Living frugally is a top priority for many homeschoolers. Most homeschooling families live on a single income. Often, the dad has chosen a profession where he can spend more time with his family so he does not have a large income. Because of this, homeschooling moms have learned to save a penny wherever they can. I will share with you some things that we do at our home to save money.
One thing we do is to keep our meals quite simple. This will not work for every homeschooling mom. Thankfully, my husband is a missionary kid who is not picky and does not mind eating the same foods on a regular basis. We eat beans and rice twice a week. I can feed the whole family for under $3 when we eat that. I vary the kind of beans and the flavoring so that it is not exactly the same thing every time. In the winter we eat soup two or three times a week. Most soups can be made cheaply, and if I vary the kinds of soup, the family does not feel like they are eating the same thing all the time. We also buy the cheaper cuts of meat such as chicken hindquarters instead of chicken breasts and ground turkey instead of ground beef. We do most of our grocery shopping at Aldi, which saves us a lot of money.
Rarely do we ever buy brand new clothes. My children are blessed to receive nice hand-me-down clothes from older children in our church. If they need more clothes we purchase at DAV, Goodwill or Salvation Army. While I admit some visits to these stores have been a flop, we have also found very nice name brand clothes, occasionally even with the tags on them.
We do not own very many shoes. Each of us own one pair of dress shoes and one pair of tennis shoes (occasionally more if they are given to us). The girls and I also usually own a pair of sandals and flip flops for the summer. I admit that owning only one pair of dress shoes can be a huge problem on Sunday morning when someone can’t find one of their shoes, but that is for another article on organization. Someone more qualified than me in that area will have to write that one!
This may sound a little too cheap to most people, but we water down our liquid hand soap, shampoo and dish soap. A little bit of water will stretch it a long way. When the bottle is about 1/8 gone, I fill it back up with water.
We try to keep most of our family activities cheap or free. When the weather is warm we go to a lot of parks and go on bike rides. When the weather is cold it is a little more challenging to find free family activities so we often play table games. When it snows, Jeff takes the children sledding. In fact they just went sledding this morning, with their cousins who live in Peru and only see snow once every five years, and they had a great time.
Another way to save money is to get most of our books from the library. We also pass down school books from child to child. I do not buy teacher’s books, workbooks or test booklets for science or history in the elementary years. I do not buy any teacher’s books for third grade and under. Having the children tell me about what they have read or having them write a paragraph on each chapter tells me that they are learning the material. Instead of spelling books, I make their spelling lists from words they misspell in their writing.
Teaching our children to be economical also saves a lot of money. Little things such as teaching them to turn off the lights every time they leave a room, or to use only the amount of soap and shampoo they need saves quite a bit. Having them save the leftovers that they were too full to eat at supper, for their next snack saves a lot of money over time.
Wearing sweaters or sweatshirts in the winter while we keep the furnace on low really helps cut down on the heating bill. In the summer we only use our air conditioner on the very hottest days and get by with window fans the rest of the time.
My husband cuts the boys hair and I trim the girls hair. I stretch my own hair cuts out to every three months by trimming it myself in between times.
I have found that in some areas I do save money in the long run by spending more to begin with. If I buy $4 nylons to wear to church, they will last me for six months but if I buy them at the dollar store, I usually only get one or two uses out of them. The same is true with the girls’ tights as well as socks and underwear. So there are times when spending more money up front actually saves money.
We keep Christmas and birthdays very simple. On their birthdays the children get $2 times their age. They can save the money or spend it, it is up to them. For Christmas they get three gifts, usually a book, a movie and a toy. Our children are certainly not deprived and seem to look forward to Christmas and birthdays as much as their friends who receive a lot more.
When we want to buy something, we ask ourselves a couple questions. Do we really need the item? Will life as we know it come to an end if we do not have it? Usually the answer is no. That does not mean that we never purchase anything that is not absolutely necessary but we are very careful about our choices.
One important thing is to think about what is important to us as individual families. I would be less than honest if I said our family never spends money that is not essential. There are certain things that are important to us as an individual family so we spend more money than perhaps is absolutely necessary in those areas. For example, to me it is very important to keep in touch with friends and family at Christmas time so, even though we could save quite a bit of money by not sending Christmas letters to over 100 friends and family members, I do so nearly every year. My husband is a diabetic so better quality running shoes and vitamins are important to him, even though we would save money by buying cheaper shoes and only having him take a multivitamin. Some of our children enjoy drawing and, since we want to encourage creativity, we do not scrimp on paper or pencils. Our oldest son is passionate about history and politics so we help cultivate this interest by helping him to pay his way to TeenPact and other worthwhile events like that. We want our children see new places and have new experiences so we try to take a family vacation each year, although we take it as inexpensively as possible. Since we value a healthy diet for our children, we also eat quite a few fruits and vegetables, although we usually stick with the less expensive varieties. Basically, this long, random paragraph is to emphasize that each family needs to prayerfully decide how the Lord would want them to spend their money.
I will be the first to admit that it is not always fun to live frugally. One minor example of this is that I really like beef and we do not get if often. It is much cheaper and healthier to make meatloaves, hamburger patties and meatballs out of ground turkey. To me, those things sure taste better when made out of ground beef! However, over time, my taste buds have adapted and I do not mind as much any more. That is not to say that I sure don’t enjoy ground beef on the rare occasions I get it!
One huge side benefit to being so careful with our money, is that our children have learned to be content with little. My children, like other children, have many sin issues they deal with. However, lack of thankfulness is not one of them. Since we only go to Burger King once a year or so, it is a really fun experience for them when we do go. Recently one of their grandparents bought each of the children a brand new store bought outfit. You would have thought someone given them the moon. When these kinds of things are rare treats instead of common occurrences, children appreciate them so much more.
However, even though we do “miss” out on certain things, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices. Other than our mortgage, we are debt-free. We have the joy of knowing that we are being good stewards of the money the Lord has given to us. We also have the joy of being able to help those who are in need from time to time.
Everything we have belongs to the Lord. May God bless you as you spend His money for His glory.