Pinching Pennies and Saving Dollars

Frugal Living for Families

A  lot of people in America are tightening their belts this year. With taxes going up, health insurance premiums increasing, and the cost of basic necessities skyrocketing, families are pinching their pennies and stretching their dollars.

My family is one of them, as a recent conversation with my 8 year old son shows:

“Mommmmm! We’re out of raisins. Put raisins on your list and buy two boxes this week. One box doesn’t last us the whole week!”  “I’m sorry Ben, but I’m only buying one box of raisins each week for you to snack on,” I replied. “But one box isn’t enough!”  “I’ve been telling you that your servings are too big and you would run out. You have to make different choices if you want the raisins to last all week.”

Now a $1.50 for a box of raisins might not seem like much. Really, it isn’t. I can afford the extra $1.50, until you consider that over a month I’m spending an extra $6. Which still doesn’t seem like much until you consider that over a year I’m spending an extra $78, which is nearly an entire week’s worth of groceries for my family.

Now you’re talking about a chunk of change! For what? So my son can eat two handfuls of raisins every day instead of one handful? I don’t think so. There are cheaper and more nutritious snacks we can purchase for him. As a bonus, he will learn the skill of delayed gratification and meeting his wants in smaller portions.

You might think I’m a little fanatical about our finances. Compared to how most American households manage their spending, you’re probably right.

But, unlike most American households we have a goal to live debt free and to give our money to worthy causes. We also have a goal to buy a bigger house. Now that’s very American!

So this year, we are getting “gazelle intense” about controlling our spending and increasing our savings.

Why the focus on savings?

Because our 3 bedroom home doesn’t have a room large enough for my 4 sons to share. Starting in May my 6 year old daughter will share her room with our newborn son. Three years from now I think my then tween-aged daughter will need to NOT share a bedroom with a then preschool aged brother.

A house big enough for my 5 children and with land for my 4 sons to run will cost us about $300,000. A 20% down payment will be $60,000. That means we need to save $20,000 a year for the next 3 years.

Who has that kind of money?!

Not us! I don’t mind telling you that we went over our budget with a fine toothed comb. We reduced lots of line items like vacations, field trips, and extra curricular activities. We plan to spend a third of the money on eating out that we spent last year.

With every budget line item considered and our financial belt tightened we might be able to save $6,000 this year. At that rate it’ll take us 10 years to save the money. In 10 years my 2 oldest children will be in college and we won’t need a bigger house.

What are we going to do?

We set a goal to save $20,000 this year and we’re living with that goal in mind.

  • We’re asking ourselves “Do I REALLY need this?” before making a purchase.
  • We’re also praying and asking God to provide. Not because he’s a genie in a lamp to fulfill our wishes, but because everything belongs to him and he has proven himself faithful to provide for us in the past.
  • We are also considering ways to increase our income. As a homeschooling mom with a newborn, getting a job outside our home isn’t possible for me. My hope is that writing and blogging will produce an income. We’ll see!

Why am I telling you all of this personal information?

I want to invite you to join our journey as we pinch pennies and save dollars in 2013. I will share our real world stories of frugality and delayed gratification. I also plan to tell you about the financial lessons and tips we learn.

As we saw with the cost of my son’s box of raisins, pennies can add up to dollars in a hurry!

Is your family spending less and saving more this year? Please share your favorite resources and tips!!


Linked to: Motivating Monday Link Up at CEO of Me Hip Homeschool Hop Button



  1. I hear you! We, too, have been asking God to provide just as He promises and always has faithfully, asking ourselves: do I need this or could I accomplish this cheaper?, and considering how to increase our income (and praying about what that might look like!). Looking forward to hearing your ideas! :)

  2. I Pinned this. It’s so smart and sensible and speaks to generations of people who are finding that less is, truly, more. When my husband and I sold our home last May and bought a smaller, more economical home (albeit fixer-upper), we were shocked at the stuff we had stored or saved for whatever or simply didn’t need. We need a major kitchen renovation in our new home, one that we cannot do ourselves (we DO paint, etc, and my husband is very handy with carpentry and electrical stuff). We have an informal “kitchen fund”… eating out means spending $$$ and eating at home means saving kitchen fund $$$. It’s fun, actually. I do most of my elderly Mom’s cooking, too, so that helps me stay in the kitchen, eating at home! This past Monday, for example, I spent $120.00 at the supermarket… lots of veggies, fruit, healthy snacks and enough chicken (for soup, as well) and ground turkey for lasagna to make 30 meals. 30 MEALS! 30 healthy meals, I may add. I love what you’re doing and look forward to following your journey…
    Sharon – recently posted..Deal of the Day: Forever 21 Darted Double-Breasted BlazerMy Profile

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      One of my pet peeves right now is when people tell me they can’t afford to eat healthy. I think they are completely wrong! Your 30 meals for $120 is fabulous!! Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require elaborate meals. Way to go!

  3. We are also watching our budget closely too. My husband is a better saver than me, but I’m trying to watch every penny as well. We are saving for kids’ college and retirement. Best of luck!
    Joanna {Baby Gators Den} recently posted..Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

  4. We have watching what we spend lately, it’s tough sometimes. My husband WILL NOT give up his coffees, he considers it a “quality of life” thing.
    Heather @ Kraus House Mom recently posted..Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      Quality of life is one of those things everyone has to decide for themselves – as long as you actually have the money to pay for your convenience/luxury item. Disposable diapers is one of those items for me. :)

  5. I admire your commitment to saving, and the valuable life lesson you are teaching your children by sticking to it. It’s something that will last them a lifetime. My first roommate in Boston was a “penny pincher” and she brought lunch from home, never even hitting the vending machine because she could see the waste add up. She was the first to move out, super financially independent and self-sufficient. Good job!
    Kirsten recently posted..Some Wounds Never HealMy Profile

  6. Leah DeCesare
    Twitter: leahdecesare

    Wise woman. Too many people are pinched but just keep spending without reflecting, evaluating and then doing the hard work of making choices like you’re doing! It’s really important for peace of mind in addition to financial health!
    Leah DeCesare recently posted..The Family CarMy Profile

  7. Beeb Ashcroft
    Twitter: hardertobreathe

    I come from a radically frugal family, so I’ve always lived an alternative financial lifestyle, and this year is my most rock-bottom bare-bones frugal year ever. Way to go on your goals!
    Beeb Ashcroft recently posted..Barbara’s Apple Caramel Cookie Pie ReviewMy Profile

  8. Kim
    Twitter: bugsandstuff

    I’m with you! We are on a mission to decrease waste — but I am like a one-woman army sometimes! I think I spend more time turning off lights, turning down heat, closing and opening shades and windows, and coupon clipping, than last year, and I intend to re-double my efforts next year. I will be cheering you on! You can do it!

    Peace to you…

    ~ Kim
    Kim recently posted..A Winter Battle Re-enactmentMy Profile

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      Thanks Kim! One of the things that is helping at my house is to talk about our choices with my kids. I’m using it as a learning opportunity for them. For example, at the grocery store we talk about why one bag of carrots is a better deal than the other bag. Or if it IS more expensive, we talk about why I choose the more expensive one.

      Just last night one of my sons said it would be cheaper if we went out for supper instead of buying a bunch of groceries. We then discussed how one meal at On the Border cost us $65 but we could buy 21 meals and 7 snacks to cook at home for $100. As an 8 yr old he can understand the math concepts and opportunity costs involved.

  9. Kim
    Twitter: bugsandstuff

    BTW Do you follow “FabuLESS-ly Frugal?” Great ideas on saving money…
    Kim recently posted..A Winter Battle Re-enactmentMy Profile

  10. This is excellent. I always kick myself during tax time when I see on paper how much I made… and didnt SAVE. This year I am working on the SAVING more than the SPENDING.
    Lynsey @MoscatoMom recently posted..What NOT To Do In Las VegasMy Profile

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      I always think the same thing – “We made THAT?! But where is it?!” I’ve found having a real tangible goal is helpful when making spending/saving choices. On the nights that I really, really, really want to go out I ask myself – “which is better? A new house with a bathroom I don’t share with 5 children or going out for supper?” Funny how much simpler the decision is after that!

  11. Way to stay strong on the raisin issue. I think that’s really good for your boys!
    Hey, you should consider urban foraging ie. FREE FOOD. If you live in a neighborhood with any kind of fruit trees, it’s super easy. You just knock on your neighbors door and ask if you can take some of their fruit off their hands. Most people are totally looking for ways to get rid of all their extra apples. Fresh fruit can get pricey, and I saved a ton of money this past summer doing this.
    Good luck with your ambitions!
    -Your newest follower, Beth
    Beth recently posted..QTT: Weird Ways to Save Money on FoodMy Profile

    • Stephanie Kay
      Twitter: stephmommybrain

      Beth, asking neighbors for their extra fruit is a great idea. Unfortunately no one in our neighborhood has any mature fruit trees. I am considering planting a (very!) small garden this summer. I know we’ll be home to water so things like tomatoes and squash might do well.

  12. Thanks for sharing your journey. We are pinching our pennies, too. It’s sometimes fun to see how little you can use/live on.
    I found you today through the Women Living Well Link Up; I’m #278. I’d love for you to stop by my blog and leave a comment, too!
    ~ Megin of VMG206

  13. Misty Kearns
    Twitter: ceoofmeinc

    Such great tips! I have been working to be debt free for several and could have probably been there by now if I had started asking myself that “do I really need this” question more frequently than not. It’s hard but then at the same time, I have everything I NEED, God always provides so I need to be sure I am being a good steward of what He provides me with. Debt free this year is my goal, I’ve paid off a huge amount of debt already and it is exciting to be on the shorter end of debt than the long end. Thanks for the great post & for linking up at CEO of Me this week!
    Misty Kearns recently posted..Aloha Friday – Share your favorite healthy snacksMy Profile

  14. We have to pinch our pennies on a daily basis. God is good though and we always make it. Even when I know we don’t have it, it is always there.

    My husband was laid off 3 years ago and still hasn’t found a job. Even when he had a job (worked for his company for 20 years), we still had to pinch our pennies to get by. We are frugal by nature, so it wasn’t a burden to us or for us.

    Speaking of saving money and pinching pennies, you r kids might enjoy the great (FREE) games at Learning Games for Kids ( or Vocabulary Spelling City ( They are both educationally solid and free to use.



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