Inside: how to embrace frugal homemaking and help your family save money every day. Homemaking tips and encouragement for the stay at home mom who wants to help out the budget.
Being a homemaker is not about leisurely mornings at Starbucks and afternoons spent shopping. I mean, maybe it is for some people. But you have a desire to be home and actually help your family, in every way you can. And when you’re living on one income, one thing you might need help with is saving money.
The good news is there’s so much you can do as a homemaker to save money.
First, tackle cooking at home and work your way down the list.
1. Cooking at home
Of all the things that saves you money, this is number one for a reason. Feeding a family can feel like a full time job. But it can also save you the equivalent of a full time salary.
If you have the time, you can experiment with making your own bread, making salad dressings, bulk cooking, canning and more.
But before you do all that, nail the basics. The basics of saving money in the kitchen are this:
- Make a meal plan and shopping list every week.
- Don’t throw out food.
- Cook from scratch whenever you can.
Stick to these rules and you will be way ahead of the game. If you feel overwhelmed with money saving tips and advice, just go back to those three. Keep working at them until you’ve mastered them. They will take you the furthest of all.
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2. Homemade household items
This can get into tricky territory, because homemade is not always a money saver. Making things at home like soap and quilts can function as a hobby and an affordable way to give gifts. But it can also lead to buying unnecessary crafting supplies, wasted time, and frustration at making something that could have been purchased for less.
Here are some ways to make sure your homemade hobby is thrifty, not wasteful:
- shop for supplies at discount stores or yard sales
- only make things you know you’ll really use
- give homemade items as gifts instead of store bought (not in addition to!)
- start with very simple projects like crocheted dish cloths or homemade cleaning soap
- set a budget for crafting supplies and get what you need over time
- use baking soda and vinegar to make your own household cleaning supplies
But don’t discount the value of handmade items. They help you feel productive and busy in a good way and train you to see your role in the home as more than just a consumer. The satisfaction goes far beyond the dollar amount you save.
3. Look for frugal alternatives
When you don’t work outside the home, you have the gift of time. Yes, of course you are busy, but you don’t have the demands of an employer and you can manage your own day. This gives you the ability to plan, research, and be flexible in ways that many people can’t.
Here are some money-saving choices that you can make when you have the luxury of being home:
- pack lunches for days of long errands rather than stopping for fast food
- go to a free story hour at the library instead of paying for an educational app
- look at resale markets or websites for something you need rather than buying new
- join deals groups online to buy what you need at its lowest price (but don’t buy things just to buy them!)
- decorate your home with natural and found items instead of whatever’s new at Target
- go to the park or playground instead of a theme park
You can absolutely be a frugal homemaker with a full, fun life without spending a lot of money. Promise.
4. Embrace the hard way
Unfortunately, the easy way is often the most expensive. You’re paying for someone else’s work when you buy a shortcut, whether it’s precut celery or grocery delivery.
Of course only you can know when it makes sense to pay a little more vs. do something that’s a little harder. But it’s important to get out of the habit of always taking the easy, expensive way.
If you can embrace the idea of working hard being part of life, you’ll find that you are happier and save more money.
Don’t expect your celery precut at every turn.
5. Use what you have
This is is an attitude adjustment and lifestyle change, not just advice to use up your leftovers. Try to get into the mindset of using what you have instead of wishing for more.
When you’re planning your meals for the week, don’t just think to yourself gosh I’d love to eat tacos. First think: what’s in the freezer you could use up? What’s ready in the garden?
When the kids seem bored, first think about what you can use that you already have: a sunny day, puddles to jump in, a stack of construction paper.
When you are bored, remember what you have. A home to clean. Children to read to. A beautiful kitchen to bake cookies from scratch.
If you’re always looking for more and thinking about things you need, you’ll get stuck in a cycle of consumerism and unhappiness. To be a frugal homemaker, enjoy what you’ve already been given, and use it wisely.
6. Stay at home
This can be a challenge when you’re used to dashing out and running errands all day. And I get it. Sometimes our homes can feel like a boring, stressful place to be. But if you really want to embrace being a homemaker, you have to stay, you know… at home.
Going out is rarely free. But more importantly, it’s exhausting. A day of shopping, especially when dealing with kids in tow, will leave you too tired to cook, clean, or anything else.
One of my favorite homemaking tips for the overwhelmed: stop going out so much. It’s amazing how much more energy you’ll have and how much money you’ll save.
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7. Set a budget
Back to the realm of the practical.
Have you ever heard the saying “What gets measured, gets improved”? It’s true. If you aren’t keeping track of something, it has a way to slowly get worse and worse. When you keep an eye on it, it gets better.
And a budget keeps an eye on household expenses and has a magical way of saving you money, even if it feels like you aren’t changing anything.
As the homemaker, you can take charge of the “big” household budget (mortgage, utilities, etc.) or leave it to your husband. Choose whichever works best for your family.
But at the very least, set a grocery budget, kids expenses (clothes + activities) budget, and personal budget that you oversee. If you don’t, you can find yourself in a tight spot where either your husband questions you every time you spend money or you spend so freely you dig yourself into a hole.
It costs money to live and to run a household. Get in front of this with a budget that you agree on and have worked on as a team. Sit down with your husband to set this up. Pick a time that no one is upset about money. Do it before you have to do it because things have gotten out of control.
Be realistic about what you need to provide for all of these categories. Try your very best to stick to your budget, and be upfront and honest when you can’t. You’re in this together.
8. Grow your own
We know that a big element of frugal homemaking is the idea of making things yourself. Starting a garden takes this a step further.
You can absolutely grow your food items at room, even if your house doesn’t have space for a huge garden. Of course you can’t grow everything, but you can save quite a bit of money by growing just herbs and tomatoes outside your back door.
You’ll find that starting a garden has benefits beyond saving you money at the grocery store. It helps you bond with your house and see it has a happy place where you produce things, not just an empty shell to be filled with consumer goods.
Start small, with containers of herbs and greens or a few 4 x 8 raised beds, which can hold quite a bit.
Pick things you know you’ll eat, that you buy for your favorite recipes or enjoy as snacks, and your garden will be frugal, fun, and probably one of your favorite tasks to attend to as a homemaker.
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8. Adjusting to your new lifestyle
Being a frugal homemaker is fun to read about, but harder to actually do. Making dinner can be tiresome the 100th time. There will be days you just want to order something online you can’t afford, just for fun. And I can guarantee, on one busy day that you feel overwhelmed, you’ll be tempted by pre-cut celery.
So if it helps, think of frugal living as a big adventure and a challenge. If you think of yourself as always struggling and having to give up all your favorite things, life will feel like a burden.
But at at the heart of frugality is understanding that you are giving up little things in order to get bigger and better things. That might be the ability to stay home with your family, pay off debt, or a fun trip.
I wish you the very best of luck finding, and getting, whatever those big things will be.