Thursday, November 21, 2019

Where did my Frugal Fun go?

A couple of years ago, I started a little series on here called Frugal Fun, where I shared about the ways I was saving money and having fun doing it. But last year I suddenly stopped sharing these frugal posts, and today I wanted to tell you why.

It was because I got really stressed about money. Like, I-was-struggling-to-breathe stressed. I don't know if it was because of the pressure I put on myself to be frugal for my ironically-titled Frugal "Fun" blog posts, or because money was something my parents often fought about, so it's a trigger for me, but I started to stress over every dollar I spent. 

More frustratingly, despite all my efforts to cut costs, we still ran out of money before the month ended, every month.

All this anxiety cropped up and I was having trouble sleeping, so when I started going to counselling to work through issues from my past, my counsellor helped me realise I needed to hand over my money worries to Paul for a while and just take a breather from them. Paul took over paying the bills so I wouldn't have to think about them, and it did help me unwind from the anxiety spiral I was twisted up in. 

When I felt ready, I took the bill payments back over. Ever since then, I've been trying to figure out how to balance our budget, but I still find we run out of money before the month ends, so I'm obviously not doing a very good job of it.

This month I was inspired by the YouTuber Frugal Fit Mom to be proactive and find ways to bring in more money when we were getting low. I was able to do this through World Organic sales, by selling homeschool curriculum we no longer needed, and by babysitting for a friend. That really helped me feel like I was taking constructive steps towards my budgeting problems. 

I also did an eat-from-the-pantry challenge where I got creative in the kitchen to use what we had instead of shopping for more ingredients. That was actually really fun, and I enjoyed the puzzle of it - figuring out ways to turn what I had into edible meals. 
One night I made my own pasta sauce out of homegrown cherry tomatoes that I had frozen last summer. Another night I made a stir-fry to use up all the odds and ends of vegetables that were in the fridge. A third night I pulled out pinto beans from the freezer and made Mexican Rollups. There were enough left over to freeze for another meal, and I was able to pull those leftovers out for lunch this week. I also made a delicious creamy basil pesto spaghetti and meatball concoction that became my son's new favourite meal. 

All in all, it was a good end to the month, but I want to do even better next month. 

I would love to get a handle on our finances so that we don't overspend at the start of the month and then run out by the end. If you have any tips on how to budget on a monthly income, when expenses each month are variable, I would LOVE to hear them.

Also, please share any resources you've come across that have helped you learn how to be wise with your money. 

Thanks friends!



  1. I love your posts Emma. You inspire so many people with great tips and tricks for stretching the budget. Our best tips were making free fun with our 4 children. Camping holidays at DOC camping grounds, picnic dinners, parks, beaches. Also looking for opportunities to generate extra income. My husband did lawns for people, I sewed ballet costumes, relieving teaching, selling things on trade me.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, and for sharing your tips.

  2. Hi Emma, your honesty is refreshing. It is hard to know what sort of resources to suggest for you without knowing if your problem is more in the spending department or the income department. But perhaps something like the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month might help give you some pointers and take a hard look at your finances? Good luck!

    1. Thanks Abbie! I'll check out the Uber Frugal Month. That sounds like the kind of thing we need right now, leading up to Christmas.

  3. I had two thoughts reading this. 1) It saddens me. Reading your blog I get an impression that you are a super-capable, intensely industrious woman - and yet, with New Zealand house prices being what they are, I think most families who've bought a house within the last 5 years just cannot pull it off on one income. No means of budgeting will bridge a gap of 8-to-1 house price versus annual income, which I think a lot of Auckland households are facing. :( I don't know what your circumstances are, but it wouldn't surprise me if your family, too, was putting more than 50% of your income on your mortgage.

    2) When finances are balancing on that very fine line of "not sure if we'll make it this month" despite intense budgeting, I find that taking up part-time employment is more effective than cut-throat budgeting. I have worked 1 day a week for four years: Saturdays at a bakery (6am to 2pm), then Saturdays at a laundry (7am to 3 pm), then Saturdays at a cafe as a kitchen hand (9am to 5pm). The money was not much (about $120/week), but that $120 could make such a difference some weeks! It was a difference between "uhm I think we're just breaking even" and "we've been consistently saving $60/week". And it just took that... edge off stress. I felt I didn't need to worry too much about weeks we spent more than we earned, because I knew that, overall, we were saving, so we were okay. I could let kids have fish & chips at the beach and not feel mortified.

    For several years my husband knew that Saturdays were "his" - he took care of the kids whilst I worked - and then Sundays were the family time.

  4. Hi Maria, thanks for sharing your story and thank you for your encouragement. I'll have a think about whether part-time work could benefit us. I wouldn't mind using my Saturdays in that way. I guess my only hesitation would be that it might be difficult to get away for holidays, and we tend to spend most of our holidays away from home, either with family or at the family bach. Also, I tend to use my Saturdays to catch up on all the cleaning that gets missed during the homeschool week. How did you manage everything when you were doing it?

    1. Perhaps something more flexible like babysitting or gardening then? By putting fliers around our neighbourhood asking for odd jobs I have been lucky enough to get into somewhat unique support work with two different girls - it is relatively regular as far my hours/activities that I do with them each week, but it is easy to get a day off, and the regular schedule stops over Christmas, as the stuff we do enriches their lives but is not essential to their daily routine. So I would imagine something like that could fit well around your family lifestyle? I even got offered a different job where I could have brought a girl back to my house to hang out with us. So you never know what opportunities a flier in a letterbox could lead to, and also just telling everyone you know that you are interested in things like that - word of mouth is great.


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