10 Ways To Create Some Serious Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

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(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure. Also, you should know that I got a free copy of More than Just Making It, but that did not change my opinions of the book. )

Are you barely getting by each month? Does it feel like one small extra expense could cause your budget to come tumbling down? I recently read the book More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated and it caused me to reflect on all the things my family has done over the years to give a tight budget some wiggle room.

Most of the things our family did were small, simple actions that in and of themselves created very small income gains that hardly seem worth it on their own, but combined these little actions created a decent amount of wiggle room in our budget.

Create some space in your budget with this list of money saving and money earning tips.

There were dozens and dozens of these little budget stretching rain drops that were either income streams or money saving in nature, but that would fill a whole book so today I will just share 10 of the simplest ones that can create a big difference when combined.

10 Ways To Create Some Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

Please note that the biggest thing that you can do for your finances is, of course, sticking to a budget. This post assumes that you are already doing that and if not, I urge you to do so before you do any of these 10 things. Without a budget, your money will always be tight. If you don’t know how to make a budget, More Than Just Making It has a chapter that covers that.

1. Resell At Least One Item You Are No Longer Using Each Week

Except for the homes of extreme minimalists, all homes have clutter. Guess what? Clutter can be worth money. Just last year I made over $5,000 reselling items we were not using that was clutter in our home. It isn’t hard to resell an item–especially with all the new websites and apps popping up all the time to help you reach people who want what you no longer need.

The problem is many people tend to procrastinate the chore of listing items for sale, which is why I recommend setting the goal to resell at least one item a week. Once your goal is made figure out the best time each week for you to spend time reselling and use it to do so.

When I get in the habit of setting aside Saturday afternoon to list items to sell I, in general, can list three to four things in an afternoon and that can reap me anywhere from $40 to $100 or more depending on what I am reselling. That can make some serious wiggle room in a budget each month–making prioritizing reselling worth it.

3 articles to help you with your reselling efforts:

2. Take One Thing Out Of Your Grocery Cart Each Shopping Trip

This is a tip I learned from the book Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After and it can help a tight grocery budget more than you might think. Once you are done collecting the items you want to buy in your grocery cart, go through your cart and put one item back on the shelf.

You might think that one item won’t make that much of dent in your grocery budget, but this simple action makes you start questioning all the purchase in your cart and often that will lead to putting several items back. Chances are all those items were not on your list, but instead put in your cart almost subconsciously due to the amazing selling techniques of the store you shop in.

If you are wanting more grocery savings tips, More Than Just Making It has an entire chapter dedicated to them.

3 other articles that will help you lower your grocery bill:

10 Ways To Create Some Serious Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

3. Join And Use Point Reward Programs To Earn Gift Cards To Help With Everyday Expenses

Point Reward programs are basically websites that pay you for completing simple actions online. Some of these actions you are probably already doing like searching the web, shopping online, and printing off coupons. Pay isn’t high from these programs, but every bit helps and as I said some of the earning potential comes from things you already do so why not get paid to do them?

Here are 3 point programs that offer various ways to earn gift cards:

These companies pay you in electronic gift cards. When my children were little I was able to earn about $25 to $50 in gift cards a month, mostly earned through three different point reward programs. Depending on how tight the budget was that month I would either cash out for gift cards for places like Walmart where I could buy groceries or restaurants like Panera so my husband and I could go out on a date.

4. Make Your Groceries Stretch Longer

For the longest time, I used to write a menu for 7 days and then shop every eight or even nine days. During that last day or two, we would get pretty creative with our meals using up all sorts of random leftovers and forgotten about cans and items in the pantry.

If that method doesn’t work for you, how about holding an “eat what you have” the last week of each month or you could do this once every three months. One last way is to hold an annual “eat what you have” month. During this month you buy just the basics such as milk, eggs and produce and then challenge yourself to make meals from items in your fridge, freezer and pantry. A month long challenge works great for those that stock up on sales.

If you do the week long or month long challenge, keep in mind that you will have to put aside some of the money you save to restock more basic items than you usually do the first week you go grocery shopping again. However, you still will be able to save some money from completing this challenge which you can either save or use to start a fund for buying in bulk when you see rock bottom sales, which in turn will lower your grocery budget every month.

3 other simple ways to stretch your grocery budget without using coupons:

10 Ways To Create Some Serious Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

5. Regularly Use Coupon And Rebate Apps

New coupon and rebate apps are popping up all the time. How much they will save you depends on where you shop and what you buy, but on average I save about $1 or more per grocery shopping trip using coupon apps.

3 coupons and rebate apps I use:

  • Ibotta–use it almost anywhere: restaurants, clothing stores, pet stores, hardware stores, movie theaters and more.
  • MobiSave–deposits money into your PayPal account within 24 hours of you earning it no matter what you earn.
  • Checkout 51–almost always has a few nonbrand item offers for things like milk, fruit and vegetables.

It is a small income stream, but remember: small streams add up.

6. Keep Your Eyes Out For Free Items

Free items can be found everywhere if you keep your eyes out for them. I use free photo book codes to create memory-filled photo books my family loves. I enjoy reading numerous magazines for free. I receive free paperback books in the mail almost every month. I get free samples of toothpaste, shampoo and more in the mail frequently for free. We have a huge flower garden edged in brick that was 100% free. Free items are everywhere.

3 of my favorite places to find free items:

  • Tyndale Rewards: I earn free books by doing simple tasks such as answering short surveys or reviewing books.
  • Recycle Bank: I earn free magazine subscriptions by answering simple and quick surveys.
  • Money Saving Mom: This site lists free samples regularly along with other great low price deals.

10 Ways To Create Some Serious Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

7. Shop Your Home Before You Shop The Stores

Chapter 9 of More Than Just Making It talks about shopping your closet in great detail. However, you can shop your home for more than just clothes. Need a birthday gift? What craft supplies do you have hanging around that could be used to create one? Need a frame for a new print? Is there an old print you’re not using anymore that has a frame that will fit? Need an ingredient for a recipe? If you google substitutions for the item, does something come up that you do have?

Shopping your home first can save a lot of money and it can save you time, which you can in turn use to save or earn more money. Proving once again that little steps can have bigger impacts than we might think.

psst…I have a chapter on this in my own book, Thrifty & Thriving: More Life For Less Money.

8. Search YouTube Before Calling The Repair Man

In the last few years, this tip right here has saved my family thousands of dollars. Videos on YouTube have shown us how to replace the elements on our flat top stove. How to replace our above ground pool liner. How to fix the door on my husband’s truck. How to replace the stereo and speakers in my husband’s truck. And a few more.

Repairmen in our area charge $25 and up with most charging $50 an hour. Our wallets are usually much happier when we check YouTube for how to videos before calling the repairman. There have been a few times when we decided we just felt more comfortable hiring a professional, but those incidents have been rare. YouTubers, in general, make excellent DIY videos.

10 Ways To Create Some Serious Wiggle Room In A Tight Budget

9. When Out Yard Sale Shopping, Shop For More Than Your Family

I know that families on tight budgets generally already know that shopping yard sales can help them stretch their budgets, but few are taking advantage of another way yard sale shopping can help them financially.

By taking just a few hours to search eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Buy & Sell groups and other reselling websites and apps you can get a good idea of just how much certain secondhand items go for. Pay attention to the items that you run into at yard sales a lot and that are selling for at least $20 or more than what you generally find them for at yard sales. When you are out yard sale shopping, pick these items up and then resell them and pocket the profit.

I did this for several yard sale seasons in a row and I earned enough each year to pay for a week of camping as a family. For a year or two, I gathered enough to sell a few items a week all year long and I made enough each month to pay for my children’s swimming lessons, soccer team fees and more.

The nice thing about this income stream is that you can easily start it when you have the time and stop it when you don’t.

10. Develop Thinking Outside The Box Skills

If you want to stop Just Making It and move into the More Than Just Making It category that Erin mentions in her book, then you are going to have to develop “thinking outside the box skills“. What this means is that you look at a problem that you are having financially and come up with a creative, money stretching way to fix it.

For our family that has meant buying an old moving van to move 3,000 miles instead of renting one. Not only was it cheaper, but we sold it for the same price we bought it for when we reached our destination, which drastically cut our moving cost. That is a large “out of the box” thought though, and here we are supposed to be concentrating on smaller changes.

Here are a few smaller “out of the box” things we have done to help our finances. I purchased my daughter some deeply clearance priced Halloween webbing to stuff the pillows she was making. This saved our family $20. When the springs in our sofa gave out, we placed a board under the seat cushions, screwing it into the frame. This fix gave the sofa an extra 2 years of life–saving us money while we waited for a steal of a deal on couches (we later got new, genuine leather ones for less than half price). We have fixed our vacuum hose with duct tape on numerous occasions giving it longer life (looks like that fix might finally need to be upgraded to a replacement soon–time to start looking for a deal).

Why You Should Grab A Preorder Copy Of More Than Just Making It

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated doesn’t officially release until September 5, 2017.  I got a pre-release copy for being on the launch team (but my opinions of the book have not been altered by receiving a free copy). However, you can hop over to Amazon (or online retailer of your choice) and place a preorder of the book. When you do, you become eligible for a pretty cool set of free bonuses.

To claim your pre-order bonuses, you need to go here to the book page and fill out a form that includes your order/receipt number as well as the store where you bought the book. You will then get an email with the password to claim the bonuses.

Here is a list of the bonuses you will receive:

  • The What’s For Dinner Challenge eCourse–$47 value
  • A Gratitude Journal and 3 decorative art prints–$25 value
  • The Eat At Home Cooks Mealplanning eCourse–$15 value
  • two month free membership to YNAB (You Need A Budget)–$15 value
  • The first three chapters of More Than Just Making It (so you can get started reading right away)
  • A 40% off Coupon to ThredUp (new customers only)
  • A gift package from Free Reign Farm Goats including milk soap & lip balm (must pay shipping)–$15 value
  • A child’s budgeting sheet from A Time For Everything Esty shop–$10 value
  • The Everything Beans eCookbook by Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship–$10 value
  • A coupon for 22% off your first order from Zaycon Fresh
  • That is a bonus package worth over  $150! for a book that cost less than $20!

Plus–Erin is offering a five day, free Eating Well On A Healthy Budget course when you sign up for her book’s email list! This is also available on the book page with a sign up form at both the top and bottom of the page.

This book is full of more than just money-saving tips and money management know how–it has a story that will warm your heart and bring you encouragement. If you are feeling like you will never get free from your financial struggles, Erin’s story will help you erase those feelings and give you the hope and wisdom you need to rise above just making it to thriving financially. So grab your copy of More Than Just Making It today and then head over to the book page to grab your pre-order package.

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Three Easy Steps that will make you feel better about Homeschooling High School

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(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure)

What is your go-to strategy for dealing with tasks that you hate or that are overwhelming to you? Or both, lol?

How to create a homeschooling high school plan the easy way.

For instance, cleaning out my double-door fridge and freezer. This is a job I truly HATE. I’ve found the only way to motivate myself to even begin the task is to break it into smaller parts and tell myself that all I have to do today is the first one. So that means that today I will get rid of all the moldy fridge food and wipe down the fridge shelves. Tomorrow I will tackle the fridge and freezer doors. And on the third day I will throw out old freezer food and wipe down its shelves. That way I get the whole job done with the least amount of frustration. And even though it takes three days, it’s better than trying to do the whole thing in one day — because chances are that I will get two-thirds done and be so sick of it that I give up and don’t come back again at all. Am I right?

As readers of this blog, you probably know all about this technique. That’s a large part of what snail-pacing is, after all — breaking large jobs down into smaller, manageable tasks that actually get done, hello. And done well and thoroughly, because you’re not frustrated and stressed by the thought of the big huge thing that you’ve stupidly taken on. (Not that I would know what that is like, or anything… :-))

Believe it or not, the same thing can be done for homeschooling high school. OK, I know that’s a large jump, but think about it: often people are scared to death at the thought of educating their teens, because it seems like a big, scary project that is overwhelming and impossible. But I’m here to say that it is actually very doable, especially if you break the planning process down into manageable steps. Once the plan is created, the rest seems much less daunting!

How to create a homeschooling high school plan the easy way.

Here are the three easy steps you can use to plan your homeschooled teen’s high school coursework:

1. Do your research.

Step one is simple but mucho important. You need to research what your state requires of homeschool graduates, and you need to find out what colleges require of their freshman applicants. Unless you know those things, you will never feel secure in whatever plans you make.

2. Set your goals.

Step two is a little more difficult, because it requires thought, lol. But it follows naturally from step one, as you use what you learned in your research to determine exactly what you want your teen to have accomplished, in terms of credits and life skills, by the time they graduate.

3. Create your plan.

Step three is where the rubber meets the road and you write down exactly which courses and curriculum your teen will work through during the high school years. This involves more research to get ideas and see what curricula is available, but with your initial research from step one and your goals from step two as a basis to work from, you can eliminate a lot of options that won’t be helpful, thus making the process go faster than it might otherwise.

How to create a homeschooling high school plan the easy way.

Here’s the beautiful thing: you can take as long as you want to work through these steps. You can start when your kid is in elementary school and snail-pace it until they are ready to enter ninth grade, or you can do it all in one weekend, if you’re up against a deadline. In either case, looking at the process as three smaller steps to complete will make the whole thing less intimidating.

Here’s another beautiful thing: I’ve written an ebook that covers these steps in complete detail! 🙂 If you are frightened that you will miss something, then following my thorough instructions and filling out my printable forms for each step of the way will erase that fear. There is no better way to make a large job more manageable than by doing it with a friend! Let me be that friend! 🙂

You can read more about my ebook here: Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You’re Not Missing Anything.

If you are a homeschooler who is still making curriculum decisions for next year, you might find my Curriclum Review Form helpful. It provides an organized space to record all your research about curricula, including what others have to say and who has the best price. Get yours here: Curriculum Planning Made Easy.

How to create a homeschooling high school plan the easy way.

I think snail- pacing your way through these three easy steps for planning high school is perhaps the best way to gain confidence about homeschooling high school right now, even if your oldest kid is only in first grade! It’s never too early to begin researching and gathering data, so you know what to expect further down the road. So high school doesn’t seem so big you don’t even want to think about it. So you can help other moms when they express their own worries. So you know you are making the best decisions for your children during each step of your homeschool journey.

Since you are an intelligent individual who reads Victoria’s amazing blog, you already know how much simpler life is when you break it down into digestible bites. Well, what is true with decluttering, cleaning, finances, etc. is also true when it comes to homeschooling high school. Three easy steps — and maybe my book to help you through them 🙂 — and then you’ll be ready to tackle homeschooling high school with confidence and success.

 Guest post by: Ann is the (very) middle-aged mom of five who writes at Annie & Everything about calming the chaos of homeschool life. She says, “I don’t do complicated!” and is known for her down-to-earth common sense about all things homeschool and the homeschool lifestyle. Having graduated four children (with one more to go), she has a heart for helping families choose to homeschool all the way through high school. To that end, she has written the ebook Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You’re Not Missing Anything, and she admins the popular FB group called It’s Not that Hard to Homeschool High School to give encouragement and support to moms of homeschooled teens. She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School

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I Don’t Iron! Plus 5 More Homemaking Confessions From A Good Enough Homemaker

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(post contains affiliate links: see disclosure)

If you scroll Pinterest in the homemaking category you would think that in order to be an excellent homemaker you need to have a sparkling home from top to bottom, make all your food from scratch, dress like a superstar, and always, always wear a smile. Confession–I have been a successful homemaker for over 20 years now and I don’t do or have any of the above.

Homemakers you are going to want to read this. Homemaking advice at its best.

My homemaking attitude could be described as “good enough”.  A living room is “clean enough” when you can get to the couch without tripping on something and sit down without having to remove items. A dinner is “good enough” for my family when it contains all four food groups and is served at the dinner table where we are all seated together. An outfit is “presentable enough” when it is free of holes, rips and stains, fits well and makes me feel good about myself.

“Good enough” allows me to spend time on what matters most and be okay with letting what doesn’t slide to acceptable standards. Below are a few example “confessions” of what I mean.

I Don’t Iron! Plus 5 More Homemaking Confessions

1. I Don’t Iron

I own an iron and an ironing board and I have used them on rare occasions–extremely rare. I think the last time I ironed a shirt was back when my now 16 year old son was playing a business man in the church Christmas play and needed to look the part. He was probably nine at the time.

Perhaps I might iron more if my husband had a suit and tie style job, but then again I have seen my hubby use the iron and he is pretty good with it so probably not.

Related  confession: I don’t fold the laundry straight out of the drier to avoid wrinkles either. If something I want to wear  seems too wrinkly to be presentable I simply hang it on a hanger while I have my morning shower. If the steam doesn’t release enough of the wrinkles I put it in the drier for a few minutes then hold the garment by the top and give it a good shake or two. But normally I just buy wrinkle resistant fabrics to begin with so I might have to do this trick perhaps once a month, if that.

2. I Don’t Make My Husband’s Lunch

My husband does pack a lunch for work, but I don’t pack it. Considering I always put leftovers into meal size containers and stock the cupboards with grab and go lunch items I don’t really see the point. I mean I don’t know if he feels more like the leftover  crock-pot beef stew or the leftover simple layered taco pie and in the time it takes me to ask him he could have gone to the fridge himself, grabbed what he wanted and put it in his work bag.

A few of my husband’s  favorite grab and go lunch items:

  • Trail mix sleeves–The ones at ALDI are so inexpensive it is hardly worth me making my own, although I did when the budget was tighter.
  • Cubed cheese–I buy a big block of cheese each week and cut it into bite size pieces that he can grab and place in a sandwich bag for work.
  • Nature’s Bakery Bars–These are two fruit filled type cookies in one sleeve. My husband likes them because he can grab one between work tasks and then go back and grab another later. Making it a great after lunch snack for him.
  • Fresh fruit–I buy whatever fruit is in season and unless it is an apple or an orange I cut it up into bite size pieces and place it in a glass container with a lid. My husband simply places what he wants into a smaller, travel friendly container.

Related confession: While we are on the topic of lunches I haven’t made lunches for my kids since the youngest was old enough to assemble a sandwich and I really don’t remember what age that was–six maybe?

I Don't Iron! Plus 5 More Homemaking Confessions From A Good Enough Homemaker

3. I Rarely See The Bottom Of My Laundry Pile

We always have clean underwear and socks, but 95% of the time we also have at least three loads of dirty laundry in the basement. The way I see it the main goal for a homemaker when it comes to laundry is to make sure that their family always has clean clothes available. My family  always has at least several clean outfits in their closets and and at least one clean pair of underwear in their drawers.

Related confession: We all share socks–as in we have around 20 pairs of identical white socks  and 20 pairs of identical black socks and they are all kept in a wicker box near our family room for people to grab as they need. We all wear the same sock size and neither my daughter nor I are into girlie colored socks and none of my boys care for guys fancy dress socks so no show sport socks for the entire family works.

4. I Make Cleaning Routines, But Rarely Follow Them

I have tried several times to follow a cleaning routine that either I made up or one that was made up for me. I usually manage to follow it for a week or so if it is made up by someone else (another blogger, etc.) and perhaps a month or so if I made it up.

A few years back I just stopped following one altogether and guess what happened? My home got cleaner even though I was doing less housework. Yes, you read that right. My home got cleaner even though I am spending less time cleaning. How?  Instead of following a set list  I simply spend a few minutes each morning walking through my entire home and noting what is visibly dirty that day, then I assign much of the work to my kids.

My kids are 15 and up and always looking to make some spending money and we live in a town where jobs for teenagers and young adults are hard to find. I am always looking for more hours in the day for blogging related tasks. So I use some income my blog creates to hire my kids to do chores so I can blog more and therefore earn more. As a bonus my children are learning how to do every task they need to know to be successful homemakers, including how to manage money. The system seems to be a win-win for everyone.

Related confession: In case you think my home is perfectly clean from top to bottom, you need to know that I am not that picky. Bathrooms and the kitchen are always high on my “must be kept clean” list. The other rooms of the house can stay at “could be picked up and company ready within five to 10 minutes” and I am fine with that.

Homemakers you are going to want to read this. Homemaking advice at its best.

5. I Don’t Spring Clean

I don’t spring clean my home from top to bottom as winter thaws into spring. Instead I Christmas clean. I make up a plan the week of Halloween that will help me catch up areas of clutter and dirt within our home between the day after Halloween and American Thanksgiving. If things have gotten really bad, I will make the plan a little longer, going perhaps until two weeks before Christmas.

I find that I am going to rearrange rooms for the Christmas season anyways to put up our decorations so why not deep clean as I am doing it? Plus, I would rather have my home sparkling clean before winter when I spend all my time in it than in the spring when I am starting to spend way more time outside of it. In spring I clean the porches, put out the patio furniture and replant my flower boxes, but that is as close to spring cleaning as I get.

Related confession: I don’t have an annual or monthly chore list I follow. Have you ever read Martha Stewart magazine? If you have, you might have read her monthly calendar in which she lists household tasks that should be done that month like “time to perform the quarterly wiping of the blinds” or “May is the month to rotate your wardrobe”. I don’t do anything like this. If something looks dirty I clean it, or as I confessed above I assign the kids to clean it. I don’t rotate my wardrobe or my decor (except at Christmas) because quite frankly I don’t have that much clothing, nor do I have seasonal decor items.

6. I LOVE Being A Homemaker

Despite being seen by some as a homemaking slacker I really do love homemaking. In fact I don’t see my “good enough” attitude as slacking at all; I see it as essential because it allows me to do my number one homemaking tasks to the best of my ability–and that is to make my husband and my children feel loved and valued. You see, to feel loved and valued my family needs my 100% presence when they are sharing funny stories about their day, disappointments about their week and frustrations with their current tasks. They need hugs more than drawers full of perfectly folded, straight from the drier laundry. They need eye contact more than they need 100% dust free at all times ceiling fans. They need a fully listening ear more than they need ironed clothing.

What is your BIGGEST homemaking confession? Share it in the comment section!

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