How This Family of 4 Slashed Their Budget by $12,540 a Year

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In 2011, I was a 21-year-old newlywed with a household income of $30,000.

Fast forward to 2015, and my husband and I have two small children, three-year-old Penny (a future hoarder) and one year-old Georgia. My husband brings in $42,000 per year as a full-time youth pastor and I just recently entered the workforce again as a freelance writer, on track to make $23,000 per year working 15 hours weekly.

To most, we are considered a low income family. A year ago, we were struggling financially, barely making our bills and going down the scary road of putting all emergency expenses on a line of credit.

But with some hard work and a few lifestyle changes, we’ve managed to adjust our spending and save $1,045 per month. We no longer have a line of credit or credit card debt. We make a minimal monthly payment on our new van and we’re saving up to buy our first home, while still maintaining an emergency fund.

Here’s how we slashed our monthly budget and got back on track financially.

1. We Downsized to a Smaller Home

We aren’t ready to buy a home yet, which made it easier to choose a smaller rental and focus on amplifying our savings.

We downsized from a 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom and two-bathroom townhome to a 1,000-square-foot, above-ground basement apartment with two bedrooms and one bathroom. It’s a little tighter, but 1,000 square feet is enough for us, and the savings are substantial.

Savings per month: $550

2. We Cancelled Our Cable

We had a basic cable package we really didn’t need, so we made a quick phone call and cancelled it. We received Apple TV as a Christmas present and we now have Netflix, which is way cheaper and more convenient for us.

If you’re considering cutting the cord, make sure to do the math on the associated costs first.

Savings per month: $30

3. We Cut Our Home Phone Line

In the cell phone age, a landline is a pretty archaic piece of technology. We were a little late to realizing this, but once we did, we cancelled it and are enjoying the savings.

Savings per month: $25

4. We Negotiated With Our Internet Provider

We did a bit of shopping around first, so we knew about offers and deals from a variety of Internet providers, and then we called our current company. Since we’d already cancelled our phone and cable with them, the rep was eager to keep our business as our internet provider!

By simply asking for it, we managed to save $30 per month and increase the quality of our service.

Savings per month: $30

5. We Called Our Car Insurance Provider

After shopping around some different insurance companies, we called our car insurance provider and let the rep know we had found cheaper rates elsewhere.

Instead of losing us as customers, the company reduced our rates and we gladly saved ourselves the trouble of switching insurance providers while still enjoying equal savings. We saved $50 per month during our original phone call, and after buying a new van with a better safety rating, we were able to reduce our insurance cost by an additional $50 per month.

Savings per month: $100

6. We Started Making a Meal Plan and a Grocery List

Many North American families overspend on food, and we were following the pack. The fix was pretty simple: a better system to minimize food waste and keep us eating at home.

We now create a meal plan and a grocery list, sticking to these two things like our life (and bank account) depend on it.

Savings per month: $200

7. We Switched Grocery Stores and Started Price Matching

We had been shopping at the expensive grocery store, simply because we liked the clean aisles and organization, but it was costing us.

We got over ourselves and started shopping at the discount grocery store, which offered much lower prices as well as the chance to price match with other stores. I use an app called Flipp to make price matching a breeze.

Savings per month: $100

8. We Stopped Buying Cereal

This seems like a small detail. Yet, when we bought cereal, we found we would plow through our milk and fill up on sugar for breakfast — and our grocery budget was creeping up.

We replaced the cereal with less expensive breakfast options like eggs. Consuming protein in the morning over sugary processed carbs is also more satisfying, saving us from grabbing a snack shortly after breakfast.

Savings per month: $10

Small Changes Add Up

Making these changes has helped us save an average of $1,045 per month, which works out to approximately $12,540 per year.

Some of these changes take a lot more willpower and sacrifice than others, and typically the harder the change, the bigger the benefit. But we’ve found we’re happier with the outcome, and we’re enjoying living more within our means.

Your Turn: Have you tried any of these strategies? How much did they help you save?

Brianna Bell is a wife, mother and freelance writer specializing in articles on personal finance and family. She has been featured in the Globe & Mail, and has been referred to as a “tiger mom of personal finance.” You can find her blog at and on Twitter @briannarbell.