These days many of us are struggling to make ends meet. My husband and I have had our fair share of these difficult times over the years when he's been laid off from IT jobs or as work fluctuates now that he's a truck driver. When we made the decision for me to stay home back in 2006 I made my primary job figuring out how to keep our bills as low as possible.
This sounds difficult, but it's a simple as anytime I pulled out my debit card to buy something at the store or pay a bill, I asked myself, "How can I make this amount smaller or can it be eliminated all together?"
When it comes to groceries, I check the weekly circular online for the store I will be shopping at and plan my meals around what is cheapest. I stopped buying processed or prepared foods and only buy meat, produce, dairy, rice, pasta, beans, canned tomato items, various condiments and baking supplies. I view shopping trips as buying staples instead of groceries. From this small list the possibilities for what can be made are endless. Both of us have noticed our blood sugar levels are more stable (we're both hypoglycemic - low blood sugar) and we've lost weight. I don't clip coupons because the items that the coupons are for are generally processed food and other items that I can find a cheaper alternative for. I also go in with a budget and keep a tally of what I'm spending. If I find I'm going over, then I put back what I can live without.
*I have a dry erase board that I write things down on as I run out of them. Then before going to the store I edit the list for anything I don't really need.
*My cleaning supplies I have pared down to one bottle of all-purpose concentrated detergent that I dilute into a spray bottle of water, add to the toilet, use full strength as a degreaser, etc.
*I make my own laundry detergent and there is a recipe in my blog archives.
*When I'm at the store I don't buy anything that isn't on my list, and then I often don't get everything on my list because I don't always need it. I only get what I will need during the next 2 week period between shopping trips.
*When we do have larger paychecks then I buy an extra cut of meat, couple bags of pasta, etc., when they are on sale. Then when a particularly lean paycheck comes along we have enough food to get us through until the next check so I can focus that paycheck on bills and gas.
*When I'm cooking, I sometimes skim a little meat, veggies, rice, etc., and stow away in the freezer. Then when I'm wanting a cheap and easy meal for dinner because I'm not feeling well I'll mix them in with eggs for a frittata, omeletes or fried rice.
*I've also started using meat as a flavoring ingredient instead of the main ingredient, and every Monday I made vegetarian dishes.
*This year I also started a garden which takes significantly less time to manage than I expected. I'm using the square foot gardening method for anyone interested in learning more.
With bills I have looked at each one to figure out how to reduce them.
*TV: reduce or eliminate service
*Insurance: shop around for lower rates
*Electric: find ways to reduce usage and shop around for a lower rate
*Phone: shop around for a lower rate, eliminate services not needed
*Mortgage: shop around for a lower insurance rate, apply for homestead to reduce taxes, and if possible reapply for a lower mortgage rate; also if you move try to find a cheaper place to live but make sure the cost of gas doesn't offset what you are saving.
*Water: eliminate leaks and find ways to reduce consumption
*Entertainment: get books on half.com or paperbackswap.com versus bookstores; instead of going out every week we started playing games together at home both board games and games online like World of Warcraft which even though it's $30/mo for the two of us together, it's cheaper than going out one night. We also look for free events to attend. For movies and tv shows we use Netflix, Hulu and other online sources.
*Pets: We used to buy the cheapest food available, but we've since found out that the more expensive foods are more nutritious and the animals eat 1/6 of what they ate with the cheap food which is all filler, so their health is better plus we're saving money by buying less. We have also started using raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar for fleas. We're still testing it out, but with the kittens we have it seems to be helping. We add a little to their drinking water and bathe them with it and they have significantly fewer fleas than before.
I am constantly reevaluating everything we spend money on and trying to figure out how to save money. Many times I have something at home that will fulfill a need, it's just a matter of taking a moment to see what we have and getting out of the habit of running to the store at every whim. We've also learned to invest money into fewer quality items that will last longer than just automatically buying what is cheapest. One of the biggest lessons is to use what we already have and not go out and buy something else when we have an item that will do what we want done.