This week I’m sharing with you 13 ways we save money every month.
I chose 13 because we’re blessed to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah, the 13th birthday, of our son Moshe Tuvia. Tuvi, as we affectionately call our son, is the seventh of our eight children.
Most, but not all, the ideas in the blog are family related. But even if you don’t have children or if you’ve launched all your children into independence, I think you’ll find these ideas helpful. Implementing just one of them can help you change your life and your money for the better.
Or maybe you’re already doing all these things and this blog is just a great reminder.
I cut my kids’ hair.
When my children were young, I did all the haircuts. There were a few glitches as I was learning the fine art of hair-styling. But I’m a quick learner and I improved with time. And thankfully, no one ever lost an ear or an eye.
As my kids matured, several of them (especially the girls) wanted a more professional cut. And I let them go. Interestingly, some of my boys who preferred going to the barbershop as young adults now ask me to cut their hair. It’s just so much easier to do it at home, on demand, without waiting in line.
We eat leftovers.
Until they’re all gone! Sometime, I’ll take leftover roasted chicken and turns it into a fancy chicken stir fry or chicken pot pie. But usually, if chicken was on the menu Friday night, that same old chicken is on the menu Sunday night. I’m blessed because no one has ever starved in my house and we throw out very little food.
I nursed all of my children and pumped milk for them until they were at least a year old.
This is probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my life. And I have literally cried over spilled milk. Many times.
In all fairness, I didn’t choose to nurse and pump for financial reasons. In fact, when my eldest daughter was 3 months old and I was preparing to return to work, I started introducing soy-based formula. Milk-based formulas weren’t an option because my husband is lactose intolerant and because anytime I ate milk products as a nursing mother, my baby suffered terrible stomach and gas pains. But she couldn’t stomach the soy-based formula either. She threw up violently until there was nothing left in her little belly.
An allergy doctor with whom I consulted casually and matter-of-factly recommended that I try pumping milk for my daughter. I’ve often joked that it was easy for him to say. He’s never pumped milk a day in his life. I’m fortunate that it worked well for us, despite the constant stress. And for all my subsequent children, pumping became the thing I did.
I did try adding a formula bottle once a day for my 4th child. But my baby son had the same violent reaction to formula as our first born and I gave up on the idea after that.
Over my 19-year “career” as a nursing mother, I became increasingly more educated about the benefits of mother’s milk and nursing for both mother and child. And my attachment to the practice grew and grew. But I also know how anxiety inducing the whole thing is. And I don’t judge women (including my own daughters) who can’t or choose not to nurse and pump.
What I do know, though, is that in addition to the health benefits, nursing and pumping saved us a ton of money over those 19 years. If I assume that I saved $20 a week for one year, for 8 children, then nursing my babies and pumping milk saved us $8,320.
We practice regular and consistent charitable giving, by donating at least 10% of our income to causes that are important to us.
Income means all sources of income, including wages & salaries, gifts, investment income, inheritance, lottery winnings (I’ve only played and lost once) and coins found on the streets.
We teach our children to give away 10% of their income.
And it makes my heart sing to watch them easily and without question give generously.
We don’t own a car.
This saves us a ton of money on gas, insurance, registration and repairs. Twenty years ago, when we already had 4 children, my husband received a company car as an employee benefit. At last, we were able to enjoy all the benefits of car ownership without the cost and hassle of maintenance. But with a family our size, the 5-seater “family car” we have is too small to transport us all. So, my kids and I use public transportation regularly, and taxis as necessary. We don’t hesitate to rent a second car when we go on a family vacation.
If you spend a lot of money on your car, trading it in for a lower cost alternative can save you a lot of money.
Not having a car has benefits beyond savings: it simplifies our life. Since my husband takes the car to work most days, I can’t rely on having it around to drive carpool. So I don’t sign up my kids for after-school activities until they’re old enough to get where they need to go on their own, including crossing the street responsibly (age 9 or 10). This rule has prevented me from running around like a madwoman every afternoon of the week.
I’ve broken my rule a couple of times over the years, and each time I regretted it.
Our kids wear hand-me-downs.
This was made especially easy to implement because my first three children are girls and the next five are boys.
We happily buy second-hand.
We’ve purchased beautiful, second-hand, pre-loved furniture, including a solid wood dining room table, 8 dining room chairs, a leather sofa and a desk for our guest room. We also have some great second-hand clothing stores (known as gemachim in Hebrew) in our neighborhood. I can find great quality clothes for our whole family. And I’ve even scored a few items with tags still attached.
We rarely eat out.
We make yummy food at home and bake a lot of our own bread. I prefer to cook a lot of food for Shabbat and eat leftovers all week (see #2 above). When the leftovers run out, I can quickly prepare a meal with omelets or grilled chicken cutlets for the main course. A little salad + homemade bread and voila! A gourmet meal is served.
We started investing early.
When our oldest daughter was 6 years old we opened investment accounts for our children and began setting aside fixed sums of money every. single. month. The impact of steady consistent habits plus the magic of compound interest on the growth of your investments is mind boggling. When each of our three daughters got married, we were able to hand them a nice check to help them get started and set up their new homes.
We love to hike the great outdoors.
We’re very fortunate to live near beautiful hilly areas where we can hike and explore. And since Israel is a small country, we don’t need to travel more than an hour or two to enjoy mountains, streams, waterfalls and diverse flora and fauna. Hiking is pretty low cost – a pair of good solid shoes is helpful for the casual hiker – and it’s great exercise. From time to time we buy an annual membership to the National Parks.
We don’t give our kids an allowance.
Contributing to the family and to the upkeep of the home, including dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning, is a super important value (not to mention the life skills acquired in the process). We all pitch in, help and pull our weight because it is our home, our sacred space and we take pride in it.
When parents simply hand their children an allowance expecting nothing in return, they teach their children to feel entitled. And that is not behavior we want to promote.
Related article: Why We Don’t Give Our Kids an Allowance
We’re forever decluttering.
I am constantly amazed by the amount of “stuff” we collect. Even though we recycle, re-use and hand-me-down to the next kid in line, there always seems to be more. I’m grateful that I have learned to easily let go of things.
When I left the United States more than 30 years ago, I put most of my belongings in a storage unit in New York. After two years, it was clear to me that I was making Israel my home. On a visit to the US, I took a few items out of my storage unit, ended the contract and walked away from most of my junk, saving myself storage and/or shipping costs. Our lives are so much simpler and easier to maintain when we continually declutter and remove “stuff” from our lives.
I hope you enjoyed these 13 ways that we save money every month – money habits that we practice and teach to our children. Let me know in the comments below what you do in your family. And I would love to hear if something I’ve written here makes resonates with you and you’re thinking about adopting a new way of doing your money.
In love and celebration,