This week, I’d like to introduce you to Amy Sanders. Amy is a teacher at Concordia Lutheran School in San Antonio, Texas. While I have been away from San Antonio as long as the Sanders have been there, my cousin has been known to baby-sit for their adorable girls.
I am pleased to share Amy’s perspectives with you, because her determination to eliminate debt is truly inspiring. It’s not easy – as we all know – but with wise, frugal choices, we can all do so.
Tell us about yourself and your family.
I am a second grade teacher at a Lutheran school and my husband, Jeff, is a teacher, coach, and Athletic Director at a Lutheran high school. He coaches football in the fall, girl’s basketball in the winter, and I coach softball in the spring. We have been married for 9 years and have 3 beautiful daughters. Maya is 8 and in second grade, Rachel is 6 and in first grade, and Leah is 3. She attends the childcare center at our church. I am so blessed to have each of my girls about 100 yards away from me at any given moment!
Where do you live? What’s your home church?
We live in San Antonio Texas and attend Concordia Lutheran Church.
Who’s more frugal – you or your spouse? How so?
I would have to say that I am more frugal, although to be fair, my husband rarely spends any money! I do the grocery shopping and shopping for our house needs. He might stop every once in a while to grab a sandwich after a game, but it is rare that he spends any money at all.
Were you raised to be frugal? If so, how? If not, what made you become this way?
Yes and no. I did learn that if I wanted something, it probably was not going to happen until my birthday or Christmas. Rarely did my parents buy me things “just because.” There was usually an occasion attached to it. My mom has always been a coupon user and definitely shops the sales and clearance racks. We would always take our own popcorn, soda, and candy to the movies, and I grew up thinking that Ziploc bags were a luxury item (rather than the fold-over sandwich bags). However, I never felt like we did not have things because we could not afford them- I just think my parents were smart with their money.
Who (or what) has had the most influence on your frugality?
Once I moved out on my own after college and had to spend my own money for rent, groceries, and other things, I learned that bills pile up quickly. It was too easy to “buy now, pay later,” and I purchased items such as a computer and furniture on one of those “easy payment plans” thinking it would work.
As a newly married couple, we accumulated a chunk of credit card debt the first few years. It costs a lot of money to have children! I am the one who pays all of the bills and balances the checking account, and I was becoming overwhelmed with the cycle of not having enough to cover our expenses.
So one day we just decided “no more credit cards.” 26 months ago, I stopped using credit cards and have been paying off the balance on a 0% interest card ever since. We are slowly watching that debt decrease, but VERY slowly. Most 0% credit card offers are only good for 12-18 months, so I have had to transfer the balance to another card for a 2%-3% fee, but it is still nice to see the number going down instead of up every month. I hope to have the entire balance paid in full in 2 and a half years.
How does your faith influence your frugality?
I refer a lot to Matthew 6:31-34 where it says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What’s so appealing about being frugal?
Sometimes it’s almost like a personal challenge to me…how much under budget am I this month? How much is left in our checking account before payday? I also know that I am teaching our girls life lessons about money.
What is your biggest frugality challenge?
Now that my daughters are getting older, it is getting harder to avoid “trends.” Also, I can’t pass up a good deal. If something is “only a dollar” or if it is on clearance for 75% or 90% off, I really have a hard time passing it up because I tell myself “you never know when you might use this.”
What’s your best frugality tip?
I keep a very detailed spreadsheet every month that tracks our every expense to the dollar. I break down each and every receipt and put the $$ into the appropriate category on the sheet (groceries, house expenses, toiletries, medicine, etc.) I check our account every other day to see exactly where our money is going. I don’t know what I would do without that spreadsheet!
Any final frugal thoughts to share?
- My biggest tip is to NOT go shopping until necessary. It’s amazing how many “extras” you can throw in the cart. By not even going to the store, it cuts down on that tremendously.
- At restaurants, we order water and take powdered drink mixes (like lemonade).
- I do use coupons, but am not a fanatic. I only use them if it is something I am going to buy anyway. I like that at Target you can use one of their coupons and a manufacturers coupon.
- I do NOT go to a store to use a coupon “just because I have a coupon.” Even if I save $10 off of a $25 purchase, I am still spending $15!
- I stock up on holiday coupons at fast food restaurants. Our McDonald’s sells Trick or Treat and Valentine’s Day coupons where you get 12 free items for $1. I recently bought 10 packs and am able to take my girls there for a special treat after school. Taco Cabana had similar coupons for Halloween.
- Thrift store shopping! I buy 90% of our clothes at the thrift store. I also find books and games for my kids and my classroom at rock bottom prices.
- I am a Sonic junkie. At the beginning of the month, I put $20 on a Sonic card to use and when it’s gone, it’s gone! This helps curb my addiction a little.
- I use the Target 5% debit card. It’s a free way to save on all purchases!
- I only go grocery shopping once a month for major items, then go about every 10 days for milk and fruit, etc. I have a VERY detailed grocery list that I print off and highlight the things I need.
- I buy generic whenever possible. Our grocery store does not do double coupons, so even with a coupon, generic brands are often cheaper.
- Right now, Wal-Mart and our grocery store gas stations are offering 10 cents off every gallon of gas if you use a gift card. That adds up!
- We are content eating basic meals. Usually it’s the main course, a bread, and a vegetable- nothing too fancy or expensive!
- I have learned to keep a wish list all year for myself and the kids. Then when it comes time for a birthday or Christmas, I have practical ideas already in place.
- I buy birthday party gifts all year long by shopping on the clearance rack.
- I set a budget for Christmas gifts and stick to it.
- We only buy 3 gifts for our girls at Christmas- a gold (“big”), frankincense (Christian), and myrrh (practical gift or gift of time) gift as well as some stocking stuffers. This takes the pressure off of “do they have enough?”
- I take advantage of holiday gift card specials, such as buy $30, get $10 free, on places that I will shop anyway.
- I check my bank account every other day and write it down on my budget sheet so I know EXACTLY what I am spending each month and where the money goes.
- I try to plan ahead for things such as car insurance, HOA, sports fees, etc., by paying a little bit each month when possible.
Thanks, Amy, for sharing your life and heart with us!