I am fortunate in that my current situation allows me to both freelance and stay home with my sweet toddler-girl. However, dropping my full-time employment meant a significant dip in the family weekly earnings. This list of strategies are easy ways to offset that dip...at least for a season of life!
1. Stop ordering alcohol when out for dinner.
At our stage in life, I don't think it's reasonable to stop going out with friends and on dates. Not only is it how we relate to our friends, but it's time Husband and I can focus on ourselves. Instead, if I drop the wine or cocktail off of our order, I can still easily save 6-15 dollars every time. I can always pour a glass before we leave or after we return for 1/6 of the cost.
2. Plan meals ahead of time.
One grocery trip per week is my goal. With a week of meals planned, I'm not making superfluous or spontaneous purchases. Less food rots in the fridge, and I can buy in bulk purposefully. I can also make budgetary decisions upfront and not rush through them while pacing the isles with a toddler in the cart.
3. Have a monthly clothing budget.
Having a clothing budget helps me see the true value in each clothing purchase. My thoughts typically go like this "If I buy this now, I can't buy anything next month. Is this the best (clothing/accessories/shoes) thing that will happen in two months?" I dream of being able to shop for everything on zara.com, but that day is not today, and it's worth the strictures.
4. Put gift money into savings.
My husband's family gives a lot of money gifts for birthdays and Christmas, sometimes even for Valentines Day and Easter. Normally I feel entitled to use that gift money for fun things, but it can go a long way to make up for depleted income. Straight into savings it goes. It's a bonus anyway.
5. Live off of Flash Sales.
Groupon and similar flash sale sites (our local version is cincysavers.com) have everything these days. By purchasing $1.00 fitness classes vs. joining a gym, or 50% off nights out at a restaurant, or replacing home goods for cheap, flash sales can save you money. It requires a little bit of flexibility, spontaneity, and discernment, but the savings can add up. Beware of spending pitfalls though - make sure you are only spending money on things/activities you would buy without coupons. No extra purchases just because it's cheap!
6. Look at your Bank Account Every Week.
That sounds so boring. And yes, hopefully it will be! Surprises are bad in bank accounts. A little face time with my bank account keeps me knowledgeable. Fundamentally, it keeps me motivated and on track.
7. Think of Everything in Terms of Opportunity Cost.
If this, then that. We can't have it all, and that's okay. Opportunity cost is a trade. I am highly motivated to keep my business going even through the years of baby raising. It is one of my priorities, and I have to treat it financially as such. While remembering that it's only a season, cutting corners and saving is worth it to grow my business. If putting off the kitchen renovation for 6 months means I can invest some extra time or capital into growing my business, it's worth it.
You know, it's funny. When you believe in something, small sacrifices don't seem so bad!