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If you want something badly enough, you can usually find a way

Eating PB&J Sandwiches can change your finances...and your LIFE! Short-term sacrifices can be difficult, but SO worth it in the long run!

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post on surviving on a $30 per week grocery budget. Many of you found the post helpful and inspiring. But a handful of people really disliked the post.

In the blogging world, that’s totally to be expected. You can’t please and inspire everyone all the time and I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person and a writer from the constructive criticism I’ve received as a blogger.

However, what I found interesting was that most of the people who didn’t like the post got hung up on the fact that I was suggesting you eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day for a week.

The grocery list and menu I shared was meant to serve as an example that you can eat on $30 per week and still set aside a little extra toward your stockpile so that, within a few weeks, you can have more wiggle room and variety in your diet. I wanted to show that it can be done — if you’re willing to get creative and you’re willing to make short-term sacrifices.

Truthfully, Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches Are Not All That Bad

While eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day for a week might sound outrageous to some, it’s actually not all that bad. In fact, one of the many little things we did to stay out of debt while my husband was in law school was to eat lots and lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We didn’t eat peanut butter and jelly every single day of the year, but choosing to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a very regular basis over Subway or Sonic — or even turkey and cheese sandwiches — was a simple thing we could do to help inch us in the direction we were aiming for.

How Motivated Are You to Get Where You Want to Be?

Where do you want to be financially in a year from now? What about five years from now? What simple short-term sacrifices can you make to help you get there?

If eating peanut butter and jelly every other day isn’t your thing, consider what short-term sacrifices might work for your family. When Jessica and her family were working really hard to get out of debt, they set their thermostat up a number of degrees in the summer in order to save money. Jessica was pregnant at the time and I’m not quite sure how she managed, but their family was highly motivated so they made a lot of sacrifices — including sweating out a hot Kansas summer — so that they could get out of debt much more quickly.

When There’s a Will, There’s Usually a Way

If you want to get out of debt, stay out debt, save more, or give more, it’s likely going to mean making some sacrifices — especially in the short-term. You can’t change your financial situation unless you also change the way you’re doing something.

But you have to be willing to change, willing to cut back, willing to give things up, willing to eat less than gourmet meals, or willing to not have the latest and greatest gadget or gizmo. How willing you are to make changes is directly dependent upon how motivated you are to get where you want to go.

If you want something badly enough, you can usually find a way. It won’t always be easy, fun, or glamorous to make short-term sacrifices, but it will be every bit worth it.

What simple, short-term sacrifices is your family making to get where you want to be financially? I’d love to hear!

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295 Comments

  • Victoria says:

    We discovered we could save a whopping $70/mo by cutting cable. It’s a bigger sacrifice for my husband than for me, but it’s amazing how much more fun it is to watch movies together or go for a walk instead of parking ourselves in front of the television to watch another show. The shows we’re really attached to we buy off iTunes and still end up saving around $50/mo.

    • Vicki says:

      Yep. We got rid of our DISH. I have to have internet for my business as well as my cell phone, but that is definitely a HUGE item in our budget that seems disproportionate to other expenses. But I don’t know any way around it.

  • hope64 says:

    When saving for our new home, if we couldn’t eat it or wear it, that item went OFF the budget. We gave up the internet for two years (YES! You can do it if you really want to. The library has it for free.) We hung laundry, cut our grocery budget to $350 a month (family of 6), I made every meal from scratch, mowed our lawn with an old-fashioned push-reel mower, went to no garage sales (If I didn’t see extra items, I would not feel the need to buy them). My husband rode his bike to work whenever possible. We had an eating out budget of $10 a month. So, we only went out every other month(and then used free children’s menu items to eat for about $20.). We gave up our newspaper subscription and have never had cable TV in 24 years of marriage. The result…. we saved 35 percent of my husband’s income. WELL worth the sacrifices!

  • K* says:

    I come here not because I am committed to a frugal lifestyle, but because I like the perspectives and reading this blog because Crystal is so positive and excited about her lifestyle. I love that someone could buy a house outright, for example. I also love that she permits herself some joy in life, too – my first fear about embracing a more limited lifestyle was that I would no longer feel comfortable buying a diet coke or going out to dinner.

    A lot of the tips here wouldn’t necessarily work for me (reusable rags, for example – I live in a small apartment and wouldn’t be able to wash them before they started to stink because I have to go to a laundromat and with my law school schedule, I don’t have the time!), but I use them as a jumping off point for a way to save money in my own life. Freezer cooking is a lifesaver for me!

  • Lois says:

    I had to laugh about the pb&j. When my husband was alive, he made his own lunch and every day, except payday, he’d make a bologna sandwich and a pb&j sandwich! I always figured that was his “dessert”. LOL! Oh, on paydays, he’d send me to McDonalds for his lunch. As hard as he worked, I’d have gone to McD’s for him every day but that’s all he ever wanted.

  • Jill says:

    I don’t care for peanut butter ( I know, I’m weird!). I used to work for a plastic surgeon who ate PBJ everyday for lunch. I was her nurse and I ate ramen noodles or brought a salad from home. There are choices to be made for goals you wish to accomplish. Ideas posted on this blog are things to consider .what will work for one might not be possible for another. Crystal is very realistic. In fact when I asked her about cloth diapering my twins (my first children) she advised me to get used to being a mom first and the rest of the routine that comes w that. I think some folks just need to take a deep breath, read the info glean what you can from it and move on 🙂

  • Brittany says:

    I liked your post and think you are right on. My husband and I ( I am pregnant by the way and eat more 🙂 Survive on $14o a month for groceries no matter how many weeks are in the month. It can be done and we eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies as well. Now its not easy and we don’t eat much meat but its worth it to make it financially. I love your post and appreciate your encouragement!

  • karen lathan says:

    I have been a single parent for the last 17 years and 5 years ago my daughter got married in Las Vegas (her dream wedding). The only problem was getting to the USA and all the other bits like a dress clothes for myself hotel food the lot but thanks for cheap sliced bread,jam and chocolate spread. I did it had a great time came home with some money and best of all no debt. You can do anything when the going gets tough.

  • Cathy says:

    I wish I could say our family is making sacrifices, but my husband is not willing to make them. He must have cable and movie channels even thought he is barely home to watch them. He must not only have a new expensive truck, but he must also purchase expensive accessories to go on it. He must eat out for his lunch at work every day and often on Saturday if he is out as well. If his spending money runs out, he will put lunch on the credit card.

    I drive a nice car but the payment is less than half of what his is and mine gets 30 mpg. I get grocery/spending money and if I use it all up before the next pay day, I stop buying things. I don’t use the credit card. I don’t even watch tv if he is not home and the kids rarely watch, so I know they would be happy with Netflix.

    He says he has financial goals of paying off the credit card before our son starts college next fall, but he also says he is not willing to changes our (his) lifestyle and said we will just have to borrow the money for our son’s college.

    This is not the financial life I want for myself and my children. I stress myself out trying to find ways to make more money and finding ways to save money on college for our boys and everything little bit I do feels like it gets undone by my husband in a quick swipe of the credit card.

    • Carol says:

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds like you may benefit from some couples counseling, and if he doesn’t want to go, you should go.

    • Laurie says:

      I feel the same way as you. At least he got rid of his car habit, which was a huge financial strain. He sold his car because he has a company car and we only really need one car now. But he has $240 a month, which is something I increased in the budget in the hopes he would stick to it, and he can’t seem to find a way to stick to that, then just uses the debit card instead, which leaves us short for utility bills, debt payoff, etc. He must eat out every day because “he’s a traveling salesman” but why can’t he make something & take it instead of spending $5-10 every day on food. Or use his money that is in the budget to eat meals out? I stop spending when the cash runs out. So I feel your pain. Plus the expensive cable package we don’t need, but he must have because he has to watch his premium cable show once a week?

      • Cindy says:

        Interesting that they are so similar Laurie! After a recent tour of the college my son plans to attend, we did sit down and he hashed out a plan to pay off our credit card in the next 6 months and then get another larger debt down quite a bit before my son starts college in 2016. Our family actually has a good income and we don’t qualify for any financial aid for college, but I feel like if we made some sacrifices, we could handle the cost of college much much easier!

      • Allesan says:

        I purchase my one premium cable show from Amazon. I watch it the day after it airs and it’s $26 for the season!

    • Dar says:

      My husband was similarly self-indulgent. I decided to only pay the minimum on his card, so it was always maxed out, while I paid my off and didn’t let him know. It helped – paying to but curtailing his spending and having an emergency option (my card).

    • Barbara says:

      My husband used to be like this and would still like to be. A couple of years ago we were really in deep debt so I put my foot down, put us on a budget and am slowly changing our habits. He doesn’t like it but I told him that he would have to handle all the finances himself if he didn’t do it this way. Since he doesn’t want to do that, he has resigned himself to do it my way. I feel so much better and I know we are certainly better off.

    • Rosey Rivera says:

      Oh my goodness, my husband sounds like your husband. I read all these stories and wish that I can start that in our home. My husband will not entertain the thought. We are very well off however old credit and unpaid student loans hover over us. It is insane the amount of money we pay for cable, cell phones and eating out. I know if we cut that we can make a huge dent into our unpaid bills. How do you motivate your spouse to start????

      • Brenda says:

        It’s not easy changing the habits of an adult but involving a third party may help some. You can visit a CFP professional (Certified Financial Planner) and/or counselor. A lot of planners have tools that will take all of your financial information and show you what the effect of your husbands current habits are doing now and what your future will look like. In these situations it can look quite shocking. Experienced planners are also usually equipped with ways to work through these issues with your family. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get your spouse to agree to these meetings and a planner can only educate & suggest, the actions are ultimately up to the Sometimes it just clicks one day for them and sometimes it never does. I wish you all the best of luck working through this matter.

  • Jennifer says:

    Before we had kids, we set our thermostat to 64* in the winter. It was cold, but it helped our heating bills.

  • Sandy says:

    We weren’t saving on food because we had a goal but because there just wasn’t any money. Macaroni and Tomatoes was a go to and we still make it once a month….Home made soups of all kinds and home made breads really stretched our dollar. At that time there wasn’t anything like cable just the 4 to 6 channels LOL. No internet or ipads just the house phone and we made good use of it. P&J sandwiches were on the menu many days.

  • laurie says:

    My parents are 69 and 71 and can eat whatever they want. They choose to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day.

  • Cara says:

    I think people need to chill out and stop hiding behind a computer screen with their snarky comments and negativity. What works for one doesn’t work for all, but there is no need to jump down people’s throats. I am sorry, Crystal, that you feel that you often have to write follow-up posts to apologize or defend yourself. People just need to be a little nicer or use more manners.

  • Cindy Miner says:

    For many years we were struggling with a house payment, vehicle payments and credit card debt. We had very little money for food. I would buy lots of dry beans and add to spaghetti and macaroni and cheese instead of meat. My husband had come up with a meal that he enjoyed that had eggs cooked in ramen noodles. We would shop at a food salvage store that carried dented cans ect but at deeply discounted prices. We also would go to the thrift bread store for our bread. We did ok, I would write all the food we had in a notebook and come up with meals that I could make with them and know what I needed to buy at the store. I came up with a very healthy recipe made with dry lentil beans and sandwich sauce put on buns for sandwiches. I also shopped discounted food bins that have food near expiration. We rarely bought any sweets or what we would call extras. I enjoyed peanut butter on toast for breakfast and dessert sometimes. There was also a church that helped struggling families with certain amount of food for a small donation that we took advantage of. We made it through our rough time and things are much better today and I still love peanut butter on toast.

  • motherlovin3 says:

    I like the tone of this blog. I am a working mother, but I find the suggestions on this blog and other blogs to be very helpful. I like the budgeting piece as well as the simple homemade recipes. I feel like I get the best of both worlds (working mom and stay at home mom). I use to eat peanut sandwiches on one slice of bread for breakfast and lunch because it was easy and a good source or protein.

  • Karen says:

    I worked part-time at a big-box discount store for about 15 years, so the house could be paid off before DH’s planned retirement. Now that there are no mortgage payments and no car payments, we are able to pay for house remodeling in lump-sum payments. The firms we have dealt with offered discounts for paying this way.

  • Stephanie says:

    I’m thankful you included other ideas, such as adjusting the thermostat. I’m a fairly new reader, and while I don’t get angry at pb&j suggestions, I do get very frustrated and discouraged because I have a child with food allergies. Often, the cheaper grocery options aren’t options for us because she’d land in the ER. But this article encourages me to think of other things, like maybe switching to powdered creamer instead of half and half, that will help me move towards my financial goals.

  • Julie says:

    The title says it all -“if you want something badly enough”. The PB&J haters just aren’t there yet!
    While I wasn’t an off the hook spend thrift, I made a decent salary and never worried or thought much about spending. My husband, on the other hand, is incredibly frugal…and patient. He began showing me financials, both wins and losses and eventually we found a happy medium (he was so frugal he would not allow himself the occasional “joy” part – partly due to upbringing and partly due to dynamic of wife earning more). But now we have a kid in state college without debt and are on track to retire comfortably without debt. I recently was able to leave my toxic stressful job and roll with the more than 20% paycut. But we also have the joy – family hikes and (cheap!!) travel and dining out with friends (although he still breaks out in a rash if we go somewhere we don’t have a coupon for lol)
    My husband has earned more towards our bottom line with smart investing and savings than I have through a paycheck. So spouses of spend thrifts take heart and stay the course!

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