Frugal budget considerations: More ways to spend less
At the beginning of this new year, I re-evaluated our household budget. On paper. It had been too long since we'd done this, and I knew we had added "extras" without truly "counting the cost".
Our van (which was a necessary upgrade from our car!) gets good gas mileage, but it still uses more gas than our car did. This new (and bigger!) house not only comes with an increase in rent but an increase in utilities. And when my sister Bonnie came to visit, we definitely splurged outside our normal budget!
We are blessed to live debt-free (as we have for most of our marriage, praise GOD!), but yet it's not enough to be living within our means if we're not saving for emergencies, an eventual vehicle replacement/repairs, or able to keep our health cared for. After delaying for several years, I had a root canal and crown done this month which cost us MORE than $1K -- with insurance, and spread over 2010/2011 for maximum coverage!
I'm realizing just how important it is that we focus more on saving for expenses like this. Because we CAN. Joshua has steady work with health insurance, and I'm able to earn money from this website (a HUGE thank-you for ordering from Amazon through my links, clicking on my ads, and signing up for SwagBucks!).
We've had times in our marriage where we budgeted as tightly as possible, just to get by. One income, under $10/hr. with a family to support is not easy! We skimped on lots of things, not to "save money" but to stay out of debt!
Our income has increased since those years, and we feel blessed to be able to afford the "extras". Now, the part comes where we have to decide which "extras" we can plan to afford without living paycheck-to-paycheck! :)
Extras we plan for:
Rent (we upgraded from a 2-br. to a 3-br.)
Regular dental care for all of us
Dental care for Joshua (braces and jaw surgery)
Increased medical bills (Joshua was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia a couple weeks ago)
A visit with my parents/siblings in Ohio
Things we can do to have those "extras":
Continue having 1 vehicle
Continue having only basic phone service (no cell phones or long distance)
Continue having Netflix (no TV, no movies, and no other movie rentals or purchases)
Continue menu planning
Discontinue restaurant/take-out eating (none, vs. the 6-8 times per year for the past couple of years)
Go to Costco every 2 weeks instead of every week
Spend only $420/month on food/household/toiletries*
Continue to keep the heat at 64 or lower
Wash towels and whites in cold water instead of hot (use a few drops of bleach instead)
Take shorter showers (this is a hard one for me!)
Get Ruth potty trained (she's in Pull-Ups)
Go back to cloth diapers for Moshe (used disposables during December)
Take a year-long break from buying stuff (we have so much already!)
Shop around to see if we can get a cheaper car insurance rate
Recycle anything possible
Call trash service and downgrade to smallest, customer-provided can (saving $7/month)
Get landlord to fix dripping faucet in bathroom
Figure out how to pay bills online to save stamps
Get my recipe e-book finished!!!
I am very grateful that by doing most (hopefully ALL!) of these things, we will not only continue to stay debt-free, but actually be able to afford our "extras"! :)
A note on education:
One of the things I am doing this year is teaching our children piano and violin. My parents paid for many years of quality instruction for me, and so teaching our children is one of the "extra" things that we can afford (since I can do it!). Yehoshua (6) especially shows an interest in pursuing music. We certainly can't give "everything" to our children, but our hope is to do the best we can in ways that we can! :)
My new laundry system:
It's been much too rainy and wet to hang laundry the past few months, so I have been using the dryer. (We do try to re-wear clothes, especially on days when the children don't go outside and get dirty!)
Joshua suggested doing laundry once a week, and I had my doubts at first, but now I am a convert!
One great part is that I now can do a load of towels/washcloths/bibs and a separate load of socks/underwear. (Do I need to tell you how time-consuming it is to fold a load that contains towels, washcloths, dishrags, dish towels, bibs, cleaning rags, and socks and underwear for 6 people???!!)
The other great part is that I seem to be spending less time and doing fewer loads of laundry. Each Monday, I wash:
1 load of Joshua's clothes (w/some of mine)
1-2 load of kids' clothes (w/some of mine)
1 load of towels OR 1 load of socks/underwear (alternate weeks)
1 load of sheets (alternate between kids' and ours)
So this is usually 4-5 loads each week, and the sheets I can hang indoors instead of using the dryer (since they're so thin).
So... those are my latest ramblings on frugality, and how we manage to make ends meet each month. YHWH is so good to supply our needs, and my intent is to maximize the GOOD things and, as much as possible, prepare for future (and present needs). If you have suggestions for my list(s), I'd love to hear! :)
*Does that sound like a lot for a family with 4 young children? I may do a future post about some of the more affordable (but still healthy) foods I've been trying to incorporate into our diet more regularly. Any suggestions for lowering the grocery bill even more while still eating lots of fruits and veggies and whole foods? :)