Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How We Saved Over $10,000 for our International Adoption

I meet a lot of people online (and in real life!) who want to know how we were able to afford our international adoption. Let's get one thing straight. We are not millionaires. We didn't have people giving us tens of thousands of dollars for our adoption, although I did pray for it. We are a hard working couple who budgets everything (even the smallest purchase at the grocery store). We both had full time jobs. We paid rent. We have expenses just like you. We even had emergency expenses come up during the time we were saving for the adoption.

When you approach the topic of affording adoption, what is the dollar amount that comes into your mind? $50,000? For me, it's $35,000, because that's about how much it was for our Poland adoption. That's a huge number. You could put a down payment on a house, purchase not one but two nice cars, or spend the entire year backpacking in Europe. We definitely didn't have this amount lying around in the bank or in other assets.

How could us, an average couple, afford a international adoption and still have money to live? I'm not going to lie and say that the big $35,000 number didn't scare us. It did. It was the first thought in my head when we decided to adopt internationally. How are we going to pay for this? With any big goal like saving up $35,000, you have to start small. When you chop down a big tree, you are not going to cut it down in one stroke. It's going to take a lot of little strokes to knock down a large tree. Being able to adopt debt free is just like that. It's going to take a lot of small money saving ideas to make a huge impact on your adoption savings. And one disclaimer: it's not going to be easy. It takes hard work and constant attention to your finances to be able to afford adoption debt free.

How do we take a BIG number with lots of zeros and make it small

I've been thinking about this question for a couple of weeks and how we were able to afford an international adoption. I want to share with you some ideas that we used to help save for our adoption. Some of them may seem impossible for your family and that's ok. You will not be able to apply every tip to your family. Each family is different and has different dynamics. Don't go too crazy and try to do all of these tips immediately. Work on implementing one or two a month. If you make a drastic change in your lifestyle in a short period, you will feel deprived or reluctant to keep going with making changes to your spending habits.

Practical Ways to Save Money for Your Adoption:
  • DIY Haircuts. I started cutting Wes' hair four years ago. I was a little apprehensive at first in my abilities to cut another person's hair, but I'm so glad that there is youtube! Youtube has a ton of DIY videos. We have saved a ton of money cutting his hair at home. About 3 years ago, I started cutting my own hair. We started to see savings rack up after my switch to DIY haircuts. Wes gets his haircut every 7-8 weeks or so (about 6 times a year). We would spend about $15 at Supercuts each time for him ($90/year). I would get my haircut twice a year and spend about $40 each time ($80/year). We spent a total of $170 a year on haircuts. Because we have learned this hair cutting skill, we now save that $170 each year.
  • Get Insurance Quotes. I'm not saying switch your car insurance, renter's/home owner's insurance, or health insurance, but ask other insurance companies for quotes. See if any of them are lower or will give you more discount opportunities. We did this with our car insurance and renter's insurance. We got a quote for the same exact car insurance coverage, but it's $200 a year less than what were currently paying. Same thing happened with our renter's insurance. We got a quote that's $65 a year less that what we were paying. At the time we had health insurance through Wes' employer so we couldn't change that plan. Years later, when Wes started the Ph. D program at Tulane, we had to get individual coverage. We opted for a high deductible plan with a lower premium each month. We have emergency savings to help pay for the deductible if there was a health emergency. High deductible plans might seem scary, but if you have emergency savings it's not so scary. We saved $260 a year by switching car and renter's insurance. By switching to a high deductible health plan, you could save at least $100 a month ($1200 a year). In this spending area, your savings could be $1460.
  • Entertainment. This is the tip that everyone dreads. I promise I'm not going to try and kill your fun. Paying for TV entertainment can be one of the biggest spending items that we, Americans, can spend our money on. For those of you who are trying to save money for your adoption or fill in the blank goals, I'm going to challenge you to pick two items on this list to cancel. You can have one entertainment item on this list. I don't want you to totally deprive yourself of any TV fun. If you cut everything from the entertainment list below, you could save $2111.76 a year!! That's a nice chunk of change!
  1. Ditch cable or satellite. It's expensive. There are cheaper alternatives. And do you really watch that much TV to get your money's worth? You could save $130 a month ($1560 a year). What if you paid yourself $1500 a year to not watch cable? That sounds amazing to me!
  2. The Movies. This is another expensive form of entertainment. Popcorn $6, coke $4.50, and 2 tickets $10 a piece/$20 total. Your total movie experience costs $30.50. Do that once a month for twelve months and that costs you $366 a year. Renting a movie from the library, making your own popcorn and buying soda from a grocery store will be the cheaper alternative. I know you won't get to see the newest flicks, but they will be coming to DVD/Bluray in the coming months. I promise!
  3. Netflix. This is everyone's cheaper alternative to cable/satellite. And rightfully so! It's only $7.99 a month ($95.88/year). This was the hardest entertainment to cut from our budget. I absolutely love having Netflix. I could watch a lot of shows for a really great price. I think I even cried when we cancelled our service, but we saved almost $100/year.
  4. Redbox. For $1.50/one night rental, you could watch a new movie. This is certainly a cheaper option than going to the movies. But what if you started renting movies (FOR FREE!!) at the library? Or what if you waited till Redbox released a special code for a free one night rental, which happens frequently? You could save that $1.50 that you spend three times a month ($4.50/month). At the end of the year, you could have saved $54. I know that may seem like a small amount towards a $35,000+ goal, but every little bit helps.
  5. Hulu. Just like Netflix, Hulu costs $7.99/month. Not bad if you've ditched cable and still want to watch TV shows. If you could have a little patience and wait till the next year to watch your favorite TV show, you will be able to rent the following season of from the library for FREE!! You could save $95.88/year.
  • Eating Out. This is another guilty pleasure of mine. I love eating out. I love not cooking and not having to clean up the dishes. But it does come at a cost. The majority of us, Americans, eat out at least once a week. I get it. You've been at work all week and on Friday night the last thing you want to do is to cook. We would spend about $45 each week eating out and we would only go out once a week. We could forgo eating out and make our favorite restaurant food at home using this website. If you don't want to cook on a Friday night after work, make things easier on the Saturday/Sunday before. Prepare your Friday night meal and freeze it. All you have to do is heat it up and you will have minimal mess to clean. For those of you who are still rolling your eyes at me and saying "but I love to eat out to much to give up". I agree with you. I love eating out too. Click here for 12 tips on how to eat out cheaply. By giving up your eating out habit or limiting it to once a month, you could save $2340/year.
  • Bring Your Own Coffee/Lunch To Work. Just like eating out, coffee is another guilty pleasure of mine. If you buy coffee twice a week at $4 a cup, you're spending $8 a week, when you could make it at home for a lot less. Yes, you do have to learn how to make your kind of latte, but that's what youtube is for! You could save $416/year by making your own coffee. Buying lunch three or more times a week can be super expensive. I'm going to say that you spend at least $10 each time you eat out and this is probably a conservative amount. If you eat out for lunch three times a week, that's $30/week ($1560/year). You could save $1976 each year by making your own coffee and lunch at home.
  • Go Through Your Bank Statement. Are you a part of clubs or memberships that you do not attend or use anymore? This can include gym memberships, yoga or other exercise clubs, and social clubs. If you are not regularly participating in the clubs you are paying your hard earned money for, then you need to show them the door. There's no reason to pay for a group if you are not actively participating. What about those of you who are a part of an exercise club and do regularly attend? Offer to work the desk a couple of hours to get a free membership or to take a class for free. Start your own class with your friends. Rent a fitness DVD from the library for free. Find a cheaper alternative if you can. The potential savings could be about $600 a year.
  • Swap Babysitting. If you and your spouse want to go out on a date, do it! But let's minimize the cost involved. Find another couple or friends who have children and offer to watch their kids while they go out on a date and vice versa.This could save you at $300 a year.
  • Car maintenance. I am so thankful that Wes has learned how to change oil in our car, check other fluids, rotate tires and other car things that I know nothing about. Wes has saved our family at least $400 a year by doing it himself.
  • Cell phones. This is a hot topic to touch when I talk about cheaper plans to others who are trying to save money. This is also a very easy way to save a lot of money each month. What do you need in a cell phone? Talk, text, data? Do you need all three? If so, is there a cheaper plan that you can get to accommodate all of your needs? And do you really need the top of the line cell phone, which you are just going to trade in a year or two later? Or worse, you will accidentally drop it and the screen will crack and you will have to spend more money on fixing it. The average monthly cell phone bill is $73. I'm not sure how many people that includes on a plan in this report, but it doesn't seem like it's a family plan because those are typically $100+. Let's go with the average, $73. Wes and I spend $25 a month for both of us. That's $48 less than the national average! We are saving $576 a year. I bet you are wondering what our cell phone plan includes to be that low. We use Republic Wireless and we have unlimited talk and text. We don't have data, but we have wifi capabilities if we are in an area with wifi. It works perfectly for us, because we are surrounded by free wifi practically everywhere we go. Here's a post I wrote last year about our cell phones. It changed a bit since then with a new lower plan!
  • Don't buy new stuff. Try to trade, swap or barter to get things you need. Click here for books. Freecycle is a great way to get free stuff in your area. Try a trade site like Tradeaway. If all else fails, try craigslist. Visit the thrift store in a prominent neighborhood-they always have good clothing items in great condition. Try yard sales for various items. Remember: only buy what you need! You could save at least $300 a year if you buy used and not new. Disclaimer: there are certain things you do need to buy new, so save up for those things that you need new.
  • Electricity. Do you leave a light on in a room that no one is in? Turn it off or unplug it if you are not using a device or in a room. You could save so much on your electricity bill. Do you need your house to be at a constant 65 degrees? I live in South Louisiana and it is hot. Not just a "oh it's hot outside", but a hot that makes you melt if you are outside more than 2 minutes. Electricity is one of our most expensive bills because it is VERY hot 9 months out of the year. We keep our house temperature around 77 degrees.  Our average electricity bill is about $100 each month. If we put our thermostat at 72 degrees like most people do, I couldn't imagine what we would be paying for electricity.  I estimated that we are saving at least $60 a month by bumping the thermostat up a couple of degrees and turning off lights we are not using/unplugging devices that aren't in use. We are saving about $720 a year by implementing electricity saving techniques. Don't worry, we aren't sweating to death and we aren't frozen, but our clothing choices for the seasons will help accommodate our thermostat setting. It's ok to wear a jacket inside when it's cold outside!

By implementing all of these money saving techniques, we were able to save $10,653.76 for our adoption from our own pay checks in one year. That's amazing. A couple of small changes to your budget could have a huge impact on your adoption.

Do you have an item in your budget that you could cut or decrease? How are you saving for your adoption? I need ideas. Please post them in the comments. Thanks!

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