Living The Good Life On A Budget

by | Nov 4, 2016

Living the good life on a budget

*Updated 11/3/16

From what I am reading and hearing, some adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD have money issues.

Actually, errrbody seems to have money problems these days. But when your executive functioning is impaired it is tough to plan ahead, which can lead to impulsive spending.

For whatever reason, my ADHD symptoms have never spilled over into the financial realm.

When I was single and making 25k per year I somehow managed to feed and clothe myself while still enjoying the occasional girls trip with friends.  I didn’t have a budget so specific that I controlled every penny, but I did discipline myself.

Living the good life on a budget

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The key to controlling your spending is to ask yourself this one simple question before every purchase.

decide: Is this a need or a want?

I still ask myself this question nearly every day.  It is important for me to determine if I want something or if I need something.

I need to pay the mortgage and feed my family.  I want to buy a new pair of shoes.

It is imperative that you are able to separate wants from needs.

You need to pay your rent and feed your family.  You want to see the new Dr. Strange movie.  (See what I mean?)

If you determine that you need to purchase the item/s in front of you, is there a way you can get it for less money?  (i.e. generic items, or substitution items)

For example, I would love to buy generic Cheerios.  My husband has not yet approved – but I am working on him!

Here is a set of strategies to help you manage the money you have in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you are depriving yourself of life’s pleasures.


By far the largest percentage of our income goes toward food and housing.

I cannot go into specifics about our mortgage for obvious reasons, but I will say that we did not buy a house that made us poor. What I mean by this is we bought a house that met our space requirements, in a neighborhood we liked, but we did NOT spend so much $$ that we are now destitute.

I have watched friends and acquaintances do this many times. Buying too much house is a huge mistake and it will bite you in the butt down the road. Renting is similar, if you sign a lease that is beyond your means, you will be kicking yourself.

Feeding your family

Shop discount grocers for items that you eat frequently. I cannot stress this enough.

We eat a ton of fruit and veggies in my house. My son often eats 2-3 containers of berries per week. I eat salad every day.

Because we eat so much produce I have begun to scout out places that are less expensive than the chain grocery stores in our area.

I routinely go to Aldi for a variety of items including berries, peppers, onions, cucumbers and bagged apples. Aldi does carry some organic items as well as a nice selection of gluten free foods. The store is not much for ambiance, but it is worth the trip.

** Do not forget to pick up some Moser & Roth 85% cacao chocolate.** Thank me later.

Join a CSA

If you live in an area where there is one available, join a Community Supported Agriculture program. I am a member of a local farm share that is fabulous.

If there are more than 2 people living in your house the upfront investment is worth it for a full season of fresh produce. When you buy this way, you do not need to purchase as much from chain grocery stores. Plus you are supporting a local business – that is always a good thing.

Order your meat in bulk

We are not vegetarians or vegans in this house. We are omnivores. Once a year we order half a cow and split it with another family.

Knowing who raises the cow and the butcher who slaughters it gives me peace of mind about what I am feeding my family.

For about $2.88 per pound we get a years worth of ground beef, roasts and steaks of all varieties.

Again, this is an investment up front. But I am the type of person that needs to know where my food comes from, so I would rather part with my money once a year and be done.

Also, when it comes to poultry – I buy organic in bulk. It is a bit more per pound but I like to freeze in smaller portions. Read labels on poultry carefully and use your judgment when it comes to what it is injected with, how it is raised etc.

If you have a BJ’s in your area, they sell the Applegate Farms brand in large packs. This is the only brand of hotdogs and bacon I feed my son. Read the label and you will understand.

Join a Warehouse Club

I wish we had a Costco around here but I don’t see it happening any time soon. (Insert sad face.)

Examples of things I buy in bulk at a warehouse club.

Mixed nuts                                              Body Wash

Cheerios                                                    Spices

Bagged apples


Tampons (sorry this is a necessity)

Frozen organic poultry


Go to Target. Or Walmart or Kmart or whatever big box retailer you prefer.

I go to Target at least once per week. Here is why:

I use the cartwheel app to buy so many things I cannot name them all here. I like to buy my paper products, plastic wrap, foil, hand soap, cleaning products and even sometimes coffee and tea there.

Update**I now purchase many of my household necessities from Amazon Pantry. In fact, since I am a frequent buyer I utilize the subscribe and save feature. I highly recommend Amazon for stocking your pantry and general household items.

I am certain that Walmart and Kmart offer similar apps and discount programs for frequent shoppers.

Take advantage of sales and those coupons that print when you are checking out. (I have mine clipped to the fridge.) You can sometimes combine the printed store coupons with the frequent shopper reward deals.

For a quick and dirty checklist of ideas check out:

 Easy Ways to Cut Household Expenses


These days I do not use a lot of makeup – I am more of a tinted moisturizer and bronzer girl. But my tinted moisturizer is IT CC cream and my Bronzer is Physicians Formula. I would love to go to Bobbi Brown or Trish McEvoy, but the reality is I do not need to.

Notice how we are back to wants and needs again?

Some general guidelines for beauty products:

  • If you are going to spend $$, invest in a good night cream and eye cream.
  • Do not spend money on expensive microdermabrasion kits. Try the Boots brand or Mary Kay. They work just as well.
  • Color cosmetics are disposable and do not last long so use your judgment about expensive gloss and eye makeup.
  • Do not spend your money on getting gel manicures or fake nails. This is a luxury not a necessity.
  • Do find a good hair stylist and invest some money into a hairstyle that is easy for you to maintain. Then spread your trims out to every 8 weeks or so.
  • Try some old school favorites like Avon. I recently purchased some body lotion, hand cream and deodorant from Avon and the whole box cost about $25. It was a years worth of body product!


This is a hard one. For years I wanted to work in the fashion industry and I still love to follow the fashion trends and popular magazines.

Some shopping tips:

  • Find a retailer that makes clothing that looks good on you, and then buy a ton of stuff. I do this with the Limited. I know what size and length I wear in pants, so I own probably ten pairs of “work” pants from the Limited in different colors.
  • Don’t be afraid to shop consignment. I have bought the majority of my work clothing in consignment stores. Consignment shopping takes time, but if you are patient you can find great deals.
  • Try online consignment. This works particularly well for brands you are familiar with, like my Limited example above. ThredUp is a great resource for consignment shopping.
  • The consignment rule I mentioned above also applies to kids clothes. I buy used clothes for my son all the time. Since he destroys clothing I don’t see the point in buying all new clothing all the time.
  • Discount retailers like Kohls have a surprisingly large variety of clothing. You might not like the fabric or color of everything, but if you keep looking you will find a brand you like. I have purchased a number of simple tops and blouses from Kohls. I am not ashamed at all.
  • Don’t spend money on Victoria’s Secret bras. I know it is tempting. You can find bras at Kohls and Target that will fit just as well.
  • Do not spend a ton of money on fitness clothing. If you are not a trainer, Lululemon does not have to be your uniform. I buy most of my workout clothing at Target in the Champion section.
  • Do buy good shoes. Footwear is a place where you should make an investment. Trust me, you will miss your feet if they go bad.
  • Once in a while treat yourself to an investment piece. I once bought a Gucci handbag for myself. I still have it and I do not regret the purchase.
  • Buy clothing at the end of the season. I have been known to buy Lands End bathing suits and summer work clothes in the winter. Online sales are awesome!
  • Get on email lists for your favorite retailers so that you can get special discounts and offers.

When you are done shopping take care of your clothing whether it cost you three dollars or three thousand dollars. Wash your clothing gently, then line dry it. It will last longer this way.

Other simple ways to cut down on spending

  • Cut your cable. We currently use Apple tv to watch Netflix, HBO streaming, Hulu and Amazon.
  • Have friends over for dinner and drinks. Cook and enjoy some wine at home while the kids are playing. Alcohol is always overpriced in restaurants. Meals out should be for special occasions.
  • Watch the takeout. It is very tempting to run through the drive through on a busy day. I guarantee the $20 you spend on burgers or Chinese is more money than you would have spent making a box of brown rice pasta at home.
  • Treats should also be reserved for special occasions. My son is constantly begging for treats in the form of frozen yogurt or slushies. I recently told him, “if you have a treat every day, it is not special anymore.” I meant it.
  • Stay away from smelly candles and overpriced home décor. You know what I mean, the stuff they sell at the home parties. I also know you feel obligated to buy something. So you might want to avoid these parties all together if possible.
  • Clean out your cupboards. You might find packaged foods you forgot you already bought. This week’s trip to the grocery store might be a lighter one.
  • Meal plan. I realize this is waaaay old news. But I do it and it works. I plan 2-3 meals per week. We then eat leftovers of the meals all week. I daresay I am pretty good at meal planning.


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Managing money is a sticky subject. But with some patience and some self-reflection anything is possible!

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