Guest post from Julie of The Hallway Initiative
“Nothing stimulates creativity like a good crisis.”
I’m not sure who originally came up with the above quote, but it could sum up the first several years of my marriage.
Finances were almost always tight, so I researched how to save money and stretch dollars. I read books on personal finance, kept a detailed budget, and searched the internet for money-saving ideas. It was during this time that a friend referred me to MoneySavingMom.com, and I ate up every penny-pinching post Crystal produced.
Friends often commented on how good I was at managing money, but deep down, I knew that I only did it out of necessity, not because I was naturally gifted with saving money.
Sure enough, when my husband Jon’s income increased, so did our budget. Some increases were absolutely necessary, like replacing our completely dead dryer and catching up on repairs that we simply couldn’t afford before. But we also increased our eating out, and I stopped being nearly as careful with our grocery budget as I used to.
I knew I needed to rein in our spending (with my husband’s support and help), but it wasn’t until I read Crystal’s razor post that it hit me how much my mentality toward frugality had changed. If I’d lost my razor, I’d simply have run out to the grocery store to pay full-price for a new one without a second thought.
After that wakeup call, I began to think about how I could change my mindset back to my frugal days even though our income is no longer as strained as it once was. I’m now implementing four strategies to maintain my frugal mindset:
1. Think in terms of stewardship.
I often forget that everything I “own” is actually a gift on loan from God. When I remember that it’s all His, no matter how much or little He’s given me, it challenges me to be a better steward with His things. I want to be found as faithful with the plenty as much as with the lack.
Thinking in terms of stewardship also enables me to give generously to others who may be hurting financially. We have had untold numbers of people help us during our lean years, including family, friends, and strangers who who paid out of pocket for my diabetic spark plug’s insulin pump! Now is our opportunity to help others in need.
2. Continue keeping a budget.
I admit, I’ve always been a budget nerd. My dad always kept a family budget when I was growing up, and it was something that stuck with me. With few exceptions, I’ve kept a monthly budget since we got married over 12 years ago.
That said, It’s easy to fall off the budgeting bandwagon once finances aren’t so tight. But sticking to a budget is one of the best ways to maintain control of your spending.
It helps you keep track of your expenditures and reminds you to be wise with what you have. And, if finances permit, it’s perfectly okay to increase certain budget categories, such as giving, saving, and splurges! Just make sure you’re doing it deliberately rather than on a whim.
3. Keep up with penny-pinching resources
Even though I don’t absolutely need to pinch every possible penny at the moment, I still stay subscribed to my favorite money-saving blogs.
I also continually peruse quality financial books. Why? I’ve found that by keeping up with new frugal ideas and reminding myself of the financial advice I’ve already learned, it helps keep me focused on being a good steward of my money.
Some of my favorite resources include:
- The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- Master Your Money by Ron Blue
- Living Well Spending Less
- Money Saving Mom
4. Save for the next crunch
Just because your finances are freed up for the moment, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never go through another financial crisis. Start saving today for the next squeeze.
Having extra reserves for the unexpected will go a long way toward mitigating the anxiety that naturally comes with a loss of income or unexpected bill.
Dave Ramsey and other financial giants recommend building up 3-6 month’s worth of living expenses. If you’ve never been able to do so before, do it now while you have money left over at the end of the month.
Chances are high that you’ll hit another financial rough patch, and having that savings in place will be completely worth the effort it takes to build up that much money!
I’ve not done a perfect job of thinking in terms of stewardship, continuing to keep a budget, keeping up with penny-pinching resources, and saving for the next financial crunch, but those are the four strategies that I’m working toward during this time of plenty.
I know that I’ll have no regrets for doing them, especially when the next financial famine hits!
Julie Moore is wife to Jon and mom to their four spark plugs, the oldest of whom has Type 1 Diabetes. When not helping Jon with his business or homeschooling the kids, she blogs at The Hallway Initiative, encouraging Christian women to praise the Lord in the midst of hardship.
When my husband or I get a pay increase, we automatically defer the extra funds into our retirement accounts or savings accounts. This way it is like we never had the extra money to begin with, but do benefit from it as we are saving for our future. Great tips, thanks for sharing!
Have you looked into other investment accounts such as mutual funds? I agree savings accounts aren’t somewhere to park large amounts of money unless you absolutely can’t lose it. It might be good to have a large adoption/house/vehicle fund you fund 10-20 yrs since those are all expensive.
I think setting a goal of some variety can help. My husband and I are naturally frugal people (our weakness is eating out) and on our current income (rather low) we’ve managed to save without trying hard. We live overseas so we don’t own a house or car and we don’t foresee owning either in the next decade. We have a healthy emergency cushion and keep a retirement fund, a charity fund, and some savings for our son. So we’re kind of like, “what do we save for next?” We are switching to studying next year instead of working so some of our savings will be for that. But it makes it more difficult not to splurge when there is no goal. Does anyone know of any resources of how to use money once the basics are covered (no debt, emergency fund set, retirement fund set, etc.)? So much is geared towards learning to budget and getting out of debt. After that, then what? Especially for people living in special circumstances?
Do you mean your retirement and saving for your son is fully funded or on its way if you continue to save as you do? I’d personally fully fund what you want for those two things and then later if you do want to buy a car or house you could save for them. I’m also a big fan of increasing giving every year. We were challenged to increase by 1% a year and if all of your budget is taken care of one big blessing is being able to be extra generous.
Our retirement and college savings are not fully funded, just on it’s way if we continue as we are. My primary concern about increasing those amounts is that those monies will be tied up in IRAs if we do decide 10-20 years down the road we need a house or want to adopt a child or some other large expense. But savings accounts aren’t even keeping up with inflation…on the other hand we don’t have any firm plans for large purchases that we know to work for.
If you and your husband are both working, you may both be able to open Roth IRAs. The money put into Roth IRAs can be taken out for such purchases with no penalties. Note that this is not the case with any earnings your Roth makes for you. Those will be subject to penalty if pulled out early.
Julie Moore says
Beth, that’s great that you’re doing so well with your savings goals! Way to go! You asked about what to do once you’re out of debt and fully funded for retirement and college savings. It made me wonder: what’s something you’ve always secretly wanted to do, the little idea that you keep waving off as impossible or silly? Most people have some sort of far-off wish to start a business, go on a big vacation, or start some sort of ministry, but doubt often causes them to brush aside those ideas. If you have any kind of tiny dream that you’ve never really given much consideration to, now may be the time to give it some thought to see if you can make it a reality. My goal is to one day start a non-profit to help needy diabetics cover the cost of needed supplies. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but it’s on my bucket list!
Such a good reminder- I needed to read this! It’s easy to become less frugal as we have a little more wiggle room with the budget.
Great post! I think the stewardship is really key. I struggle with balance and being able to spend any money extra because I focus too strongly on our family goals.
My trick was to take the “extra” that was in my take-home pay from the pay raise and put it directly into savings to start building my emergency fund. If I didn’t need it before the pay raise I tried to live without it after 🙂
Julie Moore says
This is a great suggestion, Mary!
Great reminders here! My favorite line is “I want to be found as faithful with the plenty as much as with the lack.” Me too!
Julie Moore says
Thank you so much, Elissa! This is definitely an area I want to improve on!