Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guest Post: Together on the Path of Less

Julia kindly agreed to write this guest post to get The Less Project kicked off!

Reading about Alicia's new undertaking, The Less Project, led to internal shouts of "yes, that's exactly the road we're already on!" Moving to a new place, trying to save money in every way, rooting for my husband as he works toward his degree--these are common threads between our families. Our particular journey began three years ago.

The goal that my husband and I set still seems impossible--to finish five years of graduate study without adding any debt. After all, I stay at home with our three children while my husband studies full-time and works several jobs to support our family. Amazingly, we have remained close to reaching our no-debt goal, thanks to God's provision through generous relatives and friends, my husband's hard work, and all of us striving to live simply. What we have done is not a prescription for everyone, but rather a description of how our family is aiming to be content with less.

17 Money Saving Strategies That Work for Us:

1. We carry minimal auto and health insurance coverage.

2. We don't have cable T.V. or a landline phone.

3. We have no car payments. One car was given to us by my grandfather. The other was purchased with last year's tax refund.

4. We wear a lot of second hand clothes and buy some gently used books and toys--even for our kids' birthdays.

5. I shop, cook, and serve meals according to a weekly menu plan.

6. I use coupons, sales, and the dollar stores to get the best deals I can on groceries and household supplies.

7. We don't have any pets.

8. I try to limit my shopping trips to twice a week. If I'm missing an ingredient, we do without it or I ask my husband to pick it up.

9. Last fall we traded babysitting services with another family.

10. We accept hand-me-down clothing from anyone who offers it.

11. I try to borrow (rather than buy) items that we don't often need, like extra plates for hosting holiday meals, a second crock pot, etc.

12. I give home haircuts to my children and myself.

13. My husband commutes to campus four days a week by bicycle, avoiding the expense of parking and gasoline.

14. He brings a sack lunch during the week.

15. Instead of buying craft materials, I try to use items headed for recycling.

16. We borrow books and videos from the public library.

17. Aside from our vegetable garden, we don't buy lawn and garden supplies. We simply mow our lawn and rake our leaves.

In the future we hope to be free to go wherever God leads us without the burden of massive student loan debt. Tracking all of our expenses with a spreadsheet helps us examine our choices each month along the way. We could cut our spending a little further, but a few of our expenses we believe are worth the extra money to preserve our sanity. And despite the emotional, financial, and physical hardships, what keeps us going is the belief that graduate school is where God has called us to be.

Julia is a creative and hardworking wife, mother to three wonderful children, and blogger who regularly blogs at Roots of Simplicity.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Frugal Friday



  1. This is a good list, but so often I feel like I'm doing all that, and it's still not enough.

    Oh well...

  2. Great list. I think not having pets would save a LOT of money! We had 2 aging cats that cost us over $200 a month for their special diets and vet trips.

    They both passed away within 2 months of each other. I swore I would only have 1 cat, but we ended up with another. It's just so strange not to have cats after you've had them for so long.

    Besides the cost of the kittens and the neuter/spay and shots, I'm hoping it will be several years before we have to deal with the frequent vet visits or special foods.

  3. Debbie, I know how you feel when you say it's still not enough. We are constantly tracking and evaluating our expenses. Sometimes we just have to give up and say, "Okay, God, you can make a way." We've seen many miracles along the way that only He could accomplish.

  4. You've got a great list! I do many of those things, although we consider TV our main source of entertainment so it's worth the cost to us. And I can't imagine life without my pets. I would say, though, that if you are just getting started (and especially if you have young children in the house), keeping a pet is something to really think about, considering the cost of everything from food to proper vet care. I'd rather give up some things to have my 2 cats, dog and ferret. On the other hand, I'm an avid couponer and I save tons of money that way--so it all balances out.
    It's also cool that you have no car payments. Last time we bought a car (a few years ago--a used car. We used to buy new every 10 years or so, but this was a better way to go)the salesman was really gung ho on getting us to work with a loan. My husband steadfastly refused. It is so nice to drive a car that is 100% ours!

  5. Debbie,

    I have to agree with Aiming4Simple. My husband and I are constantly looking for ways to save. I cam to this post from WFMW looking to see if there was something listed here that we're not already doing.

    We do most of the things above, except my husband cuts my hair :) He also works from home. We don't trade baby sitting because we don't have money to go out. I have a landline instead of a cell phone ($15.70 a month).

    There are some more things I do in addition to these; perhaps there is something there that you could do, too:

    Just when I think there is nothing more to cut, we find another way to cut something else, or lower a bill. And so, I keep reading all of the ideas out there that I see, because sometimes I learn something new that I can do!

  6. Aiming4Simple, thanks again for this great post!

    We do all of the above with the exception of the babysitting (since we just moved to a new town and have yet to find a family to trade with), so I definitely relate to this post!

    The pets thing is a huge cost cutter, although I understand how it can be for people who already have pets and are attached to them. We are planning on waiting to get any pets until we have 1) space for them to be outside, 2) money to take care of them, and 3) our kids are old enough to be "responsible" for them.

    Debbi, like the Prudent Homemaker said, every little bit counts! Don't be discouraged!

    I have to remember to stay relaxed in my money saving efforts and not let them consume me. Like Julia said in her post, there are some things that are worth spending your money on...we have to keep our priorities straight. :) And ultimately, God is the one providing for us...we don't make it happen, no matter how many pennies we pinch!

  7. Great list! We love hand-me-downs at our house. We've received so many things for our two boys that I've had to donate some because we just don't have enough room to hold them all!

  8. Good tips. I don't buy many annual flowers, like most people. I buy them for our window boxes only. Other than that if I ever plant flowers they are perennials that will come back every year for the cost of my initial investment.

  9. Great list! We do many of those things as well. It is interesting (after reading the post and the comments) to see how everybody is different. It is neat how we can learn from each other in ways to save money but then also chose what simply works best for our family.

    Some of the things she listed above we don't do and then there are others where we go even a step farther. It is fun to get better and better at saving money each year.


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