10 Ways We’re Becoming More Frugal

by Donna on January 12, 2014

So it has been just over a year from the time that we made the exciting yet scary decision to sell everything and move to Ireland to be full-time missionaries. Since then we’ve sold nearly everything, packed up our life and moved far away from family and friends. We’ve settled into our new life in Ireland and I’ve had some time to reflect on how we got here and what we’ve been learning so far.

Before this big move I loved blogging, I loved writing about homemaking, motherhood and homeschooling. I loved the wonderful community of bloggers that I had supporting and encouraging me. I loved feeling like I could help inspire or encourage another mom from right behind my computer screen. I’ve missed it, and while I may not feel “ready” to jump back in to regular blogging I figure, what do I really have to lose? So I’m going to start right from where we are now; living in a little apartment in Northern Ireland, serving as full-time missionaries. I’ll probably continue to share about homemaking, geeky stuff like time management, organizing and planning, I’ll talk about my kids and what we’re up to but I probably won’t talk much about ministry. Who knows, maybe someday I will write more about ministry but that’s not why I blog. So off we go… let’s talk about money, shall we?


Being missionaries, our day-to-day life is dependent on personal sponsors (financial partners) friends, family, churches, that love and support us with their monthly donations. It’s amazing how God provides when times are tight but overall money looks different to us now. I think I treat it with a whole lot more respect. I’m learning how to become frugal. Most of the credit for my new found “frugal-ness” has to go to my dear friend and fellow blogger, Rebekah. I always say she is my frugal hero! So today I thought I’d sharing 10 ways we’re becoming more frugal.

 Decor – Our walls are nearly bare… Yes! (Oh how I teased Rebekah for this for years!) Frames and art work right now are a luxury and  don’t make it into our budget right now. So we skip home decor for a season and you know what? It’s ok, the white walls are kind of nice, for a little while. There’s an art studio on the YWAM base here so maybe Kevin or I will just have to whip up some of our own wall art.

Clothing. Our wardrobes are simple. Kevin and I do not have or need lots of clothing. The children wear school uniforms and I have to say I’m surprised, they are wonderful money savers!  When the kids get home from school they change out of their school uniform into their play clothes. They only wear each for about 6 hours. So each week our children wear ONE school uniform (unless something gets a stain). Claire tends to wear a skirt for 3 days and a pinafore (dress)  for the other 2 days. They also have ONE outfit that they change into after school during the week (M-F). Yes my kids wear the same clothes nearly all week!! It works for us right now because it’s winter and the kids aren’t playing outside so their clothing stays fairly clean. Doing this keeps our laundry bill down significantly.

Drying Jeans Heater

Laundry – First let me say I have the best husband in the world. Seriously, HE does the laundry!!! Living in Europe one of the big changes for us is how SMALL everything is. Or rather how BIG everything was in the US. Our washing machine is tiny and we don’t have a dryer. Our clothes are hung up to dry in the bathroom. We also use little hangers that let you hang your clothes in front of the radiators to dry. Yes, my bras are currently drying in our hallway on the radiator – it’s a very glamorous life here!  Because laundry is so time consuming, I’ve been trying very hard to limit how much laundry we have to do. We try to wear clothing for as long as possible before washing them. No we don’t stink either, we’re not wearing dirty, gross clothing, promise! There are some things we wash after one wear, if-you-know-what-I-mean. For example I wash my jeans once a week, maybe!!

Electricity – Our electricity has to be “topped-up” which means my husband walks over to our local grocery shop with a special card and buys a voucher for £20 each time our electricity runs low – the electric unit emits a loud and very annoying beeping noise when our electricity credit is getting low. (I feel really bad for the guy that lives next to the electricity box downstairs.)  We find ourselves turning off lights more often, we  turn off the oven, washing machine and dishwasher outlets when not in use (this is much easier to do in the Europe because there is a little switch which allows you to turn the power off to the actual outlet). When something is charging and it’s done, we unplug it and turn off the outlet.

Grocery Delivery

Groceries – Because we have no car yet. we’ve started to order our groceries online. I’m amazed at how much money I save when I plan a menu and order what we need online. I spend easily £10-£15 more when I shop in the store because of impulse buys or finding something that I forgot to put on the list (online shopping does have it’s downfalls, forgetting to order an item is one of them!) We’re not only saving money on unnecessary purchase but also on gas and helping out the environment by not using grocery bags.

BYOB – We always bring our own bag – In Northern Ireland a Carrier Bag Levy was introduced in April 2013. Stores must now charge at least 5p for new single use carrier bags. By bringing our own bags we create less waste and also earn points at the grocery store for every bag we bring of our own. I carry these great Envirosax around with me every day.They hold up to 40 lbs of groceries and I’ve had mine for at least 7 years, they hold up great!

Reusing Wrappings – Just today I was gathering up wrapping paper, gift bags and ribbons and putting them all neatly in a box. This is one simple way we can save a little. If it’s still in good shape it goes in the box. Just don’t be upset if your birthday gift next year is wrapped in a familiar paper.

Libraries Are Still my BFF – Because we sold nearly everything to come to Ireland we don’t have many books. While I love books, especially for the children, we couldn’t bring many books simply because of the weight. I loved our library back at home and still miss it dearly however I recently found out that the library here has a great little benefit. The closest local library is about 5 miles away however, every other Thursday the Library Bus parks right outside of our apartment! For a small bus they have a GREAT children’s selection. Plus because I use a “mobile library card” I don’t get charged fees if my books are late! (can you save money-saver!!!!)

ZipLock Bags – I have been reusing zip lock baggies!! Now wait, before you compare me with your Aunt Mildred that hand washes and reuses ziplock bags and paper towels, I’m not too crazy about it. First of all “zip-lock” bags aren’t available for cheap here and to be honest they are pretty cheap quality (must remember to add ziplock bags to wish list). If I use ziplock bags to store something dry I’ll try to reuse it if possible. This little step saves money over time.

Reusing Containers – I have also been washing out and reusing plastic and glass containers. Why? Because to be honest we can’t afford to run out and get Tupperware or Rubbermaid food storage containers. We did buy a few when we got here but they aren’t great anyways. Right now I have a jar from Peanut butter soaking so I can wash it out… and I hate washing peanut butter off of anything!

Think Twice - One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my frugal friend is to think twice before buying anything! There are plenty of things I would LOVE to have for our home, while we did have a “start-up budget” to get us settled we had some unexpected deposits and expenses that came along. So while there are several things I’d love to have, I take time to think about it. I ask myself, “Can I live without this?” “Is there someone I can borrow this from instead?” “How often will we use this?”.

The best habit we’re reminded to practice is to ASK – If it is something that we really need, like a couch for example, we prayed about it… and what-do-you-know???  God provided us a FREE Ikea Couch that was in excellent condition! I could go on and on about how God has provided for us in the past 3 months but I’ll save that for another post.

I’m so thankful for my frugal friend. She’s not only super smart about saving money and being green but she’s one of my very best friends. When I’m washing out a zip-lock bag or giving the kids clothes a quick sniff to see if they’re clean enough for one more day, I think of Rebekah, and how she’s been known to iron used tissue paper to use again . It helps (although for just a moment) when I’m missing being in the States and having her just a few minutes away.

We still have much to learn on this journey to becoming more frugal. What are some of your best money-saving tricks?



Big Brother: There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase using one of the links on this page I will earn a small commission – Thank you for clicking :)

Paying the bills.  It’s not something I find enjoyable and our current bookkeeping system has not been working for us. A friend introduced me to a simple system for organizing unpaid bills and tracking payments for monthly bills.  I thought the system was so efficient that I wanted to share it with you.

Organize Monthly Bills with HeyDonna.jpg


The key to this system is to find a calendar that works for you. This calendar in particular has a pocket that you can keep all of your bills in.  You could even take some of the ideas here and create a similar system in Google Calendar, but I think the beauty in this system is that it is simple and on paper. It’s a system that you can simply grab when you need it. Low tech can sometimes be more efficient!

The System:

1. Put it in the Calendar: When you receive a bill in the mail immediately put it in your calendar. Write the bill and amount due in BLACK or BLUE ink. You want to be sure to write the bill on the date that you need to make the payment, not necessarily the due date. Counting back 5-6 days is usually enough time to write the check and pop it in the mail or make the payment online. You can then store the bill right in the calendar page that corresponds with the due date to keep things simple.


Add regular monthly Bills: Go ahead and put in all of your regular monthly bills like rent, if they are regularly the same amount and due on the same day every month.

Add the miscellaneous: You can write in birthdays, holidays and other unexpected expenses on the calendar as well. That way you are prepared each month.

2. Cross it off: When you make a payment you will then cross out the bill.

3. Note important details: Write the amount paid (if necessary) the date that you made the payment, and the check number in RED pen. (Using a red pen makes it easy to quickly look at your calendar and see what’s been paid.) You can also write in any other notes that might be important; if the payment is late, overdue or if there is a credit on the account.

4. File It: Once the bill is paid you can file it. If you ever need to know if a bill was paid or what check was used you can simply grab your calendar to see the details.



Why I love it:

1. Visual: I love that when you glance at the calendar it is easy to see what bills have been paid and what bills are unpaid.  I’m a visual learner so by seeing the red ink and crossed out bill I’m more likely to remember that the bill is all set.

2. Dual purpose: I love that the calendar can also store the unpaid bills so I don’t have to dig through files or piles to find the bill that I need for that month.

3. Simple: This method is an excellent and simple way to keep track of your monthly bills.  There are many excellent computer based or cloud based systems. It’s refreshing to find a paper based system that is truly simple. An added benefit is that it’s easy to look back after a year and get a snapshot of how you spent your money so you can budget accordingly. This may not be a high tech solution for organizing your bills but it’s simple and always right there!

4. Organized: Having all of this information in one place helps to keep your bookkeeping organized. If I ever need to know what check was used to pay a bill or on what day I mailed out a check I can just grab the calendar and all of that information is at my fingertips!  If you share your finances both spouses can easily open up the calendar and see what’s been paid and what bills are outstanding.



If you’re looking for a simple solution to organize your bills this might be your solution. It’s easy to get set up and get started; give it a try.




Reflections 2014 Note Nook Pocket Wall Calendar

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