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4 Ways to Save Money When You’re Just Too Tired

Guest post from Sara of Save Money, Live Joyfully

Fourteen months ago, we welcomed our second child, Junior. A tender-hearted little boy with a smile that could melt even the most calloused of hearts; he was also born profoundly deaf with additional developmental delays.

Since his birth, Junior has endured over 100 hospital, doctor, and therapy appointments, all the while I have sought to homeschool our older daughter and keep her enrolled in sports and activities. At the end of every day full of appointments and activities, I would come home exhausted, with no energy to make cost saving meals from scratch, compare weekly ads, or clip coupons. Gone were the days of DIY projects and Pinterest experiments.

I was just too tired to save money.

After a year of trial and error, I’ve found some helpful hints that have allowed us to stay on budget while being time and energy efficient.

1. Prioritize

This is one of the most difficult, yet freeing steps when you are lacking time, energy, or both. Every 6 months, we perform an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) with Junior’s therapists, which is basically a list of points in his development we want see progress in. Our energy then goes towards accomplishing these goals and milestones.

I also created my own personalized version of an IFSP to help streamline our household.

Make a list of your goals — short-term and long-term. If something comes up that does not fall in line with your priorities or will not propel you towards meeting your goals, you have permission to set it aside for this season of life.

We often feel like we have to “do it all”, but by creating and sticking to your priorities, you have more time and energy to put towards the most important things in your life.

If saving money on groceries is your priority, but you don’t think you have time, make large batches of muffins or pancakes to freeze for quick breakfasts, use leftovers for lunch, and make simple-prep dinners in the slow cooker. If spending more time with your family is the priority, look for free activities in your community and consider lowering your cable bill by eliminating channels you don’t watch, also giving your family more time together.

2. Simplify

Once your priorities are mapped out, it’s time to simplify, simplify, simplify. Simpler days, simpler meals, simpler outings. Sell items you no longer need, consider inexpensive experience gifts for Christmas and birthdays, and don’t be afraid to say no to things that don’t line up with your current priorities.

Because of our hectic schedule, meals became more basic, which meant a decrease in our grocery budget. Leftovers were eaten instead of tossed, grocery store trips had to be in-and-out, so I stuck to my list. For health concerns, Junior had to stay isolated for several months, so I didn’t have time to wander Target for deals.

I may have missed some “great deals”, but I saved more by not browsing the aisles and spending money on things I didn’t really need.

3. Focus on the “Can”, Not the “Cannot”

You may not be able to do everything, but applaud yourself on the money saving strategies you HAVE successfully used. Most importantly, do not compare yourself to anybody else. No one else has your life or is in your situation.

When I look at my friends who have time to successfully do many DIY projects and fix gourmet meals, I feel like I should be doing more. But, then I look at the ways I am able to save my family money, stop comparing, and feel good about all that I’ve accomplished instead of what I’m not able to, or have time to accomplish in this stage of life.

4. Give Yourself Grace

The first few months of non-stop appointments, we were in the car all the time. Unfortunately, thanks to my inexperience with the new lifestyle, it also meant we also ate out too much. I’ve since learned to pre-bag snacks for appointment days, and to plan ahead with a coupon if we have to eat out.

Circumstances and situations change, and seasons of life come and go. You do the best you can, give yourself grace, and keep pushing towards fulfilling your goals and priorities.

Whether you’re a working parent, single parent, or someone who just has too much on their plate, I hope these ideas will also help you save a little more, even when you feel like you’re just too tired.

Sara is a stay-at-home mom from California. She and her husband desire to seek the Lord first in their lives, as they raise a precocious 5-year old, and a 1-year old with special needs. She shares about living joyfully in all circumstances and utilizing cost saving techniques at Save Money, Live Joyfully.

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  1. Jolene says

    It will get better. Eight years ago yesterday, we had a similar experience. Our daughter was born, was not expected to live, survived two open heart surgeries, and we were continuously also in our car. The most important thing I can tell you if advice is welcome is to give yourself grace and stop comparing yourself to others. That’s probably the hardest thing to do and to remember. Also remember that not only does God not give us more than we can handle, he also gives us the gifts to be able to get through what he puts on our plate. Hope that helps. The exhaustion will ease up after awhile.

  2. Mrs S says

    I love this! We often look at others and think “Well if Jane down the street can do XXX and she has 5 kids, I should be able to the same because I only have three…” when we do not live in the same circumstance. Simplicity is often not only easier but healthier, causing us to eat better, have less “clutter” in our homes and lives and a lot less stress about all of the things we “should” do.
    As the wife of a severely injured Marine and the mother of 2 kids (one special needs) I think Sara hit it on the head when she suggested focusing on priorities! Taking Crystal’s advice and making (even microscopic!) progress towards those goals is a great accomplishment!

    • says

      Mrs. S, absolutely! Simplicity, both in physical stuff and mentally giving yourself a break, is a very healthy state.

      As the wife of an injured soldier myself (he is now separated from the military as a result), I can understand how difficult that transition is for a family. Blessings to you and your family!

  3. Sarah says

    I am in a similar situation with two boys, one of whom has special needs, and another baby on the way. Thank you for the helpful and encouraging post. When I feel sorry for myself, I’ll pray for you and remember your points here.

  4. says

    Ahhh…key statement in the post for me, “Give yourself grace.” There is no way I would tell this author (or any other mom facing hard times) that they didn’t do a good enough job saving money. Why am I so hard on myself? “Keep pushing.” I liked that statement too! Thanks.

    • says

      Christina, One of the best things anyone ever said to me was “I’m giving you permission to let things go.” I think we have this self-imposed standard that we place on ourselves that if we’re not doing it all, we’re not doing enough. So, I’m giving YOU permission to find your priorities and let some other things go :)

  5. Kara says

    Thank you for posting this, it was a much needed read for me. I am pregnant with our first child, we just bought and moved into a house and I work full-time (which I will need to continue for at least a few years until we can pay off some school debt and I can come home). I have been laying awake at night stressing about how in the world I’m going to do it all and not have a breakdown, but this post reminded me that I don’t need to “do it all.” As long as I feed my family, they aren’t going to be upset it’s not a from scratch gourmet meal, just simplifying will help save money that we need to eventually bring me home where I belong!

    • says

      Having a baby and moving are two of the most stressful events in life, so I can understand why you’re feeling frazzled! It sounds like you have your long-term goals planned out (pay off your student loans, and be a SAHM), so start making some short-term goals that will make those a reality eventually. Knowing you’re making a little progress in those goals will hopefully take some of the pressure off. Try to enjoy the new home and the pregnancy. Many blessings to your little family! :)

  6. Jill says

    I feel like I’m in survival mode right now. I have twins that will be 4 in oct, a 2 yr old and a 9 week old. My husband is in law enforcement and I’m oftentimes a single mom bc he’s working so much. I barely have time to get to the grocery store let alone try to go to one that has the best sales or coupon stacking w sales. I have to go to the one closest to our house in case he gets called into work while I’m in the middle of a big shopping trip w a cart full of groceries! HA. I’ve started cloth diapering, we cut cable and got rid of one of our cars which is abt as much as I can manage right now in the craziness of our life :) thanks for the post-we can’t compare, no one else lives our same life with our same strengths, weaknesses and resources!

  7. Sarah says

    I get it, though the circumstances are much different. 20 years of chronic illness and multiple other family crises has taken a toll. I have tried to be wise with money but am sure I have cost us money by not being able to keep up. I am working on the things you mentioned, especially the not comparing part. God bless your family and little Junior. At least you have learned quickly what’s important and what your priorities are!

  8. says

    I love this! The title immediately caught my eye. Putting in the effort to save money while exhausted has been a constant struggle for me. I really want to save but goodness the energy it can take. I have a child with challenges also and he requires a lot of my time and energy. I had to find a happy medium as well and that means a lot of my money saving strategies had to go. This post was really encouraging to me to hear from another mom who is in a similar situation who is making the best choices for her family and some of that does include dropping certain frugality practices. I felt really guilty about it for awhile but realized that guilt was coming from comparing what I was doing to others. That never results in good. I love your lessons and strategies and this was a really good post to read today!

    • says

      Jo Lynn,
      That is such a great point. Comparisons, whether they make you feel better than someone or worse that someone, are never healthy. The choice to run the path you have been given without looking over at someone else’s is very freeing.

  9. Anna says

    I am a single full-time working mom of four including one with disabilities. I just set a budget and try to stay in it. When I can I do couponing, shop ads, etc. but the last year I have been cooking much more and just trying to stay in budget. I do watch sales and clearance sales but almost have quit couponing altogether due to finding other ways to save.

    I wish someone would do a post about what moms do when they are sick, hurt, disabled and physically and.or emotionally limited and virtually cannot provide physical care for family or save money. I have been out of commission for a few weeks and it has been hard (and unexpected). I just wonder what other moms do? I ended up hiring a babysitter to help me which was very expensive but I did not know what else to do. My child with disabilities stayed with family for a while. My oldest helped out a lot but I don’t want her to be an adult at such a young age. I know I am not the only parent with this kind of situation.

  10. says

    Thanks for the encouraging post! I really think that simplification is key, especially in very busy and difficult times of life. Thankful that the Lord has given you His grace to see you through. I don’t often comment, but I really did enjoy your post and seeing how you were able to continue through this time without giving up!

  11. says

    GREAT post! We ALL go through those times and it can be discouraging, but knowing that we’re doing what we can is a step in the right direction. We adopted a daughter with special needs last year, and then 7 months later got pregnant with our 4th, and my extra frugal self went out the window. However, I was glad to be able to do what I could, which often involved simplicity and staying home (and saving money in the process!).

  12. Traci C says

    A few years back I was a super woman. I clipped coupons, worked outside the home, had a toddler and a school age child that still made it to all her after school activities. I saved more than ever (husband designated me in charge of the finances). My world came crashing down when my husband was arrested for domestic violence. He refused to change for his family and filed for divorce. I was so depressed that I was physically sick. I mustered up all my energy just to keep my job and take care of the kids. Couponing went out the window and I was in survival mode. Now I realize there is only so much I can do and what I can do is good for my little family. Things are better now and after revamping the budget we are just fine. Priorities and responsibilities are different. I will never change my frugal heart, and I have found that a combination of things work differently now for me.

  13. Traci Anderson says

    Thank you for this encouragement! I am a mostly stay at home mom of 2 boys- a 4 year old mildly autistic son who starts school in 4 days (!) and an 18 month old with medical concerns. I will move to fully stay at home this week simply because of all their needs- I often feel like I should be a “blog mom” and do all the savings, etc but generally feel drained after the occupational therapy, speech therapy, hematology, lab draws, and all the “work on this at home” that some days I realize at 3 pm I forgot to plan a meal and beat myself up for failing on my “job”. We have so many different worries- IEPs, not qualifying for IEPs, etc and few seem to “get” our experience. I catch myself at times being so frustrated because my own kid is sometimes “ok” then I get a reminder of our issues. Thank you for sharing your IEP idea, the analogy really hits home for me.

    • says

      Traci, A mom’s “job” is not just cleaning the house and having dinner ready. It’s also being there for your children through the good and the bad. I know you are doing a great job raising your sons, even when the frustrating moments hit. You love them, and that’s the most important thing in the job description!

  14. Stacia says

    I’m there myself but for totally different reason. We are empty nesters who both work FT. My job is very exhausting both mentally and physically and my energy level is zero at the end of the day. So house cleaning and meal planning and most of my shopping is during the weekend. We have streamlined and simplified our eating so shopping doesn’t take long. I cook enough meat for the whole week (lunch and dinner), make breakfasts for the week, and make everything as easy as possible. I have done in the past all of the couponing at many different stores and loved it but that’s too much right now. I know when we retire in a few years I will return to couponing but for now, I need simple!

  15. PT says

    My children are grown and out of the house but for the past 5 or so years, my husband and I have lived off of an income of $25,000 or less. We adopted a “simple lifestyle” at that time and have discovered such a “beautiful life journey”. We have adapted many of the same things that Sara mentions and we don’t regret any of the choices we have made. We don’t use credit or have cable tv and fortunately our cars are paid although they are both over a dozen years old so we make sure to set aside money for repairs (which happen regularly). Saving for “fun stuff” on a limited income is hard so we save quarters and when we get enough we use them for “fun”! Takes a while but so worth the anticipation. We recently took a weekend trip to a coastal town using our “quarter savings” although we did turn them in for dollar bills at the bank! Our regular savings grows when we take half our coupon savings at the store and deposit that amount in a don’t touch savings acct. We have saved over $500.00 this year already….which we feel is pretty good for our situation. So my advice to all is to try to find the simplicity that fits your style and go for it cuz you will enjoy life’s journey so much more than chaos and hectic!

  16. says

    Great post and so true! There have been times when I’ve had to let some of the couponing and deal hunting slide b/c life with just too crazy {like when we were living with my grandmother during massive home renovations or when we added our little boy to the family}! I love your 4th point best – I think most of us are often way too hard on ourselves and just need to give ourselves a little more grace. God doesn’t expect us to do it all, yet we often expect it of ourselves. Thanks for sharing your story and hang in there I’m sure you’re doing a great job with your little ones!

  17. says

    Thank you for this post. Out of all of these tip I think #1 is what I found myself struggling with the most in the past few years. As a young adult sometimes it’s hard to prioritize and separate what you just want from what you really need. I had to learn to set goals and stick to them. Focusing on your priorities is key, whether you are a college student trying to save money to pay tuition or a parent trying to support your family.

  18. Amy R. says

    Thanks for this great reminder! We don’t have to be like every other mom, but we can sure use your tips as reminders that we can do little things.

  19. teresa says

    I am familiar with the IFSP as both my 29 mo. boy and
    14 mo. girl have them. I was just telling my husband today
    how overwhelmed I feel. I look around at the house
    that needs cleaned while I try to research why my mild mannered
    boy was sent home from daycare for aggression. Meanwhile, my desk at
    work drowns deeper in files everyday, both my babies hv special diets,
    but I still try to stick to an unrealisticly small grocery budget (& they’re both
    still in diapers). I’m currently juggling a total of four therapists between my
    two babies and I’m fighting for my boy to get into OT. My husband has just started
    a new business that we’re trying to get off the ground. Basically, I feel the weight of
    the world. God has been good and gracious to us, but I am not so gracious to myself.
    I needed the reminder today th

  20. says

    Great Post! The times when I’m not happy are the times I compare my living situation and finances to others. If I stop thinking about other people’s nice homes and fancy cars and perfect obedient kids and realize not everyone is the same. I never wanted to be like everyone when I was younger, why do I try so hard now.

  21. says

    I think the last point is most imporant. I have a nephew who was born deaf and blind three years ago. I think not looking at what others are able to do and focusing on what you can and should be doing is what really matters. I’m praying for you and your little one.

  22. LeahB says

    I needed this today. Between my younger son’s various types of therapy and all the work I have to do with him, plus my own health issues, I am often hard on myself for all the things I should be doing to save money. Seeing friends do all the fun outings and cute projects I wish I could do—it’s not fun. You’re absolutely right that we need to give ourselves grace!!

    Regarding feeling exhausted: a friend of mine recently found out she was anemic, and taking iron changed her life. I’ve made an appointment to look into this for myself…you never know. When in this busy, I’m not eating as well as usual. :)

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