Ideas to cut cost so I can be a SAHM! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 10:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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PLEASE!!!!!!! I'm willing to give up a car, going to cloth diapers, cutting every other cost I can think of but we still aren't where we need to be. Are there any ideas that others have done to be able to cut cost enough to stay home? I make our own bread, we have an allergy to milk so its all soy (which is more $ but I don't care), we do eat all organic/naturally too.

we do have ccard debt that we had down to nothing until the cost of daycare hit... then the fridge went up, car went up, AC went up... yeah... now we are trying to get that down but things keep 'going up.' =(
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#2 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 11:00 AM
 
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I know things keep going up. Its only going to get worse.

From experience, it really helps when my dh and I sit down together and figure out where we can cut costs and what's important to us.

What areas do you specifically need help on?
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#3 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 12:26 PM
 
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Do you have cell phones and a land line? Can you get rid of the land line and keep cell phones? I did that a few years ago and saved $30/month or more, since I had free long distance with the cell phone plan.

Do you have cable or satellite TV? Get rid of it!

How about your internet access? Do you have the least expensive option for your area? Can you live with dial-up?

Do you have a freezer? Can you buy meat in bulk from the butcher? Are you able to can and freeze veggies and fruit while they're in season?

Do you use pre-packaged foods, like Hamburger Helper, etc? Make your own and avoid all the crap in the packaged foods while saving a few pennies.

Do you have a family member who can watch your DC while you work to pay off the CC and other debt?

Can you plant a garden, even a patio garden, and grow some of your own veggies?

Do you own your home or rent? Can you move to a less-expensive area?

Do you have garage-sale-worthy stuff? I once made over $700 in one weekend getting rid of old stuff. Granted a lot of it was appliances that I had to get rid of, but was still a lot of money that went directly to debt.

Do you shop consignment stores and second-hand stores for your clothes? Can you sew? (Although I've found that it's often more expensive to sew your own with the cost of fabrics and notions, but sometimes it's worth it.)

Can you trade childcare with another mother or do childcare from your home?

Have you checked the frugal living forum?
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#4 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 12:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do have both phone lines... I did think about getting rid of the land line... we did save about $40 by going with all cable, phone, TV and Internet.

I do have cable interent- have to- hubby is an IT specialist and has to be able to log in from home. I also can log in from home when needed so I need to have the faster lines. (trust me, or it would be gone!)

I'd love to throw my TV out the window but I'd have some serious problems from the other half...

We cook everything from scratch and have talked about a big garden and are kind of in plans of doing that so I can can/jar foods. I do my own jelly right now. (we own .86 of an acre)

We just bought beef in bulk... we are trying to get to the chicken place (weird hours) to get that in bulk too!

we have absolutely NO ONE to watch my son. =( No family and all friends work too or have said they just can't do it. My mom is looking to move down so we are hoping... thats $800/month if not more ugh. We do have our name on a cheaper daycare in a church but they have a waiting list of several months!

We own and wouldn't move- its a cheap place to live and love the parks all around us!

We are selling stuff off craigs list too!

I guess I'm on the right track. I will check out that frugal site too... I just joined so I'm learning what all is here!
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#5 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 01:49 PM
 
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We don't have cell phones, cable, or a car. We seldom eat out. We buy used whenever possible. We use cloth diapers. I can't tell you what you can specifically cut, but those are some of the bigger things that make a difference for us.
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#6 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 03:19 PM
 
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If there's nothing to cut, maybe you should think about ways to make enough money so you can sah.

Is DH willing to either work more hours, ask for a promotion/raise, willing to get a part time job or look for a better job? Can you find a job where you can telecommute? Are you willing to get a part time evening job?

Where there's a will, there's a way Good luck mama.
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#7 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 03:53 PM
 
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It might be helpful if you could give a ballpark of how much you would need to cut monthly and then we could help from there.
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#8 of 52 Old 05-07-2008, 11:04 PM
 
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If you post your budget in the finances and frugality forum, the ladies there may be able to give you some help.

I will say that in some cases, cutting out small expenses isn't enough. If there is any way to cut down on large expenses (housing and transportation are usually the biggies), this may be the most realistic way to make your budget work.

Increasing income is the other way to make a budget work. This could mean that your partner finds a better paying job or a 2nd job. You could also try working part time. I know many mamas who work evenings or weekends so they can stay home with their kids during the day.

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#9 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 12:01 AM
 
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it sounds like you are on the right track and are really making an effort!

the other posts have been so great the only thing i can think to contribute is to stop using your ac. open windows and fans running cuts $20 to $30 off every month of our georgia power bill. and its nice to have the fresh air in the house too!

i love the thrift store suggestion! and its not just for clothes, everyday household items like appliances, dishes, furniture, for super cheap! im a thrift junkie :>

as far as childcare goes, i was a pretty good babysitter as a teenager so i hope you will be able to find a nice girl looking to make a little cash. i used to charge $8 an hour for one kid, $10 for two and i think thats probably cheaper than day care... maybe a high school grad who decided not to go to college just yet?
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#10 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 02:03 AM
 
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This advice might not be very popular around here, but honestly, I'd start eating mostly cheap store brand food instead of all natural/organic in order to SAH with my kids.
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#11 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 03:37 AM
 
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You might want to xpost this in the Frugality & Finances forum. They'll have more ideas for you there, too.
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#12 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 11:19 AM
 
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You might want to xpost this in the Frugality & Finances forum. They'll have more ideas for you there, too.
For sure. When DH and I do the cash in envelopes plan we always come out ahead, but when we get lazy and go back to using our debit cards we always end up scratchign our heads saying "Why is our bank account in the negative". So that system really works for us (and some other mamas here I think). You just have to stick to it, if you don't have the cash in an envelope for the expense, then you don't purchase it.

I've saved a lot of money by shopping at Aldi every other week, they have lots of pre-packaged foods and not-so-healthy items, BUT for flour, sugar, and other staples they are SO CHEAP- also their produce, eggs, and milk are so cheap (I mean like 69c for eggs, 1.99 for gallon milk, 89 c for bag of flour). They have a line there called light and fit and it has things in it like raw almonds and other things that are pretty good. But, my Aldi shopping weeks are literally like $40 compared to my grocery weeks which are always closer to $100. Oh, only going to the store once per week period helps too, no extra trips if I forget something, we just have to make it work. I clip coupon and look for sales of course too. Every bit must help at least a little...

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#13 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 11:55 AM
 
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This advice might not be very popular around here, but honestly, I'd start eating mostly cheap store brand food instead of all natural/organic in order to SAH with my kids.
Hubby makes $2200 a month, and our housing runs $850 a month. I have two kids. I don't have the luxury of eating organic food. Sure, it's good for the earth, and you, but I manage to feed a house of three on 80 dollars a week.
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#14 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 12:17 PM
 
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Could you take in a kid or two when you stay home to make up the difference? I'm on Canadian Mat leave right now, but that's the plan for when the gov. money runs out. A full day toddler is around $25 a day in my area, and a before and after schooler is $15. (at least.)

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#15 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 12:39 PM
 
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This advice might not be very popular around here, but honestly, I'd start eating mostly cheap store brand food instead of all natural/organic in order to SAH with my kids.
I hear you. We've done that at times, too. And I learned how to request and use coupons for organic foods, grow my own fruits and veggies (even in pots and planters). We don't drink dairy so we don't have a big dairy cost but we did buy organic red meat, even if we bought less of it or none of it some weeks.
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#16 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This advice might not be very popular around here, but honestly, I'd start eating mostly cheap store brand food instead of all natural/organic in order to SAH with my kids.
I wish I could... YDS has a milk allergy so its all soy (and he drinks a LOT OF IT!!!!!!). AND I found when we cut out all the 'chemicals etc' in the 'normal' food it helped not only him but all of us (ODS is ADHD and being treated naturally, DH is anxiety/stress treated naturally and I have adult acne that vanished when I changed what we ate)... We do the cheap store brand organic when ever possible!!!!!!!!! I grow veggies, get fruit from friends that have it growing and jar it- go to farmers markets where a friend works and always gives me an even BETTER deal. Most of the time I find that the veggies and fruit can be less expensive but we do keep our bill pretty good...although it could be better. We are always running out of soy milk though so its always at least one extra trip...

I do like the post about cash... I do find if I have cash we don't go over but with the card 'who cares' kind of attitude takes over. ugh. why is that??? =)
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#17 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For sure. When DH and I do the cash in envelopes plan we always come out ahead, but when we get lazy and go back to using our debit cards we always end up scratchign our heads saying "Why is our bank account in the negative". So that system really works for us (and some other mamas here I think). You just have to stick to it, if you don't have the cash in an envelope for the expense, then you don't purchase it.

I've saved a lot of money by shopping at Aldi every other week, they have lots of pre-packaged foods and not-so-healthy items, BUT for flour, sugar, and other staples they are SO CHEAP- also their produce, eggs, and milk are so cheap (I mean like 69c for eggs, 1.99 for gallon milk, 89 c for bag of flour). They have a line there called light and fit and it has things in it like raw almonds and other things that are pretty good. But, my Aldi shopping weeks are literally like $40 compared to my grocery weeks which are always closer to $100. Oh, only going to the store once per week period helps too, no extra trips if I forget something, we just have to make it work. I clip coupon and look for sales of course too. Every bit must help at least a little...

I have an aldi near us... just never been in there. Guess I should check them out! We don't do dairy (can't due to an allergy in the house)- do they have soy?

I love the cash thing... I think I'm going to start implementing that!
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#18 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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it sounds like you are on the right track and are really making an effort!

the other posts have been so great the only thing i can think to contribute is to stop using your ac. open windows and fans running cuts $20 to $30 off every month of our georgia power bill. and its nice to have the fresh air in the house too!

i love the thrift store suggestion! and its not just for clothes, everyday household items like appliances, dishes, furniture, for super cheap! im a thrift junkie :>

as far as childcare goes, i was a pretty good babysitter as a teenager so i hope you will be able to find a nice girl looking to make a little cash. i used to charge $8 an hour for one kid, $10 for two and i think thats probably cheaper than day care... maybe a high school grad who decided not to go to college just yet?
Do any of you have allergies? I LOVE my windows open but the allergy symptoms get to much sometimes - ALTHOUGH with our natural treatment they are getting MUCH better! I do leave them open as much as possible but the little man doesn't sleep with his window open- to much noise outside.
He also doesn't sleep when hot... I swear he's a woman! I have tried everything with him - when he's perfect tempurature, he sleeps all night... to hot or to cold, forget it! ugh. Our AC bll (its a brand new AC we put in when we bought the place) runs about $100/month which is $40 cheaper then winter - we heat with a wood stove all winter - go figure but the boys rooms have electric heaters that were on a couple times becuase it was to cold in their rooms at night (off all day).


Yes, I started scoping out thrift stores and use gift cards to any 'new' store when ever possible (thats all we ask for from family for holidays or birthdays!)

You guys are wonderful... they are a lot of ideas some we are doing, some I can probably do better at and some I won't budge on (our organic food).
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#19 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If you post your budget in the finances and frugality forum, the ladies there may be able to give you some help.

I will say that in some cases, cutting out small expenses isn't enough. If there is any way to cut down on large expenses (housing and transportation are usually the biggies), this may be the most realistic way to make your budget work.

Increasing income is the other way to make a budget work. This could mean that your partner finds a better paying job or a 2nd job. You could also try working part time. I know many mamas who work evenings or weekends so they can stay home with their kids during the day.
I acutally sell Cookie Lee jewelry so I have a little coming in... I kind of let that go flat right now though but plan on picking it back up. He is also creating an IT business with a friend so we are working on the p/t work. I'm willing to give up one car... I have NO problem with that. I told him I wanted to give up my motorcycle and he said no... we would figure out how to keep that (it also saves gas money and isn't a HUGE expence since its used and almost paid off anyway). We worked very hard for them before Brady was even a glimps... it was my get out of depression thing from 2 miscarrages so it means a lot to me to keep that. Its also a very cheap mommy and daddy day get away.
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#20 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:38 PM
 
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I agree with some previous posters that sometimes you just can't make a budget work by shaving off a couple of dollars here and there, but still, here are some things we do to stretch our budget:

*Shop around for your auto & home insurance. Sometimes you can find a better deal by making some phone calls, especially if you have both with one carrier.
*Learn to shop grocery sales, stock up on nonperishables when they are at their cheapest.
*Plan all meals in advance, before you do your shopping. You can figure it out so that you have little to no wasted food.
*Replace household paper goods with cloth. No need to buy paper napkins, paper towels, etc. Some folks even use cloth toilet paper, although I have not really won my family over on that one
*Line dry your laundry whenever you can.
*Energy saving light bulbs.
*Turn down the thermostat in winter, turn it up in summer. Stretch your comfort zone.
*Don't buy cleaning products. You can clean almost anything with some combination of vinegar, baking soda, cheap-o dish soap, maybe a little tea tree oil.
*Get the word out that you like hand-me-downs. Watch Freecycle for them too. Sort and store them by size until your kids grow into them. If you don't get enough hand-me-downs, watch clearance sales and thrift stores with an eye to at least one year ahead. I just bought brand new snow boots at Goodwill, in next year's sizes for both my kids, for $2 a pair.
*Take advantage of your local library for entertainment.
*Learn to cut your whole family's hair.
*Since you have a little bit of land, you might consider keeping some chickens for eggs.
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#21 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 01:43 PM
 
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I wish I could... YDS has a milk allergy so its all soy (and he drinks a LOT OF IT!!!!!!). ... We are always running out of soy milk though so its always at least one extra trip...
=)
My kids and I are also allergic to milk and dairy (though we can eat a little cheese and ice cream). We drink water. It's great that you want to give DS soy milk, but how about cutting back?

I'm not sure why the kids need AC in Pennsylvania in May. It's only in the 60's and 70's right now during the day and 40's and 50's at night. Is $100 your total utilities bill, or just for AC? I try to keep our total electric bill (all appliances and heat/ac) around $100.

I think Sylith has some great ideas.
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#22 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 02:43 PM
 
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There are two ways of looking at this issue. You can economize and stretch the dollars you already have, or you can figure out a way to generate more income while staying at home.

We economize by being more mindful about spending and by bargain hunting. We rarely go out to eat and I do all the food shopping and cook frugally, which DH doesn't quite get how to do. Dh drives my economy car to work at a 50% gas savings and I rarely go anywhere. If there's an item he wants, instead of his impulse buying, I research and buy used or get online at 50% off. I'm a big fan of craigslist and ebay! I don't buy clothes, and will get used as soon as the baby weight is off. We're not putting on the AC until the temp exceeds 90 degrees.

I know this one is drastic, but taking in a boarder could put alot more cash in your pocket than clipping coupons. Before I married DH, he had a roommate stay in one of the extra rooms. In an expensive housing area like we're in (Ca), it's not uncommon to take in a boarder to lower expenses.

Given how high our utilities are, having someone pay a little rent and chip in on energy bills sounds really good right now. I'd have to become a good housekeeper really quickly, and search for someone we could feel comfortable with, but I am seriously considering it so I can stay home with LO longer.

You could also offer to watch another family's child in your home. That way you are bringing in money while staying with LO. I would like to have a 3 or 4 year old to look after for half days after school....

You can also look for online work. If you have a flair for writing, there are internet companies hiring people to submit reviews.

Hope this helps.
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#23 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 02:58 PM
 
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I've cut out a lot of stuff recently. Here's what I've done or hope to do soon.

- got better car insurance deal (I saved $101 a MONTH going with AAA)
- reduced cell phone package (you can call and ask what your average monthly use is then reduce your package to one more fit to that)
- reduced how much the IRS takes out of my check. (I was getting a huge rebate every year but realised I really need that money all along. I was claiming 0 but now I claim 2. I have 4 in the house so I don't claim all of it but it increase my take home pay by about $200 a month)
- started the DAVE RAMSEY dumping debt and building wealth program. (There's a thread on the finances forum for this and I bought his book. ALso www.daveramsey.com)
- Since we only use the land line telephone for internet I called and had them get rid of EVERYTHING on it. I only have 25 calls a month allowed, no long distance, nothing. It costs like $6 but I keep my internet at the original cost of just the internet service.)
- I do the cash in the envelope thing. It really keeps you on track. You would be amazed at how much money you really have.
- Want to get rid of: newspaper, cable and magazine subscriptions. Any internet subscriptions (I don't have these but the thought occurred to me others might so I listed it.)
- Barter for things (My friend makes great bread and she trades her bread for eggs from a lady with chickens.)
- Still lactating? Can your ds drink "mommy milk" instead of soy? That would cut down that cost.
- Go through your house and purge like crazy. Most people don't need 90% of what they own. Sell everything that isn't "nailed down." You'll feel better and have more money.
- Can hubby do "side jobs"? I know lots of IT guys that do computer repair, etc on the side for a little extra.
- What do you do for a living? COuld you turn that into a work at hom thing?

HTH. I'm also trying to move myself into a position to stay at home. Here's: to us both
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#24 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 03:45 PM
 
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I know things keep going up. Its only going to get worse.


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Do you have cell phones and a land line? Can you get rid of the land line and keep cell phones? I did that a few years ago and saved $30/month or more, since I had free long distance with the cell phone plan.

We only have a cell phone. Just one cell phone.

Do you have cable or satellite TV? Get rid of it!

No TV here either.

How about your internet access? Do you have the least expensive option for your area? Can you live with dial-up?

Sadly, we have to use a remote service. First satttelite, and now verizon. So it costs us about 50$ a month, but it's one of those things that we decided was a "must" for us, for now.

Do you have a freezer? Can you buy meat in bulk from the butcher? Are you able to can and freeze veggies and fruit while they're in season?

We don't eat meat, but yes, we always stockpile frozen veggies and fruits too.

Do you use pre-packaged foods, like Hamburger Helper, etc? Make your own and avoid all the crap in the packaged foods while saving a few pennies.

Just adding homemade stuff can really help. A loaf of homemade bread can really stretch a meal, and can cost pennies. I buy 50lb. sacks of organic flour from a local co-op that only costs me $20.00! I bake a lot of bread foods for us. Vegans are kind of "carb fiends" anyway, as someone I know once said to me.

Do you have a family member who can watch your DC while you work to pay off the CC and other debt?

You know, my mom would probably move in if we ever asked her to.

Can you plant a garden, even a patio garden, and grow some of your own veggies?

Yes, and also, this is a vegan no-no, but my husband loves raising honeybees. And we get enough honey, even after leaving plenty for the colony to comfortably survive a long cold winter, to not have to buy sweetners. Sugar, agave, xylitol, etc. are all very pricey for a budget.

Do you own your home or rent? Can you move to a less-expensive area?

We are blessed, my husband is a care-taker, and we live on site. Knock on wood as they say! It helps us eat, no doubt at all.

Do you have garage-sale-worthy stuff? I once made over $700 in one weekend getting rid of old stuff. Granted a lot of it was appliances that I had to get rid of, but was still a lot of money that went directly to debt.

Wow! We are minimilists, so...

Do you shop consignment stores and second-hand stores for your clothes? Can you sew? (Although I've found that it's often more expensive to sew your own with the cost of fabrics and notions, but sometimes it's worth it.)

Same here. Thrift stores, sewing. My saris last forever, and when I do buy them, I buy used from Idia, and literally pay $11.00 including shipping per sari. We buy underwear and socks new. I knit socks too. sometimes shoes have to be bought new though.

Can you trade childcare with another mother or do childcare from your home?

I love the childcare idea. I would try for that myself.

Have you checked the frugal living forum?
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Originally Posted by earthgirl View Post
We don't have cell phones, cable, or a car. We seldom eat out. We buy used whenever possible. We use cloth diapers. I can't tell you what you can specifically cut, but those are some of the bigger things that make a difference for us.
One car here, actually I have no driver's license. We also seldom eat out, and cloth diapers too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by becoming View Post
This advice might not be very popular around here, but honestly, I'd start eating mostly cheap store brand food instead of all natural/organic in order to SAH with my kids.
Actually so would I! But my husband would not be so willing for us to make that step. I do think he would in the end though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylith View Post
I*Replace household paper goods with cloth. No need to buy paper napkins, paper towels, etc. Some folks even use cloth toilet paper, although I have not really won my family over on that one
*Line dry your laundry whenever you can.
*Energy saving light bulbs.
*Turn down the thermostat in winter, turn it up in summer. Stretch your comfort zone.
*Don't buy cleaning products. You can clean almost anything with some combination of vinegar, baking soda, cheap-o dish soap, maybe a little tea tree oil.
*Get the word out that you like hand-me-downs. Watch Freecycle for them too. Sort and store them by size until your kids grow into them. If you don't get enough hand-me-downs, watch clearance sales and thrift stores with an eye to at least one year ahead. I just bought brand new snow boots at Goodwill, in next year's sizes for both my kids, for $2 a pair.
*Take advantage of your local library for entertainment.
*Learn to cut your whole family's hair.
*Since you have a little bit of land, you might consider keeping some chickens for eggs.
Yes to all of that! And the planet loves you for it too!
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#25 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 04:24 PM
 
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How much are you actually bringing in after daycare and other work related expenses?

Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
14yo ds   11yo dd  9yo ds and 7yo ds and 2yo ds  
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#26 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 04:39 PM
 
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I saw that you owned your home. Do you have the opportunity to refinance to consolidate any debt? We can just manage on DH's salary, but needed to update our 65 yr old a/c and just refinanced our loan. In the process we were able to pay off all our credit card debt. I guess technically we just financed it for 30 years, but it's saving us more than $100 a month.
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#27 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 04:45 PM
 
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I agree, aldi's is quite cheap!

You know, my ds has milk allergies too, and I EBF, which means no dairy for me. But, instead of loading up on soy, we just stopped things that need dairy. The replacement dairy stuff can be pricey. DH is living dairy free too, because it is cheaper for us to both avoid it, rather then buying food that only one person can eat. I keep a tub of dairy free butter and a thing of rice milk on hand for cooking, but that is it. I understand you want to eat good. I do too. I cant afford organic vegetables, so I went around to grocery stores until I found the one that I felt carried decent produce and I shop there. I know you said you wont budge, but just thought I'd offer that.

I know I might be out of line here, and maybe I am reading wrong, but you seem a little resistant to change. Like you want to stay home but DH must have tv and you cant bend on food. I am sorry if that seems offensive, but sometimes staying home means you have to do things a little differently. I love going out to eat and being able to get organic veggies, but I have 50.00 a week to feed me and dh, so those things arent possible. If we had cable, it would be gone. I only have internet (and a computer) because my parents pay for it so they can watch ds on a web cam. Otherwise, I would be hanging out at the library a lot. That is what I did before they bought the computer.

Anyway, again I mean no disrespect.
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#28 of 52 Old 05-08-2008, 04:48 PM
 
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Find a copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Daczczyn. (Also available as Tightwad Gazette vol. I, vol.II, and vol. III--the Complete version is all three volumes combined)Obviously, borrowing it from the library is your best move! This book helped me find all sorts of ways to cut costs when I left work to SAHMother. It not only gives specific advice and ideas, but also encourages a frugal mindset that helps you learn how to save money in your own set of circumstances, whatever they may be. Then, read anything and everything else you can about the topic of frugality!!!
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#29 of 52 Old 05-09-2008, 03:55 PM
 
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When I left my full-time job last June, I couldn't believe how much I was able to save on groceries. You can really SHOP for sales when you are home--as opposed to being crunched for time and only being able to go to one store, or having to buy something at a high price because you are in a pinch.

We also ate our way thru the pantry and freezer last summer. It felt good to go through all the weird odds and ends and short term, it was a weekly savings as I found all sorts of things to defrost.
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#30 of 52 Old 05-09-2008, 08:12 PM
 
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I take the bus instead of driving, we paid off our credit card with our home equity line of credit that is an interest only loan and cheaper to pay, my mom has chickens and we get free eggs, garage sales for clothes, cloth diaper, we do the menu thing and it helps a lot, DH gets an allowance so we can budget exactly how much money we have.
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