Gain Control of your Money Now – Basic Finances for Homemakers

Learn basic finances for homemakers here!

In most cases, if you are a homemaker, you are the one responsible for your household finances. It can be difficult some days to stretch your money far enough to keep your head above water. That is where learning basic finances for homemakers can come in handy.

Let’s Take it Step by Step

Ordinarily, I would say that designing a budget would come first when learning basic finances for homemakers. But before we get to the part of learning how to design a budget, we may want to take a quick step back and know ahead of time where we may be able to either cut our expenses or bring in additional income.

Once we learn how to do that, then making our budget will come easier. Why, you ask? Because the first step of creating a budget is listing out your income and expenses. The second step is finding ways to cut those expenses to turn that bottom line from pink (or a siren-warning red) to a nice, deep black.

In the next post in the Basic Finances for Homemakers series, I will teach you how to create a budget. But for now, let’s take a look at ways to cut those expenses.

The Basic Finances for Homemakers

Most of you already know the simple tricks. Start with your utilities. Hang your clothes on the line (weather permitting) instead of running a dryer. Turn lights off in rooms that are not in use. Turn your thermostat up or down by at least 5 to 10 degrees.

But there are other ways you can integrate basic finances for homemakers and save a bit of money.

apply basic finances for homemakers by cutting your utility bills

Learn to Live Frugally

We know that we should spend our money towards the absolute necessities first, such as a roof over our heads and food for our families. But frugality goes further than that. Try a few of these tips:

De-Clutter

First, decluttering provides you with a more organized home. An organized home offers you peace of mind and heart. But by decluttering, you can also do a couple of other things.

basic finances for homemakers means selling what you don't need to increase your income

Have a Yard Sale

All of those things you no longer need can be offered up for sale. A yard sale is a great option. But you can also separate out items that have more value, thereby netting a bit more ‘extra’ income. Consider selling these items on Ebay or OfferUp. OfferUp may also reduce the time spent in packing the items for shipping, and taking them to the post office or UPS.

Refrain from ‘Re-spending’

One way to live more frugally is to refrain from ‘re-spending’. When you ‘re-spend’, you are buying something you already have, but can’t find it in all the clutter. I confess. I am bad about this, especially when it comes to spices.

We do a lot of cooking and baking at home as part of our frugal lifestyle. (We also do it because home-cooked meals taste better and are healthier, but that’s for another story…). Consequently, we use a lot of spices.

My spice cabinet has a tendency to overflow. When I find a new recipe I want to try, the first thing I look at are the spices. These can get expensive, so if it calls for Saffron, chances are we won’t cook it. But others, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel and others, we usually have. The problem comes in when I try and find it, but can’t.

I then think we don’t have any, so I purchase another bottle of it. And just my luck. I get home, look for another spice, and sitting in the very back is the spice I need, and just purchased again. Sheesh!

The same thing can happen in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. If these places get so overcrowded you can’t find anything, it is time to clean them out.

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Inventory Sheets

Hand in hand with decluttering in your kitchen comes keeping an inventory sheet. Since the goal of basic finances for homemakers won’t allow us to have 10 cases of corn on our shelves – just because we forgot we had any, and unless we have canned them ourselves using produce from our gardens – it helps to know how many cans we have on hand. This is where an inventory sheet comes in handy.

Remember last week when we talked about getting organized with a notebook? If you have a notebook for your home, then that is the perfect place to store your inventory sheets. I keep mine in page protectors, with several copies for each area. When one is completed, I place it in the front. When it is time to create a new one, that one comes out and then new one goes in.

Minor Repairs

You might be surprised at how much making your own minor repairs will shave off of your budget. Repairing a hem in a pair of pants and replacing buttons costs less than buying new. But minor repairs goes further than just your clothing.

Become a homemaker that knows how to make household repairs. Learn how to replace light switches and electrical plugs. Before you do that, learn how to use the breaker box in your home to turn everything off before you work around electricity.

Don’t call a plumber to fix a leaky faucet. Learn about gaskets, how to use a plumber’s wrench, and PVC glue. This means you will also know how to rescue a small item from the pipes, and replace broken ones when needed. The amount you spend on parts will be much, much lower than the cost of a plumber.

learn how to change the fluids in your vehicle to save money

General Maintenance

General maintenance is also on the list of things you can do to improve your basic finances. Clean the coils on your refrigerator to reduce electricity and to keep from replacing it altogether. If you have window units, keep the filters and other parts clean. Dust and grease love to accumulate on these. And dirty air conditioners have to work harder to run.

Do the same with your vehicle.  Know how to check the oil and fluids, and add them when needed. Keep an eye on the air pressure of the tires. And instead of calling AAA, learn how to change a tire yourself.

Coupons

Although you already know that shopping with coupons saves you money, the big question is, do they really? It all depends. Keep in mind that most of the coupons you get are for name brand items. When you save ten cents on a can of name brand tomatoes, you may still be spending more than you would for a store brand.

Often, the stores will offer a sale on their own brands. When they do, you can save even more. For more about saving money at the grocery store, read ‘How to Streamline Your Grocery Shopping & Save’.

For more information on living frugally, check out a few of these posts:

shop locally to help with your basic finances

Online vs Brick & Mortar Shopping

This one gets tricky. There are pros and cons, and ‘hidden’ costs to both. Consider this before you make your choice:

Brick & Mortar

If you shop at a local store, then you are supporting your community. Yes, some items you purchase may be found cheaper online. But by shopping locally and small businesses, you are helping the owners to provide for their own families. That in turn, helps to support your community in other ways.

But you also spend money in gasoline to get there, local and state taxes are often added to your final receipt, and the added risk of splurging.

Online

Often, splurging isn’t a huge risk when shopping on line. There are fewer ‘side items’ (like that grocery store rack that holds my Caramel M&M’s) within site. And you also save money on gasoline by having it shipped directly to you.

But on the flip side, many online orders still tack on at least state taxes, if not city and parish taxes as well. And then there are the shipping costs. Some places do offer free shipping, but only after you have spent a certain amount of money.

And in order to reach that amount, we often find other items we ‘need’ or can use (at least, eventually) that we didn’t need to order in the first place. When that happens, you are back to Square 1 in trying to be more frugal with your spending.

As for me, I prefer to shop locally. This way, I am able to take my time and compare products, labels and prices. I know I am able to shop more wisely, and keep a lid on my spending. And from time to time, I get the added bonus of supporting my community, as well as finding a friendly face in the aisle and enjoy a short visit with someone fun.

There is an exception to my rule. It’s a 50/50 margin when it comes to Big Box and chain stores. Yes, by shopping locally I am helping the employees feed their families. But at the same time, no store can keep everything in stock at all times. Instead, I call ahead and see if they have what I need. If not, then I check it out online and order it, as long as it stays within my budget.

Just weigh your options on whether or not to shop online or in a brick and mortar store. If you keep you keep your basic finances and budget in mind and stick to it, you will know you are making the right decision for yourself either way.

Easy Home Income and Expense Worksheet

Extracurricular Spending

This is where basic finances for homemakers can get really tough. Decisions will have to be made, and priorities put in order.

One of the worst hits to the basic finances for homemakers is dealing with our wants. As for myself, I am a glutton for books and craft supplies. Give me about 30 seconds, and I can give you a long list of valid reasons why I really ‘need’ that book or five skeins of that yarn.

Yes. I ‘need’ to do research, so that is the perfect book to use. Absolutely, you never buy only one skein due to the Lot #. I mean, if you run out, or you choose to do a different project that calls for more yarn, what is the likelihood I can find more in that same color lot????

Go ahead. Laugh at me. I confess I am guilty. But have you done it as well? And that is precisely where total honesty comes in. Do we really need it, or is it just a want?  

Let’s take it beyond yarn and books. How often do you need the stress relief of a gym membership? Do you even have time to go? What about magazine subscriptions or dinner at a restaurant?

have coffee with friends

Don’t Get TOO Tight with your Spending

I know I have just sounded like a miser when it comes to spending.  But the art of managing your finances is a balance.  Yes, you do want to get your budget organized by priorities, and pay those bills first.  But years ago, my Mama gave me a piece of wise advice.

She said, “Julie.  If you only spend money on the necessities, and never splurge once in a while, then you will get tired of never doing anything for yourself, and run the risk of going on a ‘blow-out spree’.  Yes.  Pay your bills. But occasionally, do something fun just for you. This acts as a financial pressure valve.  It will release some steam and keep you from blowing your ‘financial top’.”

Wise words, if you ask me.  And they have proven true over the years. So when you read this post, don’t feel like I am telling you the only thing you can spend your money on is rent, utilities and groceries.

The trick is to find a healthy balance between need vs want. Pay your bills first, and then look around. Decide what would be a fun treat, but be responsible. I would love to rent a cabin on the top of a mountain for a week, but with the initial price and the added cost of a farm sitter, that trip doesn’t fall into the ‘responsible spending’ category.  Instead, I opt for something a bit more reasonable, like having coffee with a friend.

Find ways to indulge a bit.  Look for sales. Shop those thrift stores and garage sales. As for books, start at the library. This not only helps keep the costs down, but also the clutter. Take each want and evaluate it. You may still get what you want, but at a much lower price.

One way to approach an item that isn’t an absolute necessity is to consider the long term benefits. If the item will help you gain control of your future spending, help you get organized, or allow you to create handmade gifts, then these should definitely be a consideration.

If it is something that inspires you, helps relieve stress, or moves you forward in your simple life journey, then make it a consideration. If you have cut out some of your spending in other areas, then hopefully there will be enough left over to splurge every once in a while.

However, if it is a bag of Caramel M&Ms, a gym membership when you haven’t been there in months, or dinner out when you can cook a better meal at home, then maybe you should reconsider. And since I have plans on getting a tighter hold on my own basic finances this year, my craving for those Caramel M&M’s is going to have to be lassoed in and gotten under control – mainly because there is a book on Nalbinding I noticed, and I really want to learn how to do that…

simple life dollars and sense ebook

The Basic Finances for Homemakers

Having a good grip on your money is one of the most stress-relieving things you can do. With a simple glance at your Finance notebook, you will know how much money you have coming in, the expenses you have going out, and a good idea of areas you can cut back in or splurge on.

Are you a homemaker who wants to get a grip on your own basic finances? Don’t miss the Dollars & ‘Sense’ eBook, designed to help you gain control of your finances in an easy to understand way.

Then stick around. Next up is learning how to manage your money with a Home Budget and Income & Expense Spreadsheet. Before you know it, you will be the homemaking whiz of finances!!

If you missed them, here are some other great posts in the Dollars & Sense series!

Make a Choice for a Better 2021

How to Gain Control of your Paper – Get Organized with Notebooks

Helpful Financial Tools – The Budget

basic finances for homemakers starts with notebooks

Get Started on your Notebooks!

Getting your finances organized with a notebook is one of the most helpful things you can do.  If you are ready to get your own notebook system started, find out more about it HERE, and then let me help you just a bit.  

If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to my newsletter and you will get a FREE set of Table of Contents – one for Finances, Garden, Home, Documents and Crafts. Just 3-hole punch them and add them to the front of your notebook! (After you subscribe, just go to the Subscribers OnlyResource page!)

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

98 Comments

  1. I check thrift stores for things I need before shopping elsewhere. You’d be surprised at what you can find. Grocery store apps on my cellphone help me save money at the grocery store..I’ve earned back $1600 in less than one year with ibotta alone!

  2. Buying second hand is the best way for us. From clothing to furniture, it is so helpful to save and create less waste overall!

  3. Great ideas! I love to shop at yard sales and go most weekends as soon as the weather warms up. It allows me to stretch my pennies just a little more. For example — I’ve been wanting a wheelbarrow but just didn’t want to plunge into $60+ for a new one. My husband found one at a yard sale last week for $10.

  4. I’m getting to be a big fan of cast iron. With a little care, it outlasts every other type of cookware I’ve encountered.

  5. I try to get things on clearance and use coupons

  6. Getting things second hand has helped me to save some money, especially on things like flower pots which are often quite expensive.

  7. Lots of great advice. Right now I am working on decluttering and organizing.

  8. This site has been so helpful with the tips and advice. It’s definitely been a life changer. Thank you

  9. Thinking about frugality is a great frugality tip. It certainly isn’t enough on its own, but wise action generally requires careful foresight.

  10. Great post! My friends and family joke and say that Frugal is my middle name! I am always trying be creative and recycle or repurpose as many things I can to avoid extra spending. It is also a helpful way to “de-clutter” which was something you mentioned here.

  11. I think the best frugal tips are to stay organized and to do regular maintenance to protect the longevity of your important items. Thanks for sharing!

  12. My family always tells me that I have 100 projects going on at once without any of them being complete. It’s sad but true. It’s something I do and dont know why or even when it started. It seems I always have work to be done and constantly reply that this is what organized chaos looks like. I hope to catch up to myself one day.

    1. Patricia – I think we all have those projets that never seem to get the attention they need. Just tackle them one at a time!

  13. You will laugh at this – I was speaking with my friend today and we started talking about mixes-at-the-ready (as we like to call them). Turns out we were both talking about you.

    1. Hi, Maz! I think that is funny – and wonderful at the same time! I just hope you enjoyed the mixes-at-the-ready. If I find more, I will happily share them with you!

  14. My best frugal tips are Repurpose all the things!! Join Facebook groups in your community for free items you may need. Check craigslist for free items and ASK the stores! I recently got a bunch of free tomato starts from a nursery that they were going to throw out!! I love free!

  15. I am not a farmer, but you have so much useful information

    1. Thank you, Viola! The beauty of a simple life is that you don’t have to be a farmer. I hope the rest of the posts help you with your journey!

  16. Great tips! I need to be more organized.

  17. It’s not quite the same thing as frugality, but I’ve started putting aside a small amount of money into things like index funds and dividend stocks, especially when the market is tanking. If I reinvest the proceeds for 20-30 years, it should generate a small passive income as we get older.

    1. Hi, Evan! Smart investments – to me – is a type of frugality, and smart money management. Sounds like you have a great plan!

  18. My best frugal tip is to make, grow or raise as much as you can so then you don’t have to go to the store as much!

    1. Hi, Devin! Growing your own food is one of the best things you can do. Plus you save on gasoline, and it is much healthier for you!

  19. I have had a garden for at least 12 years and can all our vegetables and many of our fruits. That and shopping sales help my grocery bill.

  20. I’ve been learning to save seeds this year and last. Then I plant extras of anything I start indoors. That helps to ensure that I have enough seedlings for my own garden and I can sell the extras to recoup expenses.

  21. I always bought my kids clothes on clearance at the end of the season.

    1. Hi, LeAnn! I did too – and for the clothes that survived my kids, I sent them to a consignment shop, which helped to bring in a little extra. Thanks for being a part of the Spring Homestead Giveaway!

  22. Hairspray takes pen and marker off walls.

  23. My best frugal tip is to reuse and upcycle everything possible and grow your own food.

  24. Most frugal tip I can share is use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning.

  25. I like your notebook tips! One thing I would like to know about being frugal is how to live off the land. Most of our spending goes into groceries.

    1. Thank you, Whit! Notebooks really do work well to keep organized. As for living off the land, start with growing your own food, and move forward from there. It takes time, but you can certainly do as much as your space and energy level will allow! Thanks for being part of the Spring Homestead Giveaway!

  26. I definitely need to declutter!

    1. Linda – I am in a constant state of decluttering. Do a little at a time and you will get there! Thanks for being a part of the Spring Homestead Giveaway!

  27. Good advise and love the site! Thank you!

  28. Great tips… the one I need to do the most is declutter.
    I save by asking the fruit market for seconds…I just got 3 50-lb bags of carrots for $2 each. Time to start up the canner early.

  29. Best Gardening Frugal tip: Never buy starter trays. I reuse all of the containers that come into my house to start my seeds in. Cup cake, cookie, butter, yogurt, sour cream, salad and takeout containers, as well as water, milk, tea and juice gallon jugs, all make excellent mini greenhouses. I reuse all of my empty canned food cans and cut the tops off of soda cans to also start seeds in.

  30. I make my own bread. I have a bread machine because of my arthritis (got it cheep at a resale shop) and I always make a few loaves more than I need and let it dry out and cut it up into small pieces and put into blender and whirl away. Makes the best bread crumbs you could ever want.
    Another thing I do is get all the coupons I can get from the ad for Smiths and Alberstons and I print out the list of coupons and then when my husband is doing the regular shopping a clerk and I go shopping for the coupon items. Last week I bought 5 10# bags of All Purpose Flour for $0.88 a bag. 3 bags of very expensive coffee for $10 each when they would have cost about $76.00 at the regular price and on top of that got 3 grocery bags along with the coffee for free. I figured I saved about $250.00 doing this with coupons last week.

    1. I LOVE baking my own bread, Jackie. My leftover bread also is turned into bread crumbs, and croutons and bread pudding as well. Great score on that flour!!!!

  31. I’ve started backing sourdough bread. The sandwich loaves are delicious and free of the preservatives found in many store bought breads.

    1. Hi, Evan! We have had a sourdough starter for so long, it not only has a name, but it’s tempting to tell it ‘Good Morning’ when we pass it while it is refreshing!

  32. Really concentrating on decluttering!

    1. Hi, Rebecca! That seems to be a big one in the comments. Around here, we have to consciously think before we get anything new – and then try to decide what needs to go to find a place for it!

  33. Definitely selling alot of “stuff” this year. Sadly had some deaths in the family and realize how much “stuff” we have and don’t need. Hopefully will bless someone else.

    1. Ah, Kris… I am sorry to hear about your family losses. That is tough. But by selling your excess stuff, it helps you financially, and will definitely bless others by helping them to save!

  34. Frugal Ideas: We buy our Flour and Oatmeal in Bulk, add Oatmeal to almost every Baked food I make, Store in old fridge in Garage, We keep what we need to use in Large Tupperware containers, in the house, we have bought over the years.. Seldom buy Baked items from store. Love to make Scones and Muffins..and of course Pies.

    1. We like to shop at Amish stores. Great prices for bulk purchases.

    2. Jean – I love your frugal ideas. And I’m with you – we rarely buy baked goods. Besides, homemade just seems to taste better! (Maybe it’s all the love we add to the mix!)

  35. When I buy Italian sauce at the grocery store I but one that comes in a jar I can reuse for canning

    1. Hi, Gary! Great thinking! Just make sure it is canning safe!! I use other non-canning safe jars to store other things in, such as spices and baking ingredients!

  36. My son and I bought 5 acres 3 yrs ago. We knew we wanted to be more self-sufficient and couldn’t as long as we had too many credit card bills. We found our property cheap because it was a hoarder house. We cleaned all the junk out of the out and off the front part of the land. I have health problems, so it took a bit. Lol. While doing this, we paid toward our bills. We have all our bills, except the mortgage, pd in full. This year we were able to start putting in raised beds, an orchard, herb garden, and fruit plants. We are also putting siding, new windows, and flooring in the house. We already did the doors and roof. Were are making our own bread and meals, and learning to preserve food. We have chickens,, turkeys, and ducks. Hoping to eventually get bee hives, rabbits, and mini jerseys. It’s been a fun journey for my son and I. ?‍??‍?

    1. Way to go, Terri! It sounds like you are well on your way to living a great life. Congratulations on all your hard work!

  37. Great frugal tip is to make homemade vegetable soup by saving leftover dinner vegetables by putting them in a bag or container in the freezer. Choose a day when you have enough and combine in a pot with anything else you may want to add and you have an easy simple nutritious dinner.

    1. Hi, Shonda! I love this tip. And by doing it, your Vegetable Soup is always a little bit different, but just as delicious!

  38. My best Frugal Tips is use coupons and buy things on sale. never pay full price.

  39. I can’t stress car maintenance enough. By doing the smaller more frugal things you will save yourself bug bucks later on. I’d look for churches that offer free courses on car maintenance…we have a few around my area…and take advantage of some free learning!

    1. Hi, Tami! You always have great ideas, and this one is one of the best. It’s amazing how much you will save on repairs just by doing a little PM!

  40. Keeping from respending is a bigger issue than it seems. It contributes to so very much clutter.

    1. Hi, MG! Truer words are rarely spoken. We are constantly searching for something that will work for what we need, rather than go buy something. I have enough clutter to deal with – I don’t want to add to it!

  41. Good tips to ponder. I need a system to move older canned goods to the front of the shelf and push the newer ones to the back – same with frozen foods.

    1. Hi, Jenni! I had issues with this, too, until I just finally trained myself to unload my groceries and automatically place canned goods to the back. Now you have me wondering about a system for my own freezer!

  42. Great post. Taking care of what you already have is very important, as well as not having too many things.

  43. Well, my fun is either living with one of our sons or living in a camper. We are building a small home right now, so we have four locations to kinda of have basic necessities. My source of basic necessities is yard sales and thrift stores, within reason!

  44. I learned to use credit cards to earn points. I pay the credit cards off immediately and use the points to buy gift cards for home repairs and gifts for family. The bonus is it also increases out credit score so we get better financing for bigger purchases.

  45. Thanks for the article Julie! I can totally relate to your comment about “dealing with our wants”. I recently wanted a new desk for my home office. My husband, who is a real advocate of up-cycling, decided he could make me a desk out of found materials. He found a desk, took off the outer layers and added some old weathered wood, stained and finished it. It works great for me.

  46. Great tips! Thanks for sharing!!!

  47. Save money by sharing seeds and seedlings. I’ve found a few gardening friends to share what we grow so each of us spends less and we enjoy a day of exchanging.

  48. These are great tips. Thanks for sharing

  49. I love (trying) to be frugal!
    Hanging clothes on the line is one of my favorite ways to save $$…. plus my clothes smell sooo nice!

  50. Thank you for all the informative info! We are just getting started on our homestead and I love all the resources!

  51. Thank you for all these reminders of frugal ways. Also remember that a paying a bit extra upfront may be well worth it. My current example is replacing a dead printer with one that has tanks, not cartridges. Ink changing will be both less frequent, saving time and hassle, and less expensive in the long run. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  52. The best thing I have done to save is I know make my own seed start and soil to transfer my seedlings into.

  53. This is a great website with so much useful information.

  54. Get to know your neighbors! We borrow and lend out all sorts of items from serving dishes to yard equipment. We also help each other with big tasks, like one neighbor needed help changing the oil on his UTV and later helped us pull out a stump. Having an active community can save you a bundle and is so rewarding in ways that money can’t buy.

  55. I love all this awesome information, I’m trying to start my own little homestead this year, thank you!!!

  56. Living frugally,reusing and recycling really cuts down on expenses.

  57. We repurpose stuff a lot. We use to have a seasonal camp but when we got chickens and goats, we stopped going. So we gutted out our 28’ camper and turned it into the coop and hay storage for the goats. We also got a free pop up camper off Facebook and are turning that into our little farm stand. I currently use a picnic table to sell our extra eggs, but want to start selling the jams and jellies I make.

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