Saturday, November 9, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Save So You can Put Your Husband through School while Your Family Grows

So in my last post I mentioned how we provided for our kids while Daniel was going through grad school and didn't have a full time job until just recently. We were able to pinch enough pennies so that we'll be debt free before he graduates! While not everyone will be able to do the same, there are a lot of tricks we learned that helped us be frugal. Here are some of the things that helped us stay afloat:

1. Couponing and price matching at Wal-Mart: We were able to do this while living on the West Coast much more then we can now. We used pinching your pennies' coupon website and price matched everything. If I ran into a sale on clothing for kids, I'd stock up on clothes for several years in advance. Now that we're in the East Coast, I've struggled to be as thrifty. Perhaps, it's just this particular area. Couponing isn't an option because I usually have three kids with me at the store. In other words, I have to move people! Otherwise naps, or meals, are missed and a hungry/tired toddler or baby times three is never a great idea at a store.

Price matching also isn't an option here since we don't have a store near us that does price matching. Needless to say, it's easier in some areas and circumstances to get better deals than it would be in others. If you can't price match, or coupon you can just pay attention to deals and stock up on things you use a lot. I've finally found a couple of stores where they have amazing deals and I plan our meals around what's on sale. We're also lucky being in the military because we get a food stipend which has also helped because the East Coast is not cheap.

2. I Have a Free Phone: Well, kind of. We had one cell phone between the two of us, that did not connect to the internet. Paying for one plan without all the unnecessary gadgets saves tons. My husband has the phone and lately I've been using my Ipod. Did you know you can use pinger/textfree to text and receive calls for free? That's what I use. People can even call and leave you a message! It's basically like having a cell phone. The downside is you can't call 911. However, if you have an old cell phone you can call 911. Did you know you can use an old phone without coverage to dial 911? You just have to have the battery charged, or have it plugged in. They have charities that collect old cell phones for battered women and other people in need so they can call police in emergencies. So if you have some old cell phones you're looking to get rid of, it's worth looking into some of these charities (just click on the links, or google more if you're interested).

Anyhow, as long as I have a connection to wireless internet, I receive calls free, and can text for free. Why pay for a second phone line? We likely will invest in a go-phone or TracFone so I can have something to call people back on just because it is inconvenient to have to wait to make calls with Daniel's cell phone, and in other situations, but you can have just one line/cell phone if things are tight. It's more than possible.

3. Car: Do you really need more than one car? We went almost eight years sharing one vehicle. We finally gave in and became a two car family this year because Daniel's commute to and from work took hours each day versus under an hour by car. We used our tax refund and paid for our commuter car in cash. Paying it off in full right away means we didn't have to pay extra from interest. We did the same thing when we had to buy a "new" old van after our first van's engine quit on us. I can't say enough about scrimping by as much as you can so you have money for rainy days while putting a spouse through school.

4. Credit cards: We don't use them. If we do, we pay it all off in full right away so we're not paying interest.

5. Christmas and Holidays: We've always given frugal gifts. Many of them were home made, or inexpensive. The average family spends almost a thousand dollars on Christmas! We'd spend $100-200, and our kids would have never known they were any different (especially since they were spoiled by relatives). There are also a lot of benefits of not going crazy during the holidays. My kids don't think about presents when they think about their birthday, instead they think about how they want to celebrate it (at least they do now). Often if they're asked what they want for their birthday they'll answer what type of cake they want, or how it will be decorated. In fact, our kids don't really make requests for what they want for their birthday, or Christmas and have always been thrilled with everything they've received, which is rare in the entitled culture we live in.

6. Food Storage: Being Mormon, we tried getting our food storage going right after we got married. Our food storage supply was used all the time. We stocked up on different foods we used all the time to make things like spaghetti, tuna casserole, BBQ beef, Costco's pancake mix, oatmeal etc. We lived off of our food storage for the most part. In fact, we still do. We had a huge supply of food we'd buy in bulk when we saw deals.

7. Dates and family activities: My husband and I couldn't have a babysitter watch our kids. We couldn't afford one. There were a couple of times we'd swap babysitting with another couple, but since going out usually meant spending money, we usually just had free and inexpensive dates at home. Our family also enjoyed doing free, or frugal activities. We would go on walks to the library, bike, watch free movies, visit with family and friends, and do other activities that were fun and free.

8. Television: Unless cable was free, we didn't have it. Instead, we had amazon prime where you can watch movies online. You can also watch shows free off on most major network's sites and we get free two day shipping on most items we buy through amazon. The best part was it was cheaper for us since Daniel was a student.

9. Instead of paying to get my hair cut, I'd donate it to locks of love. I'd go to Fantastic Sam's or Great Clips and would get a free haircut (although I did pay a tip) and would get to donate my hair to help make a wig for a child with cancer. I'd say that's more than a win-win. And with all my pregnancies my hair seemed to be four times as thick and grew very quickly which made my donations pretty substantial. There are some pluses to what those hormones can do for you.

10. Continuing to Live Like Poor College Students: We're lucky to have a housing stipend through the Army which has allowed us to live in a gorgeous home, but it's interior is filled with all of our beat up furniture and we don't plan on doing any interior decorating any time soon. Even now that we're being paid a full salary we haven't changed our spending habits so we could save up enough to be debt free. After we pay off loans and save enough that we'll have emergency money that will last a year will slowly start spending more, but it won't be much more. That means we'll be hanging on to all our hand me down furniture until we've got quite a cushion. 

By following these guidelines not only were we able to make it out of grad school debt free (with the help of the Army), but we'll also be able to provide for our family. I'll share more about how we have and plan to continue to provide for our kids financial needs later. While we are frugal I don't think my kids have ever felt poor or neglected, and we couldn't have done it alone.

In fact, I truly believe Heavenly Father was looking out for us. Looking back I feel like he provided manna and raiment/clothing as he did with Moses and his people (see here). There were times when things were so tight that first year that I wondered how we could make it through the rest of the month, let alone the next four or five years. Yet, when we'd get to the point where it didn't seem like what was left of our budget would be enough to cover groceries, miracles would happen: someone would randomly drop off groceries, or bring over produce from their garden, or do something else that would get us through to the next month. Every. Single. Time.

When we needed baby clothes, I'd happen upon an amazing sale where clothes were only $1, or people would randomly drop off their kids' old baby clothes. We even had people leave us a box filled with food the first Thanksgiving after Daniel began going to grad school and was unemployed. The next year Daniel's work decided to be our Santa that year. We were given tons of gifts anonymously. Every Christmas Daniel and I would discuss the small gifts we planned to purchase and how it would help the kids learn to appreciate the little things. When Christmas would roll around those few gifts would be lost in the sea of gifts others had brought for our kids.

Besides having countless earthly angels watching over us, there were several other miracles. When our van died we found out we had to pay out-of-pocket for our third child (remember this is also when I decided to stop using WIC). Not knowing how we'd afford all our new expenses we just continued forward in faith. We were saved from having to take out another loan by a large tax refund that came right in time to be able to afford buying a vehicle, and we were able to get a huge discount for hospital bills by paying in cash before the baby was born. After all was said and done, I was grateful I hadn't back peddled and gotten back on WIC and tried to get on medicaid. After such a test, I was even more sure that Heavenly Father would provide.

Those are just some of the ways we were able to stay frugal while Daniel continued his education and as our family continued to grow. What are some ways that have helped you provide for your family when finances were tight?


  1. This post really struck me. Being a new mom and having to live with parents because money is tight, I can really relate! I actually was just praying earlier today to know what to do about some debts my husband and I need to pay off and your post has given me some ideas. Prayer works! It always amazes me how Heavenly Father is ready and willing to answer my prayers and it often happens through other people!
    Some of the things Brandon and I have done to save money on date nights have actually been more fun than expensive dates! We once had a theme night where we watched as many Harry Potter movies as we could and made homemade butter beer. It was so much fun and we used what we had at home to make our night fun. We also have picked out new recipes to try together, such as fried pickles, yum!!

  2. Fried pickles? That sounds pretty good actually. I love fried zucchini. I'm so glad that this post helped you out. Heavenly Father certainly is good with how well He plans things!