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. 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, 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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?
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…
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? 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!
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! (If you are already a Subscriber, just go to the Subscribers OnlyResource page!)