Monday, February 23, 2015

Radical Frugality

Sometimes, you have no choice. You are forced to really tighten your belt and get radical at reducing expenses and saving money. 

Right now, all our bills are being paid but there's not much left over. And, it sucks to be in this position. 

We have three options:
1. Give up.
2. Reduce expenses.
3. Bring in more income.

I'm going back to the basics.

* I'm tracking every cent we spend. This will help me see where we have gotten lax in spending and reign it in.

* Stretch the food budget further. I'll start by using up all the foods in our freezer and pantry aka pantry challenge. Prepare more vegetarian meals. Meat will be a side dish, not the main course. Plant a container garden in Spring. Get back to couponing and do so effectively. 

* Back to basics cooking. Make everything I can from scratch. Use up all leftovers. Let nothing go to waste.

* Pack my husband's lunch each day. He has no way to warm food up so I'll need to look for creative, yet inexpensive lunchbox ideas.

* Involve the family in reducing electricity usage. Turning lights off when leaving the room. Unplugging all cell phones, computers, tvs when not in use or when done charging. Keeping the thermostat lower in winter, higher in summer. Use the dryer less. Use a lamp instead of overhead lighting with multiple bulbs.

* Involve the family in reducing water usage. Short showers. Catch the cold water while waiting for water to warm up to be put to use in other ways: filling pets water bowls, watering outside plants, etc. 

* Cut expenses to the bone. I cancelled Netflix at $8.99/month. I can't cancel my cable until December when the contract is up but I did save $21/month on the bill with a phone call. I could drop my cell phone and save $50/month. I honestly don't use it much anyway, but the only way Alfred would be able to contact me would be through Facebook.

* Sell valuables that we don't need or use.

* Looks for ways to bring in extra money without having to go back into the work force. 

* Go over the budget/expenses weekly with Alfred so he knows exactly what is going on and where we stand.

* Buy only what is necessary for the time being. Really, there is not much we actually need at the moment. 

* Make do or do without. Priorities must come first: shelter (home), utilities (electricity/water), basic hygiene needs, food, medical needs and supplies, basic clothing...

* Reduce, reuse, recycle - as much as possible.

* Find joy and content at home with projects and fun to keep us all busy and entertained. I'm quite content to spend 99% of my time at home. The rest of my family, not so much...

* Look for free outings, for those in the family that have wanderlust. Easy in the warm months because there are parks, beaches, and nature preserves/hiking trails. For Winter, I'm thinking museums with free admission/free days. I don't want to be outdoors for extended periods of time when it's freezing! 

* Non-urgent needs will go on a list and will be purchased according to monies available and priority.

* Avoid paying full price as often as possible by shopping sales, and using thrift stores, yard sales and craigslist in order to get what we need at the lowest possible price.

In essence, I will be re-evaluating everything we do and making necessary changes and cuts because I'm just stubborn enough to not throw in the towel. I will stand and fight to the death if need be. But I will not give up! 

I am willing to do whatever it takes to get out of debt. I am determined to conquer once and for all! 


Cheapchick said...

Could you change your cell phone from $50 a month to pay as you go? Then only use when it is urgent/use texting which is usually dead cheap on those plans? My stepdaughter did that when she moved out and just kept her existing phone which we had no contract on. Do you have animals? Would you consider dog/cat sitting? It is hard to find decent humans to take care of pet members of family and you make at least $25 a day (at least here) doing something like that - plus you only do it when it is convenient for you. Just an idea. Hubby recently made up huge batches of meatballs which we cooked then froze for minimal meat meals with pasta and a salad - good way to stretch your meat.

Tracy Lee said...

I have a Straight Talk phone so not sure if I can do the pay as you go thing with it. I don't have a contract with this one currently. I could possibly drop down to the $35 card.

I'd love to pet sit but my 150 pound mastiff would not like that! I thought of possibly dog-walking, clean houses or condos, helping people declutter and reorganize....among other things.

We love meatballs so I'll have to try your idea! Thank you!

Fiona said...

You can do it Tracy! These are all great ideas. The cat sitting idea is a good one from Cheapchick. Dogs don't generally stay at home when people go away (or at least I hope they don't), but cats do (and birds, rabbits?), so you could offer this service locally. You drive around once a day and feed cats and water plants, check mail etc. We paid a lady to do this once because we didn't have anyone else to ask (we usually can ask a neighbour or family member). People that travel a lot for work may want it as an ongoing thing.

Rhonda said...

Hi Tracy, I hope you can find ways to do this.

For me, shopping at multiple stores is helping me keep stocked and staying on budget, it is just complicated though. I get the cheapest and best meat and cheese at the commissary, baking and fresh produce at Aldi, and home and health products when they have good deals and coupons at CVS. Then I fill in by watching sales and using coupons at Walmart.

I pack Jeffs lunch everyday. He has a microwave at work but doesn't use it because it is gross. He gets a sandwich, small serving of Chips and pickles, 2 fruits, 1 string cheese and 1 ounce of nuts pretty much everyday plus a bottle of water and travel mug of coffee.

I like to stay home too but when we do go somewhere, I take bottles of water from home and snacks- even if I am not sure we will need them, I would rather take it all back in the house than have to stop and buy overpriced fast food or gas station treats.
And when I do buy individual packs of snacks, most of them are cheapest at Dollar Tree.

Best wishes to you! I know your girls are teens and that is the most expensive age, is there anyway they can earn money for their wants? I babysat and made beaded necklaces to sell when I was their age. Times have changed though.......

Terri Cheney said...

You can suspend your cable/satellite for up to 12 months. Of course, you do have to fulfill the contract eventually but if it can get you through a tough spot, suspension might be the way to go for now.

author said...

This is a great list - very thorough. We are in the same situation - nothing left after the basics. It's tough, especially as the price of everything keeps going up except our paycheck! We are racking our brains trying to think of another income source. Meanwhile, I'll do what's on your list. It's nice to be able to relate to someone. Everyone we know has extravagant lifestyles and it's hard not to be a little bit jealous!

Georgene G. said...

You have the goal in sight and I'm sure you'll do great. Getting out of debt will help loosen up some of your income. It's a daily challenge to learn contentment with what we have been given today.

Tracy Lee said...

Rhonda - thanks for the lunch idea as well as the other ones! Yes, the girls are looking for ways to earn spending money also. Time to put our thinking caps on!

Terri, I didn't know that you could suspend cable. Hmmm, interesting...

Author - thank you for your kind comment! Hopefully things will improve for the both of us! Do keep in touch!

Georgene - thank you! We have a lot of debt and it seems whenever I begin to make progress we are hit and are back to square one. It can be very discouraging!

Fiona - I'd love to take care of pets as I am a big animal lover!

Scrappy quilter said...

Cheering you on. I've gone back to tracking our spending too. Your list is great.

Patricia @ Corn in my Coffee-Pot said...

I'm in the same boat Tracy...and it sounds like so many are!
I'm trying to come up with ways to stretch an already OVERLY TIGHT BUDGET...
cutting the utilities has helped us. We live in Texas ceiling fans are a must...but if no one is in the room, I shut it OFF! A room doesn't need to be cooled (or heated in winter) when no one is in it.
Like you...many bulbs on the over head lighting, I believe is waste. we use lamps. Ive even gone to using a lamp in the kitchen in the evening... after all the cooking and cleaning is done, rather than turning on the over head lights.
We are out of wood-- but we've been paying for propane on a budget pay plan...and had almost a full tank... so, we're heating with gas/space heaters (no central heat and air here)--and we eliminated the electric space heater in the bathroom and use the gas heater. It seems to be pretty efficient. If I make something in the oven...I crack the door after I'm finished to help warm the room.
You've got a pretty good list here-- I like sharing and reading other readers ideas too.
Hang in there, you can do it...and you've lots of support backing you.

Tracy Lee said...

Thank you Scrappy Quilter!

Patricia - yes I think many are in the same boat. I baked homemade granola bars yesterday and left the oven cracked open to make use of the heat afterwards. :)

Mrs. B, a very peculiar person said...

Hi Tracy,

I lived more than 1/2 my life in poverty (childhood - mid 30's) - not "well-fare poverty" where housing, utilities and food are guaranteed, but "working poor" poverty where one works 2 full-time and 1 part time jobs only to find that after babysitter, rent, utilities and bus fare (couldn't afford a car) are paid one must figure out how to feed a family for 25% less than the average family.

Although we now praise the Lord that we are no longer living in such a dire financial situation, I also know that those circumstances developed my creativity, taught me the TRUE difference between wants and needs, grew my financial self discipline, taught me genuine gratitude and generosity, grew my faith, cemented goals and dreams, etc.

It may sound confusing to some, but the financial lessons I learned while living in poverty have made it possible for our family to live in the abundance we currently enjoy. When our financial situation began to slowly improve, I was well trained in making do, using up, recycling, bargain hunting, and SAVING any amount of extra financial gain.

Nowadays, we are, in my opinion, a long ways from the poverty of my youth, but I still make do, use up, recycle, bargain hunt and SAVE any extras. Those principles are what allowed us the ability to achieve our goal and dream of a country homestead and the lifestyle we currently live.

I've shared all this with you in hopes and with prayer that it will be an encouragement to you and your family. I know that if you knew me personally, you'd see that I'm not a very intelligent, dynamic or gifted person thus, I figure that if someone like me can overcome, then with determination anyone can. I encourage you to stay focused on the goal, not the obstacles between you and the goal. By staying focused on the goal you will figure out a way to get there.
Blessings to you and yours,