Staying sane on a very tight budget? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 08:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you guys stay sane when you're counting every penny?

 

We're expecting our 2nd child in June, and I will be a SAHM for at least the first 18 months, probably more like 2 years. I was a SAHM for the same amount of time with DD1, and while it's very important to me to stay home with my babies, I'm getting nervous about the financial strain.

 

I'm not high maintenance by any means, but I do find myself getting a bit bored and irritable when we don't have any money to spend on even small luxuries, like occasionally going to museums, cafes, or buying myself clothes that actually fit. It doesn't help that we live in an area where there really isn't much to do that you don't have to pay for. I go on a lot of long walks, to the library, and to visit friends, but I miss have a little bit more freedom and variety in my life.

 

I hope I don't sound completely spoiled and ungrateful in posting this. I realise that I'm incredibly privileged to have food, shelter, and the choice to stay home. redface.gif

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 08:20 AM
 
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I hear ya. I'm on a tight budget and I don't drive...and I live in rainy oregon...argh.

 

You're working now? Are you spending that money or saving it to survive those 18 months? Considering you're worried about the tight budget, I'm guessing you're spending? Why not try to put some of it into savings - say, $100/mo, and give yourself an allowance for those sah months?

 

Also, groupon.com is awesome. I'm not sure if your town has it yet or not, but they often have coupons for restaraunts, museums, coffee shops, etc. for 50% off or more. It pretty much rocks my tight budget world :)

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#3 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 09:08 AM
 
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I would say that you should see if you can reduce your spending and necessary stuff NOW to save for then.  I'm sure you probably already are preparing but is there a way to make it even more strict?  Can you put aside money NOW for an allowance later like PP mentioned?  Even having $50 per month for yourself to take the kids to the zoo or whatever can make a big difference.  Also, you have friends close by you said.  Can you do a babysitting trade with them once a week for an hour or two to sit home and watch a movie or paint your toenails?  Part of no spending craziness is the deprivation.  Find something that make syou feel rich, even if it's a little thing like buying a new color for your nails and taking the time to pain them.  Our budget is MUCH better now, I can afford to do the things I want now within reason.  But we had an extremely tight budget for 3 years to the point where we scrounged change for food traded off bills month to month.  It was really really hard but we survived.  I found our local children's museum offered free admission to peoplel with the state health insurance, which we have.  So that was good when we were broke.  Also, the library was a source of comfort.  Storytime is free so that was fun.  We did a lot of playing outside at playgrounds and taking long hikes and going to the beach or berry picking in the summer.  But I would prepare NOW if you can.  I don 't know what your climate is like but could you have a big garden to cut your expenses for food?  Also, preserving produce during the cheap summer months and foraging for local wild edible things(here we have an assortment of berries and concord grapes that grow wild) to preserve for winter helps.  If you have cable or internet, now would be the time to cut them to save that money for later. 


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#4 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guys. I agree that saving up now would be great idea, but we've had a ton of major expenses hit in the last few months so that money has gone on those things. Our car broke down in December and we spent a month's pay getting it fixed, only for it to break down again in February. Now we're car-less and saving for a new one. :/ We also just bought a clothes dryer (essential, believe me!), plus I have to pay a $1,500 in college fees next month. Saving isn't really in the cards right now.

 

 

 

 


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#5 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 11:00 AM
 
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Maybe look for activities or places that offer a variety of activities.  For instance, a membership to the science museum is more valuable to us than the Aquarium.  There are so many different things to do at the Science museum, but at the Aquarium you're out of luck if you don't want to look at fish on a particular day.  Or, I have a pool membership at a local college athletic center.  The girls love to go swimming there, but what makes it extra special is that there is a little 'concession center' outside the basketball courts. We pack a lunch and sit at the tall counter tables and make an afternoon of it.

 

My girls LOVE having picnics when the weather is nice.  At 3, DD1 was instrumental in planning, preparing and packing our picnic lunches.  I figured we were going to eat anyway, might as well make an activity out of it :)

 

Can you research thrift or consignment shops in your area?  I'm not a huge spender, but sometimes it just feels nice to spend some money on myself and I've had fun browsing and shopping some local thrift shops.

 

We live near the ocean and there are some nice beaches here.  Most of them are way too expensive for us to go to ($25 to park!) but I've discovered that if we go later in the day (4 or 5ish) they have stopped charging for the day. We bring a picnic dinner and enjoy the sunset. I've experienced this at other places as well (wading pool, state parks).

 

Can you ask family for museum passes for birthdays? (this has never worked for us, but we keep trying!) Some museum memberships also include free or discounted admission to other local (and not local) museums.

 

Our library has many free or discounted passes to local attractions.

 

One thing I have noticed with my eldest is that she surprises me at the places she has fun. Sometimes I just have to slow down and look at things differently.  For example, I used to rush everyone into and out of the bank thinking that it was just another boring errand.  But then I realized that DD1 actually enjoyed going to the bank!  So now we take our time (if we can!) and visit the fish tank. I let her write her own deposit slip while I write mine and then she chats it up with the teller.   Same goes for the grocery store or post office or window shopping and people watching at the mall.  Sometimes I think she has just as much fun doing those things as she does 'kid activities' :)

 

Sorry for the brain dump!  Overall, I think that if you can squirrel away a couple bucks here and there to treat your self once and a while and then do the free stuff with you family that might help alleviate the feelings of deprivation that sticking to a strict budget can bring on.


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#6 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 11:21 AM
 
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Yes!  Look into local attractions and see what a season/annual pass costs.  They can really be worth it.

 

When DS was about 18 months I bought an annual zoo pass.  It was wonderful.  Kept it until last year.  We could go, have a picnic lunch and I didn't feel bad being there for only a couple of hours because I didn't have to spend a huge chunk of change just to walk in the door.
 

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.....

 

Can you ask family for museum passes for birthdays? (this has never worked for us, but we keep trying!) Some museum memberships also include free or discounted admission to other local (and not local) museums......

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#7 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 11:27 AM
 
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I don't have any advice but wanted to say I understand! I live in a rural area and don't have options for entertainment like others do. We have no musuems, zoos, etc or any kind of activities unless you drive 1 1/2 hrs away to get to them. Not something that is going to happen often. The only things in our area are the library, state park, a community pool and a few parks. (Retirement area so I guess kids aren't allowed eyesroll.gif) The parks and community pool aren't something we can use for a variety of reasons that basically come down to safety but suffice it to say those aren't an option. We have the library and the state park. That's it. The state park also has a $2-4 entrance fee not much but it's not 'free'. Both are a good 15-30 minute drive from the house as well so there are gas costs to consider if we chose to go. No public transportation and too far/not safe to walk or bike to. It makes it hard to be able to go and do things.

 

Are there maybe somethings that could be cut from the budget or reduced so that you could afford to spend even a little on other things? Maybe even $10 a week to do a little activity or have a lunch out? Or consider mystery shopping to pay for a 'free' meal out once a week lol. I would try to find a way to do 'something' to keep you sane even if it's just getting a $3 box of ice cream in the grocery budget each month to have a treat after the kids are in bed. I keep us on a tight budget and we don't do activities and stuff much either but we do try to take the kids and go fishing or something on occasion to get away and I do buy a box of ice cream for a little treat now and then lol. I also try to buy one 'expensive' meal to be made at home on occasion as a treat as well. Not anything outrageous but a nice steak or pizza or chinese or something that we can't/won't pay to eat out so we can have something nice.


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#8 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 11:31 AM
 
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Oh also,  have you heard of swagbucks.com?  You use their search engine and it randomly awards you swagbucks. When you save up enough you can trade them in for things. I always get a $5 Amazon gift card, but there are a ton of other options.  I use this as my fun money so I don't have to feel guilty buying a book or whatever.  And since I'm using the web anyway it just works well for me.  

 

PM me if you want more details!


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#9 of 18 Old 03-02-2011, 11:35 AM
 
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Yes get an annual membership to somewhere!  DS and I were zoo members for about 5 years and loved it.  The science center was great too.  (We live in AZ so zoo for the winter and science for the summer).

The library is also great, they have tons of FREE activites for kids. Ours also has FREE passes now to those places that I used to get annual memberships too.  So I can go in and get a 1 day pass to the science center, zoo, botanical garden etc.

DS loved to ride the bus and it was like $1.50 for the both of us, not sure with a baby tho?  We would just ride the route up and down the street, making the loop for an hour or so, get off and catch the one coming back.

Groupon is great, get on the email list and every once in a while they have something that meets my needs or DS likes!


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#10 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 08:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyms View Post

I don't have any advice but wanted to say I understand! I live in a rural area and don't have options for entertainment like others do. We have no musuems, zoos, etc or any kind of activities unless you drive 1 1/2 hrs away to get to them. Not something that is going to happen often. The only things in our area are the library, state park, a community pool and a few parks. (Retirement area so I guess kids aren't allowed eyesroll.gif) The parks and community pool aren't something we can use for a variety of reasons that basically come down to safety but suffice it to say those aren't an option. We have the library and the state park. That's it. The state park also has a $2-4 entrance fee not much but it's not 'free'. Both are a good 15-30 minute drive from the house as well so there are gas costs to consider if we chose to go. No public transportation and too far/not safe to walk or bike to. It makes it hard to be able to go and do things.

 


I grew up rural. People (parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles etc) often bought us activity gifts. Sleds, badminton rackets and net, boardgames, croquet, basketball and hoop etc and we'd invite friends over to play. Everyone was stuck in the same rural boat ("there's nothing to do around here!") or worse, they lived in the little boring town where there was STILL nothing to do but they didn't have the woods/fields to explore. 

 


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#11 of 18 Old 03-03-2011, 08:43 AM
 
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My mom bought me a zoo membership to use with my girls for mother's day and it's been AWESOME!  We love it!  It was totally worth her money the amt of times we've been. 


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#12 of 18 Old 03-06-2011, 11:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the ideas, guys! There's a petting zoo near where we live, maybe we'll splurge on an annual pass.

Mama to a preschooler and a baby.

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#13 of 18 Old 03-06-2011, 12:14 PM
 
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Even something as simple as going out for a walk breaks up the day. Trips to the library are good. A picnic is a great outing.  Finding a state park or free hiking area is fabulous- we often only go a couple hundred yards from the trailhead- but finding cool stuff under rocks is always interesting to a little kid. 

 

If you have access to a place that has annual passes to a zoo or museum that is a great way to always have something to do. 

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#14 of 18 Old 03-08-2011, 05:23 PM
 
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I am also in rainy OR, like beansmama. It can be pretty frustrating in the winter. We try to go out when the weather is decent and have an annual pass to the science museum which also get us into other science museums in neighboring cities- 1 visit to each one and it has already cost more than the year pass!

Also, yes, those things like Groupon sometimes have great stuff. We just bought a deal that will get us a lunch for free this weekend (or whenever we want) on Groupon! 

Does your library have story time? One of our local libraries has really great story times, and the other one is decent. I know some book stores also have weekly story times. 

 

Also, can you maybe treat yourself once a week to something- that way you won't feel so deprived, even if it's just one cafe trip?

 

 


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#15 of 18 Old 03-18-2011, 10:22 PM
 
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How do I stay sane on a tight budget? I have another "poor" friend and we b*tch to each other about it and also cheer each other up. Then we feel better and go to the library and the park and to each others houses (when we can afford to drive there). I also get books from the library with kids activities so we aren't doing the same things every day. And sometimes I say forget the budget (b/c I have a tiny bit of wiggle room) and drive somewhere that I usually consider too far or buy a treat that I would normally feel bad about. Maybe I shouldn't do that, but, one must breathe a bit.

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#16 of 18 Old 03-19-2011, 07:41 AM
 
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Would you be open to finding ways to bring in income even when you're home? Tuturoing, child care (even if only occasional), furniture repair, crafting? Working one day a week or part time?

 

 


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#17 of 18 Old 03-21-2011, 09:13 AM
 
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I'm in the same boat, except I'm in the middle of the 18 month-2 yr window.  I tried saving up money before ds arrived but then we moved and ended up paying for his birth almost entirely out of pocket. 

 

I've been keeping a child part time for extra money. It's not a lot and most of it goes to expenses, but I usualy stash $20 to use through the month for small things. We don't end up doing a lot of activities during the week though. Most of the extra cash allows for family stuff on the weekend. But honestly be hibernate quite a bit during the winter and do get a little cooped up with nothing to do. Now that the nice weather is here we really take advantage of local trails and parks. We did buy a annual pass to a local Natl Park but it's still an hour away so we do limit going, once a month or so because of the gas.

 

Both dh and I do get a little crazy having to watch each dollar so tightly. But we probably could budget some things tighter for more wiggle room if needed.

 

I know one thing that dh and I probably NEED that we can't budget for is a baby sitter for some time alone and a gym membership (even very basic) would be nice. But those are luxuries and for now we get by.

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#18 of 18 Old 03-21-2011, 10:11 AM
 
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In addition to daily deals like Groupon and Living Social, also check out restaurant.com as another avenue for cheap eats out.

 

For me, I get a thrill out of thrift store shopping, thrill of the hunt per se.

 

At night, what about star watching?

 

Any local colleges around? Normally free stuff to do there, small museums on campus, free concerts, lectures, etc.

 

Picnics, hiking, etc. Even a trip to the local park or around the neighborhood to check out the flowers in bloom, search for local wild edibles, etc.

 

I know the library is a big hit in our house. Aside from reading and activites at the library, but also checking out books like craft projects, etc. Books that can spawn an activity are popular with us.

 

best

 

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