using the t.v., computer, toaster etc…. they are not plugged in. It cut my electric bill by almost $100 a month. I never knew it until I read it a few weeks ago but the toaster uses as much electric as a microwave even when your not using it if it is plugged in. The t.v., cable box, DVD player,stereo system, computers and printer/fax machines all use electric even if they are off because of instant start.
    I used to be one of those paycheck to paycheck people but never again, I started my own business and even though things are lean I now have an IRA account, savings account and a very good auto repair shop to keep my 2001 van running at minimal cost so I don’t have to buy a new one. The only thing I need now is someone who can put the new roof on if I buy the parts and strip the old one off.

  25. Cindy in New Jersey says

    Hi Tawra,

    I receive your news letter regularly and want to thank you for for such wonderful and helpful suggestions. Everything you suggest we have done and then some. Here are some of the things we do to get us from pay check to pay check hope it helps.

    My husband and I live alone. We have 5 grown children and 10 grandchildren. There are 21 of us when we all get together. Our home is about 700 square feet so down sizing is not an option. A little over two years ago my husband’s pay was cut by 8%, raises were frozen and he was given a choice, accept the pay cut and raise freeze or find work elsewhere. Keep in mind there aren’t any jobs to be had so it really wasn’t much of a choice but we continue to thank God everyday he still has a work. He leaves at 6:30am and does not get home till 6pm. There is NO retirement and NO real savings. I arrange charge cards so we are always at 0% interest and try to pay extra to pay them down. We are working very hard to become debt free. It’s not fair but car insurance companies use your credit score to determine how much you are going to pay for your car insurance so we have strived to maintain an excellent credit rating.

    Due to illnesses for the both of us the past few years, we have had to re-finance our home. We live on one pay check. I am unable to work and am not eligible for SSD and my husband makes too much for us to be eligible for SSI or food stamps. We are both 60 so early retirement and collecting SS is also not an option at least for me until I turn 62 and that’s if there is SS to be had by then. We have food allergies so most of what we eat is home cooked meals and my husband brings his lunches to work. I make homemade soups with leftovers and dunk the chicken several times.

    There is no junk food. Occasionally the grocery store has pies on clearance for 99c. On occasion we go after Valentines Day for 50% off a package of dark chocolate and savor each piece 2 a day as a treat and what we don’t finish we freeze for another time. We don’t eat out, we don’t buy clothes (I belong to freecycle.org and get many items needed through them free). When we needed to replace the kitchen sink, counter and lower cabinets after its collapse my husband built the new cabinets himself was able to get a really good deal on a counter top and I picked up a free cast iron porcelain sink from freecycle. When we needed to tear out our bathroom last year because of a cracked tub and water damage we were able to get many items from The Habitat for Humanity Store and the tub I got once again from a generous freecycler. Groceries are purchased only with coupons or on the bonus club card or on sale. I make meals ahead and freeze them which limit the visits to the grocery store and temptation. Food allergies limit our choices.

    Our primary source of heat is a wood stove. We do not have a heating system. In the 42 years of living here we have had to buy wood once. Praise God He has always provided. We have a small propane un-vented heater in the kitchen and only use it with the wood stove when the temperature reaches 15 and below. The propane is saved for our hot water. I hang clothes weather permitting to save on electric. We have yearly yard sales to sell off anything we don’t need for extra food money. We have a well so showers are kept to a minimum. Laundry is always with a full load. We re-use towels and catch rain water during the spring & summer for watering plants and my vegetable garden. We invested in a small car 3 years ago that gets 38 mpg to get my husband back and forth to work. I map my day to keep gas consumption to a minimum and we use the two letter word NO often.

    Christmas time is my favorite time of year. As many that can come, visit us Christmas Eve. We celebrate Jesus and have a blast just enjoying family and close friends and its standing room only. A chosen family member makes a Birthday Cake for Jesus and the little ones take turns putting Jesus in the manger to celebrate His birth. Everyone contributes to the food and we limit one or two small gifts for the younger grandchildren. My husband and I spend the 23rd of Dec. alone together opening stocking stuffers. We buy anything we may notice the other needs during the course of the year. No big gifts (what fun we have). Spending is either online to find the cheapest price and free shipping, the $1 store or once again Freecycle.org (this is nation wide so anyone can join). You would be amazed at people’s generosity and the things they are willing to give away. Our spending is spread out over the course of the year and we hit the nearest CVS Pharmacy after Christmas for 50-75% off of future birthday and Christmas gifts. Neither one of us believes anyone should put themselves in debt unless it is for something of the utmost importance. By the way the word vacation is not in our vocabulary.

    Even after all of this there still is too much month left at the end of the money. I think that pretty much wraps it up. Thanks for listening.

    Only with God’s Grace and love Cindy

  26. Lee says

    Your right on many points. I wish we could stop eating our way into debt. NO we don’t eat out. That’s strictly for special occasions like a birthday and that means no cake, ice cream, party, gifts. We eat 3 meals a day at home. We pack lunches, snacks, and water with us when we go out. However, because of numerous allergies and 4 with celiac disease; we can’t eat the traditional food in the stores that are usually found on sale or have the benefits of coupons. Meat is a luxury item as are fresh fruits and vegetables.

    We don’t qualify for assistance or hand outs. What’s left over after paying rent, utilities, medical bills, getting medical supplies, supplements for the nutritional deficiencies caused by faulty digestive tracks, we spend on food. good thing we eat all our meals at home and pack food and snacks with us when we go places.

    I laugh at the comment about the car and activities. We have never had a new car. The way we determine a new car is if it has less than 200,000 miles on it. I take that back we did have a 1993 with 197,000 miles on it. It lasted until it hit 325,007.4. It wasn’t a cheap car as we had to put a lot of money into it just to get home from a medical appointment out of state. Most of our vehicles have been from the late 60s to late 80s and all have had at least 200k on them before we got them. None have been very safe or problem free. They just got the job done. Our current vehicle wouldn’t pass a state inspection. It won’t even make the trip to the out of state specialist doctors the children need to see. it is only good for getting 1 major shopping trip a month and then medical appointments that are deemed emergency or in areas that the city bus doesn’t go to. It’s better to use it for this type of stuff and spend $100 a month on insurance/maintenance/saving for license fees since it’s considered vintage than what we were shelling out for taxi cabs to appointments. I still don’t grasp why the physical therapist moved their office so far off the bus line. (you can get there by bus. IF you take the early morning bus which stops running at 8 a.m. then walk for 2 hours then hang out at their location until it’s time to walk the two hours back to catch the bus when it starts running again at 3:30. You can also get their by taxi but that’s $25 round trip for 1 adult and 1 minor)

    We spend $3500 a year on school for the children. School is the only activity that they do. Scouts is just too expensive as are the other activities like soccer, dance, gymnastics. And yes that’s how much it costs for the children to attend the neighborhood Free Public School. I dread when they move up to jr high and high school what the price will be.

    As for housing we are suppose to have a by the rules of HUD a 4 bedroom house. Also by HUD rules it’s suppose to cost no more than $900 for a 4 bedroom. 4 bedrooms start out at $1200. We spend $875 for our 3 bedroom + utilities. We are cramped and we don’t have a lot of excess stuff it’s mainly the storage of all the ingredients for the special dr ordered foods (a normal loaf of bread may have 6 ingredients. the bread that taste best and is gluten free has 18 ingredients. both of these being home made as I can’t see a good reason to spend $7 on a loaf of GF store bought bread that’s a ¼ of the size of traditional store bought bread loaf)

    BTW the 6 us are living as frugally as possible on $674 a month fixed income. that’s about to change as 2 more join us thanks to advanced age and their dramatic cut in income.

    Keep up the good work of spreading the news and helping others to live within their means.

  27. KR says

    More ways to save money:
    Use those coupons!
    Buy on clearance, I bought 4 “cashmere” like sweaters for $12, if I had paid new it would have cost me well over $100

    Buy only what you have to have not what you think you have to have. We all suffer from a case of consumerism flu, brought on by being brainwashed by advertisers who convince us to buy their products or services we don’t need.

    Learn to say “we can get along without it” or “we don’t need it.’

    Shop around for the best internet and long distance deals–I renegotiated my internet payments with my ISP and got the monthly bill reduced to half of what I was paying, a savings of $22! Long distance cards are available at most drug stores starting at $10 for 125 minutes and they are reloadable.

    If you have to eat out, order off the value menu, items are usually a little over a dollar. The real value meals come from cooking meals at home and creating family time with your kids and spouse, eating on the run does not facilitate the connections between members needed to sustain a family. If your kids are old enough teach them simple meals to prepare, and let them help in the kitchen.

    Another way to save money is to say “no” to the kids if they want something and you don’t have the funds for it.I see this all the time in my work, parents who are unable to say no when the kid wants a $20 compact.

  28. Veronica Gorrell says

    WOW Tawra….I wish this message could get out to the entire nation!!! The twenty and thirty-somethings should take this information to heart and spare themselves the stress and pain from stemming from money mismanagement. Keep ‘preaching’ it, Sister because I am sure that many will pay attention and change their lifestyles!! Thanks!!

  29. Lynda says

    I lurk here often but felt compelled to respond to the OP.

    Excellent column and pure common sense. Sadly, we now have a society that wants things done the easy way or just wants things done for them, thinking that nothing will affect them. It’s called normalcy bias.

  30. mary says

    Thirty years ago when we had a daughter at home we thought it a great treat to eat out once or twice a month. We went to a cafeteria and each got a main dish and one vegetable–the cheapest of each that we enjoyed. For my husband some kind of beef and green beans, for me fish and cole slaw (they made the best cole slaw I’ve ever eaten), for our daughter the child’s fried chicken (a drumstick) and cole slaw. If we felt flush, we split one dessert three ways. We ate at the cafeteria on the way home from church on Sunday since that saved on gas. Our total bill was less than ten dollars back then. Now it would be between twenty and thirty. My husband and I eat out even less and never have coffee, tea, or soda with a meal. That saves a lot in its self. We eat thing that we’re not likely to fix at home and also skip the desserts. The drinks and desserts are the highest things on the menu in most cases. I can make a whole pie for the cost of two small slices in a restaurant.

    • marilyn mccormick says

      As retirees, my husband and I now “share” a cell phone. Very often we are out together and only need one phone. If one of us leaves home, that one takes the phone. The other one still has the home phone to use. It’s seldom that we are both away from home in separate places, but when we are, whichever one of us takes the phone, he or she answers it and tells the caller when to call back to reach the other person. So far, no phone calls have been of such importance that it necessitates us keeping two phones. An extra $25-$30 a month saved this way

  31. Mindy says

    Amen get over yourself and live with in your means!

    YES being aware of what you spend should be a must for everyone!!Carry a book with you for a month and write down everything you purchase to start you off to find how to cut the FAT off your budget.

    That doesnt mean you cant treat yourself now and again or you have to live like hermit or have no social life.
    For those who eat out and use it often as a social thing eat at home and have coffee and dessert(you can share it too) with your friends. That way you you can bill to under 5.00. This way you can still go out with your friends and feel social on a budget.

    High energy bills look into solar, wind & wood power. Sometimes you do have to spend a bit upfront to get these started but if it saves in the long run it may be worth it depending on your usage-SHOP AROUND for it too-

    Clothing-I agree buy what you need get rid of the rest!
    Go through your clothes get rid of what you do not wear and sell it at a yardsale or on ebay now you have money to buy the clothes you need. Make a Clothing budget take inventory of what you have and what you need-everyone kids and adults. Write a list and stick to it

    For those who do not like resale and Goodwills(I have issue with allergies to certain materials and if the label is missing I cant buy it)-Find deals ONLINE there are MANY MANY discount sites.Shop Clearences at stores too. http://www.Funtasia.net is a place where you can find a online coupon for just about everything. Sign up for newletters from your favorite online stores they will keep sending you coupons and deals in your email.

    Never buy a new car-Why would you I just have never understood that,you can save SOOO much money doing that. Find a good mechanic you trust to inspect the car before you buy it and make sure you are getting a good car.

    This group is great read blogs and newsletters most who read and belong to this site know how to stretch a dime and make it a dollars worth. ASk questions and we can help each other with the info we have picked up with and want to share

    Live on a budget and HAVE fun doing it!!!

  32. Karin Sundin says

    I ordered the Grocery University that you recommended but my computer refuses to download it. My SAM tells me there is a virus in the download. I’ve asked for my money back – I’ll let you know if I don’t get it.

    I should just have ordered your cookbook instead.

  33. says

    true on all that you say live in your means and pay check and go and plant the garden for you may still be in the house it may help sell also for it shows that the land is good to plant and grow things to eat have a great week

  34. Jan says

    I loved that post Tawra!!!!

    Life is about choices…if you make smart ones…you keep the ball rolling in a good direction…and if you choose to go into debt over going out for meals 5 times a week…you have to own it…on the nights I don’t feel like cooking…it becomes soup and toast night lol and that does not cost Us 40 bucks.Jan

  35. Doris Hofmann says

    There is no doubt that people spend too much money eating out. I agree with you completely that if people would stop eating out so much, they would be surprised at how much cash is left in their pockets. I know a couple who eat out almost every meal, including breakfast. It is ridiculous. There is one wage earner, no children, and the wage earner makes good money but lives from one paycheck to another. Both are smokers, so you can imagine how much goes out the window between smoking and eating out. There are many bills they have trouble paying because of money mismanagement. What a shame.

  36. susan says

    Hello Jill and Tawra!

    Your newsletters are so right on! I had another training class with “Bella” and I am wore out but just wanted everyone to know that you can live below your means and be debt free! You know back in the 70’s we didn’t have cell phones, cable or the internet and we survived just fine! It bothers me when people say they can’t live with out their cell phones. what would they do if these things were not invented. We are debt free because we chose years ago to stay debt free and yes at times it was hard but we did it! God Bless you all

  37. Ashley says

    I loved the article and the many comments that went along with it. How easy it is to be so blinded by the consumerism around us we can’t even see reality. The truth is we are ALL very wealthy! We can eat, have cloths, live out of the elements, and most of us have some type of transportation other than our two feet. Plus we don’t have to fear beng slaughtered on the whim of those in power. We are truly blessed.

    I can personally attest to the fact that the advice here works. It is so funny to me that much of this info can be found in many places on-line. Yet hardly anyone listens! I too have family members who ALWAYS live paycheck to paycheck, are deep in debt, and have so much stuff crammed into their house they can barely move. Literally. They are also apt to eat out multiple times a week, and everyone gets their own. they are not willing to do what is needed to save. The pain of their present lifestyle is apparently less than the pain of cooking, saying no to the kids wants, and not spending money whenever they want. Every time they have extra it is “money to spend on ______________”.
    Thank you for the work you do to help people who have woken up the the fact that we should not be spending more than we make. We should not even be spending everything we make. We should be meeting our needs, saving for our future, helping others, and then having a few wants that we can savor and enjoy.

  38. Melanie says

    AMEN!!! We have raised 4 children on these principles and they have embraced them as well. Two are currently on thier own and have the sense to discern between needs and wants and live far below the average cost of living. The other two are at home and in college. We make choices each day to defer gratification and to refrain from purchasing useless things. Every dollar we spend represents part of our lives given up to earn it–the question is: Is what I’m purchasing worth the time I gave up to earn that dollar? Makes you think!

  39. says

    Thanks so much for being so honest. I think the common thread through all of this is simply, “Be a grownup”. Sometimes we just have to learn to tell ourselves “no”.

    Keep doing what you are doing.

  40. Sarah says

    Great article! I too think back to the 70s and 80s when we did not have all the things we think we can’t live without. I’ve decided to keep my landline phone and cells will be just for emergency, and shared. And in my mind’s eye, not every school age child needs to have a cell phone. I let my kids save up their money when they want to buy expensive things. Recently my 10 yr old had a bday and he wanted a hand held video game. I told him he could either have a gift or take the money I would spend on a gift and save for his game. He chose to save his money. I think this also teaches our throw away generation the value of money. Much harder to spend money when it is your own. My goal is to be completely debt free, van and house included by the end of 2012. So I am cutting everything that isn’t a life necessity. I recently read of trying to cut back on flexible expenses by 10% when you think you’ve already cut them as far as possible and I am doing that. I love the Christmas idea above of getting together to celebrate and fellowship without all the presents. Keep the great articles coming, I love reading them.

  41. says

    We have been debt free for 10 years and we have learned to live way below our means. We still keep learning new tricks on how to save money! I guess we should all be careful for what we wish for. If the majority of people in this country started living the way many of us do what would happen to our consumer-driven economy? Talk about a collapse!! There has been so much investment in strip malls, restaurants etc. Have you noticed how much duplication there is in our communities? Where I live there is too much retail for the population. We are having stores closing around us and these “chain” operations are leaving our state. In small steps many people are adopting a more frugal lifestyle mainly because they have to. Frugality is much more of a joyful way of thinking if you emotionally accept it as a spiritually more satisfying way to live. We are grateful that we adopted this lifestyle long before our economy went into a tailspin.

  42. Sally says

    We have 10 grandchildren. I have scaled way down on birthday and Christmas presents. They all have too many clothes and toys as it is. They have appreciated a family game or a quality movie.

  43. LM says

    I listen to financial shows on the radio and am amazed at callers who make over $100K a year and they’re crying that they’re broke. On a salary of $25K and a pension of $10K, I save over half my income and I’m not broke. 50% of my salary goes into a 401K and $6K goes into my IRA.

    My modest condo is paid for and very centrally located which minimizes driving my 14-year-old car. I do not own a cellphone or other hand-held device. Cable is the $11/month basic variety. When the weather is the least bit temperate, the furnace is shut off. Aldi and Dollar Tree are my main sources for groceries and household supplies and I coupon shop at other stores.

    Fortunately, I work in a casual atmosphere which doesn’t require a lot of spending for clothes. I pared down my clothing and sold no longer used items at consignment shops. Haircuts are from Great Clips and I watch for their $6.99 coupons. I’ve never had a dye job or a manicure. Lunch is brown-bagged.

    Unfortunately, at work they’re always wanting $2 here or $5 there for birthdays and lunches and such in addition to the United Way or other charities. You have to “give” to these things to be a “team player.” I just look on it as an expense to keep my job until I reach retirement age. By careful budgeting, I can compensate for it elsewhere.

  44. Erin says

    I love this site and really enjoyed reading this post in particular. I have 3 kids in baseball/softball and all the back and forth would cost a fortune, but I was fortunate enough somehow to have all 3 practicing on the same days. We pack a picnic supper for those days and eat at the ballfields together. And since we’re there for a few hours with the various practices anyway, I volunteered to help a couple teams as well.
    Thanks for your great info. I look forward to reading more :)

  45. Mari says

    Yes I enjoyed reading this post too…I’m trying to get debt free but it’s not easy! I have to travel 180 miles to work and back each day (but I can work 2 out of 5 days at home so I’m lucky there LOL). Over here in England I just today paid £1.14 PER LITRE of diesel – PER LITRE, you read that right!!! So my fuel bills per month are £240 alone, and then there’s my mortgage, and because I travel so far I have to have a decent reliable car….I don’t spend a lot on clothes, I get most of them from eBay and find I can get better quality stuff at a tiny fraction of the price you’d pay in a store for cheap and tatty items. I always cut my own hair, I always have so I don’t know any different, it comes from having a mother who had agoraphobia and couldn’t take me to the hairdressers! So it had to learn to cut my hair, or have hair down to the floor LOL….I’m currently reading the Total Money Makeover and plan to put his tactics in place :)

  46. Mari says

    Oh I very rarely eat out and never ever eat ready meals (TV dinners I think you’d call them LOL). Having said that, my house is TOTALLY overstocked with food and I

    • says

      Ready meals. I have never heard that before. I love to read the different words you use from ours like nappy’s and I think you call your desserts puddings don’t you? It is so fun to learn the different things. :)

  47. Mari says

    OOOPS sorry sent that last bit without finishing….as I was saying, I could probably go for 6 months without going grocery shopping, except for milk and fruit, that kind of thing….it’s a standing joke amongst anyone who knows me that never has there been so much food crammed into one house!! LOL

  48. Mari says

    Yes that’s right Jill, we call them puddings or sweets usually! Our ‘ready meals’ all seem to have the same taste and be full of additives and horrible things like that – and you only get a tiny portion for a huge price! :)

  49. Kathy says

    I found a pay as you go cell phone plan where I buy $25 worth of minutes at a time. I must add time at least once every 3 months to keep my account active, but one $25 card lasts me for more than 3 months. Any unused time rolls over, so I can accumulate time to be used when I travel (once or twice a year) and use the phone more frequently. This provides me the convenience of a cell phone when I am out of town, or for emergencies such as car trouble, but costs me only $100 a year.

  50. rose says

    kathy.. my kids have those prepaid cell phones too .. so do we .. except ours is on auto pay for the monthly charge and my son buys the top up card when he needs to..
    i used to have a small phone like that b4 we have the one we have now .. and its nice .. u only pay when u need to add the mins ..

  51. Donna Friend says

    Love this article, so honest & pratical.Got out of it, just stop living beyond your means.Just because you can attain it doesn’t mean you should have it.Many companies will help you into debt, but who helps you out?You have to dig your way out, devotedly & systimatically work & pay your way out.It also makes me really think about what is a Need vs a Want. I think people really are having a a hard time determing what they need.Teaching my young daughter in law that the cheaper version works just as good, especially since that is what she can afford has been a challenge.She has always walked to the shelf , bought the most expensive item & felt like she deserved it.It is what you use, not who you are.Every penny saved is a penny that can go towards something else.Good enough is good enough, why pay more?

  52. vm says

    Pay yourself first. Even though I make a modest wage, I have trained myself to consistently put aside X amount of $$ for emergencies from every paycheck. I have been unemployed for extended periods of time over the last 3 years and have always kept this practice. In life you have to expect the unexpected — i.e. job loss, car repairs, medical bills, etc. Most people who live paycheck to paycheck don’t feel saving money is worthwhile if it isn’t a sizeable amount. But it’s amazing how $25, $15 or even $10 set aside every week can make a difference over time. You can even have cash deducted from your checking to your savings account every pay period — what you don’t see you can’t miss! The key is discipline and consistency.

  53. barb~ says

    I have made drastic cuts in my spending and lifestyle over the last ten years. I am still learning new ways to save even now. Part of the reason is that I simply wasn’t open to all the possibilities in the beginning of my down sizing period. There were many things I thought I HAD to have, and I clung to them. Over time and with the success I had with the cutbacks I was making, I began to see with true honesty that many more things could go. I see a direct correlation with my own self esteem, which was quite low 10 yrs. ago-compared to today when I no longer need “stuff” to define who I am. I would compare it with wearing way too much layered make-up. By starting to pare it all back, natural beauty can shine, and you can be yourself.

    I would advise a somewhat gradual, but very steady and intentional plan of cutting back in spending if possible. That way you don’t feel too deprived, and you’re more likely to continue making the cuts in the future.

    Yes, there are moments when I’d like to have a small pitty party over all that I’ve given up, but over all I am really proud of the job I’ve done. I sleep well at night because I live within my means, and peace of mind is worth everything!!

    • Katie says

      Hi, Barb! I’ve been cutting back on my spending. However, it seems that the other family members I live with don’t always do so.

  54. Michelle says

    My husband and I used to have lots of business debt, but we got focus and changed. The best thing we did was write down everything we spent…today the only debt we have is our home. And we pay extra every month. Why? Because if you give up that extra couple hundred a month that you saved on eating out you can pay off your house years earlir, and save tons in interest.

  55. Stephanie says

    I like what you said about never buying a new car. They certainly are expensive, but then they also lose value over time. Even worse, if you finance it and then realize it’s too hard to fit the payments into your budget, you’ll never be able to sell it for enough money to pay off your loan!

    My husband and I have one inexpensive used car that I’ve had since I was 19, it has 91,000 miles on it and still runs great! We have no reason for two cars right now so we’re going to save up for our second one and pay cash when our current one dies, but hopefully that won’t be for a very long time. We do have some other bad spending habits, but this list is very informative on stopping those habits. :)

  56. Grandma says

    I had to get a cell phone and so did my husband.
    neither of us wanted them but a few times I was unable to walk home and was not near a phone where I could call a taxi. We got 2 phones at $100 each and $50. phone cards. We made them pay as you go since we didn’t want the $200 a year contracts.
    The phones cannot be used outside of our area. If we go to visit our son in another district our phones won’t work.
    seems like a waste of money but as I said for health reasons I need one. It was that or Don was going to get me one of those “i have fallen and can’t get up buttons”

    I have always thought of those convenience foods as a waste of money when I could easily make my own.
    I now find that some of the jarred sauces and frozen things like chicken fingers, burgers and fries are actually a life saver for me.
    I do not have the stamina some days to prepare from scratch meals that Don likes.
    So I tried a few of them and he likes the taste and since there are only the 2 of us it is not that expensive and we try some things I would not dream of cooking.
    last night I did butter chicken. the chicken was browned and the sauce poured over and I served it over noodles. I did not realize until I opened it that it was curry. Good thing it was mild because neither of us had ever enjoyed the curries we had at a couple of restaurants.
    now I have an easy inexpensive go to meal. total cost for 2 was about $5.
    supper was on the table in 15 min.
    sometimes if you spend a bit more and use convenience foods it actually works out cheaper than making the same meal from scratch.

    • Laura says

      You should check out the other companies that sell pay as you go phone plans, we are one from one of the top companies and it works wherever we go (except the occasional dead zone).

  57. LAM says

    We have had used cars and new cars and frankly between car repairs for the used cars VS a car payment it’s about even! I think about how many used cars we have had where my husband would always spend the weekends with his head under the hood fixing one thing or another and running around trying to find the cheapest parts to put in the car including spending the day at the junk yard pulling pieces off of old cars. Personally I take the car payment and warranty. All I have to do is take the car to the dealership and they take care of it while I sit and watch TV and sip on their free coffee!

  58. Maggie says

    Am reading this almost a year later than the other posts but wanted to comment anyway. I have read articles that say “how to save $10 per day”. One of these ways is to bring your lunch. Well, I have been bringing my lunch every day to work for nearly 40 years and I don’t get a $4 coffee at Starbucks which is another way to save. So, how do I save $10 per day. I don’t really think know how I can save $10 per day but do save all my change in a large jar at home and take about $200 to the bank every other year. I also make menus every other week and try not to buy anything not on the list. Ever so often, I find that I forgot something but really am trying to be careful. Tawra or Jill, I do have one question. I purchase most cleaning supplies (although am using more vinegar and baking soda these days)at the grocery and TP and tissues at BJ’s, but wonder if your grocery bill only includes edible items and not non-edible ones, like foil and waxed paper, etc. I am trying to calculate our grocery expenses but wonder if these items should count because if so, it’s easy to add up the shopping trips. If not, then every receipt needs to deduct non-food items in order to get a “valid” amount just for food. Would appreciate your input.

  59. Deb says

    Tawra, I read your article and I loved it. My husband and I have always been the kind to live within our means. That’s most of the whole world’s problem is they want more than they can afford. I am very glad now that we have always lived that way because we now have no paycheck coming into our household. We have been unemployed for over three years. Maybe the question the reporter should now be researching is how do you keep your household and family taken care of with no paycheck!! I know there are many more families out there with the same situation we have.

    Thank you for the great website, Tawra.

    And thank you Lord that we can depend on you!!

  60. Beemo says

    We don’t eat out but recently a family member was ill and I had to eat at the hospital cafeteria. Boy, was I shocked at the prices. I can’t imagine how much lunch would cost at a “nice” resturant! No wonder folks are “eating out poor.”

    • says

      I agree with you Beemo.
      I was in the hospital for a couple days and I really could not eat what the hospital called a decent meal.
      My husband went down to the lobby and went into Robins Donut shop which is the 2nd favourite of those shops in Ontario. He came back with chicken soup and it was delicious.
      The cafeteria the food was greasy and tasteless.
      Restaurants at least you can always eat what is served but yes it can be expensive.
      With the food allergy I have we stick to places that don’t have a lot of sauces so I know that if I order meat it is just the meat.
      Montanas is a favourite of ours and when we eat there the bill is around $100. non alcoholic drinks and 2 steak dinners. Just glad we only do this maybe 4 times a year.
      We never eat out when we are at home since I can cook the same thing faster and cheaper and tastier.
      Sometimes I wish my husband didn’t like my cooking so much and I might get treated out once in a while at home.
      Oh well I just keep thinking about the money I am saving.

  61. Maggie says

    Just wanted to mention an easy way to make a little extra cash. Most states and counties pay you to work at the polls on election days. Not working for the parties but actually working for the county or state. I have been doing this for years and the extra $300 to $400 for the year has been wonderful at the holiday season. If there are primary elections in your state or special elections, that is another time to make some $$. Call your city or county registrar’s office and volunteer. The hours are long but you meet some nice new neighbors. The job is basically a paid volunteer job because for the 15 or so hours you put in for the day (depending on your state’s requirements), it is not a good hourly wage but it makes you feel good because you are giving back to the community and are getting money for it. Worth checking into. This year, we have a primary on Mar 6, a special election on Mar 27 and another primary in Aug plus the presidential election in November. I’m saving for a new sofa and to pay off some credit card bills. This year will be a good year for earning some extra money.

  62. Keeo says

    Thanks to all you lovely people for your comments and ideas on how to save money and get by on less. I recently retired from teaching, and although I get a small pension and some Social Security, we’re having to live on about one-third of what I made as a teacher. It has taken me quite some time to “decelerate” and start living frugally, but now I have embraced it and am managing to make do….with the help from folks in a similar situation. We also have a “change jar” which is fed on a regular basis – it’s amazing how fast thise coins add up! That money is going to savings for a trip to my 50th high school reunion!

    Keep up the good work, everybody!

  63. Amanda says

    I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old. I ALWAYS try to buy their clothes a size up. I have a chest that I dedicated to this. I can find Target close out childrens clothes for less than they cost at thrift shops. You have to be patient and I do go to thrift shops and garage sales for clothes as well. I have got my daughter dresses for 1.25 and both kids pants for 2.00. There isn’t much selection when it gets that deeply discounted, but then I get that good feeling of being able to give my kids some new things.

  64. Sherri says

    Oh, how I wish we could downsize our home. :( We have a 3 bedroom townhouse with 3 (soon to be 4) kids and it’s a bit of a squeeze, but I’d be willing to live in a cheap 2 bedroom apartment if we could. Unfortunately when our first baby was born we took everyone’s advice and bought a home because home ownership is supposed to be such a wonderful, safe investment. We put a SUBSTANTIAL down payment on this house. Then the bottom dropped out of the market and here we are 7 years later with a mortgage that’s $100K underwater. That’s right–if we sold it today we would get about $100,000 LESS than we owe. All our equity disappeared when the market crashed. And of course we don’t qualify for any of the government refinance programs because we have always been responsible and made our payments on time, and th

  65. Sherri says

    …and all those programs are geared towards people who let their homes go into foreclosure, which we are certainly not going to do.

    Anyway, we use all the other strategies you mentioned–eat out as a rare treat only, get clothes from Freecycle, hand me downs, and the thrift store, track spending and budgets vigilantly (I LOVE Mint.com for this), drive a paid for car, and we are trying to get rid of debt as aggressively as we can. Unfortunately because we are stuck in this house and the large mortgage payments, it’s still a struggle. :(

  66. Sherri says

    I feel I should clarify that the reason for the large payments & mortgage in the first place is that we live in the DC area, and we bought the absolute cheapest house we could that was still within commuting distance of my husband’s (at that time) job in DC. The market here at the time we bought was INSANE. Houses were literally selling within minutes of being put on the market. It was nuts. I so, so regret having bought then. UGH.

    • frances quinn says

      Hi Sherri. We are in the same boat. We have always lived under our means until the real estate crash. We bought a home in florida in 11/05 & paid $505K. We put $221K down as equity. It is now only worth $250K so we can’t sell it. What’s bad is my husband lost his job in 2006 so we moved to NC for another job & bought another home there (12/06) thinking we could sell our FL house. But it never sold. So we have been carrying 2 mortgages since 12/06. We don’t believe in the easy out foreclosure route, so we keep paying both mortgages. But we have now depleted all our savings & have racked up credit card debt. We never had credit card debt before. We are now renting this FL home for $2100/month, but it costs us about $2700/month to pay mortgage, insurance, property tax. etc. So we are renting at a loss. We just take one day at a time & try to stay optimistic that someday we will be able to sell it. Only people like you & us who are in this situation really understand what financial havoc this has caused. Hang in there & good luck. “

      • K says

        Hi Frances and Sherri,

        I don’t know when those notes were written, but in May 2013, I want to say thank you for sharing your stories. I do hope you are doing better now and were able to sell your homes.

        Your stories are exactly why I have never bought a home. Well-meaning friends and acquaintances have for years tried to convince me that home ownership is the only way to go, that renting is throwing money down the drain. Really? So if I had to sell my home to move to follow my job but couldn’t, that is a better deal?

        I have seen too many friends and family caught in a situation where they cannot unload a house/townhome even at a big loss, so they are stuck. I truly feel for them, but at the same time thank goodness that I stuck to my belief all these years and rent a nice apartment.

        Renting is fine for some people, and I am one. The flexibility I have of moving somewhere else – which I have twice in the last year and a half – to me is worth not having equity in a home. Honestly, a home – or anything you are selling for that matter – is only worth what someone will pay you for it. People can argue about appraisal value all they want, but if no one ponies up with the money, what is it really worth?

        I so feel for fine people who believed they were doing the right thing in purchasing a family home, and then ended up so far under water with their mortgages. Hopefully the news is correct and the housing market is turning around a bit.

        Best to you all.


  67. says

    I have a question. When you all say that you spend $300-$500 a month on groceries, could you please define the word groceries for me? My husband and I disagree on that subject. I encompass anything I need for the household: soaps, shampoos, batteries, light bulbs, toilet bowl cleaner, cereal, sponges, etc as groceries. My husband says groceries just include food, edible items. We are only two and we spend (I have budgeted $80/week) approximately $120 a week on groceries (my definition). We don’t eat out because we are germaphobics…lol…worry too much about content of food being served. I don’t understand what I am not getting about how to cut down on the grocery bill. I cut our bacon down into what my husband calls “bacon bits” and make one package spread out the entire week. Can ya clear this up for me?

    • says

      I am always afraid to use exact numbers when saying I spend this much on groceries or to compare myself with someone else. We usually only give numbers because people beg for them. Your question is the exact reason why I don’t. There are so many things involved in each person’s circumstances and so many different things to consider you really can’t compare with someone else.

      For example some people will proudly say I only spend $400 a month on my of 4 then someone else feels awful because they spend $600 a month for their family of 4. The first family doesn’t add in the things you mentioned like shampoos, toilet paper etc. They also don’t mention that they eat out 4 times a week and never entertain or have company and that they have two toddler girls.

      The second family includes shampoos,toilet paper etc, in their figures, never go out to eat and have extra guests at least 4 nights a week. This doesn’t even take in to consideration where they live and that they have 2 teenage boys with large appetites. What we aim to teach people is more to get your bill down for everything as best as you can. Don’t waste and try to save where you can. But to answer your question usually Tawra does and I try to put only groceries in our figures but many readers add other things and like I said there really is so much more to consider. Just do the best you can.

      • says

        Thanks. My husband backs you up on that. I feel like such a failure when it comes to the grocery bill. I feel like it is a large puzzle to put together, but I am missing some pieces. I’ll keep trying.

        • says

          It can seem confusing on how to save especially because there is so much info out there and trying to filter through it all. But once you get some basics under your belt is gets easier and more manageable. Here is one of our many articles with ideas Save Money In the Kitchen. Click on some of the other boxes at the bottom of the article to take you to some other ones.

          I don’t usually push our products to much when I answer comments but we do have a really good e book that walks you through step by step on saving when it comes to groceries. Most people really have found not only that it helps but have saved way more then the price of what the book was the first time they go to the store. It has many simple but different tips then the usual run of the mill ones. It is Groceries on a Dime.

          If you can’t get it be sure to wander around the web site because I cover this a lot.

      • says

        Thanks so much for this reply. I know I struggle with this at times. We live in Alaska. Everything costs more here and you just don’t save as much with coupons either. We don’t have Walgreen, rite aid or target. We are a family of 5, but have a teenager with two coming up soon that amaze me with what they eat. I also find it so much easier to keep up on budgeting by combining cleaning, paper products, dog food and light bulbs etc with food.. It helps to have real numbers but at the same time there are so many variables. Where you live and the other things you mentioned really affect your numbers. I kept wondering what I was doing wrong until I talked with a dear friend who lives here locally,who I knew wasis very fugal about what she spends. Thank you so much for all the great advice! It is so helpful.

  68. Pat says

    I just thought I’d chime in and agree with what others have already posted. But also say what I concider the #1 item I learned from you was “Clean your dishes and kitchen”. For me that is the main trick! Now I do load the dishwasher and wash the odd pot and pan as I go. That means I use the Kitchen instead of being tired and heading out the door, rather than face another mess. No, I hate doing dishes! I really do. But now I am cooking most of the time and trying new things all the time. But I still need to do the dishes. ( sorry the kids are grown and have homes of their own, so no one to get to help. Dh has many health issues and tries his best to keep up all the odd jobs, so I don’t even ask for any help as I don’t know how he keeps going now.)
    So for me, it is keep the kitchen clean and tidy and dishes done. Then and only then am I willing and happy to cook and try new to us things and that saves us big time.

  69. Laurie says

    It think your soap box is good. Each family is different and you need to find your own path to debt free status.

    Yet we have to have new cars with the amount of driving my husband does for work, but I try to consolidate drives on the second car so there is one with less gas usage. Our son walks to get to scouting and some of the district activities. We drive to the once a week swim, but that is also combined with Family History work and a luncheon with friends.. I had my two older ones in three sports. At High School age they had to keep up their studies or one had to go. At 16 they had to get their own rides. Both did not get their licenses to drive until after they graduated from high school. If they wanted something, they needed to save and collect the money from all their sources. Present money and recycling bottles etc. My youngest has fund raised all of his own activities money. He even walks/runs to the bank to get his event fee out that day instead of at the beginning of the week.

    We are almost debt free- only the car payments- no mortgage and only a current credit card balance on purchases where it is safer to use the card instead of a debit card.

    How did we do it? We had a scale- of our hands- one was we really need this item.. the other is it needed, do we want a newer house or other big item to save for.

    We paid the smallest debt off first then worked the next one off with its payment and the new freed up money.
    We put all our change into a vacation fund in a savings account. Rarely does husband take $ for lunches, but we do go out on a simple date weekly. Leftovers, doggie bags, are used for the next day’s lunches for us all. Two meals for the price of one.

    The biggest thing that has helped us is tithing. Paying tithing has added funds we never knew existed! You give 10% and the Lord gives you 90%. I know it works! It worked for Mr Colgate of the toothpaste fame too. He retired near age 55 with enough and to spare for his family and grands…

    The biggest one is we bulk purchase food, and only spend $30-40 a week on food. Most of our meals are home made, not a box meal. That saves SOOOO much!! And I double recipes and use leftovers again in casseroles and soups.A small chicken is 7-8 meals for us- including soup from the rich broth from the bones. I don’t throw out much.
    I recycle, compost and garden too- in last year’s flower pots that I can hang in our yard.

    Be of good cheer you can do it!

  70. Dee says

    I have struggled so hard to get a saving account going! Last Christamas I got behind on my electric & cable bill because I bought Christmas presents. It has been very hard to get caught up. I just wrote a $396 check for the electric bill to get caught up. I have vowed to change my ways.
    I now have started putting $25 every check on the side for Christmas presents. Last year I got a lot of deals on line on Black Friday, so I’ll do that again this year, on budget with the money I have saved.
    I’m also going to try this, pay yourself first. I’ve been putting $100 to $200 from my 2nd paycheck directly into the savings account. I’ve tried to save $50 from the 1st check which is the morgage check. I don’t have much left after I pay the morgage so sometimes I can only put $10 or $20 in the savings.
    So far it’s working, I never see the money & transfer the funds online on pay day, so if I never see it I won’t spend it. It’s still tempting to dip into it but so far I haven’t touched it.

  71. R says

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I get frustrated when people complain to me about living paycheck to paycheck, when I know they make well over 60k a year. My husband and I live on about 14k a year. We make it because we don’t eat out, we have one cell phone, we rent a house, own one used car, we use the Internet at the library, don’t have cable, etc. We also are trying to pay off school debt.

    At any rate, thank you for saying what needs to be said.

  72. Fay says

    Please consider this when eating out; not matter if it is a rare or common event for you.
    Eat at locally owned family run businesses. Many families in your community make their livelihood by owning a family restaurant. Some argue it costs more, I say it all depends on what you order. You can certainly get appetizers that cost the same or less than the drive-thru and fill you up just as much and are healthier options. Also call ahead and they will have it ready when you get there.
    DH and I have 3 rules for eating out.
    #1 Local family owned establishments only.
    #2 Meals out are planned every time.
    #3 Pay cash every time. No credit card with possibility of revolving-even at 0%.

  73. Fay says

    Jill & Tawra,
    I am not sure how to contact you with a question–it never seems to go through.
    I would like to see an article (maybe you wrote one already) about saving money and helping the community at the same time. Like my response above. My feeling is that if you are going to hire out jobs- do it with the community or family in mind. Can’t/don’t want to mow your own lawn–hire one of your kids, a college student or handyman/woman instead of one of those professional services. You’ll save money without any extra effort on your part. If you want a finely manicured lawn then hire a local professional family owned landscaper. I think it is a win/win. If you don’t know where to find people go to a local church and ask the clergy if he/she knows someone (you don’t have to be a member to offer a job). I would love your thoughts about this.

    • says

      I have touched on this subject before in different articles. I also have mentioned the fact that when we had our manufacturing business we would first off try to hire 14-15 year old boys from our church and such because they weren’t old enough to get a “regular” job and then by the time they were old enough to get something else they would all ready have a good reference to use and had learned many skills they could use too.

      We also would hire elderly ladies who needed a little extra income but couldn’t work a regular full time job. It really is a win win because when my husband left and I shut down our business but awhile later started it up again I had two of our employees show up and say they wanted to work for me for nothing until I could get the business up and running again just because they appreciated so much what we had done for them when they work for us. Employers it really does pay to treat your people good – it will come back to you.

  74. Maggie says

    I have commented here a couple other times but wanted to say that my husband and I are relooking at our cable bill and telephone and cell phone bills to reduce them. We recently started seeing a $9 per month charge on our cable bill that hadn’t been there before. When my husband called about it, he was told that we have a cable box that has the ability to tape movies from our provider however the box we got doesn’t have the inner workings to allow us to do that. But because the box (outside) is the same, the cable company just started billing everyone the $9 and waited for the user to call them to remove the charge. So, they decided to come and replace the box we had with one that doesn’t allow any downloading of shows. Now, since we already had an “empty” box, couldn’t they have saved money for their company by just noting that in their file and removing our charge? No, they spent more money coming to change out our box so the system would see we did not have the box to tape with.
    Also, we are in the process of getting new cell phones and are looking for something cheaper than the $79 per month we are paying now. We only want phones not computers so are trying to find a company that can give us what we want not what they are trying to sell us.
    We rarely eat out and if we do, it is breakfast rather than lunch or dinner. Having a nice breakfast at IHOP costs about $23 if we take our son with us and that’s less than 1/3 of a dinner out. We usually have a breakfast out for a birthday or special holiday.
    I have started making a nice steak for dinner once or twice a month and that is still cheaper than dinner at a steak house. I thought we were pretty frugal but are still looking for ways to save since our real estate taxes are going up again this year.
    One last thing. I started bringing tea bags, cream and sweetener from home for my morning tea at the office. I spend $10 for 2 months of my morning beverage instead of $5 per week when I buy coffee or tea from our cafe in the building. That savings goes into my farmers’ market funds so I can buy fruits and veggies there each Saturday. It’s the little things that really add up and make a difference.

  75. says

    I have quit my job to stay at home with my husband to is ill, so we now live off his disablity only, but I knew the day would come when I would have to do this so I started to save what I could. I was suprised at what I could do when putting my mind to it. So we had to cut back on everything. But sometimes you have to put your family first and figure out the rest as it comes. My son and I went to lunch at a local diner and I said we can eat hambargers and drink water he said fine, that came to less than 7.00. A family of 6 can in right after we did the first thing they ordered was 6 glasses of soda,that was 2.00 a glass, that was 12 bucks just for drinks, then they had the price of food. their ticket was almost 50.00 bucks. When they left there was soda left in the glasses and food on thier plates.When thet left they had 2 different makes of tires and the trunk tied down. Some people are just not phased by anything.

  76. Linda says

    I am a huge Aldi’s fan. Although they don’t have nearly the fresh produce variety that you usually find in your local grocery store, they have all the basics as well as in-season items (berries, for instance), generally at 50% less (sometimes more). Chips, tortilla chips, pretzels – 50% or more less than than major chain grocery stores – and every bit as tasty. Same with cereals.

    I read somewhere that one of the best ways to save money is to become brand-neutral (as long as there is no difference in quality). Don’t be afraid to try the Aldi’s brand – there’s nothing I have tried that isn’t as tasty as a major brand name item. I don’t sacrifice taste for price!

  77. Kathy says

    I found your site today from Kimberly Taylor’s newsletter. I find it very interesting and informative. I have been delving into all the articles. I would like to know how I can save more money a month as I continue to live paycheck to paycheck. I make an average of $27K a year, as does my husband (avg take home pay biweekly is about $700). We split the expenses equally between us. Our home is paid off, our cars are paid off. We do have cable, but are considering either switching or eliminating it. We have a phone, computer and electric bills. That is it. I also tithe my portion. We do have a large food budget, but mostly because I buy organic foods. I will not purchase foods anymore that are loaded with chemicals. We have healthcare, but do pay co-pays for doctor visits. We don’t have any, or minimal, prescriptions. I try to put $200 of my paycheck in savings each payday, but it seems that by the time I pay the basics, I don’t have enough left to do that. Its the small nickle and dime things that use up the money. I rarely buy clothes, we don’t take vacations, but we do takes “rides” on the weekends, rarely buy knicknacks anymore, and usually only buy something we need. Just not sure how to save anymore money. We are in our mid 50’s and thinking about retirement. I rely on the fact that God supplies ALL my needs, so I know I will be taken care of, but I also like to have a little sense of security by doing things right and being a good steward of my money. I really messed up in the early years of marriage and squandered a ton of money. The money today just doesn’t seem to stretch far enough. I’m reading all your articles. Any more suggestions? Thanks so much

    • says

      Kathy often people answer their own questions without even realizing it. You have listed where your money goes now you need to decide on where you want to cut back in order to get the savings you want. People don’t realize I really do without a lot in order to live on what I do and what often happens is they don’t want to give up certain things to save. Now before I go any farther I don’t know enough about you or your situation to know if anything I am about to say pertains to you but I have to usually talk in general when I answer questions so don’t get upset if anything I say isn’t really your problem.

      Let me start with an example. I had a woman once who told me how she many places she saved but she still couldn’t get out of debt or start saving. I mentioned a few things to her to try and she said I do all of those. Then I said I keep my heat down to about 55-60 in the winter to save. She looked horrified and said there is no way I can turn my heat down. I need to be comfortable so I am not giving up my heat. That is fine but until she would be willing to do that there is nothing I can do to help her because I could tell she had the wrong mind set. See the thing was she wanted to save and get out of debt but she wasn’t willing to give up certain things she felt she needed for her comfort and well being.

      I’m not sure what your little “rides” are but I have a feeling they might almost add up to the $200 you are wanting to save.Are you willing to give those up to save. You also said that you are nickle and diming your money away then you need to watch that more carefully and stop doing it. Some people like writing down every penny they spent but I was to busy and that just didn’t work for me so I just stopped myself from pulling my wallet and buying anything.It really wasn’t that hard to stop getting my wallet out. Others have found it helps to only give themselves $10 to carry a week to spend on little things and when it is gone it is gone.

      Another thing is you admitted yourself that your grocery bill is huge. The excuse people so often use and have been brain washed into believing now a day is that in order to eat healthy you have to spend a bunch of money. I have researched this until I am blue in the face and the fact is a carrot is a carrot is a carrot. Once you peel it organic or other wise it is the same as any other carrot. The same goes for a banana. I know about marketing and I know about sales and the thing is they love using people’s fear to make money. They have been doing this since the beginning of time. If y0u don’t think this is true the why is it that Cherrios and other things like it have not changed but now they have put “heart healthy” on the the box.

      Now that being said you may still believe organic is best which is fine but the thing is if I can’t afford something no matter how good it is for me or how much I want it I can’t buy it. I am sure salmon is really good for me but I can only afford tuna. So no matter what “they” say I can only buy tuna. If I die at 70 instead of 75 then so be it. For what ever reason God never gave me enough money to buy salmon and I will accept that. That too is part of trusting God and His will in my life.

      • Kathy says

        Thanks Jill for your suggestions. I do know we spend a LOT on food for the 2 of us. (probably an avg of $120/wk for groceries) We usually eat out every weekend, simply because we enjoy that. I’m certain if we stopped that alone, we would save $50 or $60 a week. I feel that’s my enjoyment since we don’t vacation. It is hard when you work (opposite shifts for us), and we use our down time to do enjoyable things together. I’m sure cooking at home would suffice though. I also am picking things up during the week, which, you know you can’t go in a grocery store and simply pick up the one item you forgot. That always leads to about 10 or more extra items. I also have a hard time planning meals. Being we are both on different shifts, we don’t eat together, nor eat each others meals (I’m vegetarian – he’s not), so planning would be difficult at this point. We’d have to plan two separate menus – which would work if we could get on the same page with planning. Our rides are usually just rides, however gas is being purchased, as well as maybe stopping at a convenience store occasionally. I would guess that most of our excess money is basically spent on food. And yes, I know a portion of that food goes to waste by the end of the week, which is a big no-no. We have cut almost as much household expenses as we can, aside from the cable, which we are considering. That expense is ridiculous. Heat, that is my one convenience I don’t want to cut on, however we do have coal/wood, so our expense there really isn’t that bad. One load of coal a year is about $300 maybe and the wood my husband cuts for free. Can’t get much cheaper than that and our house stays around 80 in the winter (with or without a blower). We are looking for ways to cut back though, so I will take into consideration all you suggested. I’m sure we can always cut a little more. Thanks. I applaud you for your website and all the work you and your daughter have done. Excellent job!!

        • says

          i had to chuckle Kathy because you answered your own question on where you can cut back. : ) One thing that might help you a little is to start small. Pick one thing of all the things you mentioned and cut back on that for a couple of weeks. When that feels comfortable then add something else. For example still take your rides but maybe bring your own picnic lunch from home. It doesn’t have to be fancy some veggies, cheese, bread and fruit. You still get to do your rides but you save the money you would have spent on food plus you would be saving because it will help you use up food you maybe would have tossed out. In the winter just turn the temp down a couple of degrees. You will be surprised how fast your body becomes adjusted to the cooler temp and it will save a little and help your coal to last an extra month or two.

          It doesn’t always have to be all or nothing you can do a few little changes. For example we have a place in Dining on a Dime which is called how it adds up. In it we explain how to give up only part of the things you enjoy. For example if you go out 3 times a week cut back to 2, it you stop for coffee every morning then cut back to 4 times a week instead. This way you still are getting to do some of what you enjoy and still save a little. Take little steps to change and it won’t hurt as bad. Hope this helps.

  78. Liz says

    I have to admit that if we cut our eating out expenses, we’d be saving thousands a year. We are making an effort to do that now.

    I think one of the problems is peer pressure. We have a t.v. that is about 15 years old. It still works, but family and friends don’t want to come to our house to watch our old t.v. or make comments like, “You still have one of those?!!” I tell them, “Why should I buy a new one when this one works perfectly fine? Besides, there really isn’t that big of a difference at all on the new flat screens HDTV and regular screens as far as quality.” Sorry, but there just isn’t. At least, not enough to go spend $600-$1200 on the latest flat screen. So, we’re saving money not buying all the latest gadgets just because everyone else is in our peer group. Another example: Kurig coffeemakers. Talk about expensive coffee! When you can make a pot for about .50 as opposed to a cup for more than that.

    Love all your savings posts! I’ve saved hundreds and more from your ideas/tips!

  79. Mary Jane says

    We have just purchased a new higher quality laminate floor (on sale) for our living room. We paid cash for the floor and will put it in this summer. Our current floor was put down about 14 years ago, and was an inexpensive pine board that we finished ourselves. It was desperately needed then, and much cheaper than any other options. Pine is a softwood, so our floor now shows serious wear and tear. People snubbed our floor back then, but another frugally minded neighbour did the same thing, about the same time, and her floor looks to be about the same condition as ours. Here’s the kicker…our living room walls have 36 plus year old panelling on two of them, and will need to be replaced when we do the floor. My husband said that he could salvage most of the 14 year old floor boards, plane them up, and reuse them as new wall board, (again, we will finish them ourselves), when we put in the new floor. How great is that? Floor boards that last 14 years on the floor, and are then recycled into the wall boards after that? They should last a long time on the walls as no one will be walking on them. This is the kind of thinking that this website and all of it’s contributors promote. Make do, mend, recycle, re-use, use it up or do without. If necessary, buy new at the best price you can get, and always pay cash, in full. Have a great day.

  80. Mary Jane says

    By the way, I forgot to mention that our like-minded grown daughter suggested that we save the 36 year old living room panelling wall board, as it will be perfect to panel the inside of our outhouse.

  81. Pubilius says

    Gym shoes. No normal kid needs $100 gym shoes. No normal adult needs $100 gym shoes. This is especially true if worn everyday. Gym shoes wear out too fast to throw money away on those shoes. Chuck Taylor All*Stars are great shoes, and you get street credit for being retro.

    Why do people who are constantly running around every evening pay for cable TV? They are never home to watch it, and when they do, they usually watch the big network shows that are free without cable TV! Wanna watch a movie? Redbox once a month. Stop paying theaters huge ticket prices and never buy their drinks or popcorn. Wait for the DVD and RENT it, or if you must, find a friend with cable TV and set a movie night date – you supply the popcorn… real popcorn, not little bags of microwave corn. Learn to pop it ourself.

    • says

      For anyone needing to know how to pop “real” popcorn check out your copy of Dining on a Dime, you can find the recipe in there for it. When we say we have almost everything in Dining on a Dime we weren’t joking. Even how to pop popcorn. : )

  82. Dee says

    I have read your articles on saving money over and over again. I raised my children as a single divorced parent. I never received any of the court ordered child support and there were times I had to work 2 jobs to make ends meet. It has been a tremendous struggle for me to establish and keep an emergency fund. I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck with no savings. Your articles motivated me to open a savings account and contribute to it every paycheck. Sometimes I can only put in $50 a paycheck, it has slowly grown over time. After 5 months I now have $600 in savings. This may not sound like a lot of money, but to me it’s a success, because I’ve never been able to do this before. If I get discouraged or I want to spend money on something, I come back to your articles and read them again. It keeps me on track. Thanks for your money saving articles!!

    • says

      Way to go Dee. Listen I know exactly how hard it was to save that $600 for you especially as a single mom living from pay check to pay check. People don’t always put things into perspective and to some that may not seem like much but to me that would be almost a months income and not many people can say they have a whole months income saved. I am very impressed even more so too because you kept at it and did it little by little. When it gets hard or they don’t see quick results so many give up. The people who are truly successes are the ones who little by little keep going. Good job. I know you have been with us for a bit and enjoy your comments. Hang in there and keep up the good work. You know to be sure to holler if you have any questions we can help with.

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