Keeping Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month (Part 4 of 4)

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Welcome back to my last post on How I Keep Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month.  I’ve already spelled out how our family menu plans, shops, and saves money at home.  Now I’m going to wrap up this series with a short reminder on keeping things in perspective.

We have always lived on a tight budget, even though my husband’s income is a lot more reliable now than when we first got married and spent a full year living out of savings and odd jobs.  We’re trying to save up to purchase our own home, and that means saying no to some things now so that we might afford better things in the future.

When we first got married, I had a budget of $200 per month.  Four years and two kids later, I’ve gotten a ‘raise’ to $300 a month.  That might sound nice and comfy since I cloth diaper and the kids don’t eat much, but keep in mind that everything has more than or almost doubled in price since then.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s proof:

Gallon of Milk in 2009: $1.39

Gallon of Milk in 2013: $2.99

Loaf of Bread in 2009: $1.02

Loaf of Bread in 2013: $1.89

Bag of Wipes in 2009: $0.89 (for a pack of 93)

Bag of Wipes in 2013: $0.85 (for a pack of 54)  <– sneaky, sneaky!

Postage Stamp in 2009: $0.34

Postage Stamp in 2013: $0.49

Depressed yet?  I often am.  Even with my raise, it’s almost like I’m living on $150 a month in 2009, except with two additional little people to feed and raise.

(Let me add a little off-topic disclaimer here:  Please don’t go ranting about ‘evil’ companies raising their prices.  My husband is in the restaurant business and has had to raise his own prices because his distributors raised theirs first.  The distributors raised theirs because the farming costs have gone up.  The farmer’s costs have gone up because…  Well, you get the idea.  I believe the root cause is due to government inflation stealing the worth of your money (Thanks, Washington), but that’s an entirely different conversation.)

So what is a frugal housewife to do?  Here are a couple of things I’ve found helpful:

1) Don’t panic.

Let me put this in the words of someone who can say it better than I can:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  Matthew 6:25-27

2) Remember that having what you want does not make you happy.  Instead, learn to want what you have. 

This is America, after all.  Just because I can’t have steak as often as I’d like, doesn’t mean I’m living on a bowl of rice three times a day.  We are very, very blessed here compared to the majority of people around the world.  Our life expectancies are upper seventies, and that has not been the norm for most of the history of the world.  So embrace your ‘cheaper dinners’ with gratefulness and thankfulness.  Make them yummy and rejoice with your family as you eat.  NEVER sit down sullen and martyr-like, or give up trying to make the food taste good because “What’s-the-point?  It’s just potatoes…”

3) Here’s where I say something completely counter-cultural and shocking, so prepare yourself.  Seriously, are you sitting down?  Here it goes:  Perfectly healthy living isn’t a moral imperative. 

*gasp*  Wait, wait! Don’t yell at me yet.  Let me explain.  Certainly, we as wives/mothers are responsible for the care and nourishment of our families to the best of our ability.  I think it’s wonderful and good to strive for well-balanced meals and healthy food, so don’t take the above statement the wrong way.  At the same time, I think there is an ‘unhealthy’ push (pun intended) in our society to over-think healthy eating.  It is NOT a sin to eat non-organic vegetables.  It’s not even a sin to serve a dinner entirely void of vegetables or to feed your toddler only McDonald’s french fries for dinner (I may or may not have done that once or twice).

Of course, all things have repercussions.  If you never eat vegetables, or become a McDonald’s regular, you’re going to be more likely to get sick.  If you don’t care what pesticides/additives you’re consuming, you might die earlier.  Unhealthy people live more uncomfortable lives, to be sure, but perfect health isn’t the answer to everything.

I say, live the best you can afford to, remembering also, that wealth comes in different forms.  You might think that you can’t afford organic vegetables, so spending hours growing your own might be the answer.  If it’s that important, then go for it!  But please be sure you have enough time to do both that and love on your husband and children.  Basically, have your priorities straight.  Having a mother who provides for all physical needs to perfection, won’t mean anything if I’m always too busy to read a book or laugh and smile with them.

So, now you know what I do with the practical and philosophical, I’d like to close this series with a little reminder.  I assume since you’ve been following this series, that you’re at least a bit ‘money-minded’.  Remember that having an abundant amount of cash in the bank is not the ultimate blessing.  Instead, money is just a means of blessing others.  Particularly, your husband and the adorable little people God placed in your life.  So be a faithful steward, and do the best with what you’ve been given.

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162 thoughts on “Keeping Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month (Part 4 of 4)

  1. Cally says:

    This series was a great read. We are a family of 5 and I am a SAHM. I make my own laundry soap (seriously saves money) and instead of regular cleaning products, I use white vinegar. Doesn’t smell nice at the beginning, but when it dries there is no scent left. Plus, my babies (all 5 and under) can get it, drink it and not die from chemicals. It’s a safe bet and gets the job done. A gallon of vinegar here only costs about $1.50 and lasts me about a month, so it was a great move for us. Also, we use any tax money that we get back for grocery purchases in the summer. We take that extra money and buy all the produce when it is in season and can/freeze it for winter. It saves us an outrageous amount of money each year! We also go to orchards and farmers markets where we can get the best prices possible for those veggies and fruits.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      It’s always a great idea to plan ahead like that. Thanks for sharing, Cally!

    • Burma says:

      Thanks for the uplifting dose of reality as a mother, wife and human being. No extremes during food prep or shopping, just do the best we can with what we have. And be happy we have what we do. Thanks, I love simplicity- keeps my brain on an even keel. Best of life to you!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Amen! I love you budgeting and savings ideas, but even more I like this last post to the series. So important to keep our priorities straight in this crazy world.

  3. Becca says:

    Loved this!!! Thank you so much for sharing why you’ve learned!

  4. Brittany says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I have a new outlook on saving food, money, and time. I enjoyed part 4 the most because it’s great to be reminded of all the wounderful blessings God has given us.

  5. Cyndi Mieras says:

    Very interesting…clever thinking…I’m impressed! God bless you in your life!

  6. Leah says:

    Great ideas from a wonderful perspective. I think moms are genetically engineered to know these things but there are just too many distractions out there.

  7. Bon says:

    Really enjoyed your blog and your optimism. Prices here in New Zealand are far too high. Keep blogging 🙂

  8. alecia says:

    I loved this, thank you so much! Great advice!!!

  9. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much for the scripture in this post. I pinned this awhile back and finally read all 4. My husband will lose his job in a couple of months. Luckily we have known about it ahead of time and can save up some extra money, but I’m scared, scared that we won’t make it on what we’ve saved. We always make budget, and your tips help. BUT that tip from God. He is our Provider! I needed to hear that today.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      It’s definitely a comfort to know that we’re not just relying on our own strength! Prayers for you, Carrie, as your family makes choices for this new stage of life.

  10. jean says:

    great ideas, thanks for your advice

  11. Dee says:

    Thank you for sharing. Great advice! I make my own laundry detergent also. It has worked out really well.

  12. Beth says:

    Hi I’m a grandmother, happen to be up late one night and got in your blog. I really enjoyed it and think you have a great attitude. Thanks for making a sleepless night very enjoyable. Beth

  13. Kimberly says:

    This was a great series, thank you for sharing 🙂

  14. Faith says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Really blessed me!

  15. K.KelleyCO says:

    Kelsey, thank you so much for this series of postings. Having a tight budget can sometimes create stress, fear, and frustration. I appreciate your view point and biblical reminders that we are ultimately always taken care of.

    These posting have blessed me immensely as my husband and I are going through another season of transition and evaluating our budget needs.

    Your words and advice are very appreciated. 🙂

  16. Bryce says:

    hello! I really really enjoyed your 4 posts. Im always reevaluating my household budget and your reminders were very helpful. I loved the scripture you added and I was remided of it just yesterday (perfect timing). I thought this is so me! My favorite post was the last one paragraph#3…wow! I think this and would love to say it out loud but everyone lives differently and we cannot dog on the way they
    live their lives but it is very honest of you to put the “healthyness” in perspective. thank you

  17. Christy says:

    I read all four part of this today. I found it on Pinterest, so thank you whoever pinned this! And it was a great reminder for me. I do our family of six on $360/ month and it is work. I was reminded of somethings I’ve let slip over time, and am so thankful. I really liked point 3 of this post. The point is stewarding what we have. Time, money, and skills. They all belong to The Lord and I want him to be pleased in how I use them. God bless you as you have me!

  18. Dashia Thomas says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am just seeing it today but it has def. made an impact on the way I will be grocery shopping from now on. I have tried couponing in the past but didn’t really get it but doing things this way seems like an eye opener (I will still try and use coupons). Thanks for the incite and may God continue to bless your family.

  19. Brandy says:

    I was skeptical when I came across this on Pinterest. After reading all four parts, I am delightfully surprised that these ideas make sense and they’re not just the typical suggestions like cut back on cable and process your own baby food blah blah blah. It was real (especially the McDonald’s fries for dinner) advice and a real perspective. I will be following your blog from now on!

  20. tisha says:

    Thank you for sharing. I found this very helpful & interesting. Really enjoyed how it was stright to the point and not drug out with pointless info.
    Looking forward to reading more of what you have to share. Thank again.

  21. Kate Finley says:

    Thank you for the time you spent writing this! It was informative, creative, and entertaining. I enjoyed your recipes the most and would LOVE to see your binder!!! Thanks again, your new friend Kate. 🙂

  22. Crystal says:

    I love this….. Thank you so much! Thank you for the Bible quotes and perspective on being happy only if your family is happy, I completely agree! 🙂

  23. Tracy says:

    You have a wonderful sight with great wisdom in the happier, more important things in life-family first. Thank you for sharing. It was a pleasure to read, as well as motivating to try out a smaller food budget.

  24. Bitty says:

    Wow, thanks so much for writing this post, especially the last bit. Stumbled across it on Pinterest and I’m glad I read it. “Perfectly healthy living isn’t a moral imperative.” Ridiculous, I know, but that statement made me tear up…like, literal tears in my eyes. I am so thankful for a reasonable voice! I’m weary to the core of Christians turning natural/organic living and eating into an idol when, as you so eloquently said, it isn’t a moral imperative. Let’s relax, people…I love Jesus but I also really enjoy fried chicken (preferably with as much white flour and Crisco as possible) and last time I checked, that didn’t make me a substandard human being or parent. The Bible warns against gluttony, which, unfortunately, is not defined as overeating, but as an unhealthy obsession with food…either too much, too little, or what kind. At the end of the day, glorifying God and reflecting Jesus is what matters. Thanks for the much-needed lesson in perspective. Cheers.

  25. joani says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I wholeheartedly agree with #3, but it helps to hear someone else say it so I don’t seem crazy! The verse about how it is better to serve a meager meal with joy than a fabulous healthy stressful over researched meal with complaining (my version, of course) comes to mind when I start to feel anxious we are not organic or health concious enough. God bless!

  26. Raquel says:

    I really enjoyed your series.. well done. A lot to think about and relevant in Australia. GB

  27. Jessica Hoag says:

    This was fantastic and just what I needed!! I’m a first time mother with a 3.5 month old baby girl and a 4 year old step son and we mutually decided that I would stay home because day care would cost more than I would make with a part time job (we moved away from family so he could go to college so we don’t have any baby sitters). I did want to mention though that one thing I do and I absolutely love is make my own laundry soap. It takes a little time to do it but once it’s done it lasts for at least 3 to 4 months! It’s called Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce, it’s saved us so much money! And also like the other momma said, I use vinegar and peroxide, baking soda and borax for cleaning! Thanks!!

  28. tina says:

    You have really good points in this one I would like to read more when you have posted more. I’am going to sign up so I don’t miss anything.

  29. blamey mcblame says:

    Blame it on the Wa Wa Wa Washington baby.

  30. Kayla lee says:

    Thank you so much for the verse!!! Im sure you know that over flow of emotion when god places something in your way. That thing you needed to calm down, that finally made since. That verse was it for me today. I am a stay at home of 4 and though my husband has a good job its hard to see the light at the end of the money tunnel. Thank you for your ideas. Thank you for your godly insight.

  31. Linett Adell says:

    Thank you Kelsey , this was really helpful . We are a family of two. I recently quit my job to return back to college , so every little hint and tip helps when going from two incomes down to one.

  32. whitney says:

    You have no idea how this has helped me & my family. Hearing how you only spend 300 a month shows how much my family wastes each month spending 600-750 for two adults and a toddler. We may one day buy another home as we planned after readying this. Thank you!!!

  33. TerriC says:

    I am a seasoned veteran of budgets and eating well. I am an empty nester facing retirement years with practically nothing to retire on, so I expect to continue to be a seasoned veteran. I just wanted to say that I like your sound, sensible approach to grocery budgets and foods and that you don’t let the food nazis scare you. You will do well in your pursuits I think.

  34. Kate says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  35. I really enjoyed this part. I especially love #3. I’m in the process of learning this budgeting thing and I am searching for all the bits of wisdom I can get. Can you believe, I’ve been married going on six years in March, and I haven’t mastered this part yet? But to God be the glory. It’s a new year with much opportunity for growth. Thanks for all of your wisdom. Blessings to you.

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