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My Experiences Living on a Budget

Our Family Experience Living on a Budget

Last year as a family we were able to pay off all of our debts excluding our mortgage by living on a budget, working hard, and putting away every cent we could to pay off our car and student loans. During that time, we were making decent income and scheduled into our budget specific funds for entertainment, purchase we were planning, and even a small amount for “extras” each month that we could spend on those extra little things that are more splurge types of purchases. During the 12 months we were living on a budget we didn’t struggle at all with staying within the limits we set. It was a huge blessing to us at that time and by giving every penny a specific place where we were had agreed as a couple our money would go gave us the ability to put everything else towards our debt. Our persistence paid off when we were able to pay off that last payment and feel a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.

Once we were out of debt, we started saving up as much as we could of a cash reserve to have on hand in case of an emergency. Of course, you hope you will never have to rely on your savings but it seems like life is always throwing curve balls. Just one month after fully funding a six-month cash reserve of funds we could rely on should my husband ever lose his job, we received a curve ball. Luckily, my husband didn’t lose his job but his entire company was told that everyone, about 30 employees, would need to take an immediate 60% pay decrease for approximately three months. The decrease would was to hopefully not have to lay off any employees and land a few of the contracts they were working hard to secure. Now, I don’t know about you but a for us, a 60% decrease in our paycheck was HUGE! We would be back to living on an income level we hadn’t seen since we first got married.

We were so relieved to have a backup of our savings to rely on if we needed it but we had worked so hard to build up our savings. We decided that we would cut back everywhere we could and pause some of the extras we were doing during the three month period of reduced paychecks. We were able to cut our budget down to just cover our expenses without having to touch our savings. We were once again back to strictly living on a budget. However, this time, the circumstances were different. It was hard to cut out entertainment, scale back our grocery budget, limit any extra spending and make do with just the things we had. The first time we set a budget, we had still given ourselves the freedom to spend in those areas that you do have needs like date nights and clothes shopping and the like. But this time, things were tight. We had a goal in mind and we would have to work hard to reach it, even if it meant some sacrifices.

Some of our budget areas were easy enough to stick, others forced us to get creative like borrowing movies for date night and still others really challenged us. There was one area of our budget I went over on all three months — groceries. I know there are ways I could have scrimped and saved more but as a busy mom of 4 little boys I didn’t have the energy to get back into coupon clipping and shopping several stores when I could barely find the effort to just stop at one store each week for groceries. We definitely ate home cooked meals more and other ways to cut back on food expenses but we still went over. We were never over by too much, under $50 each of the months, but I still felt disappointed by our lack of persistence to our budget. The biggest downfall for me when I would shop is I would spend too much of our food budget early in the month setting us up to fail. We’ll be back up to our previous full pay this upcoming paycheck and I am very grateful for that. But, I’m also grateful for the experience we’ve had over the past three months as a learning and growing experience that has taught me important lessons for living on a budget that have helped grow my thoughts on budgeting and money management.


Tips for Living On a Budget

  • Spend your money on paper first by assigning exactly where you want every dollar to go. Start with your most important expenses and work your way down towards extras, fun expenditures, savings towards large purchases, and debt payoff.
  • Adjust your budget at the beginning of each month to address areas that you may have struggled with over the previous month. If you’re not sticking to the budget because it’s too tight to live comfortably, try to move things around to make it a challenge, but not impossible to stick to your budget.
  • Keep tabs on your spending throughout the month so you always know how much money you actually have left in the month to spend. You can adopt the envelope system keeping cash in your wallet specifically assigned to your different budget categories or aggressively watch what comes out of your bank account with tools like Mint.
  • Celebrate your progress when you’ve completed some of your goals. For example, if you’re working hard to pay off debt you can celebrate with a small splurge when you’re debt free! Paying by cash, of course.


Living On a Budget Simplified with Visa Prepaid

If you’re struggling to stick to your budget and not over spend, there are tools out there to help you take control of your spending. Visa Prepaid is a reloadable card that you can fill up with your budgeted spending for the area or two that have really been challenging you. Load money up onto your card at the beginning of the month or just after each paycheck. Then, you have all the convenience of using a card for your transactions without having access to all your bank account balance or risking credit card debt. You can even have your paychecks sent directly to your Visa Prepaid card. I would have loved to use a Visa Prepaid card to help me stick within our grocery budget.

Here’s a simple guide to show you how easy it is to get started with a Visa Prepaid card!

Come learn more about the Visa Prepaid Card and how it can help your family! What are your tips for living on a budget?

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Prepaid and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Discover more at or view more Visa Prepaid videos at

Jeanette Case

Wednesday 22nd of May 2013

Yay, for debt free living. Good job Janel


Friday 10th of May 2013

Great job on sticking to a budget and building up your savings. Thanks for the helpful tips!


Friday 10th of May 2013

I agree with you on spending money on paper first. It usually works out, till I find the prices have gone up on certain items. Right now we are on a tight budget. My husband hurt his neck and we started staying with his mother so he's not bringing in any money, she has to be watched 24/7 so it may be a while before we get back on track. I'm on disability, so my income is limited. So at the end of the month, there's not much left to budget. We just have to pick and choose and try to pay our bills down with the money we have. We'll get there, I really enjoy your article. It really brings out some great pointers on saving and staying on a budget.

s riches

Thursday 9th of May 2013

I agree that the most important part of living within a budget is to write down every penny that comes in and goes out on paper.

Allyson Bossie

Wednesday 8th of May 2013

I have to admit it is hard to stay on a budget, but it is so necessary as the SAHM of four in able to stay at home! We pay ALL of our bills the first day of the month (the only paycheck we receive in a month) and then I look at how much is left to spend for groceries, gas, and extras. I have a budget of $350 a month for groceries, and I have to admit by the end of the month, sometimes meals are quite *ahem* creative :D. We have b een working on our debt for 2 years now and my husband's prior to marraige debt is completely gone. Now we can focus on mine that I have from a divorce that I hope to have done in a year or two. I can't wait to be debt free and put up money to buy a home!

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