HELP! I seriously need help with the "B" word! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 03:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I need help with a Budget. I have been married for nearly 17 years, and we have been low income from day one. My dh and I both were not taught how to budget as kids, and really struggle to comprehend where our money goes! It's like sand slipping through our hands.

But, over the years, as our family grew, I had to work harder and harder to live on our low income. We now have 6 children, currently receive $429 in food stamps, and are on WIC.

Then, in 2007, our oldest daughter began having serious medical issues, and life was turned up side down for our budget. Numerous trips out of town to doctors and then the surgeries drove us to bankruptcy, and we lost our house.

Now, we are about to move into a new rental, and I am weary from years of BARELY scraping by to survive. Plus, I am scared that we will not be able to make ends meet!

Can you please help me with my families' budget??

My dh brings home: $1377.00 every two weeks.

Rent $850.00
Electricity & Gas $350.00 (Budgeted amount)
Car insurance $100.00
Phone, Internet, & cell $170.00
____________________________

Total (bills) $1470.00

This does not include groceries, renters insurance, and gas for cars.

What I need is help with all of the other living expenses. We own our vehicles, but they are older and will have repairs.

We will need to buy some clothes for kids that don't get hand me downs, or grow/change rapidly. We homeschool, so we do not need tons of school clothes.

We have a small, indoor dog, which needs a minimum of food and flea treatment.

We will be traveling through out the year to local and long distance doctor appts.

I have a two year old that is still in diapers. Cloth is simply not an option for us.

Having children with medical issues (I have at least two), it causes making things from scratch very difficult at times.

I do NOT sew.

We may need to occasionally pay for yard maintenance.

My dh wants/needs to spend a minimum of $25.00 per week on his lunches/snacks/drinks.

We have $0 in savings, and usually rely heavily on our tax return each year for major purchases, like mattresses, appliances, car repairs, etc.

Our children are all "hearty" eaters, and my dh is a big "meat and taters" kind of guy. So, soups are allowed on occasion with cornbread, in cold weather. Something like, Loaded Potato Night would not go over well for him, unless there was a designated meat.

Thanks for any help and/or ideas!

Rebecca

P.S. Please no flaming....I am very weary, and frustrated with our situation, and need lots of encouragment, not flames!
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#2 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 05:22 PM
 
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I'd look to Freecycle or stuff for free on Craigslist for kids clothes as much as you can.

The phone/Net/cell can probably be reduced. I'd look into things like Magic Jack for the phone and prepaid cells. You can live without using your cellphone very much if you try.

Your husband needs a reality check or he needs to take a second job if he can't adjust his eating habits.
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#3 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 06:54 PM
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No flames from here, but your DH needs to cut back on how much he wants to spend on lunches each week. $5 a day is a LOT. With there being 22 work days in the typical month (four weeks in a month is just 28 days, and only February has that few), this is $110, a pretty good chunk of your $2850/monthly, and a VERY good chunk of the ~$1380 after rent/utils. That's about 8% of your "leftover" money on just his lunches. You have at least two kids. If you, your kids, and he each ate 8% for 22 lunches a month, you're eating over 30% away on less than a third of the month's meals. This is disproportionate to what you have. He needs to trim a little there.

Refill a plastic bottle with tea for a drink, put some chips from a larger bag into smaller lunch baggies, make a sandwich, etc.. This is fine. He won't starve. Typical lunch for my fiance used to be spending $6 eating out every day, then money got tight. Now we spend about $10 a week and he has left-over food. Sandwich, bag of chips (serves from a larger bag to a smaller one, much cheaper than the small bags), piece of fruit, bag of veggies, a dessert, like a few cookies, bottle of tea. And...he is healthier now than he was because the lunches he takes are healthier than he used to buy. Bonus to saving money there! He even talks about how much better he feels now than he used to.

For clothes for the older ones, shop at thrift stores.

For the meat your husband just has to have (frankly, I get ticked by people who muct have their meat, even when the budget is too thin for it every single night), but ground beef on sale and divide it into smaller packages to freeze. Hubby wants steak every night? Tough luck. You've got other mouths to feed and getting to dr's appts are more important.

For making food from scratch, set out a bunch of bowls with the various components for multiple meals, toss together in casserole dishes, and freeze. Cutting up potatoes once saves the prep and clean-up of doing it a few nights. Make a chicken and a roast at the same time, put the meat in bowls. Save the time of cooking two meats at different times. A couple bags of frozen peas and carrots. Some crusts. You've just gotten together the ingredients for more than one meal. Chicken pot pie, beef pot pie, toss mashed potatoes on top for shepherd's pie. At least two or three meals, for half the prep time if you make two meals, or less than half the prep time of making three. Depending on how hearty your clan eats, this might make more meals. Throw into the freezer for nights when there's not time to cook.
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#4 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 07:12 PM
 
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This would not work in my house, for several reasons, but I have heard of some families serving Dad a large chunk of meat, and the rest of the family doesn't eat as much, especially on meat-less nights. In a spin-off of that idea, I have a friend that cuts up hot dogs on her dh's meal when they aren't having meat for supper. It's cheap for her, he is satisfied, and she gets to cook what she wants. And, it cracks me up.

Coupons might work for you, especially if you have a free/cheap source of coupons. Where I live, they sell the Atlanta paper with double inserts for $3 every Sunday. It pretty much pays for itself that way. BUT...every store around here doubles, and couponing is easy. This wouldn't work if you are in a small market that doesn't double, you know?
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#5 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 07:25 PM
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...I have heard of some families serving Dad a large chunk of meat, and the rest of the family doesn't eat as much, especially on meat-less nights.
It makes me so mad to hear about households where this happens, one or both of the parents eating their fill while the rest, especially the kids, eat on what's left over. That's why this post ticks me off. Well, not the post, but him having to have meat every single night and 8% of the after rent/utils budget on just his work lunches when the family is struggling. It doesn't sound like he's willing to sacrifice meat. So he's satisfied while the rest of the family, kids included, scramble to get by on what's left, making his meat and lunches a priority.
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#6 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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Rent$850
Utilities$350
Car Insurance$100
Renters Insurance$40
Telephone/internet$170
gas$300
diapers$60
groceries$429
dog food$20
lunch/drinks$100
Monthly expenses$250
Extras$100
$2,769

Income - 1st check$1,377
Income -2nd check$1,377
Food Stamps$429
Total outgo$3,183
This allows you start saving about

travel expenses$200
medical expenses $200

If you have a checking account, only put into your checking account the amounts needed for bills. Withdraw the cash for the other items and put into the envelopes.

The other thing you can do is in a savings account, but $200 off the top of the check into the savings account each paycheck for your travel/medical expenses. If you do not use a checking/savings account and use straight cash, make sure that your cash is kept in a safe spot inaccessable to husband, kids, or kids friends.

One way that we learned how to budget was to use the envelope system. Label out the envelopes as needed.
1) Honey spending money.
2) Basic household needs ($125 each paycheck)
3) Etc., etc.
Then you take the money out during the 2 weeks as needed. So if you only use $99 out of your basic household needs, then put that $26 into a savings envelope. Or add it to your travel expenses envelope, or other envelope.

This is the way I figured it. If you put all your information into an Excel file and have it so that it is laid out, you will get a good picture of what your income/outgo is expected. If you can get a check register and record what you do for a month, you will get a good picture of where your money goes.


If your husband wants $100 a month for spending money, then give him his $50 when he gets paid. When the money is gone, thats it. No more. Until the next time he gets paid.

You said that you get $429 in food stamps, so you are covered as far as food goes. I don't remember how much WIC gives, but I know it helps on milk, cheese, peanut butter, etc. If you have a local Walmart grocery store, then you can always do the Walmart pricing. You look through the weeks grocery circulars, write down what you want from each store, example: Smiths has hamburger for $7.49 for a 5 lb. chub, you write that down. Then when you shop at the walmart store and it has the the hamburger on for $8.50 a 5 lb chub, you inform your check out person that you are using price comparison shopping and you get the 5 lb. chub for $7.49. You just saved yourself $1.01.

Coupons are also great too. Get your kids involved cutting them out on Sunday afternoons to use. Only cut out the products you use normally, otherwise you will overspend on something you don't need/want.

It can be done. Hang in there and God Bless You!
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#7 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 09:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by BetsyS View Post
Where I live, they sell the Atlanta paper with double inserts for $3 every Sunday.
Where is this happening?????????? I have never seen this in my town (marietta). And half the time the first insert is missing. OMG. I knew I was getting screwed.
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#8 of 21 Old 10-18-2009, 11:23 PM
 
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Ideas for meals.... Crockpot meals may help you get home made meals on the table inexpensively and more easily if you've got children with medical needs and extra dr's appointments etc. The meals can be done ahead of time and with little prep work. DD started having to get allergy shots twice a week about the time we started homeschool co-op classes and we blew a lot of money eating out etc until I found a solution. The crock-pot has been very much worth the money for us.

Today we had a beef roast for lunch with veggies, bread and butter. Tonight we made open faced roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy. We still have meat and broth left for more meals. We'll likely use it for sandwiches, and make beef stew to serve with rice and more veggies.

Try meals that use less meat but don't eliminate it all together like red beans and rice with slices of sausage rather than a large piece on every plate. Burritos or enchiladas with refried beans instead of meat are a hit here. We also like the taco style lentils and rice recipe from Hillbilly Housewife.

My DH was a meat and potatoes kind of guy and he still does love those type of dishes, but he has developed a taste for other things and realizes we have to eat within our budget. But this didn't happen overnight. Best wishes to you as you try to figure things out.
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#9 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 12:19 AM
 
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Honestly, you have plenty of money not to scrimp on meat. I've never understood why people jump all over meat. If you buy cheap stuff, it's not really any more, per pound, than most other foods. If you get $1.50/lb ground beef, that isn't much more than the $1.29 lb box of pasta, 1.09 cent lb loaf of bread, etc and is a lot cheaper than the cheapest $2/lb cheese, $3 high-quality bread, or $3/ lb box of triscuits, etc.

I don't think it is fair to not feed other family members so others can have more, but at the same time, appetites will vary. My 5 year old girl doesn't WANT or NEED as much food as my 16 year old sson or "mmmph" year old DH. In many families, the adult male physically requires more calories, that is simply fact.
He probably does need to cut down the lunches and stuff....maybe a couple days he packs, a couple he buys? some sort of compromise.


As Happily broke it down..your situation is NOT dire. You have a nice bdget, with a LOT more room for extras than many people have. There is lots of food and gas money, even extra spending money and money for saving!!!!!
I'm willing to bet you spoend a lot more than you think you do...that isn't being mean, practically everyone does. The most important part of a budget is NOt buying things that are NOt on the budget. No trips to the store where you pick up $10 worth of extra stuff, the convenience items really add up...little stops that are only $2, 3, 4, 5 like lunches, drinks or coffee, etc really add up. Add most people do it without even thinking about it.

Add in extra fcanned or frozen veggies to "bulk out" meals. I always have at least 2. We prefer canned here, it's not as nutritionally sound, but we dislike frozen, and fresh is more expensive except when in season. When my stepkids are here, we have a family of 7, dh and I, 3 teen boys (that eat as much as a major league football team), and 2 smaller children so I am familiar with the larger family, lol. so, maybe you have that meaty meal..a meatloaf, made with 2 lbs of ground beef at $2/lb is $4 and $1 of filler(crackers, bread, corn flakes, egg, wtever you use) to make a large meatloaf. ($5 total)Then, mashed potatoes (here, it would be maybe 1/2 of a $2 box of instant, so about $1 worth.) then, a loaf of bread or a package of rolls, $1 total(for teh cheap stuff). Then, i open 3 cans of veggies I got for 3/$1. sometimes, I get low and noone is having sales, so i have to buy at the price os 2/$1, but never higher than that. Aldi's has 39 cents all the time, but its lower quality stuff, so I try and wait for better stuff to go on sale.

Anyway..meatloaf, $5, bread, $1, potatoes, $1, and veggies $1. And everyone in the family gets meatloaf, potatoes, bread, and 2-3 kinds of veggies for $8 total, or about $1.00 per person. Even if you added another pound of ground beef to that, or used a bag of apples as a fruit, or usd milk imstead of water as a drink, you still have a big, yummy, filling meal for very little money..about what your husband alone wants to spend on 2 lunches for himself.

Plan, plan, plan. One of my biggest hurdles is buying stuff at tha store and then getting home and having a lot of "stuff" in my cabinets but "nothing to eat" because i dont get full meals, i have a little of this, a little of that, but cant make 1 good, complete meal...I went to make tuna fish sandwiches teh other day, opened 4 cans of tuna...only to realize we had no mayo. *sigh* I've made progress, but still have work to do.

CPST
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#10 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 04:59 AM
 
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I would work on potty training the two year old in disposable diapers. I know, you can't force it, but maybe it is the right time, and you won't know unless you try, right?
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#11 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 06:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your opinions and suggestions.

Happy Blessed:
I particularly appreciate that you took the time to calculate a sample budget for us. This is very helpful, and I will definitely be simmering over this in my mind and heart.

Your question about the $429 being enough? No. It has really not been...I'd love for it to be, but the reality is that it's just not. We typically spend about $250 a week for groceries (which includes diapers, paper goods, etc.).

Back when my children were younger, $100 per week would have been plenty. But now they are growing and eating more. Plus, we do not live in an area with Aldis, but our town does have a Sam's and Walmart. So I will have to try harder with our coupon-ing (which I already do), and try to make more from scratch.

I am SURE that there is enough money, and that I just need to adjust to a new plan of spending. It has been two years now that we've lived in "crisis mode", and I've just got to realize that this is not going to end any time soon.


Again, I appreciate your ideas, and will be working towards implementing many of your suggestions.
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#12 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 12:53 PM
 
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What kind of paper supplies do you use? You can buy a couple of big packs of cheap washcloths at wmart to use for napkins/paper towels.

I think you've gotten some other really good suggestions.

About meat...does your dh hunt or know someone who does? Could he barter some useful skill in return for meat?

We eat ALOT of meat, but it's because we either raise it ourselves, or my mom's hubby traps it and we help butcher.

Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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#13 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 01:16 PM
 
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One of my questions is what does your money buy you, literally. Sometimes sitting down with your store grocery receipt and highlighting all non essential items can help. For instance I would automatically trim anything like paper plates/disp. utensils. Simply buying food is more important right now. Next I would move on to any *conveninece item* although things like snacks are nice to have sometimes its cheaper just buying the larger size and divide it up and sometimes frankly you just need to cut out the amt of snacks or *treats* all together. One of our *issues* was that DH wanted several kinds of cookies on hand but we compromised with only having 1 on hand. I would take a hard look at what kinds of things you are buying, for instance store brands typically are a lot less expensive.

Also I would use the sales circulars to plan meals, say if pork is on sale. Guess what...were having several dishes with pork. As far as the meat issue, we had to cut back on meat here because frankly it was cutting into our budget too much. It was literally at the point of being a 1/3 of our groceries. I started shopping smarter, yes steak is great, but you know what cheaper cuts of meat prepared nicely are just as good. A crock pot is a nice invention for getting meat tender.

I also started to get more creative with portions. I no longer put heaps of meat or chicken into dishes. For instance I used to make a soup where I put 3 chicken breasts into, I started cutting up 1 into smaller pieces and guess what no one was the wiser and we still all ate. The kids love stroganoff but beef steak right now is expensive, hamburger filled its place.

Also I would take a hard look at how much food you are serving. Not meaning to scrimp so everyone is hungry but say if you did pasta/bread/salad is the salad really necessary, KWIM?

IMO your DH needs to reduce his lunch budget, sorry but $100 per month is a lot. You could definatley trim that and he could brown bag it a few days and save the $ for days he absolutely can not brown bag it.
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#14 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 05:51 PM
 
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As far as food goes, have you looked into http://www.angelfoodministries.com/Default.asp?? I've heard very good things about them and you can get cheap packages of food. They have all meat packages and all veggie packages, plus combination packages. They also accept food stamps. This might be a way to cut your grocery bill down a little.

Good luck.
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#15 of 21 Old 10-19-2009, 09:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your ideas. I will look into the Angel food ministries, and consider what uneccessary items can be trimmed from our budget.

My dh does not hunt, and he does not have any skills to barter with. In retail, he is stuck in the store for 12-16 hours a day, many times 6-7 days a week. Or he has to travel to other stores from time to time. So, he really does not have extra time, and sometimes $5 lunch is extremely helpful for him. He also would use the $25 for his gas back and forth to work.
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#16 of 21 Old 10-20-2009, 07:50 AM
 
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Where is this happening?????????? I have never seen this in my town (marietta). And half the time the first insert is missing. OMG. I knew I was getting screwed.
I'm in Gwinnett. I see it sometimes at Kroger. But almost always at QT. And a friend of mine on your side of town (I always tell her she lives in Alabama) gets hers at CVS.
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#17 of 21 Old 10-20-2009, 08:34 AM
 
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My dh went from an outside sales job to a job inside an office last year. It was a hard transition for him, and one of the keys was (and is) getting out of the office every day at lunch. He takes a full hour every single day. Honestly, if that was me, that would mean that I'd eat out. But, he has been faithful to take his lunch every day, and he gets creative about where he goes at lunch. Luckily, we live where there is pretty nice weather most of the time, so often he goes to a park he found near his office. In the rain, sometimes he eats in his car, then walks around a nearby bookstore or Walmart. But, he definitely leaves. And, I'll hand it to him--he's been very creative about finding ways to leave work, without resorting to a restaurant.

My MIL also says that she learned from her MIL (mama to 4 sons) the importance of having a filler starch on the table for every meal when you have big eaters and you're trying to stretch a food buck. Every meal is served with grits, rice, pasta, or potatoes. Every meal. So, it's never eggs for breakfast. It's eggs, grits, and toast. With grits being the biggest portion, and if someone needs seconds, it's encouraged that it's grits. Or oatmeal. Same thing. If you are serving chili, it's served over rice, spaghetti, or a baked potato. And, any seconds come with the corresponding starch. So, it's not hurry through the first serving and get a big pile of meat on the second serving, you know? And bread and butter with every meal, too.

In my budget, meat isn't our biggest expense. That belongs to cheese and other dairy. WIC helps with that, right? Snacks are always a killer, too. So, in tight months, I just announce that it's tight, expect everyone to understand (as my mother before me did), and we have saltines, popcorn, bananas, cinnamon toast, and raisins for snacks. People get over it , and we all survive.

So, if your budget needs to be around $600 a month ($429 FS, $80 WIC, then $91 of your cash), that'd be $150/week. I think you could do that.

$12 average x 7 suppers (with at least 4 of them giving leftovers for lunch)=$84
4 gallons milk=$10
$5 average x 7 breakfasts=$35
$5 average x 3 lunches =$15
$6 for anything else (like that huge thing of popcorn for snacks!)

For 16 servings (supper + breakfast) at $12, I'm thinking things like chili over rice, red beans and rice with sausage, spaghetti, homemade hamburger helper, homemade pizza (with boboli or with a packaged crust mix; not majorly homemade), sloppy joes, pot roast, chicken and stuffing (where the chicken is cooked in it, like a casserole), tator tot casserole (hey, if it's good enough for the Duggars...), beef stroganoff over noodles, etc, etc, etc.

I like to bulk up meals with frozen veggies. Unlike the pp, we aren't wild about canned veggies, but we like frozen. Especially if it's mixed into a meal. So, if I'm making, say, hamburger helper, I'll add 2 packages of frozen spinach to bulk up the meal. It tastes good, but it does bulk it up for less money.

Sometimes I start a meal with a soup. Sounds all crazy fancy, but it's a good way to use up what I have, especially when we have a veggie and milk on the verge of going bad. They really like potato soup (just thin mashed potatoes, topped with cheese) and broccoli cheddar soup (just pureed broc with a thin white sauce and cheese added). My dh seems to think I'm "gourmet" when I make this. LOL. But, it's really a way to get another side dish in the meal, and it's served first.
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#18 of 21 Old 10-20-2009, 08:50 AM
 
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Have you applied for SSI for your medically involved child? The point of that funding is to help offset the costs associated with raising a medically fragile/disabled child. DD can't eat by mouth for nutrition (doesn't process what she eats) and that alone qualified us. She also has more issues now, but its worth trying.
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#19 of 21 Old 10-23-2009, 12:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have applied for disability, and am waiting a hearing before a judge. Which could take as long as next fall. In the state of Mississippi, you are pretty much automatically denied twice, then you go before a judge to be approved. It's just how it's done. Probably if/when she is approved, our food stamps will be dramatically cut.

WIC does not provide much at all now that I only have one child on it...

3 boxes of cereal -which when I get the healthier ones (which are heavier weights), that can be only two boxes
4 individual juice boxes
2 cans of juice
2 containers of eggs
1 lb of cheese
1 lb of beans
milk
bag of apples


Plus,
I don't know if this was factored in or not, but we home school. So, ALL 6 of my children are home with me 24/7.

I am in the process of re-vamping many areas of our life. We are going through so many changes and entering new stages that I feel we need to really stream line things. So, with these ideas that you all have shared with me, I will be examining our spending, our actual needs, and evaluating what our "wants" are.

Thank you, again.


Rebecca
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#20 of 21 Old 05-08-2010, 04:03 PM
 
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We live paycheck to paycheck while I finish up college. We are a family of 3 plus 3 furry family members.

Things I save money one:
1. Homemade cleaning supplies...this has literally saved me hundreds over the past 3 years. Vinegar, baking soda, a little bottle of lavender oil, touch of dishwashing detergent gets my house smelling wonderful and clean, clean, clean. I also make my own powder laundry detergent. The Duggars have some wonderful recipes at their website.
http://www.duggarfamily.com/recipes.html

In fact, they inspired me to look for ways to cut back. I also have a clothesline. Even, with you large family, if you hang out heavier items like blanket, towels, heavier clothing to dry, you will save money on electricity. I do about 3-4 loads of laundry a week and try to hang dry as much as I can.

Food- one pot meals. I buy cheapers cuts of red meat or chicken and doll them up in a one pot. I always add rice or pasta and a least one cup of vegetables. This adds flavor and pumps up the volume.

We cut out our home phone and we have basic cable and cell phones. I need my cell phone but we could go lower without the tv (still working on DH with this one )

I buy sturdy clothing instead of throw away clothing. My DS can tear up any type of pant that is thin in fabric. I look for thicker khaki's and plain heavier t-shirts. No one notices that we wears the same pants 2x a week. I do a load on Wednesday night and he is all set. I also do a lot of button downs because they seem to hold up better than most other shirts and seem a tad bit dresser. Same with shoes- sturdy.

I am very frugal when it comes to running errands. I am now down to going out once a week. If we don't need it, as in it's not life threatening, then we can wait until the next week. This saves on the wear and tear of the cars and gas.

We have had 3 yardsales to offload what we really didn't use. I was to find a lot of stuff around the house we didn't need or use. Even with a larger family, I am sure you can find some items. We don't go crazy at holidays or birthdays. DS gets 3 gifts at Christmas, just like baby Jesus and a stocking with a few favorite things (right now it's cars and Lego's). One present is usually clothing, the other is a toy from Mama and Daddy and then the 3rd is something he picks out (within reason). DH and I each buy something from him to us but we really don't need or want anything. People think this is crazy but we tend to focus on the real reason for the season and less of the "gift" part it. Besides, I never find anything I like at that time of year.

We spend a lot of time just playing outside, I read the Bible while DS is napping, we live small and keep is simple. This keep us within our budget and able to put away a little each month. Hopefully, when I graduate this summer, I will be able to find a job and amp up our savings.
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#21 of 21 Old 05-08-2010, 11:16 PM
 
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On groceries--if you're spending about $250/week, then you'll need about $550 from the "leftovers" after the bills you listed (the foodstamps cover the other half of your grocery spending).

That leaves $734 from the leftovers. If you keep your husbands $25/week thing, that leaves $634. Start putting $100 in savings every month. You're goign to need that someday. That leaves $534. Start working your way down the list of *needs* with the money that's left. And where you can get needs met free or cheap, do that. Scout thrift stores and check freecycle for kids clothes and other items you need.

Write down *everything* you spend. Every penny. Sometimes it helps to be able to see where your money is going, and often when you see what's draining it, you can see what you need to cut back on.

Definitely consider crockpot cooking. If you can take 10 minutes in the morning to throw the stuff in, you still have a from-scratch meal without a lot of prep time. But honestly, a lot of homemade meals don't require a lot of time, and if you have older kids they can help with the prep--cutting veggies, washing rice or potatoes, etc.
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