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5 Inexpensive Ways to Have Fun at Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Looking for fun things to do at home with kids that don’t cost a ton of money? Check out this list of great inexpensive ways to have fun at home!

Psst! Looking for more ideas? Check out these creative ideas for family fun at home, these frugal vacation-replacement ideas, and these budget-friendly summer fun activities. And don’t miss our family’s top 5 favorite board games!

fun things to do at home with kids

Guest post from Bella of Bella’s Money Café:

As social distancing recommendations continue, we have found ourselves spending more time than usual at home as a family.

To keep ourselves entertained, we have come up with some fun activities that have introduced quite a bit of laughter into our lives at a surprisingly low cost!

Inexpensive, Fun Things to Do at Home With Kids

If you’re looking for some creative, fun activities to do together as a family while at home, these are our top 5 favorites we’ve really enjoyed lately…

1. Puzzles

We are a family fond of puzzles because we love the challenge!

The sense of accomplishment when we finally finish one and the joy of working together keep bringing us back to puzzles.

If you have little ones at home, you can still get them involved by asking them to find the edge pieces or to help finish the final few pieces of the puzzle.

The best part is that puzzles are fairly inexpensive even if you buy one online. A 1000-piece puzzle typically costs around $20. However, if you shop a second-hand store, you can often find brand new boxes of puzzles for less than $5!

2. Fort Building

My family found a YouTube video that showed us how to build an epic fort with common household items that we already have — such as pillows, chairs, paper clips, and of course, bed sheets. We even brought some Christmas lights into our fort!

Building a fort is SO fun for kids, too! I remember when I was a kid, every opportunity to not sleep in my own bed was an adventure, and I gladly went to sleep in the fort without my parents’ coaxing.

Additionally, since you probably already have all the key elements on hand at home, it’s probably going to be a completely FREE form of entertainment.

Sometimes all you need is a bit of creativity introduce some excitement into your life with what you already have on hand. And I’ll bet if you ask any kid, they’ll say this is one of their favorite fun things to do at home!

3. Growing Plants

We have recently tried growing some simple plants and have been surprised and delighted by the results.

We started out with soybean sprouts and green garlic since they seemed relatively easy to grow and didn’t require a lot of expensive equipment or raw materials.

Some of my friends have also tried growing lettuce from the leftover stem. Similar to green garlic, you only need the stem, a clean glass with the water level covering the roots (about 1/2 an inch), and sunlight. Within a week, you should be able to see some small leaves growing out of the center of the stem. Once that happens, you can decide to either eat the leaves or, if you want to go one step further, plant the lettuce into the soil for a fully-grown edible plant!

Growing your own plants is such a frugal way to have fun at home with kids!

4. Cooking Competitions

Cooking and baking are always a fun thing to do at home, and kids love to join in. And if you want to take it up a notch, you can try a cooking competition!

We loved doing this as a family. The criteria we set were simple. We were allowed to use all resources available, with some caveats: all ingredients must be already available at home, and we must complete the recipes within an hour.

Whoever got the most votes from others would win the competition AND would not have to wash dishes for a week. For someone like me who isn’t fond of washing dishes, it was a huge incentive! 😉

At the end of the competition, we had a nice salad with bean sprouts we grew, fried rice, spaghetti with meatballs, and some warm banana bread cupcakes. Although these dishes were nowhere near the standards of those in an actual competition, we all had plenty of fun and had a good meal to celebrate at the end.

5. Old-Fashioned Games

Nowadays, we spend more and more of our time glued in front of electronic devices. And games are a great way to bring the entire family together for some screen-free fun.

Old-fashioned, simple games like hide-and-seek and scavenger hunt never get old!

Even as an adult, I still find that these activities bring me joy. For example, my dad found a tiny little plastic toy from the back corner of a drawer, and we have been taking turns hiding it in unexpected places for people to find. The toy has been found in the shower caddy, in the closets, on a hat, or even in a bowl in the dishwasher. Every time someone finds the toy, you can hear a wave of laughter and clapping in the house.

Who would have thought that such a simple and inexpensive trinket could deliver so much fun for adults and kids alike!

All of the above inexpensive activities were thoroughly enjoyed by members of our family, regardless of age.

I encourage you to try some of these in your household. You might just discover some unexpected fun!

Do you have any other ideas for fun things to do at home with kids? I’ve love to hear!

Bella Wanana is a writer passionate about personal finance. She is the proud owner of Bella’s Money Café, where she loves sharing her knowledge of personal finance and money-saving tips and tricks.

How to Save on Snacks: Minimize The Cost Per Serving

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Does your family love snacks? This is such a simple tip to save money on snacks!

{Psst! Check out how making your own snacks can save you over $100 per year! And read about how we afford snacks for our kids on a tight grocery budget.

save money on snacks

Guest post from Margaux of A Momma and Her Flock:

We are a snacking family. Typically, we find a way to squeeze four snacks into the lunchboxes on top of the main lunch item.

But a healthy snacking appetite can be bad news for the grocery bill. That is why I started calculating the cost per snack serving, so that I could try to find cheaper alternatives.

The True Cost of Snacks:

I like to believe that I am reasonably thrifty with my grocery spending, but some snack habits can catch me off guard.

For instance, grapes and Honeycrisp apples both cost $2 per pound, but my husband eats more grapes at a time than the equivalent of a single apple.

To calculate the ‘cost per serving’ of a snack, I base it on the actual amount I or my family would eat in a sitting. A “serving” is what fills up the person eating the snack, not necessarily the recommended portion on the box.

One snack my husband likes to devour after his morning workout is hard-boiled eggs. Since he eats three eggs at a time, I divide the cost of 12 dozen eggs to get $0.37 per 3-egg serving.

My personal rule of thumb is to keep any individual snack under $1 per serving. The closer to $0.50 or less per serving, the better!

Berry Healthy Snack

How to Minimize the Cost per Serving:

If you can minimize the cost per serving on snack foods, you can save quite a bit of money!

With this cost per serving goal in mind, here are 3 ways I satisfy my family’s “snack tooth” without breaking the bank…

1. Find the most filling snacks.

Occasionally I find myself munching through an entire bag of chips. Some snacks are not as good at satisfying hunger.

I search for snacks high in fiber and protein that will still appeal to our taste. When comparing items in the grocery store, I ensure there are at least 150 calories and 3 grams of protein per serving.

Nutritionists recommend pairing proteins with carbs for the ultimate filling combo – like grapes and cheese, or apple slices and peanut butter.

When I eat denser and more filling snacks, I find that I need fewer snacks throughout the day — which ultimately saves money.

Pre-Packaged Snacks

2. Avoid pre-packaged snacks.

Many foods are now available in snack packaging, but the convenience comes at a high markup. Think of mini hummus cups, snack cracker packs, pre-cut cheese squares, and more.

The difference in cost is striking in the example of homemade versus pre-packaged peanut butter snack cups.

JIF To-Go peanut butter is priced at about $0.40 per 1.5-ounce cup. If I make my own to-go cups by spooning out 1.5 ounces from a full-size jar of JIF peanut butter, each serving costs only $0.24 for 1.5 ounces. And if I use store-brand peanut butter instead of JIF, the serving cost drops to $0.14 for 1.5 ounces. (Note: These prices are based off what I find in my region: $3.19 for an 8-count pack of JIF To-Go, $2.39 per full size jar of JIF, and $1.50 per jar of store brand peanut butter.)

You can easily make single-servings on your own by dividing a regular size item into individual containers.

For reusable containers, I like the Rubbermaid Brilliance storage containers. Alternatively, disposable containers can be purchased in bulk from a store like Gordon Food Service.

If you are unsure about finding time to make your own snack packs or wash the resulting containers, try starting out with one of these simple solutions:

  • Cut your own cheese slices or cubes from a block
  • Slice your own salami or pepperoni from a large roll
  • Dish out peanut butter, hummus, yogurt, or crackers from a full-size container

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Snack

3. Mix in cheaper substitutes

I go through seasons where I eat primarily dairy-free, and the challenge is that the dairy alternatives are more expensive.

The way I justify purchasing dairy-free yogurts, ready-made snacks, and other items above my target cost per serving is by mixing in low-cost substitutes.

For my husband and daughter who enjoy Greek yogurt, I find that cottage cheese is less than half the price for the same calorie and protein content. So sometimes we forgo a day of yogurt and eat cottage cheese instead.

Also, consider swapping out these pricey snacks:

  • Almond butter -> Peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt -> Cottage cheese
  • Berries -> Apples, Bananas, or Oranges
  • Bell peppers -> Carrots or Celery sticks
  • Rice crackers -> Tortilla chips

Start Saving!

I recommend doing a personal snack-spending inventory this week.

Calculate the ‘cost per serving’ of the most popular snacks in your household. Do not worry if the cost is higher than you thought. Set a cost target and work on lowering snack spending gradually.

Want a jump start on snack savings? Try these ideas:

Margaux is a full-time mom, wife, and engineer who firmly believes there are not enough hours in a day. She is a fan of schedules, to-do lists, and mom hacks. Above all, she tries to keep God at the center of everything. She writes at A Momma and her Flock.

Cut your grocery bill!

Psst! Crystal here! Need more help saving on groceries? Go here and sign up (it’s free!). I’ll send you my 10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill By $50.

How to Save Money on Parent-Kid Dates

Have you ever experimented with the ideas of parent-kid dates? They’re a unique way to spend individualized, quality time with each kid! This post has some great budget-friendly kid date ideas!

Parent Kid Dates

Guest post from Katie of My Joy in Chaos:

As a stay at home mom of five, with a husband who works fairly long hours during the week, our individual time with the kids is quite limited.

We live in about an 1800 square foot house and it feels like there is always someone in every room. As soon as we start time with one kid, there is suddenly an avalanche of additional kids climbing on us to see what we are doing with their sibling. 

As our kids started getting older we looked at the example set by my husband’s parents when they did foster care for teen boys — we take turns taking them out on dates!

Why do we take our kids on dates?

Each of our kids is incredibly unique. God has created them with individual personalities, interests, and talents. If we are always doing everything together as a family, we are bound to leave out a hobby, adventure, or food that someone likes and wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy.

Some of our kids are also completely different in a group setting compared to the one-on-one setting. By spending a few hours focused on each child, we get to know a whole new side of him or her!

The siblings are no longer competing for attention, but rather getting to soak up quality time with just mom or dad. 

What do we do on kid dates?

We don’t do all of these every time we go on a date, but our kids can typically expect 2-4 hours of uninterrupted time with mom or dad when it is their turn.

We often let them dictate the agenda unless we have an errand that needs to get done.

Their favorite choices are:

  • Go out to eat
  • Visit favorite stores
  • Play at the park
  • Visit the library
  • Walk around the mall
  • Run errands

Biking as a Family

How do we save money on kid dates?

Spread the dates out

We used to try and do one date per month. Back when we only had two or three kids, this was reasonable. Now that we have five kids we’ve shifted to doing them in two-month blocks. I take January and February, my husband takes March and April, and we continue to alternate throughout the year. 

Spreading out for your family might mean once per week or once per month. Look at your calendar and your budget and get realistic about where you have wiggle room in both.

Sign up for restaurant deals

I’ve taken kids to Chili’s for as little as $14 with tax and tip because we had a free kids meal coupon, I ordered off the 3 for $10 menu, and we both took food home for later in the week!

Other places may send coupons for a percentage or dollar off, free appetizers or desserts, and other discounts to your email. Many also offer accumulated rewards where you earn points for eating with them and can cash them in at certain levels. 

Many restaurants will also tell you what day of the week they offer free kid’s meals. For instance, every Tuesday is Kids Eat Free at Pizza Ranch. If this is what one of our kids chooses for a date then you better believe we make it happen on a Tuesday!

Choose not to eat out

Our kids have gotten pretty accustomed to dining out being part of their date but we’ve made it a part of our budget and are okay with it for now. But should there come a day when that doesn’t work, we would find other things to do. Eating out, especially for full meals, can get pricey quite quickly so looking for alternatives is a great way to keep costs low. 

Look for free or discounted events

Libraries, book stores, toy stores, craft stores, and other places around your town might offer fun events for kids and families. We have done LEGO builds at Target, JoAnn, and Toys R Us that always add an extra bonus to a date. 

Our movie theater often runs kid series with older movies that come back to the theater for a limited time for a discount. They usually offer a free small bag of popcorn with each ticket as well. They also have $5 Tuesday showings (all day for every movie!) and Student Thursdays. 

Be honest with your child about the budget

Our kids LOVE sushi but it’s completely out of our budget to take them to a sushi restaurant for every date. Instead, we allow them one sushi date per year. This makes it a special treat, plus we can plan accordingly for the expense. 

Kid Dates with Dad

What are the best free kid date ideas?

Visit the library

Reading the same books over and over at home can get old. Hit up the library, grab a stack of books, and curl up on the couch together. Many libraries also offer board games now which would make for a fun afternoon. 

Our library also offers lots of different classes and events that are free when you register. In February and March, they had multiple Harry Potter events for different ages, and around the holidays they offered craft classes to make small presents – all for free!

Go on a walk or bike ride

We can only take advantage of this idea during a few months of the year because we live in the frozen north, but try to get out and enjoy nature!

Our town is full of bike and walking paths, and now that our kids are getting older they can handle going a further distance without complaining.

Venture out then find a place to stop and talk before heading back home. 

Pack a picnic

My kids adore picnics. Eating outside is an adventure that never gets old. Throw some peanut butter sandwiches and veggie sticks in a container and find a new place to explore.

The point is to spend time getting to know your child; the food is just a bonus. 

School events

Our school district offers so many free events that it’s easy to find one to attend.

Check out a concert, visit the art displays, or take in a play.

Most school sporting events will have an admission fee, but some may have free entrance depending on the school and sport.

Park events

I’m always amazed at the number of events our park district offers for no charge or with a small canned food donation. 

They have done movie nights, craft events, inflatable game parties, and more – all for no charge!

If you aren’t doing dates with your kids or at least doing something with each of them on a regular basis, I want to encourage you to try.

It can be as simple as grabbing one when you head off to the store, to drop books off at the library, or while taking the dog for a walk. 

We only have so many years with our kids before they are off on their own. Spending intentional one-on-one time with each of them gives us the chance to learn who they are as people, discover what’s in their hearts, and have a little fun along the way!

Katie is the wife to Micah and mom of five smushed into six years. Her goal is to help moms find joy in their everyday chaos by offering practical homemaking tips, inspiration for growing their faith, and simple family activities on her blog My Joy in Chaos.

10 Ways to Make Music Lessons More Affordable

Do your kids want to take music lessons, but you’re struggling to find extra room in the budget? Don’t miss these great budget-friendly tips to make music lessons more affordable!

affordable music lessons

Guest post from Lora of Lessonface:

Musical training teaches children much more than just music. Music teaches discipline, creativity, and motivation. It enriches lives, boosts brain function and memory, provides an outlet for self-expression, and strengthens relationships with families and friends.

All of those wonderful benefits can sometimes come with a hefty price tag, though. From purchasing instruments to monthly lessons, it can be easy for your music budget to get out of hand very quickly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Don’t let the potential costs of music training put your children’s musical dreams on hold.

Here are 10 simple ways you can cut costs without having to sacrifice great instruction or good quality instruments.

1. Focus on one instrument.

If you have a large family, there’s a good chance everyone wants to learn a different instrument. That means purchasing a different instrument and different books for every child. You will also spend more time and money driving to lessons for every music teacher.

Having everyone start out on one instrument will not only save you money, but it could also help your children’s musical ability in the long run.

The piano is a great place to start and allows children to focus on music basics before learning more advanced instruments.

Unlike other instruments, you don’t have to buy different sized pianos to accommodate every child. Purchasing one single piano or keyboard can work for small beginners as well as full-grown teenagers. Plus, students who have a basic knowledge of the piano generally progress much faster when they learn an instrument with a steeper learning curve, like violin or cello.

2. Double up on lessons.

Having multiple children learning the same instrument means you may be able to have two lessons for the price of one. If children are relatively close in age and around the same musical level, sharing a lesson works well.

Not all teachers will allow lesson times to be shared, but it’s worth asking. Sharing instruction can sometimes cut your lesson costs in half.

little kid hands playing piano

3. Take longer lessons.

Many teachers charge less per minute for hour lessons as opposed to thirty or forty-five-minute lessons. It’s a way to encourage students to take longer lessons.

While signing up for the longer lesson may be more costly at first, you’re saving money by paying less per minute. Think of it as buying in bulk.

Consider taking an hour lesson every other week as opposed to a thirty-minute lesson every week. You will be able to cover more information since you’ll spend less time unpacking, tuning, etc.

Or, see if your teacher will give you a reduced rate if you have multiple children taking lessons.

4. Create a group class.

If you can assemble a group of students who all want to learn the same instrument, you may be able to create a group class. Ask your teacher if they would be willing to teach a group of students.

Music teachers all have different policies when it comes to group classes, but if you already have a handful of students ready to learn, teachers will generally work something out with you.

Splitting a teacher’s hourly rate between four or five other students can greatly reduce your overall costs.

5. Research youth orchestras, bands, and group lessons in your area.

Many music schools offer large beginner classes. Instruction will not be as personalized as private lessons, but group classes can be an ideal way to learn the basic principles of your instrument.

You may have to pay for the whole semester upfront, but once you split the cost between all the lessons, you’ll find these courses can save you a lot of money.

6. Consider online lessons.

Traditional in-person lessons can mean extra costs and extra stress.

With today’s technology, online lessons offer the same quality instruction as in-person lessons without all the time wasted driving, sitting, and waiting while your child takes the lesson.

With online lessons you also have a bigger selection of teachers, allowing you to shop around for the best price.

7. Rent to own.

Purchasing an instrument can be the biggest upfront expense that deters many families from pursuing music. However, most music stores offer options that make owning an instrument more affordable.

Ask about renting to own or payment plans. Not all music stores advertise these options so doing some research can really help you save.

Little Girl Playing Guitar

8. Buy used instruments.

Consider buying a used instrument or an instrument with blemishes.

But before you pick up that violin at the thrift store or agree to purchase your neighbor’s used trumpet, ask a music teacher for their opinion on the instrument you are thinking about buying. Buying any used instrument might seem like a great way to save money, but you can end up spending more than the instrument is worth on repairs or replacement parts.

If you are interested in buying a used instrument, your teacher will usually be able to connect you with websites, stores, or other students selling good quality, used instruments.

9. Avoid cheap instruments.

While some instruments on online megastores seem like unbeatable deals, these instruments are often of such poor quality that they are completely unplayable.

They can lead to wasted money, wasted time, and wasted motivation.

Shop at local music stores or ask your teacher what they recommend for cheap, beginner instruments. Purchasing a decent instrument may cost a little more upfront, but you will reap many benefits, be able to learn more, and save money in the long run.

10. Encourage regular practicing.

To get the most out of your lesson time, make sure that your child practices regularly.

One of the biggest wastes of money (when it comes to music) is being unprepared for lessons. The more prepared a student is, the more the teacher can teach them—which means more bang for your buck!

Students who make consistent progress are less likely to complain about practicing or want to stop playing after a few months.

Anytime a child starts a new instrument, they are generally very motivated to practice and enjoy playing. Take advantage of this precious time! Encourage children to practice as much as they can. The more progress a student makes early on, the more likely they are to stick with it and enjoy all the rewards that musical training can offer.

Bonus Tip: If you are unsure about all the unknown costs learning a musical instrument might entail, ask a music teacher!

Even if you aren’t currently taking lessons, music teachers are more than happy to talk to you about all the potential costs. They can also give you detailed information about purchasing the best (and cheapest) beginner instruments and accessories.

The lessons a child learns playing a musical instrument can help them for the rest of their lives. Studies consistently show that music helps brain development, motor skills, language, literacy, social, emotional, and intellectual abilities.

Don’t let the potential costs of learning music keep your child from experiencing all of the wonderful benefits music has to offer. Start learning music today!

Lora Gallman has been teaching violin lessons for 15 years. When not playing violin, she enjoys spending time with anything that has wings—including birds, chickens, and airplanes. She holds a Master’s Degree in Music Education and currently teaches online violin lessons at Lessonface.

Why I Made My Teenagers Buy Their Own Food

children buy their own food

Guest post from Teresa of TeresaWhiting.com:

It was nearing dinner time, and the question kept drifting through the kitchen… “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

My answer was met with varying degrees of dissatisfaction. I was growing really frustrated when suddenly, I had an epiphany!

“I’m not buying groceries, or cooking at all next week!” I announced.

My four kids, ages 12-17, were curious and a bit concerned. But I had a plan that would teach everyone just how grateful they should be for all my planning and preparation.

Our Family’s Meal Planning Experiment

The next week, I took out our budgeted grocery money and divided it up evenly between the six of us (my husband and myself included). It came out to only $35 per person.

I told the kids they would be in charge of planning, purchasing, and preparing all of their food for the entire week.

I admit that my motives weren’t exactly pure when I had this idea. I wanted to teach everyone a lesson in gratitude. But despite my distorted motives, something wonderful happened!

I was so impressed with my kids. They definitely took the opportunity to buy things that would never make it into the house on my watch; but overall, they did a fabulous job!

It was fun walking through Aldi and hearing them strategize with each other…

“If four of us go in together, we can each get one stick of butter from this pack.”

“Does anyone want to split a loaf of bread with me?”

At home, we unloaded the groceries and labeled everything with our initials.

The evenings got a little chaotic with six people in the kitchen, all preparing meals, but overall, the week was a huge success! When it was over, almost everyone asked, “When can we do this again??”

The first time we had a BYOF (Buy Your Own Food) week was about seven years ago. Since then, it has become a fun activity we do a couple of times a year, with some variations!

One year we had them take turns shopping and cooking for the entire family. They bought breakfast and lunch items as well, but weren’t required to prepare those meals for everyone.

At times when we needed things like paper goods or toiletries, we had everyone pitch in to cover those costs, or we assigned each person something to buy.

Here were some added benefits to BYOF week:

  • Everyone was a little more aware of and grateful for the work of being a planner, shopper, and chef.
  • My kids learned to budget, plan a menu, shop, and prepare basic meals.
  • When Greg & I had to travel together, we knew the kids wouldn’t spend the whole week eating frozen pizza for dinner!
  • As they’ve all grown up, they’ve taken these skills into adulthood and built on them.
  • What started out as a mom’s desperate need for a break and a reality check for her kids, morphed into a well-loved family tradition!

Person holding produce bag

Is this something you would try with your kids?

If so, here are a few suggestions:

1. Set general guidelines.

For example:

  • You have to buy at least 2 fresh items – fruits/vegetables)
  • You have to make at least one meal that involves a recipe (you can’t have all frozen dinners).

2. Think about the ages of your kids.

My kids were on the older side when we started this, but I definitely think an 8-year-old could handle it. If you have a wide range of ages, maybe pair a younger with an older to help in the kitchen.

We had been rotating the chore of “Dinner Helper” for some time, so my kids knew the basics already. Before starting something like this, make sure your kids have SOME experience in the kitchen with you.

3. Let them eat cake.

One week of junk food won’t kill them. I remember the first time we did this, the child with the most junk food was most grateful for my cooking the next week!

4. Help them make a plan.

It helps to give them ideas of a sensible menu and an idea of prices to get them started.

5. Allow your kids to fail.

What better place for them to learn than in the safety of your own home?

I’d love to know how this goes if you decide to try it. Your kids’ choices may surprise you. And who knows? You might start a new family tradition!

Teresa Whiting lives in Northeast Ohio. She is a mom of 5, grandma of 1, writer, speaker, and ministry wife. Through spoken and written word, her passion is to hold out hope to women in the midst of their mess. Visit her at teresawhiting.com.

Why Sinking Funds are Your Budget’s Best Kept Secret

What is a sinking fund? And how does it help your budget? Read this post to read why sinking funds are your budget’s best kept secret!

Looking for more posts on how to budget? Go HERE.

what is a sinking fund

Guest post from Jessi of JessiFearon.com:

There’s sort of this best-kept secret in the world of budgeting and all things personal finance. Maybe you’ve heard of it before or maybe it’s a new concept. Regardless, I have to tell you about it because it has saved our family’s financial life more times than I can count!

So, what is this mysterious secret? Sinking Funds.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound all Hollywood glamour but trust me, these bad boys work!

What is a Sinking Fund?

A Sinking Fund is a separate entity fund that you fund from your monthly household budget for a specific purpose. So in our household, we have Sinking Funds for auto-related expenses, home-related expenses, Christmas, and Vacations (we’re still working on setting up one for healthcare).

Each one of these Sinking Funds is a separate bank account (we use online banks for these as they typically don’t charge you bank fees) that we keep funded. For example, in our Auto Fund, we prefer to have a minimum of $1,000 in that account. So if we use that account and the balance dips below a $1,000 then that Fund becomes a priority in our household budget to bring the balance back up.

How does this help your budget?

To illustrate this, let’s talk about Edna. Edna was my husband’s 2006 Chevy Colorado. Back when we were first married in 2009, Edna started having issues. She spent a ton of time in the shop and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. Long story short, we ended up paying over $5,000 trying to fix a problem that should have only cost us around $20 to fix.

The issue is that we were newlyweds and I was still in college — meaning, we were broke. We not only drained our checking and savings accounts to pay for this mystery repair but we also put a lot of it on a credit card. To say that we were stressed was an understatement! But the outcome of this stressful event was the creation of our Auto Sinking Fund.

Our Auto Fund exists to keep a similar situation from ever occurring again. Now whenever one of our vehicles needs a repair or even just regular maintenance like an oil change or tires, we just take the debit card that is linked to the Auto Fund and pay for it. There’s no stress on our household budget for that month. And we get to avoid having to dip into the Emergency Fund to pay for it.

Money in a Pot with Growing Tree

How do you set up a Sinking Fund?

The key to setting up Sinking Funds is to remember that you’re not going to be able to set them all up all at once. You’re going to need to take some time to build up these funds. I suggest you start with the most pressing Fund that your household needs in place. For my household that was the Auto-Fund but maybe for your household, it’s the Healthcare Fund or Home Fund.

Regardless of what Fund you decide to start with, pick one and then determine a minimum balance threshold. Again, with our Auto-Fund the threshold is $1,000. If you picked a threshold of $1,000 then you would work to build that account up to $1,000. Then once you’ve achieved that goal, you’d then pause contributing to that Sinking Fund and then start building your next Sinking Fund.

Why banking accounts and not cash?

For most of our Sinking Funds, we use bank accounts to save versus keeping them in cash. Mainly this is due to the fact that I’m married to a Spender and keeping money just hanging around is a little too tempting. Also, we’re both not comfortable having thousands of dollars just sitting in our home.

However, we have used the cash method before to build up certain Sinking Funds. Mainly those types of Funds are “quick” ones. Meaning, they’re going to get used up sooner rather than later. For example, when my husband was turning 30 we were still on the debt-free journey. However, I still wanted to gift him something special. He had his eye on this massive cabinet saw (my husband is a Master Carpenter), but it was $700. So, I set up a Sinking Fund where I set aside a certain amount of money from our budget every month into an envelope to build up the cash I needed to hand him on his birthday to go buy his saw.

That type of Sinking Fund is more temporary than our other ones. So using cash to build up Sinking Funds is a great idea when it is a temporary type of Fund, but for the more “guaranteed” type of events, I think an actual bank account should be used.

White Piggy Bank

How do you budget for these Sinking Funds?

To budget for these Sinking Funds, take the minimum threshold balance you decide on and determine how quickly you want to save up. For example, if your threshold is $1,000 and you want it saved up in three months you’ll need to set aside at least $334 every month to achieve that goal. You could then further break that down into how much you need to set aside from each paycheck. If you’re going to receive two paychecks in a particular month, you’d have to set aside at least $167 from each paycheck to achieve your goal.

It takes a lot of self-discipline to achieve these types of goals but I have no doubts that you can do it! Trust me, once you start using Sinking Funds, you’ll be in a much better spot financially! You’ll also be less stressed! Nothing compares to the radiator blowing in your car and not having to stress out over the repair costs because all you have to do is go into your Auto Fund to pay for it. Honestly, it is an incredible feeling not having that stress of financial doom lurking over your head!

Do you use Sinking Funds currently? Have you thought about starting one?

Jessi Fearon is a wife and mom to three little kiddos. Her family paid off just over $55k of debt in 2 years and they’re now 100% debt-free after paying off their mortgage in January 2019 – all on a $47,000/year salary. She loves coaching others towards achieving their dream life by learning to manage their money and embracing their own real life on a budget.