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Friday, February 22, 2013

Saving even more when times get tough

Well, if we've all been watching the news, we should be aware of the sequestration and the government furloughs.  At this time, it's 80% that it's going to happen.....that's 20% of our income that will be gone and nothing we can do about it.....or is there???

I've already written about saving money on groceries, so I won't rehash everything.  But here's what happened yesterday: I had my lists (Kroger, Food Lion, Martin's, and "wherever I can find it cheap" which usually means Sharp Shopper) and the coupons for each store attached at the bottom of the list.  While DS was in his karate class, I ran to Sharp Shopper - with ALL of the lists.  I had roughly 45 minutes to get in, go through the lists, get out, and drive back to the next town over where the karate school is.  In the end, I got everything off the "whatever" list and about 1/3 of the things on the store-specific lists because it was cheaper to get at SS.  One of the things that I'm still in awe over is that I was able to get a whole ham (the kind they have in the deli that they slice for you and charge you $3.49/lb or whatever) for less than $7...yes, a WHOLE ham!!  That will be cooked and cut into quarters...those quarters will either be sliced thick for dinners or thin for sandwiches, maybe even diced to add to soups....I figured it out to be roughly 8 dinners (family of 4) and 8 lunches (for DH)...for $7!!!  Total spent at SS was $98

Had to inventory everything as it was put away, grab some lunch, pick up DD from school early for an evaluation for having 2 teeth removed  - hit with the fact that they wanted $104 up front just for an evaluation, and that's when I lost it....tried all day not to get too stressed and freaked out over where we were supposed to make up the difference in pay and then *wham!*  Fortunately, the receptionist spoke with the billing coordinator who called our dental insurance (we have some coverage through health insurance, but also have separate dental).  Because our dental insurance doesn't charge a co-pay, they opted to treat it as if they participated with the insurance and didn't charge me for the consult {phew} and when she told me that, I started crying all over again.  Got through all that, have the appointment set up for extraction, called both insurance companies, and instead of $410, we will have to pay $255...still more than we have, but this needs to be done or else it will be more extensive dental work as the adult teeth are starting to come in at awkward angles and NOT pushing the baby teeth out.

Ok, so....DH and I had decided that we would stay up as long as it took to get finances reigned in to figure out what we could do to make up for the 20% loss of income...turns out it only took about an hour.  The biggest thing is that we are only going to use our Visa for gas in the cars and paying for the family medicines (required, not optional).  Once our federal tax refund is in the bank, we are paying off the other credit card and putting our cards away (frees up about $100 every month).  I called about changing cell plans because if we could switch, we were going to get rid of the landline....only to remember that the house alarm (not an option to get rid of it) runs through the landline....there goes that idea.  Called about internet and there isn't any option other than cutting it almost completely, so this is still under discussion.  THEN....called our credit union to see about refinancing the cars....can't refinance DHs car because the payments wouldn't change at all, but CAN refinance my car and save $65 a month.....ok, that is $165/month....getting there....oh, and the first payment won't be due until April, which will give us a month that we can put $$ into savings.  March is also the last month of school payments, so for the next few months, we will either put that amount into savings or use it to pay off other bills and get them gone.  There are 2 things we will NOT give up: DSs school and karate for both children.  Both things have helped DS come so far (autistic, ADHD, anxiety, etc.) and we don't want to remove 1 or 2 of his compromise there.

Got that done and went out to finish grocery shopping...went to Kroger and got everything else that was on our list for about $134 total.....and after, $224 spent on groceries that will see us through another month, maybe more depending on how I tweak the meal plans.....that frees up more money to put aside or pay on bills.

Children are NOT happy, but both offered to give us the money out of their savings accounts...we told them no, that was money THEY earned and it was for their future expenses.

We are not going out or picking up take out (not that we did that very often anyway), we aren't buying anything that isn't needed (which is what the children are most upset about, I think), we are combining errands, and looking at every other way possible to save money.  I am going to start using up my fabrics and crafts and getting more items listed in my Etsy store to sell as much as possible, which may mean taking a hit initially, but I hope it will work out in the long run.  Other than increasing my sewing for others or getting a part time night job, there's not much else we can do.

What do YOU do to cut expenses, especially when money is tight and you have a loss of income through no fault of your own??

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Question for SAHMs/WAHMs

So, I haven't posted in a little while and that's mainly due to health issues in the family.  While everything has been taken care of, there's the anticipation of the bills for everything, and no change in our source of income.  Which leads me to this post/question. 

For those of you that are Stay at Home Moms or Work at Home Moms, what do YOU do to have additional income?  I tried craft shows, and the stress of getting things done and quite possibly not even making enough to cover the space rental pretty much did me in, so I stopped this past year.  Yes, I know about Avon, 31, Posh, Advocare, but those are the types of things that don't fit well with my personality....I always feel like I'm pressuring people, plus there's the initial investment of funds, which I just don't have.  I've looked at baking, but now I have one friend who has started doing cakepops and decorated cakes, and another who is taking custom orders for cupcakes and muffins, and even if they hadn't, husband made some very good arguments as to why he is uncomfortable with me doing anything food related unless it's a company..LLC....and there is a lawyer ready to handle any lawsuits from people who have allergic reactions....I really was jazzed about mini pies and such like that, but again, he made good arguments and I'm not going to fight over this.  SO.....really that pretty much leaves.......what???

What sort of things are feasible to bring in a little more income??  Yes, I sew, and I have an Etsy shop, but I don't know what I could possibly list that would sell since I've had the store for a while and sales have been up and down.  Right now, there's not a huge amount of things listed, but I'm trying to get new items made, a new light box made, and new pictures taken to better show off the items.

Other than that, I'm open to suggestions.......


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Starting the year off right......????

So, in an effort to get ahead of some bills, Hubby Dear and I agreed to a 2-month spending freeze.   YIKES!!!  We agreed that the only money that will be going out of the house is to pay bills and buy necessities for the family, and I'm finding that it is NOT a pleasant thing at all - even though it was actually my idea!!!

Let me give a little explanation as to why we decided this.....Last year, in an effort to save some money, I researched insurance plans - like I do every year prior to open enrollment - and thought I found the best plan for our family's needs.  Well, that might have been true on the medical/health care side, but it decreased our dental coverage....whoops!  SO, since late last year, I've been working to pay off the expenses that weren't covered by our separate dental insurance - to the tune of over $500!  THIS year, I switched us back to a slightly more expensive health insurance, but one that has basic dental coverage included, in addition to having separate dental insurance and vision insurance.  The reason behind the insurance coverage being the way it is, is really to help with my daughter's braces, the fact that all 3 of us wear glasses, both children need to have some teeth pulled (for daughter it's her upper baby canines, for son, it will be his wisdom teeth particularly since one is sitting to where it will be coming out through the front of his gum instead of the top)....having the additional insurance will help minimize what we pay out of pocket.  YES, it means more coming out of the single paycheck that is earned, but in the long run, that amount is less than what we would have to pay if we didn't have the extra coverage.

OK, so back to the spending freeze.  I have 2 children - a 12yo boy and a 9yo girl.....they both want "STUFF" and are having trouble understanding that they aren't getting it because we are on a freeze.  Of course, we've never done a spending freeze, so now they are both freaking out that we are "poor"....argh!  This is where I would like to suggest that, when they get to an age where they can understand, have a talk with your children about financial matters.  NO, you do NOT need to get into all the details about the family finances, but a simple explanation about income vs. outflow and putting money aside for the future or for unexpected expenses is ALWAYS a good thing - and definitely a discussion that should be had BEFORE they start working or head off to college, etc.

One of the things we've discovered is that we were buying a LOT of the "impulse buys" when we were out getting things we needed - we don't do that anymore.  We make a point to have a list and stick to it and try our best never to go shopping when we are hungry because that just makes the final total higher than it needed to be.

I took my oldest (home schooled boy) shopping with me last Friday because we needed a few things to get the meal plan to reach the next pay period, and I think we only bought 2 things off the list, mainly because they were healthy snack options that both he and his sister could have with their lunches or before bed....the rest of the time was strictly by the list, and after 2 stores we had gotten everything (Sharp Shopper first, then Kroger).  I have to sit down and finish the meal plans, but we have enough to get us through the end of the month which is awesome (I had planned through the 17th, but the next pay period was a few days after that), and we have enough things for home lunches, snacks, dinners, etc.

We have NOT gone to Books A Million (but probably will this weekend since both children received gift cards as Christmas presents) because we've hardly ever walked out of there without spending over $60 (usually closer to $100!).  This visit, the children get to use their gift cards and Hubby and I will supervise so that they don't become one of "THOSE" children causing disturbances and annoying other shoppers.  Other than that, we're just hanging out and enjoying the day.

The children have asked about their allowances....funny, they haven't been earning them, so they haven't been receiving them.  They don't seem to see the connection at all, but I suppose a few more months of not having money to spend and parents not just randomly buying things for them and maybe they will figure it work = no pay and in this case, their chores are written on a HUGE whiteboard, so they shouldn't need constant reminders...even so, they have not been doing the chores, and those that have been done (feeding animals) have only been done with reminders.....argh....this is probably not my favorite lesson to teach them, but they HAVE to learn financial responsibility BEFORE they get released on the world at large!!!