When I first considered becoming a stay-at-home mom three years ago, I knew adjusting to one income would be a challenge. I was a shopaholic who visited the mall and/or Target at least once a week. Most of the stuff I bought was really unnecessary – did I really need another pair of black heels just because they had a peep-toe and my others didn’t?

Apparently yes.

My shopping fit just fine into my budget (wait, what budget?!), so I made many of my purchases without a second thought.

These days, my shopping activity is considerably different. I’ve embraced the art of budgeting. Any purchases that don’t involve food or other necessities are carefully considered.

We really don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything, though. I like to think we’re thriving – not just surviving – on our now limited income. We spend less money on frivolous things and put more towards the things that matter, such as our retirement funds and our children’s savings.

So, how did we make the transition mostly painless?

Most importantly, I created a detailed budget. We don’t always stick to it perfectly, but having it in place has made a tremendous difference. I make sure to allot money for bills, gas, groceries, dining out, savings, and even gifts.

Along with budgeting, there are three things that save us major moolah each month.

#1: We cancelled our satellite dish. A few years ago, we were extra spoiled by our dual DVR. I could barely even contemplate the idea of reducing our package, let alone cancelling it. After looking at the numbers, though, we took the plunge and cancelled the dish in exchange for subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu Plus. Sure, there are some downers (like having to wait an extra year to watch certain shows and reading spoilers from “friends” on Facebook), but overall, it’s a switch I’m glad we made. At a savings of about $80 a month compared to our satellite bill, our bank account is happy too.

#2: Meal planning makes all the difference. This step took me a little longer to get the hang of, and it was prompted more by necessity than anything. When we moved back to my small hometown from Kearney, I knew grocery shopping would never be the same. I’m no longer able to run to the store at the last minute for a needed item, so planning meals makes sense for us not only financially, but also practically. It takes some time to sit down and plan it out, but in the end, the savings are worth it. How much? Well, during months that I don’t plan meals, we easily spend about $200 more on groceries. That’s enough to motivate me!

#3: We converted to cloth (diapers, that is). There was an initial investment and getting started was more than a little overwhelming; however, the diapers quickly paid for themselves and have become one of the easiest ways we save. We’ve been using cloth for almost three years now, and while I still buy a box of disposables for nighttime, I’m only spending about $25 every few months versus once or twice a month.

Besides these things, there are other smaller ways we’ve cut costs. Our house happens to have a wood-burning stove, so we take advantage of it as much as possible during the winter months. It really makes a difference on our electrical bill. I have also slowly started making more food items from scratch, such as pizza/spaghetti sauce. We were fortunate to freeze a ton of tomatoes from my parents’ garden last summer, so it costs practically nothing to make AND it’s super easy and smells ah-maz-ing.

Every once in a while, I look back on my carefree (and budget-free) days of spending, and you know what? I don’t miss it. All I have to show for it is a closet full of shoes that have barely been worn. It’s not as if I never buy anything for myself anymore; I just give it more thought, and I end up appreciating it more.

So now I want to know – what tips and tricks for saving money do you have to share? I’d love to hear them!

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Heather Shotkoski

http://www.andwhatalovelymessitis.wordpress.com/ My name is Heather, and I am lucky to be surrounded by handsome men! I have been married to my high school sweetheart for over ten years, and together we have three lovably wild little boys. I grew up in a tiny town near the middle of Nebraska, and after living in the "big city" of Kearney for six years, my husband and I found our way back to the small town life. I am a stay-at-home mom, and each day is definitely a new adventure with three rapidly growing boys. I absolutely love it!