We are still fighting our battle to pay down all of our consumer debt. This battle seems to be one sometimes of two steps forward, one step back. In the last couple years, we have dealt with huge amounts of medical bills (we had an 18 month period with 6 different surgeries), way too many car repairs, actually replacing 3 different vehicles, house repairs, and just lots of assorted chaos. Even with all of this, we are committing ourselves to taking the time to plan a vacation for the family each year as frugally as possible. We simply do not have many years left with all of the kids at home. Making time for family time and memories is important to us.
Replacing two cars in a two month span (both unexpected) has left us with a very tight budget for the year. Even used vehicles add up when the replacement fund was empty to begin with. Sigh. So I am hoping by giving myself a bit more accountability, I will make continued forward progress on keeping under budget, putting money in savings, and continuing to pay off the debt.
Our current grocery budget is quite a bit lower than I would like it to be. Doable if I stick to a meal plan and freezer meals so I am hoping once we use up a bit of the meat in the freezers, I can rearrange a bit to make space for freezer meals. Yes, I see the irony. The freezers are jam packed so full of beef that we lack room for other stuff. Our yearly beef purchase always comes from our tax refund and is a blessing with an otherwise tight grocery budget. I don't have to plan for buying meat. Chicken, pork, fish, beans. Those all come out of the grocery budget this year. We were unable to purchase our usual whole pig this year due to replacing a car after an accident. A bit of a bummer but that is the way things work out.
So the reality is that living on a tight budget requires constant planning and rethinking. Constantly searching for new ways to cut costs or reuse or rethink. Yes, I realize some folks would say go out and get a job. I've considered that. Repeatedly. Every time I got ready to apply for one, one of our cars died. Every single time. When we are down a car, there is no way to add another work schedule to the chaos. I figured this was God's way to saying stay home for now. It's where you belong. I'll revisit the idea in a few months perhaps.
So what have we done recently to save some extra cash?
I finally found a way to cut the older girls' hair that we are all happy with. This takes care of not only haircuts for them but also for me. Haircuts are one of those things I hate to pay for. Heck, I think the last time I paid for one for myself was sometime in the first year we were married. Instead I was having Alan trim it once a year or so. If you are someone who enjoys haircuts and pampering and such, this probably sounds awful to you. But I do not enjoy having someone else cut my hair at all so it never bugged me. I was, however, struggling to find a decent way to cut the girls' hair without leaving them horrified at the results. This has finally been achieved. On haircut day last week, 10 folks received haircuts. The three-year-old will need some finishing touches later this week when we can get him to sit still but otherwise, everyone looks great.
When we received the party pack from Kikkoman for our house party, it came with several coupons for free items. After our guests took some home, we still had a few left. I've been able to use these for free items to put in our pantry for meals. I have one more coupon waiting to be used.
We are starting to sort through the extras in the house and look for things to list for sale to bring in a bit of extra cash. Although I normally try to donate everything we can, right now we are in need of the extra funds enough to try selling a few items first. I still plan to purge and donate a bunch as well since you do save money when there is less in your house and things are better organized but I have my eye on a few items specifically for selling.
I've been using Swagbucks to earn gift cards a bit more than usual. Last month I was able to pay for a huge case of disposable diapers for bedtime. Yes, we SHOULD be using cloth and for a very long time, not using it would not have been thinkable. I do intend to move back to cloth at night but for right now, this is where we are. Several of the toddlers like to climb in bed with older siblings at night so it is just easier to use disposables at the moment. And when I can get the diapers for free, I can live with that. This month I plan to save up the gift cards to replace the leaking coffee pot and broken reusable filter. Although I am totally ok with never having coffee in the house, several of my family members think this is something unthinkable.
Last week was break week for the local schools which meant many of the children's activities were cancelled. Combine this with sick kids for most of the week and the van was parked in the driveway for most of the week. This saved quite a bit of gas for the week. The realities of driving a large van include the fact that it costs at least $5 every time you pull out of the driveway to go somewhere. I do my best to combine errands and put more than one kid in the same activity to cut down on driving but we are rather busy right now in this season of life and constantly filling that van.
What creative ways do you have for saving a few pennies?