There are essentially two ways to increase your savings; one, to cut out extraneous expenses, and two, to increase your earning potential. As a family, we've cut out about all extra expenses we can while still living comfortably. For example, we cook in batches to save on energy, we line dry clothes, we cut out cable, don't have a local phone bill (aside from internet), carpool, and conserve on energy for heating/cooling as much as possible. Of course, we also shop sales, weigh our purchases as a need vs. want, and use coupons.
Since we've cut out about all that we can and still live with comfort, we've done what we can to increase our earning potential. Benny works overtime, when it's approved, to add a bit more to his paycheck. This is especially important for him in the summer, since winter can be slower and his hours have been known to be reduced during the off season for paint. I have, in the past two years, earned my master's degree, which puts me on a higher pay scale with the state. I've also found a few summer opportunities for professional development that offer stipends and have had the opportunity to work with a grant funded program through the university that pays well for some teaching during the summer. Recently, as a family, we have decided that this is the year that I will pursue National Board Certification. In North Carolina, currently, Nationally Board Certified teachers are compensated with an additional step in the pay scale. Since certification is good for ten years, we decided that this would be a good time for me to pursue this process, since we don't have kids yet and I'm still in the mode of reflective writing since I just finished graduate school. It's also a welcome challenge for me, since I have a fantastic and unique group of students this year, who will make the writing and portfolio construction very interesting.
We can continue to increase our giving during this time through in-kind donations, such as donating gently used items to Goodwill and our church, as well as using our coupons to purchase items at a deep discount for our local food pantry. Our food pantry also accepts home canned items, so the apples and jams that I can are gladly accepted. Of course, we continue to tithe to our local church and I make donations throughout the year to our school (both time and supplies) and my students.
All of that is to say that this will enable us to add more to our savings, begin to invest more, and give more to ministries and organizations we care about. Since I'm pursuing National Boards, it also means that I will have a little less time to devote to this blog. I still fully plan to post as frequently as possible, but that will likely be once a week, rather than the more frequent 2-3 times a week that I've been trying to post.
How do you go about increasing your savings and giving, while not sacrificing the time with family or hobbies that you love? Are you willing to wear yourself out for the short-term to gain in the long-term? I'd love to hear how you're saving and giving green!