Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guest Post: 10 WAYS to SAVE! (Surviving on One Teacher’s Salary!)

This guest post is from one of my good friends from work, Mrs. Megan Brownlee. I asked her specifically to write this post because I knew I would learn something from it! (And of course I wanted to share her great tips with you all!)


She actually JUST had her precious son a couple weeks ago, and I talked her into writing this for me one of the days of her maternity leave before she delivered Mr. Levi!!


{Really….who looks this good after they JUST had a baby?!?!}

I REALLY respect Megan a lot, especially where finances are concerned. She and I have a lot in common, especially with our views, goals, and beliefs. She and her husband Seth are extremely focused and disciplined. As two teachers, their goal early on in their marriage was for her to be a stay-at-home mom. After three years of marriage and getting pregnant with their first child, their dedication made that dream a reality, as she will not be returning to work next year. As much as I will miss seeing her pretty smiling face every day, I am so proud of her and excited for her!!! I definitely took some great mental notes from this post. Some of the things I already do, but there are definitely some major areas she pointed out that I know I can improve on.



  1. Cut the Cable!!! And cut the Home Phone. I know everyone says “I would but my husband just has to have it for sports!” Well, my husband loves sports too, but it is not his LIFE! There are more important things and cheaper ways. Nowadays you can do everything through the internet and cell phones. You can stream TV through your computer; get your favorite sit-coms or series, or Netflix. We have made it watching College Football through watching it on ESPN 360 or going to the neighbors to watch big games, which also provides great fellowship! You also have more time for your family and hobbies. (Reading, learning guitar, gardening, exercising, cooking etc.) It’s so easy to sit in front of the TV just to “relax” and say “you NEVER have time” to do any of these things.  Also, decide where you need internet the most. If you have it on your phone well then decide if you really need to be paying for it at home as well, or vice versa. Yes it makes things very convenient, but it also costs more. We went a whole year and a half not even having the internet at home… So I am talking no cable, no home phone, and no internet. I had to go to the library to check my email during the summers, and although it was hard, I did survive and saved at least $500 that year just on internet alone. This may sound really bad, but my husband and I are still on my parent’s family plan for our phones. We both just like the basic free phones and don’t need anything fancy. I know we could get our own but it is so much more expensive and I have to pay someone so it might as well be to my dad. This makes both of our phones $15 each so only $30 a month! If you don’t need an iphone or smart phone, then think of ways to make your cell service more affordable!

2. Get what you NEED, not what you WANT!!! We see a commercial and think we have to have it, and have to have it NOW! Or we impulse buy. Walk around with it for a while and if you can talk yourself out of it then you probably don’t really need it. If you can afford anything you want then by all means get it. But if you are trying to save money to stay home with the kids, or live off of one income, then “Needs” and “Wants” become very important. Sure, I would love a COACH purse but I know I don’t need one. It’s a purse - that’s all! It doesn’t make my life any easier by having it. It might actually make it more stressful, because now we don’t have the money to pay that bill off this month.


3. Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse!!!! I think this is the one that I am most passionate about. Other people will always be buying what they want and then selling it as soon as the next new thing comes around. (Or they realize that they really didn’t need it after all and just want to get rid of it.) This is where you come in. You reuse their gently used “stuff.” It’s not gross… that’s what washing machines are for! If you think it is then fine you go buy that brand new Graco stroller/car seat combo for $249 while I reuse theirs for $25 and clean it up a bit. Things like this are a no brainer because a lot of times you don’t even use the big stroller that much and it sits in the garage, so why pay top dollar for it? Recently I was at a yard sale with tons of baby clothes of all different sizes and the people were ready to just get rid of it! I bought 30 adorable pieces of clothing (I am talking Polo even!)and some brand new for $6. You can hardly buy one outfit for that. I understand that some things are definitely worth buying new- especially when having a baby, so buy those things with gift cards from your registry. Then buy the others or big ticket items with your gift cards and your monet will go a lot farther this way. Places I find great used things: Yard Sales (Neighborhood ones are the best), consignments, Surplus stores (we finished a gutted foreclosure with materials from surplus stores!), and Craigslist (our whole house inside and out is furnished by yard sales and Craigslist!) Also, if you have friends or family members that are yard salers, have them be on the lookout for certain items for you. I know one time my new neighbors said they needed a fire screen and fire tools for their new house and I was thinking sure I will keep that in mind when I am out, and one week later I found them a complete set for around $8.


4. Don’t buy a NEW car! Just don’t do it. Be patient and look around for a used car. Think about what you can afford to spend (by this I mean pay cash for, write a check for and be done with, owe nada!) Think about the mileage, year, and type of car. Read reviews and ask around if it is a reliable make. When you don’t have a car payment each month you would be amazed how much you save!

5. Eat out with coupons and gift cards! Try to only splurge by eating out nice once a week. When you do, always order water! You can have sweet tea or soft drinks at home for minimal cost, but water is always FREE and it is a healthier choice for you and your family. (Your grocery bill would also go down if all your family drank was water.) When you do order other things or go out try to have gift cards for it or coupons. Always be thinking of what specials paired with that coupon or gift card will get you and your family the most bang for your buck. For example, if you only have a $10 gift card to Chili’s then use it and get their 2 for $20 or get an appetizer and split a meal. Also, stock up on Chick-fil-A calendars in the winter. Their coupons don’t expire and you can use them whenever. (Don’t ever throw them away!) I usually buy anywhere between 7-9 calendars just for my family, which at 7 calendars yields about 14 sandwiches or nuggets, 7 soups, 7 biscuits, 7 Large drinks, 7 milkshakes, etc…(you get the idea!) Never be afraid to ask if they will switch out what’s on the coupon if it costs the same. For example, a regular sandwich, spicy sandwich, and 8 nugget can all be switched out if it’s and equal or lesser value. So whenever I am out and about and need lunch or a treat, I just use one of my free items. I also pay attention to any specials they may have. I know weekly they have BOGO sandwiches and biscuits on certain days and will try to hit those up every now and then in addition to my coupons. *Another thing I do is ask for gift cards to eat out with for my birthday or Christmas, this way we can splurge and go on more date nights throughout the year. (A $20 Zaxby’s gift card can last me almost 4 meals… or 2 if I decide to take the hubby!)


  1. Pay off your DEBT!!!  Any bonuses, tax money or just money you were not expecting to receive….use it to pay things off! This way you can start saving. We are 26 and really the only debt we have is our house which we are in the process of refinancing to a 20 year mortgage and will be paying the same monthly payment.
  1. Break any weekly spending habits. You don’t have to go to Chick-fil-A or Starbucks every morning or even 3 times a week. It may not seem like much but it really does add up in the long run. Eat at home more. It also really makes eating out seem more special and affordable.

8. My other favorite is being PATIENT and TRUSTNG GOD!  He knows the desires of your heart and he definitely knows what you NEED; even better than you do. Just remember it comes in His time, not yours! It really never fails, everything I have ever needed God has provided through a yard sale, hand me down, or from craigslist. For example… (this is just 2 of a thousand examples), I had been saying my entire pregnancy that the only thing that I didn’t have was a glider, it was getting closer and I had still not found what I needed on craigslist or yard sales. I asked around at school through email if anyone knew of one for sale. Right away I got like 4 responses and ended up getting one for $40 in just the right color!!!! Two other things we had been on the lookout for was a really big soft ottoman for newborn photography and a really big area rug for the living room. We found some ottomans on Craigslist for about $50-60 bucks and some rugs for like $100 and up but not in any of the colors I needed, and we decided to be patient and just see if one came across our path later. Well about a week ago I was at a neighborhood yard sale and came across the rug that’s matches our colors perfect for $60 and then came across an ottoman that I just knew was going to be more than I wanted to spend, but I asked anyways because you never know and to my surprise it was only $10!! I was thrilled; because not only can we use it with photography but we can also we also use it in our living room with the rug and move our glass coffee table with sharp edges and replace it with this one for when the baby comes, double whammy! ( I will attach some pictures!) I am telling you, if you don’t have to have it right away just be very patient and God will usually bring it across your path and at a much better price. Many people tell me that they never have any luck with yard saling and that all they ever see is junk, but I really believe it is because they go like one time don’t find anything and give up. It has to be a lifestyle, meaning you go every weekend, or every time they have neighborhood sales you’re there. I find great stuff… but I go all the time and I have learned to LOVE it! I can sometimes go like 8 months without stepping foot into a mall because yard saling really takes care of my urge to shop and it’s exciting because I never know what to expect. When I do feel like I need something new; I shop at stores such as ROSS, TJ Maxx, and Marshalls. If you do shop at the mall or other stores, try to only shop the 75% off or higher clearance racks. Of course you have to look a bit more, but there are great deals to be found!

Iron Piece




Bar stools $35 each, hand painted table and chairs that was originally from Real Deals $200

All 3 canisters $5

Couch-$200 (craigslist), loveseat $20 (yard sale), ottoman and rug I talked about. Lazy Boy recliner $50 craigslist. Fire Screen and tools $10 (yard sale) End table $5.


  1. When using your heating and air conditioning, here is one way save! When it feels amazing outside, such as in the fall or spring, turn your unit completely off. I am talking months like October, November, mid February, March, and April- maybe more depending on the weather. When it does get warmer or cooler, try to keep your thermostat on as hot or cold as you can bear. It will not kill you. Yes, it may be more uncomfortable, but open windows, use your fans, or wear a robe and slippers when it’s cold. You will really love seeing your power bill be reduced to nothing! By all means if you say this is not somewhere you would like to cut your budget, then pick some of the other ways to save. This is just another thing that we do in our house to help our budget and save some money.
  2. Last but not least…. BUDGET! It’s easy to create a budget, but sticking to it is another thing. Try to sit down and add up where your money was spent one month (gas, groceries, bills, house payment, eating out etc.) Get an idea on where you are spending too much money and focus on staying closer to your budget the next month. I know this stinks, especially if you are one of those people that want to help out every club or organization, but there comes a point where you need to just pick one or two that you can support. As a teacher, I know we get hit up with every sport, club, church organization, and fundraiser known to man but pick the couple that you really want to support and tell the others “no.” Yes, it is ok to say “no.” Many people buys tons of school/club shirts and that is the last thing that we all need (more T-shirts). We know they end up in our own yard sale or thrift sale pile in a few months and they cost us $10-$20 bucks. Also, think about which organizations have the best deals. Two examples with recent purchase I have made…. One was a club at school that was selling Chick-fil-A calendars. They were making 50% profit and I was paying $6 to get $40 worth of free food, which I know I will use. The second is these cards that the football and baseball teams sell each year. I buy them because one thing on it makes it a no brainer. The card is $20 and one of the coupons is for a free oil change. We all know that a standard oil change is anywhere from $25-$35 and this is something that we are all going to need every few months. In addition to the free oil change it has about 10 other completely “FREE” coupons. There are also about 30 other BOGO coupons….so this way we both win. We are supporting a good cause, but we are also not just wasting money- it goes for something that you would have to spend your money on anyways!

These are just 10 ways that my husband and I have been able to live within our means and save. We knew that when we got married we were both willing to do whatever it would take for me to be able to stay home when we had children. So, we bought a house that was a foreclosure (completely gutted, might I add) but did most of the renovations ourselves and found things at surplus stores for a fraction of the cost. (God really blessed us with this).

We made sure that we could budget with one of our incomes and immediately put the other in a savings account. We agreed that we would try and wait about 3-4 years before having children so we could build up a savings for when I stayed home. Sure, we might have to pull $100 a month or so for extra unbudgeted circumstances such as during Christmas time or random months when car insurance is due and these are not normal monthly deductions; but overall throughout the past four years we with the Lord’s help have been able to save a substantial amount of money so I can stay home. I also make a little here and there by doing photography and flowers at weddings which helps a little and I also coached while teaching. My husband is also a coach and when not coaching in the summers he would work construction to bring in vacation money or wherever it was needed. So yes, we both have hobbies and are allowed to have fun, but we just find ways to be able to afford them (which sometimes may take some creativity and budgeting!) My husband has a sailboat…this of which was not wife approved but it’s not like I can move it out of the driveway, and….it’s his dream!  I was able to go to Italy a couple of summers ago, and my husband and I were able to take a big out west trip last summer. I may come across as a cheapskate or tight wad, but when buying things I just have to remember my priorities and what is most important to me- not just getting caught up in the moment! Last thing would be to encourage you to be a cheerful giver. Whether you’re giving to your church or a family or student in need, those things should always be looked at. God loves a cheerful giver and it is way better to give than to receive. Think about what you have. We live in America and I know that really none of us want for anything. (Basic needs that is.) We can all sacrifice those earrings, shoes, or purse to help someone who needs it, and trust me, you will receive the greater blessing. Philippians 4:12 states: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”


A few more finds below…

Fountain-FREE on side of road at Reunion Neighborhood yard sale.

Fire Pit- $45


Kitchen light-$25 yard sale

Patio Set-$25 yard sale


Trust me, our house did not come together in one day or even in one year! It is a process that takes place over time as you find the perfect piece for that space at the perfect price!

Happy hunting!!!!


Danielle said...

I love this! We ditched cable over a year ago and the added bonus is that we didn't see commercials, so there was no 'wanting' of new products. No media influences to buy really made a difference for us (mostly me). The new place were renting has cable included in the rent (bonus!) but since we went so long without it the commericals still have no effect :) thank you so much for sharing!!

Elizabeth Drucker said...

I LOVE this! I very much believe in saving in every area you can. One thing I have done to save money is I now cut Damian and Michael's hair. Damian needed a haircut every two weeks and at $14 plus tip it was adding up quickly. I got a $30 pair of clippers and have saved a ton. I think it is a much better feeling to be able to sleep at night knowing I can pay the bills rather than having the newest and greatest material things.

Carley said...

I LOVE this! BC and I have lived off of ONE teacher's salary for almost 2 years now. Although I will be working next year, we plan to save one entire pay check. Did you know that Megan and I go to the same church?! :) Great post. I loved it! tHANKS!

Olivia said...

Great post! My husband and I have been living off 1 teacher's salary for the past 4 years. We have a 4 yr old and 2 yr old, and I buy 90% of their clothes from garage sales!! In fact, garage sale shopping is one of my favorite things to do! :)

Anonymous said...

I thought these were great...and so obviously written by a southerner. Way up north, the heat's on by October part-time, and our snow comes in November!

You have a lovely home and gave great advice. Thanks for all these tips. They're great for anyone living within a budget!

Carol Lee said...

Wow this is the most complete and innovative saving tips i've ever read. Loaded with practical tips that will surely works. You are a great domestic diva!
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