2020. It’s not just a year anymore. It’s a whole vibe, isn’t it? The amount of stress and worry I’ve seen in the last year . . . Well, it’s a lot—especially among my mom friends, and especially around money.
Having taught in the money space for over a decade, I know that stress around money is nothing new. But this year, we can all use little ways to cut costs and feel more financially secure. So, mom to mom, here are nine ways I’ve found to make money less stressful.
1. Create a monthly budget.
Contrary to popular belief, a budget doesn’t limit your freedom—it gives you freedom. A budget tells your money where to go and how to work for you. And budgeting is actually a biblical principle: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28, NIV).
When my husband, Winston, and I get our budget done, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I know we’ve done the prep work and feel confident we’re ready to enjoy the month ahead. Your budget can be on a simple sheet of paper, on your computer, on your phone, or even in an online budgeting tool (like the only one I recommend, EveryDollar.)
2. Save money on your kids’ clothes.
To know me is to know my love for consignment shopping. It’s a huge money saver. Hunting for cute, brand-name kids clothes at consignment shops is basically a spiritual gift of mine—especially when it comes to special occasion dresses for my girls. Why pay full price for those pieces when you know little girls only wear that stuff once, and then you blink, and they’ve outgrown it.
Oh, and don’t get me started on baby shoes. Babies can’t walk, so they don’t need shoes! I just saved you about $100 or more for the first year of Junior’s life. You’re welcome.
3. Know your own spending habits.
If you really want to get to the root of your money stress, you need to get to the root of your behaviors and your beliefs around money. I wrote about this in my brand-new book, Know Yourself, Know Your Money. In the book, I talk about the psychology, strengths and challenges that come with each of the Seven Money Tendencies.
For example, one of these tendencies is being a Spender. Hi, I’m Rachel Cruze, and I’m a Spender! Being a Spender isn’t inherently wrong. It’s just something I need to be aware of so that next time I’ve spent hours dropping things into my LOFT shopping bag, I can give myself a reality check: Rachel, you do not need the boyfriend jeans. You’ve tried them before, and they’re not even flattering on you. You’re just getting excited about spending money!
Everyone is different, and none of these tendencies are right or wrong. It’s just how you’re naturally wired.
4. Meal plan like a boss.
Coming into the kitchen exhausted after a long day of work and knowing you still have to cook is one of the worst feelings in the world. But you can avoid that feeling if you have a good plan in place. So, in the Cruze household, we meal plan!
Meal planning helps you stick to your grocery budget. It’s also perfect for buying groceries in bulk, and that can help you save money—especially when you shop generic store brands or whatever’s on sale. And of course, it takes away the stress of having to decide what’s for dinner.
5. Create your will.
Nothing provides peace of mind like getting your will done the right way. I know, I know—not a super fun topic of conversation. No one wants to talk about wills, but we have to! Your will is how you protect your family’s future and leave the legacy you want to leave.
What family heirlooms do you want to pass down and to who? What charities, churches or other organizations do you want to still be able to give to even when you’re not here anymore? These are the gifts you get to give when you create a will. My family trusts Mama Bear Legal Forms with ours because they make it simple, affordable and concrete to create an online will. And just for you guys, I have a 20% off coupon code: MOPS20.
6. Protect your family and your income with life insurance.
We’re tackling all the fun subjects here, aren’t we? But really, this one’s a no-brainer. Protecting my family’s financial future takes the stress out of the unknown.
If something were to happen to you or your spouse, how would your family make ends meet? Life insurance protects your income when your family needs it the most. Even if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you still need life insurance because it would cost a lot of money to hire out for all the services you provide.
I always recommend term life insurance. It’s no gimmicks, and it’s the most affordable option. If you’re wondering how much life insurance you need, check out our Term Life Insurance Calculator.
7. Play with your kids—it’s free.
One of the hardest things about kids is that all they want is your attention. And one of the best things about kids is that all they want is your attention. When it comes down to it, they don’t crave the latest toy or expensive experiences. What they really want is you. Just you.
My friend Dr. John Delony says it beautifully: “Kids don’t want to stare at screens. They want to play with us. They want to join us. They want to be valued by us. They want our two most precious things in the world: our time and our undivided attention.”
And guess what? Those two things don’t cost a thing. Here’s my list of 25 free things to do with your kids.
8. Get on the same page with your spouse.
I hear from a lot of married couples who have trouble getting on the same page with money. And let me tell you, it’s almost impossible to have financial success if one of you is working toward something the other has zero interest in. If you’re in this position, here’s what you can do to get on the same page: Find a shared goal.
You see, money reveals what you truly value in life. How you use your money always reveals your priorities. So, what are some core values of your marriage? Maybe you value security, so you want to be prepared for an emergency and have a large savings account. If you have kids, maybe their future is your priority. You don’t want them to make the same mistakes you made. You want to teach them a different way and leave a legacy for them. Maybe you and your spouse are adventurers at heart and want to retire with enough money to see the world ten times over! Whatever you value most in your marriage, use that to come together and tackle your financial goals.
9. Make time for yourself.
Self-care sounds selfish when there’s laundry, budgeting, cooking and more to do. I get it. But you can’t be the wife, mom or friend you were created to be if you’re running on fumes. And I’m not talking about spending $80 on a mani-pedi.
When I feel drained after pouring into my career, my kids or my church for a season without a break, I take some guilt-free time for me. Getting lost in a book for an hour helps. Or journaling. Or catching up on podcasts that inspire me. Or honestly, just blocking off two hours a week to watch The Bachelor. Hey, you don’t have to do something super spiritual to make yourself feel like a human again.
You know what doesn’t fill me up, though? Social media. It’s so easy to reach for our phones when we’re bored. But to be honest, the way I feel after 20 minutes of mindless scrolling is worse than when I started. Because when I’m online, my brain is subconsciously comparing how my life measures up to someone else’s highlight reel. When we start comparing ourselves to other people, we’re playing a game we’ll never win.
And by the way, comparisons will not only steal our joy—they’ll also find a way of stealing our paychecks. Have you ever been personally victimized by the Swipe Up feature on Instagram? I have. If you take a break from social media, you’ll save time and money.
* * *
I know life is crazy right now, and money can be stressful. But I’m passionate about personal finance because I believe money is a tool, and it should be fun!
At the end of the day, just remember: Your net worth is not your personal worth. You are so much more than the number in your bank account. And I hope these tips help you feel at peace with your money so you can create a life you love.
Rachel Cruze is a two-time #1 national best-selling author, financial expert and host of The Rachel Cruze Show. She has appeared on Good Morning America, TODAY Show and Live! With Kelly & Ryan, among others. Since 2010, Rachel has served at Ramsey Solutions, where she teaches people to avoid debt, save money, budget and how to win with money at any stage in life. Follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube or online at rachelcruze.com.