I'm sure you're feeling the hit of the new taxes, tax increases, less hours on the job, etc. We're all feeling a hit as our economy goes down hill.
In our house, our income is pretty limited. Each dollar must stretch to equal 2, and we really have to choose what is most important, need over want, so on and so forth.
In the time we've had a much smaller income, we've come up with some ideas on making do and making the best of a small income situation. You're welcome to use whatever ideas we've found--they're most definitely not original--and if you have ideas, by all means leave them in the comments to share with others!
1. Tithe. Yes, tithe. God owns 100% of all the resources, He asks for only 10% of it. Tithing gives you 90% of God's resources. You can't afford NOT to tithe! We've seen this in our lives, with a season when hubby was not ready to tithe, and our finances sorely suffered. Once he got his heart where it needed to be, and started tithing, our finances and resources gained momentum. During the time when hubby was not ready to put in the tithe, God got His exact amount by other means, with emergencies that ended up costing exactly what our tithe would be. Since we've put in tithe, we've been blessed more than we ever expected, and God gets the glory.
2. Keep track of ALL your income, regardless of where it comes from. If you don't have a program on a computer (like Quicken or an equivelent), use a paper ledger. Know what comes in and goes out!
3. Make use of paperless billing/statements/etc if a utility company or bank offers a lesser rate or free checking with the use of such. It saves a few dollars, which helps.
4. Make decisions concerning phone usage. What may work for one family may or may not work for another. For instance, in our house, we seldom use cell phones. We keep a landline, and through our provider have a phone/internet package that allows for unlimited long distance and a bunch of other goodies (caller ID, call waiting, voice mail, etc) all for a very reduced cost rather than having them separate and paying a much higher rate. Our cell use is through a pay as you go service, with the cheapest phone we could purchase ($9 for the last one) and buy a reloading card once in a while to keep service going. We only use the cell for emergencies on the road when travelling, or when I run the church's van to pick up children. It's not something we use to chat on. We've had the higher end plans in the past, with the new phones every 2 years and upgrades and net and all that, but the cost became prohibitive and so we made the cut and let it go. It has saved a lot of money that goes to other needs now. While on the subject of phones, if you are disabled or have other factors, you may be eligible for Life Line program, which takes a small percentage off of a home phone.
5. Consider your TV habits. There's options for satellites, cable, internet tv, you name it. There's bazillions of channels for everything you can think of. Do you truly need every channel available to man? Can you let go of the 50 ESPN channels, the hundreds of movie channels, etc? For many years, we wasted hard earned money on Dish and Direct Tv. It really was a mind numbing waste. Sure, we did enjoy the children's programming (this was when the kids were all preschool or kindergardeners and loved Moose A. Moose), but it wasn't really worth the high cost for all the other trashy channels that came with it that we never looked at nor wanted. We for a while got rid of not only the satellites, but the tv as well-the actual tv went to the corner of the yard and found new homes quite quickly. Our rental home currently has a dish (not ours) on the front and a HUGE monster old satellite (most definitely not ours) in the back hidden in bushes...but they are not hooked up to anything inside the house. We found a digital antenna, and are able to pick up local stations for news/weather, and that's about all we allow--the regular shows are so trashy and sickening, we have no desire to let the kids see them, and we don't want ourselves seeing the stuff. So, we have cut our cost down to $0 for tv, and keep a dvd player and select dvd's as we see fit and our budget allows. We've grown our collection to include the Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, Our Gang series, Rin Tin Tin, and some others that the kids enjoy.
6. Consider how you cook. Do you eat out away from home a lot? Or do you cook at home as often as possible? Do you choose a majority of boxed meals, or do you cook from scratch? Our family of 5 used to go through hundreds of dollars in food, a lot of it processed and totally unhealthy for us, and we wasted so much. The kids became very picky, only wanting Tyson chicken nuggets, McDonalds' fries, no veggies, and so on. You get the picture. Our income drastically dropped when hubby finally got to where he couldn't work without a cane and subsequently lost employment (as an RN, which really meant a drop in income). No more eating out. It all went to a very tight budget, cook at home, use whole grains, make from scratch, make do, etc. Now I stretch a $200 to $300 budget for food to last a month, and no one starves or goes hungry unless they choose to. Oh, don't get me wrong, there was fussing at first. I had a mutiny from one child who absolutely did not want veggies. But, a hungry belly outdid the mouthy determination not to eat what was offered, and he learned to eat what was put on his plate. Our diet turned to rice, dry beans, fresh and frozen veggies, fresh fruits when on sale, meats when on sale, homemade pizzas instead of Pizza Hut, homemade breads and biscuits, meals of biscuits and gravy with a pound of meat stretching for 2 or 3 meals, fresh potatoes mashed or baked instead of fries, and so on. Our meals no longer revolve around meat, but instead a little meat lasts multiple meals. This week I made a 2.5 pound package of ground chuck make 2 meat loaves and 2 large containers of con gris (a Cuban rice casserole meal). I buy carrots and celery and we snack on those through the day. We drink lots of water, tea, coffee, and little soda. I spend some days baking all day, putting most away in the freezer for later meals and snacks--the kids love having homemade cookies with homemade frosting as a treat, hubby loves homemade breads, one child will eat most of a loaf of toasted homemade Cuban bread if we let him.
7. Take inventory of your entertainment budget beyond tv. Do you rent a lot of movies? Do you buy a lot of games for a game system (Playstation/Wii/computer/etc)? Take into consideration these costs as you set up your budget. If you use these types of systems, seek out used, reduced cost, at places like Ebay, Amazon, pawn shops, and other areas where you'd pay much less than the new cost. Seek out free online games for children if you have young ones, there are many free educational games out there. Your preschooler or even slightly older ones may like Nick Jr online. There's math and other educational games if you seek them out. Movies can be purchased the same way, at a reduced rate through the afore mentioned places, as well as Christian Book Distributors, and other areas that may sell at wholesale or slightly less than retail.
8. Look at your closet habits. Do you purchase new clothing often? Do you repair/mend what you have already? Do you have skills to make your own? If this is a big cost for you, maybe seek out thrift stores, consignment shops, the clearance racks at department stores (which usually sell much less than Walmart's "low prices"), yard sales, flea markets, Ebay, even Etsy. If you make your own, you have skills to also repair/repurpose/reuse what you have already and make them into a different wardrobe. Our closets became overflowing, with purchases of low cost pieces, as well as gifts from family as the kids have grown, and we had to pare down. I make my own dresses and skirts, and even blouses when I have the notion, and create clothing for Miss Jess (9) for just about any activity she does. I don't have the skills for socks/under clothing/shoes, but have looked into learning. <grins> A simple hand sewing needle and thread saves a lot of money, in mending holes and repairing hems, taking up or letting down lengths, adding a ruffle for a skirt that has become too short after a growth spurt, and stitching old worn clothing into a rag rug. You can save money buy keeping classics in your closet--if you wear jeans, keep good quality pairs, if you use dress clothing mostly, keep neutrals in good quality choices and accessorize in colors you enjoy. Buy what you'll wear, what you'll enjoy wearing longer, things that last more than a month or so or are solely one season items. If you have children, hand the items down to siblings if at all possible--with ours, they start out with the biggest boy, work down to the smaller boy, and if possible to our daughter--she can wear holes in sweats in outdoor play or have them cut into shorts for under skirt wear, solid t shirts make good play shirts or under jumpers, and the shoes if they've survived the boys are great play shoes for out in the dirt and garden. There's other ways to make the clothing budget last--and I'm always looking for more ideas!
9. Take stock of your household utility useage. This includes water, electricity, gas/propane, etc. Do you have the option for a level pay on your utilities? If so, it may be an idea if you have major bills in certain seasons. For us, the past 2 years have been absolutely horrible for electric during the summer. With temps over 120 (yes, over 120 according to the bank clocks), the air conditioners run full blast just to keep it at 80 to 85. It happened again last year, with the same extreme heat and high bills. With level pay, it doesn't take all our income to pay just the electric. Also, doing the simple things, like turning off the computer at night, turning off lights, not using lights all day when there's plenty of sunlight, using lesser watt bulbs, using a small lamp instead of a huge main light, unplug unused appliances, and so on--we've all heard this from school, our kids (who learned about it at school), etc. Clean the back grates/grill of your fridge so it doesn't run as hard and use as much electric. Line dry your clothing instead of using a dryer--it works year round, even in freezing weather clothes do dry on the line!
For gas useage, especially in winter time, know where your energy "leaks" are. In our house, it's the living room. You can feel the breeze around the windows and door. We live in an old bungelow. So to soften the blow we roll up blankets length-wise and place them around the door. Think one of those fabric stuffed snake things, only hillbilly style. We use the blinds to help with air coming in around the windows, and you can also use plastic on the outside or inside, curtains, or whatever you think will help. A gas water heater can slurp up a lot of gas if the water temp is kept high, making the heater work a lot more to keep the tank water hot. Take short showers to reduce the amount of water out of the tank. If your furnace uses gas, keep your temp at a lower setting. Use layers of clothing, socks instead of bare feet, sweats instead of shorts around the house. Use layers of blankets on the bed, flannel sheets, and let the cat/dog sleep with you. Bake some goodies and do your daily cooking to help heat the home.
For water useage, especially when we're in a season of drought (at least here in Kansas), we really do have to make best use of what we have. Shorter showers, less bathwater in the tub, shut off the water when brushing teeth and shaving and turn it on only when needed. Use the washing machine on full loads instead of multiple little loads that use more water. Or use a washboard and drastically cut the amount of water used, as you can use a big bucket of water for whites, then colors, and go through many more pieces of laundry per gallon of water used. Use a carwash to wash your car instead of hundreds of gallons from the water hose. Don't use soaker hoses in the garden! Absent minded folks like us tend to let the water run for hours and forget it's on. If you must water the garden or whatever vegetation you have, stay with it, water only what's needed. Use the public swimming pool instead of buying a big one of your own. Make use of public water areas, like lakes, ponds, pools, etc where you don't have to add that expense to your bills.
I'm sure there's tons more of ideas out there, and by all means if you have ideas please share them! I'd like this to be a help for anyone who can get something out of the ideas listed! There's lots of ways to lessen the cost of things we need/want and use, if we are willing to try new ways of doing things. I admit, I bucked at some of the ideas listed above, had to learn new ways of doing things that were way out of my league at first, but it is worth it to see the dollars stay in the wallet and not in someone else's.
God wants us to be a good steward of what we have been given, whether it's a lot or a little. What we choose to do with what we're given, we're held accountable for, and with the harder times in our midst, we can all use ideas and hints to make what we have last a little longer, use less, or cost less. We could take some ideas from our dear loved ones from the Depression Era and glean lots of knowledge and wisdom from them. There's odd and end things that my mom taught me to do as she grew up a child of the Depression Era. My family doesn't realize that's where some of my ideas came from, but they don't seem to mind either. They're used to some of those quirks. :)
I hope this has been a help to someone, who may need a little encouragement or some ideas. Times are getting rougher, we need a little boost from time to time. :)
Hugs to ya'll!
Joyfully Shared With:
Time Warp Wife
The Better Mom
The Modest Mom
Far Above Rubies