Show & Tell: Living on Little, Steal & Splurge

I wrote this post for the first Show & Tell “Tuesday” of 2017. I know the link-up doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, but a busy calendar means I am sharing my post today. The first topic is Steal & Splurge, how your family saves and what you feel is worth the splurge. Oddly, before the topic were announced I had already planned to share about this subject later on in the month. I guess it was just meant to be.

I battled with how to go about writing this post. I didn’t want to open up our checkbook and dish out all of the dirt by putting numbers on our financials, but I also wanted to be real with people. So figuring out how to find the balance and deciding what I wanted do share was hard.

So here it is… We are a one income, blue collar family living in the mid-west. We live on a tight budget out of necessity to live within our means. Sure, our income could be and has been bigger. I once found a copy of our old budget sheets from when I was working and I nearly cried over how much money we were making (and wasting). But we have chosen to be a one income family because we feel that is the best choice for us. At the end of it all, one income or two, everyone just has to do what is best for them. I’ve been a stay at home mom and a working mom so I understand the dynamics and struggles on both sides.

Having said that, over the past 5 years that I have been a stay at home mom, I have learned the fine art of penny pinching. I feel like I have a few tricks up my sleeve to share with those looking for ways to save. The things I suggest are simply just that, suggestions. This is not a manual, but it is what works for us.

Know Where Your Money is Going

Attempts to save money are useless if you don’t know how much or what you are spending your money on in the first place. The best way to do this is by setting up a monthly budget. There are endless websites, apps, programs and printables out there to help you get started. Or you can go with my personal favorite, an excel spreadsheet and a pencil. Track your expenses, ALL of them.

Eat at Home

I once did the math and the number of meals I prepared a month is something like this.

4 people x 3 meals a day = 12
12 x 30 days in a month = 360
360 – 8 (assuming we eat out as a family twice, a rarity)
Grand total = 352

On the average month I make 352 meals and that doesn’t include snacks. As the girls have grown older and help prepare their own meals that number has gone down. But regardless of who is making the food, eating at home is a great way to save money. Are there days that I would MUCH rather let Chick Fil-a do the cooking? Of course, and sometimes I do, but most of the time I suck it up to save the money. 

Cut the Cable

In the almost 10 years that we have been married, we’ve never had cable. We’re talking pre Netflix days people. Now days there are SO many options that are way cheaper than the luxury of cable or dish TV. If you’re looking to cut expenses quickly, this is a great place to start.


Go less, buy less, do less, want less. An easy way to spend less money is to be content with less. Money and things don’t really make people happy. Embrace the simpleness of less and really focus on being content with the little things.

Save on Groceries

One of my favorite ways to save is at the grocery store. From Walmart Saving catcher, Ibotta, Coupons, and ad-matching to shopping what is on sale, buying in bulk, and going to Aldi. You also can’t forget shopping with a list and meal planning. There are so many ways to save money at the grocery store! In our house this is one of our largest expenses in a month. It also is one of the few areas that I really have the power to change things. Feeling overwhelmed? Think of one new to you money saving option and start there. 

Needs VS Wants

Impulse shopping can be the worst. So often we get caught up in buying all the things that we want that we don’t even realize how much money we are wasting. If you are more conscience when you shop, really thinking about what you’ll use and what your family needs, you can save a lot of money. The added bonus is you’ll also save yourself some clutter too.

Think Free

Being entertained is far from cheap. Try to come up with a list of free activities to do as a family, with your spouse, or with friends. If you find yourself bored check your list before opening your wallet. When it comes to activities or memberships you have to pay for shop around and use coupons to get the best deals. Last January I saved our family $25 a month simply by switching gyms! That’s $300 a year!

Coupons and Clearance Racks

In our house we shop sale items and clearance racks preferably with coupons and rewards too. Seriously y’all I HATE to pay full price. Those very rare times that I do, you can guarantee it’s an item that is under $20. It all comes right back to need vs want and when you do have a need, make smart choices. For example: Don’t buy an item unless you LOVE it, Ask questions like “Do I own something similar that would work instead?” And if it isn’t on sale and you can wait, wait! Families can save SO much money in the clothing department without sacrificing the style they want, IF they want to!

How We Splurge

So I ‘ve told you some ways our family saves, but I haven’t talked about how we splurge. 

For us splurging looks like going out for lunch after church, an unexpected trip to the donut shop, ordering pizza, buying the box of White Castle burgers at the store, and date nights. It’s $10 trips to Target, new shirts, paying full price, and $5 coffees.

Splurging isn’t big things in our home, it’s little ones. The little things that put a smile on our face and make us feel special. The little things that wouldn’t be quite as special if they happened every day.

What is your favorite way to save money?

Sharing how our family thrives on a tight budget and my favorite ways to save money! Click To Tweet

Linking up with Momfessionals for Show & Tell Tuesday.

  • Jessica

    Great tips Beth. I think all of them are important to remember and think about. I love your tip on looking for free activties to entertain. That’s my fav.

    • In our budget the entertainment category is at the dead end so we had to figure something out, lol! I just wish we had more options around here!

  • Amy Smith

    We are a one income family, too. Is it difficult? For sure. But we knew that this is what we wanted for our family from the very beginning, so we find ways to make it work. Splurging for us is donuts, Culver’s {on a Sunday because kids east free 🙂 } , etc.

    • Yes, yes, YES! And hooray for another place that kids eat free. I didn’t know about that one!

  • Lizzie Simantz

    I love this post Beth! I can agree with everything, especially now with us being a 1 income family. It’s been 2 years and I’m still working out some kinks, but for the most part it’s working. I also HATE paying full price for anything, I was that way even when I worked! And you’re right, impulse shopping is the worst, that’s why I really need to take the time to unsubscribe to thousands of emails and also unfollow certain shops on IG.

    • Oh man I still feel like we are working it out too, but I am SO glad we are. That’s a really great idea Lizzie. Remove the temptation!

  • Great tips!!! We totally need to get back into budgeting. The thing I wish we could do was ditch cable. But with our Spartans playing on the Big Ten Channel it’s super hard (since you can basically only get it with cable).

    • I feel the same exact way when NASCAR season rolls around. But the fact that we have never had it makes it easier. Cutting it out would be HARD.

  • Those $5 coffees are my splurge of choice!

  • chall1018

    Love this post so much! I cannot pay full price for almost anything.

    • That makes me so proud of you friend. Good job!

  • I loved reading this! I know we could definitely be better at saving… I am proud to say we’ve never had cable!

    • Fist bump! I guess we don”t know what we’re missing, LOL!

  • All good advice! I love saving and getting things on a deal. Ibotta is one of my faves!

    • Ibotta is so good to check. I need to be better about checking it before going to the store!

  • What a great post, Beth! I’m with you… I rarely pay full price for anything. I just can’t do it! And paying crazy amounts for clothes? No flipping way! I am an Old Navy and Target girl all the way! Every now and then I will splurge on a more expensive top if it’s something classic that i know I will wear for ten years, but otherwise? I’m all about the Old Navy 40% off sales and the Target clearance racks plus Cartwheel discounts… I LOVE my Cartwheel app!

    • Reasons I could never do Stitch Fix, lol! Yes, yes, yes! I get some great coupons for JCP too, but I haven’t been loving their clothes lately. They do have some good shoe options though.

  • Desiree @ Macke Monologues

    We’re very budget conscious over here, too. One income, in one of the most expensive states, is no easy feat. We do LOTS of eating in, LOTS of activities that are free, and keep a daily budget running. One of the best ways we’ve found to save, and still do fun things, is for holidays and birthdays we ask that our children receive experiences rather than things (passes to museums, passes to Disney, etc.). So, we don’t have as many things as the next person, but I don’t feel like we’re missing out at all!

    • I can totally imagine, probably makes you miss the midwest even more. You have to just groan when you come home for visits and see how much cheaper everything is here :(. That is an AMAZING idea we would totally take the same path if only we had experiences closer too us :/. We do get Silver Dollar City passes from Russ’ folks for Christmas every year. I LOVE what you said about not feeling like you miss out. I never feel that way either.

  • Whitney Jordan

    Such great tips! I love how you prioritize for your family, look for free things to do and that you have a great list of fun splurge items that don’t break the bank. I’d really like to work on buying less and using what we have at home this year. We save tons of money by eating at home, packing lunches for my hubby, he makes his own coffee and we love coupons. We also save money by buying clothes second hand, buy birthday gifts on amazon and have them shipped directly to the person to save on shipping and last month Kevin trimmed my hair saving me $30 at the salon! It’s the little things that all add up 🙂

    • When I think of people that do a great job at saving money you always come to the front of my mind. I LOVE it friend. Such a kindred spirit. Kevin trimming your hair brought a huge smile to my face. I have had Russ do that to mine before too!

  • Jennifer Merwin Shackelford

    Needs versus wants is huge. So often I think I have to have something, but I really don’t need it. This has been an ongoing lesson for me. My husband and I have found that God is faithful. Always. Your tips are so practical and simple. Little things over a long time make a big difference. Love this!

    • Always and forever faithful. Thank you so much Jennifer!

  • Meghan Flinn

    I’m a fan of the excel spreadsheet for tracking expenses. We did it back in 2015 but fell off the wagon in 2016 and it showed! We are back to it this month and I definitely find it makes me more conscience of need versus want!

    • Nothing like a little accountability, right? It always makes me look at things way differently.

  • I know how passionate you are about saving money and living within your means. One area that we really needed to work on his our food budget. This month is a bit off because I got sick and the boys just grabbed meals out and about when they were trying to escape being home with me! But I’m hoping to really get it together over the next 2 weeks and throughout the rest of 2017.

    • Oh man getting sick is one of the worst things that can happen to a budget. The medicine, the impulse buys, the convenience. We have been there many a times. I know how bad you want this and have full confidence that you can do it.

  • Very interesting! I find that my budget changes so much when I’m a working mom vs. a stay at home mom too. Love the tracking of everything!

    • Boy howdy does it. Lol! And I thought we were poor then. Baha ha ha! It’s all good though, I am way happier than I was then so that proves money can’t buy that!

  • Beth what a great post! I love your advice about finding free activities to do. I am always on the look for free or cheap activities. We use the Every Dollar app for our budget and track every expense and dollar that goes into savings. You bring up some wonderful points. We have Dish, but I have found myself wanting to get rid of that bill lately and just sticking with Netflix or Hulu. Have a great day!

    • Thank you so much! Maybe you could try cutting out the dish in the summer time when you get outside more? We are hardly ever home during the summer so I know if it was us, it would be the perfect time to cut it out. I’m sure you’ll figure out something :).

  • I love this post so much! So true to really think is it a want vs a need, so many times you get the two confused! We keep track of everything too in an excel spreadsheet, I love me some excel and budgeting 🙂

    • If we are honest with ourselves we really don’t have that many needs. And the things we do need we are probably going to make sure we have. Excel is the best. I use to fill them out on the computer then I learned I stay more on top of it when I print them out blank and fill them in,

  • Wants vs needs and just less are the things that I struggle with. I’m really focusing on those this year!

    • I think they are things that most people struggle with. Especially in a culture that is shoving the need for more down your throat. You got this. Just keep giving yourself little reminders.

  • Yes mam this sounds like my family as well! Less is more for sure. We splurge on donuts too, although after 7 pm my local grocery store puts out their dozens at like half off and they are sooo good.

    • Is it odd that I am jealous of your grocery store donuts 😂?

  • How did I miss this post. That really is LOTS of meals we’re making…. especially for you guys with the homeschooling! So.much.savings…. and yeah when we cut down to a mainly one income family, it was an adjustment, that’s for sure.

    • Boy howdie was it. Totally worth it though. I bet we could both agree on that.

  • I use to be so much better at saving with coupons at the grocery store. We eat at home ALOT but when things get busy it’s always the first thing I end up failing at. I want to be more intentional in 2017 for sure because, holy moly, when I looked back through some of the months in 2016 and saw how much we really spent eating out it was so ridiculous. My spending on myself has got to stop this year too….there are bigger things I really want for our family and we could have them if I wasn’t wasting so much! I remember when I was a single mom and honestly sometimes I think the time I had with my bigs was much more quality.

    • Isn’t that something to ponder. I think in the hecticness of day to day life we can all get swept away with convenience and it really seems that convenience is anything but cheap. I would like to find some ways to be more disciplined too and save more at the store. Sometimes I just feel like there is nothing left to save though, but I have to be wrong.