How to Make the Shift From Two Incomes to One

How to Switch from Two Incomes to One

I work full-time and have a small child. My husband and I are thinking of taking a couple of months to live off of one salary, using the second salary to pay off debt, in the hopes to see if we can actually swing living off of one income. This is so exciting and something we have wanted for a long time. Do you have any tips for how to go from two incomes to one? -Jamie

How exciting, Jamie! Here are some thoughts I had:

Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

If you and your husband are not on the same page financially, it’s going to be hard to really get much traction or to achieve your goal of successfully going from two incomes to one. So before you even attempt to make the transition, sit down and talk openly about where you are financially and where you want to go.

Don’t nag and drag your husband to go along with your plan; put your heads together and find a solution that is a win-win for both of you. This will most likely involve some give and take and compromise, but it will be so worth it.

Make a Game Plan

Once you’re on the same page, dream together about where you want to be a year from now and five years from now. I think your idea to live on one income for a period of time is fantastic!

Think realistically about what sacrifices and lifestyle changes will need to be made in order to make living on one income a possibility. If your plan is to be able to live on one income by this time next year, look at your budget, figure out what you need to cut, and how much you need to save and increase your income in order to make it happen. Having a specific number that you need to save each month will help motivate you to find creative ways to lower your spending and increase your income.

Create and Stick With a Budget

The best thing you can do for your family right now is to get on a written budget. Many times, people don’t have an income problem, they have a spending problem.

Before trying to significantly cut your income, make sure you are being very intentional in how you spend your money and know exactly what you need to make in order to survive. I highly recommend getting a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey from your library. If you can afford it, I also heartily suggest looking into going through Financial Peace University.

Both of these resources will walk you through how to set up a budget and how to stick with it. And Dave will motivate you and inspire you to dream big, work hard, and get your finances in amazing shape.

Pay Off Your Debt

Make paying off your debt one of your top priorities right now. This will probably mean some significant sacrifices in the short-term — working more hours and living on as little as possible — but the long-term benefits will be amazing.

Figure out how much you have left to pay off, set a realistic time frame for paying it off, and then divide the amount by the time frame to come up with the specific number you need to be paying off each month and week in order to hit your goal. When you break your goals down into bite-sized pieces like this, it makes them much more doable. And it also will motivate you to keep making short-term sacrifices for the long-term benefits.

What advice and suggestions do the rest of you have for Jamie?

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Don’t Pay For Pre-Made Baby Food {Week 46}

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Homemade Ginger shows you how to make your own wholegrain baby food.

Each week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

Store-bought baby food can be very expensive. Knowing this, I decided from the get-go when I had my first child that this was an area that I’d wanted to try to really save money on.

Three children later, we’ve survived without basically ever paying for pre-made baby food — and have saved hundreds of dollars in the process! Here are some things that worked for us (Remember: each child and family is different so please do what works best for your family!):

1. Start Slowly

I was blessed to be able to nurse all three of my babies almost exclusively until six months old. (I know some women would love to be able to nurse and have been unable to do so, so I don’t take it for granted that I never had difficulty with nursing.)

At around six months old, I would slowly start introducing solid foods — normally just giving the child a couple of tastes of banana or vegetables a few times per week. I would usually mash up something that we’re already eating and offer a few bites.

We stuck with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains first and then gradually added in other foods. We’d just offer the child whatever fruit or veggies we’re eating at a meal plus some homemade bread or other wholegrain finger foods. As our children caught on to eating more, I’d gradually reduce nursing and replace it more and more by table food. (I weaned all my children around 18-19 months.)

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2. Make & Freeze Homemade Baby Food

I did this some — and it worked well. Erin wrote a guest post a few years back on how she does this efficiently:

A great way to save money when you’ve got a little one crawling under foot is to make your own baby food. The average price at my grocery store for a 1-serving jar of baby food, stage 1, is $0.51. From my rough calculations, you can save an average of 75% by spending a few minutes in the kitchen to make your own food — especially if you buy in season and get the best prices on that fresh produce.

While I prefer cooking in the kitchen each night for our “big people” meals, I’ve found it works really well for me to have a Freezer Cooking Day once a month preparing homemade baby food.

Read Erin’s post here on How to Make Homemade Baby Food for the Freezer.

Helpful Resources: If you are interested in making your own baby food, you might check out this post here or see if you can check out Feed Me I’m Yours or check out some of the books listed here from your local library.

3. Use a Baby Food Grinder

If you’re wanting to make your own baby food, but the thought of making big batches for the freezer does not appeal to you, I highly recommend that you invest in a simple baby food grinder. I like the Kidco Baby Food Mill. It runs about $15 and is really compact so you can just mash up whatever fruits and/or veggies (or even the main dish!) you’re eating at the meal.

If it’s something that can’t just be easily mashed with a fork, stick a small bit in the grinder when you sit down at the table, grind it up, and you’re good to go! It makes very little mess and requires almost zero forethought!

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Like the Baby Food Pouch idea but don’t want to spend money on Baby Food Pouches? Check out How to Make Your Own Reusable Baby Food Pouches.

What are your best tips and ideas for saving on baby food?

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Compare Per Unit Prices with the Costo Price List

Costco Price List

Are you a Costco customer, or have you been considering joining? Here’s a great resource to help you get the most out of your Costco membership.

Queen Bee Coupons maintains a Costco Price List which details the per unit price on more than 600 items. Their goal is to make it easy for you to compare per unit prices with current grocery store deals. Print it out and use it as a reference when you’re shopping at your local stores, or check it out when shopping on Amazon.

Learn more about the Costco Price List at Queen Bee Coupons.

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Get a Bang for Your Buck on Travel Expenses {Week 45}

How to Find Great Deals on Travel

My husband and I love to travel. However, we’ve found some creative ways to do so, while still sticking with our budget. How? Here are some simple ways we save:

Purchase Online

We’ve done a lot of comparing and have found that you can almost always beat the prices you’d get over the phone or through a travel agency if you purchase airfare, hotel rooms, or car rental online. Some of our favorite sites to use are: Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, and Travelocity.com.

If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel, flights, and rental car “blind” through Hotwire or Expedia and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.

Each site is a bit different and will offer you different rates and options. When we are making travel arrangements, we always check multiple sites to compare prices and options.

Note that some travel sites add the tax already into the final price shown and others don’t add this in until you checkout. Make sure that you know if there are any extra fees which will be added in when you’re comparing prices.

Need a Laugh? Check out Frugal Failure posts on How We Spent $145 Trying to Save $40 and How a Split Second Mistake Cost Me $500.

Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)

If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through Orbitz. They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.

Four Tips to Save on Online Travel Deals

1. Choose a Package Deal

You will usually save a substantial amount of money by purchasing airfare, hotel rooms, and car rental as a package deal. In fact, it’s usually a savings of 50% or more off the retail price to go this route. And sometimes, it’s even greater savings than that!

Even if you don’t really need to rent a car, but it would be nice to have, it’s worth checking into. Many times, you’ll actually save money by renting a car—as opposed to just getting a hotel and flight package.

2. Be Flexible with Dates and Times

The more flexible you are, the more possibilities there are for you to score a great discount. When you’re searching online for deals, I recommend inputting different dates and times to see if there is a significant price difference. Oftentimes, just being willing to go 12-24 hours sooner or later, you’ll be able to save $300 or more per person on a package deal.

3. Use a Coupon Code

When you’ve chosen which package deal you’re interested in, do a quick search for a coupon code. You can find these codes listed on sites like RetailMeNot.com. You can’t always find a coupon code for the travel site you’re booking through, but it’s worth checking on if it will save you $50—as the coupon codes often do!

4. Shop Through a Cashback Site

After you’ve compared prices, found the best package deal, and applied a coupon code, the final way to save is to shop through a cashback site. Do not overlook this important savings tip! Considering that most travel packages are around $300 or more per person and Ebates offers at least 1-3% cashback on orders through Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, and Hotwire.com, your cashback earnings on travel purchases can quickly add up to a nice little bonus savings!

How to Save Money on Travel

Call and Haggle for Your Hotel Price

Jesse loves to do this when we’re booking hotels. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.

Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.

As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.

Sign Up For Groupon Deals

I love this idea that Kelli wrote about in her post on Using Groupon to Boost Your Vacation Budget:

As a reader of MoneySavingMom.com, there is a good chance you already enjoy the benefits of using Groupon. But have you considered using it to save money while on vacation?

Our family was recently planning a vacation and my cousin happened to send me a link to a mini-golf Groupon for one of the cities we’d be staying in. That triggered my mind, What if I signed up for the Groupon emails for those cities just until our vacation was over? I am so glad we did!

We love to eat out while we are on vacation and it is usually our main expense besides lodging. We like to try local places, and not stick with the chains. Groupon is great for that! For our vacation we not only bought vouchers for some local restaurants, but we also found a Groupon for a small local grocery store, where we were able to get ingredients for a few meals.

In addition, we found a Groupon for admission to a state park that saved us around $20. We also purchased a Groupon for an Imagination Movers show. With the four tickets we bought, we saved $84 from the at-the-door cost! Best of all, the kids loved it.

Read the full post for more tips.

Walk In and Ask For a Bargain

We’ve done this before and it does have some advantages, namely that you’re able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet. You usually won’t get quite as low of a price as you could have by purchasing through Hotwire, this works well if you need some flexibility in your travel plans or plan something at the last minute.

I recommend that you decide on a price you are willing to pay per night and then pick out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. This approach works especially well if you’re traveling in the middle of the week or off-season when hotels are quite empty and are often more than willing to work with you to give you a discounted price. If you were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely won’t be as successful.

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Planning a roadtrip? Check out my series on How to Have a Successful Roadtrip With Young Children. Also, check out Jenifer’s post on How to Save on Meals While on Vacation.

If you’re more adventuresome than our family and love to camp, read Jackie’s post on How to Plan a Frugal Camping Trip.

Three Steps to Paying Cash for a Vacation

1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?

Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.

Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.

2. Make a Plan of Action

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?

If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.

3. Put On Your Thinking Cap

If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.

When you set a goal, work hard, and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!

How does your family save money on travel?

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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Limit Eating Out {Week 44}

Freezer Cooking

Every week, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

This is one of those ideas that pretty much everyone knows: when you eat at home instead of eating out, you’re going to save money. However, it can be easier said than done — especially when you have busy schedules.

Here are some suggestions to make it easier to eat at home instead of falling back onto restaurant meals:

1. Calculate the Savings

Take a little time to review your budget and see how much you’ve spent on eating out over the last few months. Often, just reviewing these numbers will be enough to encourage you to consider cutting back — because the savings could help you pay down your debt more quickly or to put extra toward your current savings goals.

Freezer Cooking

Crystal from Serving Joyfully wrote a post on how they made the decision to stop eating out. Here’s what she says:

My husband and I live on a meager budget and are trying to get out of debt. We can’t afford all the meals out (we were spending our entire “spending money” budget, plus “borrowing” from other areas to fund it!)

So this year for Lent, we did something drastic — we stopped eating out.

While there are ways to save money when eating out, a meal out for a family of four will typically cost at least $10 for fast food, and $30 for most sit down restaurants. If you are like us, or like the typical American family, just cutting one meal out per week can save you $520-$1560 per year!

Read her full post for details on how they are saving $2600 per year by not eating out.

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2. Plan Ahead

Taking a little time on the weekends or at the beginning of the week to plan a menu can make a major difference in your success in eating at home more. Because when you have a plan, it’s a whole lot easier to actually work the plan. :)

When you have a plan and you have the groceries to carry out that plan, it’s a lot harder to justify ordering pizza at the last minute. I’m pretty sure most of us agree with this in theory, but we have to have more than good intentions if we want to follow through.

So find a set time every week to plan your menu and buy the groceries for it. Put it on your calendar and commit to sticking with it. Find an accountability partner or sign up for a menu plan service like eMeals, if need be.

And then plan ahead at the beginning of the day for what you’re going to make for dinner that evening. Set out the meat to thaw, do any early prep work you can do, dump the ingredients in the crockpot… think about what’s for dinner at breakfast time and you’ll be glad you did when it’s 5 p.m.

Freezer Cooking

3. Keep it Simple

One of the biggest pitfalls to being successful with eating at home is often planning meals that are too time and labor intensive. If you typically don’t have a lot of time and energy at the end of the day, don’t set yourself up for failure by choosing recipes that require a lot of effort.

I’m all about keeping it simple, as you can tell from our weekly menu plans. Why? Because I know that many evenings I’m pretty tired by the time dinner prep time rolls around. So the simpler I can make dinner prep, the better. If I have more time and energy, I can always make an additional recipe.

A few of my favorite really simple recipes are: Homemade Pizza, Italian Chicken, and Southwest Roll-Ups.

Freezer-Friendly Burritos

4. Use Your Freezer

I don’t know about you, but there are some days at our home when life whizzes by so quickly and all of a sudden, it’s 5 p.m. and dinner isn’t even a figment of my imagination. Before I started regularly cooking ahead and freezing meals, I’d be tempted to call my husband and ask him to bring something home for dinner.

Freezer cooking has solved the 5 p.m. “What’s-For-Dinner” panic. If I forget to pull something out earlier in the day, I’ll just pick a meal from my freezer stash that defrosts quickly — such as meatballs. I pair this with some frozen veggies, rice, and maybe a fruit salad. No one even has to know I forgot about dinner until 30 minutes before it was supposed to happen!

Freezer Cooking

I’ve found that doing mini half-hour or one-hour freezer cooking sessions works really well for this season of our life. And while I might not be making 20 or 30 meals at a time, by consistently cooking ahead once or twice a week, we always have some meals in the freezer for those busy days when I don’t have time or energy for cooking.

Instead of having to make meatloaf three times in six weeks, I just triple the recipe and make meatloaf once and stick the extra two dinners’ worth of meatloaf in the freezer. If I’m going to be making one meatloaf, I might as well double or triple the recipe saving me the effort and mess later on in the month. After all, it really doesn’t take but a few more minutes to make two extra batches of meatloaf — and the clean up time is pretty much the same!

Freezer Cooking

Freezer Cooking Links to Check Out:

5. Use Your Crockpot

It’s hard to say whether I love my crockpot or my bread machine more. Both of them are invaluable tools in my kitchen that I use again and again and again.

I love that I can stick the ingredients in the crock pot and then basically forget about it! Plus, there’s something so wonderful about smelling dinner simmering in the crockpot all day long!

Freezer Cooking

One great way to use your crock pot to make dinner preparations easy-peasy is to whip up some Crockpot Freezer Cooking meals:

6. Give Yourself Grace

One of the most important things I want to stress, though, is that you need to give yourself grace. If you have the wiggle room in your budget to eat out and it’s something that your family enjoys, I encourage you to budget it in. It can be a fun change of pace and it can be a nice break for mom, too.

Plus, when you budget it in, there is no guilt with enjoying eating out. Maybe that means you budget to go out to eat twice a week, once every other week, every six months, or not at all. Figure out what works for you and your family and then do it!

Freezer Cooking

Carmen from Life Blessons shares ways to save on eating out:

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner. Eating out for lunch can cost considerably less than when you eat out later in the evening. Plus, you’re usually not quite as hungry, so you eat less. That right there will cut down on your spending!

Instead of going out for entire meals, go out for treats.
One thing we’ve done to trim our spending is to go out for things like ice-cream or coffee, rather than full-fledged meals. Sure, you can have coffee or ice-cream at home, but when it scratches the eating-out itch at a fraction of the price, it can be well worth the splurge!

Read Carmen’s full post on how to spend less money eating out.

What advice and tips do you have for a family who wants to cut down on eating out?

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