Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cutting Costs in the Budget

I've spent the week working on our budget. Well, I've done other things, too! :-) I have one week left of work and then our income will drop by $400 a month.

We talked about dropping our internet but we use it for a land line with Magic Jack. Magic Jack has been great but it has some problems occasionally. The cell phone is our back up in case the Magic Jack is not working. I'm still hoping to find a way to drop that bill from $25 to $15 a month.  I'm  looking for a lower cell phone plan for $10 a month or less.  I'm considering 'pay as you go' phones but have heard some bad reviews.

The utility and grocery budget are flexible so they continue to be a focal point.

Strawberry patch


 Last winter I kept the heat off as much as possible. I closed off the rooms we were not using but ended up with mold because it got too cold. My husband and I slept with hats and gloves on at night and a ton of blankets.  We were a cute pair! Ha! I was cozy warm once I got under the covers. But,  it ended up being too hard on my husband physically.  He suffers with pain continually so I didn't want to add to his discomfort. I can usually keep my electric and gas bill below $100 a month. This month it's right at $70. My water bill fluctuates anywhere from $90-120 depending on how much we are watering in the garden. I've budgeted for $200 total for all utilities.

I still believe my grocery budget holds the greatest potential for saving money. I have been spending a minimum of $360 a month. I am budgeting for $60 less than I have been spending.  I was using $100 of my part time income to pay for the higher grocery bill. There is no buffer now.  Saving money in the grocery budget involves more cooking and choosing simple and inexpensive recipes and shopping 'loss leaders'.  I did a lot of cooking this week to stretch the food and we ate a lot of chicken.

Fall crop of broccoli
 
The bottom line of my new budget is $11 leftover at the end of the month. This is after putting $50 into savings. Any KNOWN future expenses (DMV fees, accounting, Christmas, birthdays,etc.)  are divided by the year and the monthly allotted amount is saved. I wondered how many of you live on a budget that tight? Is it unrealistic?

I found myself confronted with waves of anxiousness this week mingled with gusts of faith. The anxiousness came as a result of looking into the future and fearing what 'might' happen without my extra salary. The faith came when I renewed my mind in God's Word and trusted that He is my provider.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17 ESV

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Matthew 6:34 ESV


~~~~~~~~~~

Here are a few ways I saved money or stretched what we had this week:

1.  I've been freezing meat and vegetable scraps for over a month. I finally had enough to make dog food. We mix it in with the dried dog food to stretch it.

2.  I made soap all by myself! It 'traced' but when I checked on it the second day it seemed too soft. Each time I check it firms up a little more. I'm hoping it will turn out so I can use it for gifts.



3.  I was given a free Aloe plant. I haven't had one since we sold our last home. I like to use Aloe for burns so I was happy to receive two small plants. The same sweet lady gave me a food dehydrator. It was a desire of my heart that God met.

4. I harvested my Stevia leaves. I left about 5 inches on the plant. I was going to make a tincture using glycerin  until I discovered that it's full of sugar.  Instead, I  tied the branches in bunches and they're hanging in the garage. They should be thoroughly dried in 7-10 days. I'll put the leaves in a blender to make powder. I hope this works. Hopefully husband won't mind that the color will be green instead of the bleached white color. The Stevia I purchase from Amazon costs nearly $20 for a small bottle but it last a long, long time.

5. I harvested the eggplant. I blanched it for a few minutes and then froze it between wax paper and then put the layers in a freezer bag.

6.  I spent an afternoon taking in some pants and tops on my sewing machine so I don't have to buy new clothes.

Seedlings of onion, broccoli, swiss chard and cabbage


7.  A lot of research  went into finding an alternative to our current satellite and internet packages. Our contract for satellite will not be up until June. If we cancel early they will charge $275. (Note to self: No more contracts!)  I think we came to a conclusion to downgrade our satellite package until the contract is up in June. This will save us $30 a month. If I can find a good cell phone solution then we may end up cancelling the internet since there is not contract.

8. I needed cat litter this week. I decided to 'look around' on the shelves by the cat litter I normally buy instead of just purchasing the old standby.  I found a bag that was half as much. My plan is to mix it in with the expensive stuff and cut my costs. I hope it works.

9.  I made a homemade recipe for Shake and Bake. It tasted almost identical. I don't know if I can share the recipe here since it's copyrighted. Can I? Here is the link:

Over Fried Chicken 111

 "Snow on the Mountain"

10.  Things I didn't throw away this week:
  • Old clothes (rug making)
  • Toilet paper cardboard (compost)
  • Tinfoil cardboard (compost)
  • Tin cans (cut up and used to fertilize Azalea and Hydrangea)
  • Plastic  and glass jar containers (recycle)
  • Egg cartons (compost) 
  • Reused washed Seran wrap that had been used on fruit.
I'm thinking a lot about Christmas lately. I'd love to find some new gift ideas to make at home. What are you making for Christmas?

Georgene


45 comments:

  1. You are amazing. Back to blogging about the book I am reflecting on. Looking forward to reading the book you write.

    Hugs and prayers,
    Carol

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    1. I will be following your review of the book since I probably won't be buying it. :-)

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  2. You are doing great with your cost cutting and savings! I often don't give Christmas presents as most of my family and friends don't either. So if I give them they are generally small or home made. This year, I am putting more effort into home made and am making a few quilts (already started) and some knitted dishcloths.

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  3. Man, that's a tight budget. We have a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan and really like it. It only costs us about $40/YEAR. We only use it for emergencies and mainly to call each other. We've had it for 8 or 9 years now.

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    1. Would you mind sharing what the name of your phone plan is Cristy? Thanks so much!

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    2. I use Southern Linc Wireless. It's not available in all states, but where it is, coverage is good, they don't require you to refill the account until you want to, and the people have an office in town. (I find it much better to use the office in town than the telephone refill. For instance, the telephone refill won't let us only add $20. They make it be $25 and they won't take Discover. Only MC and Visa. But the local office does all these things. ) They have also never made us upgrade our phones. And they still fix our 6 year old phones.

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  4. I have just recently started following your blog. The first thing that came to my mind was how you work so hard to keep your bills to a bare minimum. You are a inspiration to so many with the way you save and share your cost saving ideas. I will continue to follow your blog as I follow my own cost saving plan. I am not making anything for Christmas. We give mostly cash or gift cards. I consider myself a non-consumer advocate so I want those I give gifts to - to be able to get what they need. Those that I do get gifts for I use swagbucks, my points, instagc to earn them.

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    1. It's so nice to meet you Terri. I'm glad you introduced yourself. :-)

      My family loves gift certificates! I never thought of it as far as fitting into a non-consumer lifestyle but I can see exactly what you mean.

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  5. Christmas gifts made at home. I started doing this years ago, and it is always a challenge, er, ah, "fun", to find different items to make for my family and friends. In the past I have made jalapeno pepper jelly (very popular in Texas where I live). I've also tweaked a recipe for cheese crackers (a Southern tradition), which goes great with the pepper jelly. The crackers are also good for folks who don't care for spicy foods. This year I am also making Christmas Pickles, which takes 5 days to produce, so it is not for the faint-of-heart. There are lots of recipes for Christmas Pickles on the internet, but I got my recipe from a dear aunt before she passed away and now she is famous among my friends just because I put her name on these pickles. I have also made Gingerbread Biscotti and grapefruit marmalade.

    My family and friends have tons of money, but few of them cook, so these goodies really are treats at Christmas time. As you may have noticed, I don't like "stuff" and prefer gifts that are consumable.

    I am also working on quilts for a few people, but who knows if those will be finished before the holidays, and I decided not add stress to my life (it has already been a very difficult year) by setting a deadline for myself. If the quilts are not finished, then I will be making more biscotti and cheese crackers. Ha!

    Thanks for your great blog. I look forward to reading it every week.

    God bless you real good,
    MomToBostonTerriers

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    1. Dear MomToBostonTerriers,
      I've never heard of Christmas pickles. Can you share a recipe?

      I've always made a lot of homemade candy for Christmas but I didn't last year because I was cutting back on carbs and I knew it would be too tempting. :-) I made homemade bread and scones, instead. I'll probably do the same thing this year.

      I like how you ended your letter! He does bless me 'real good'! :-) Thank you!

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    2. Here is my recipe for Christmas pickles. It uses VERY LARGE cucumbers -- you know, the ones that grown huge at the end of the season because everyone is tired of harvesting and eating cucumbers. The bigger, the better. The pickles are sweet, red, and taste like cinnamon. Delicious!

      People have to be deemed "pickle worthy" before they receive a gift of these pickles from me. :-) .

      MomToBostonTerriers



      AUNT JIM’S CHRISTMAS PICKLES


      2 gal. very large cucumbers

      Peel the cucumbers, cut each in half cross-wise. Use an iced teaspoon to remove the seeds. Slice 1/2 inch thick.


      2 c. lime
      8 qt. water

      Mix the lime and water. Pour over cucumbers. Allow to set for 24 hours. Drain, rinse. Soak in ice water for 3 hours. Pour off water.


      1 c. vinegar
      1 oz. bottle red food coloring

      Mix food coloring and vinegar together. Pour over cucumbers, and add enough water to cover. Simmer for 3 hours. (Do not use pots that have a Teflon coating as this will turn the pickles dark.) Pour off liquid.


      2 c. water
      2 c. red hot cinnamon candies
      2 c. vinegar
      8 sticks cinnamon
      10 c. sugar

      Make a syrup of the above ingredients. Boil the syrup and pour over cucumber rings. Allow to sit for 3 days.


      On the 4th day, pour off the syrup, reheat it and bring to a boil. Drop rings into sterile jars, pour syrup over rings.

      Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

      Makes 5 1/2 or 6 quarts.

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  6. I, too, am on the lookout for a great idea for gift giving this year. I just don't have it in me to buy, buy, buy anymore. I don't want to... and I can't afford to. I've made Raspberry Christmas Cheer for gifts and Pink Peppermint Popcorn, too. Both recipes are on my blog if interested. Those were definitely consumed, not gifts that sat around unused. I'm thinking along those lines again for this year. In the past I've given gift cards that were received from surveys or points for purchasing types of sites. But I don't get those offers anymore. As far as posting a recipe, I will post where it came from with a link (as you did) so that credit is given to the proper creator, so I think it's fine to post it.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I've never heard of Raspberry Christmas Cheer or Pink Peppermint Popcorn. They wound marvelous! Where did you find the recipe?

      Thank you for the info on the link. I'll stop by for a 'visit' soon. :-)

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  7. Living on Less $, is sort of 'hobby' for me right now. I do need to watch spending and try to earn what I can--but unless something unforeseen happens--I'm ok living on hubby's income until he retires in 10 or 15 yrs--then yikes!
    I don't like that position really--but that's how it is, and when I think about the far distant future I remember that I may not even be here that long. :)

    Your budget to me, seems to have no margin. I feel bad to say that. I have plenty of margin--though as you know, there've been times I didn't.

    I do love the 'rely on God' aspect--but I wonder if you would not be happier to have just a little outside the home work again.. When I look for jobs here--which I do about once a week-- the only jobs I see consistently are cna work--or caregiver jobs. There is also a need in our area for volunteers to help shut ins. We don't live in California--here in rural SC I think it has to be much easier to stretch $ than it is where you are. I'm amazed you can do it. I do not have a water bill, my gas is about $15 in summer and will probably be about $50 in winter.

    I am wondering though-- what if you replace the $400 a month with a new part time caregiver job? You would be such a blessing to whoever you worked for, as well as making your budgeting so much easier.

    Another thing--I think being home centered--even if you are outside the home some-- is comparable to being a woman at home. Sometimes we are wiser to look outward a bit. You are relying on Hubby's disability income, I am relying on hubby's income. Similar things. My one thing is--I might be qualified for disability myself--but haven't needed it--and with my long years at home I am not eligible for much if I did get it. Also If I have to live on my own soc. sec. some day-- that will also be pretty little.

    We are not in the days when someone could rely on the church or family to make up the differences. Sadly, instead we aging homemakers will be seen as quite a burden if we don't have something of our 'own' income-wise. you may be better off to keep a foot outside the house and in the job market for a while--in case you need to find more work someday. So-- that's my thought, and I know its a hard saying. I don't want to discourage you from seeking God's guidance at all--just telling you what comes to mind when I think of your situation.Take it for what it is worth. :)

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    1. Wise words Mary. My husband's aunt worked part time into her seventies to supplement social security, she doesn't get much, she worked as a hostess at a local restaurant which worked well for her as they mainly needed her during the lunch hour during the week. She made a little extra which helped her budget, and she enjoyed the people she worked with, and the regular customers all knew her as well, and she didn't spend that much time away from home.
      Bean

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    2. Thank you Mary. I continue to pray about it. The Lord has already brought some extra work. I'm not sure how much more it will be a month. So many times work has come to me. The Lord sends it. :-) My husband has said to just wait and see and so I continue to pray. I may end up with work outside the home. I'll just have to wait and see. Remember though.. I will have $50 going into savings each month and I also have included a $25 allowance for each of us to spend as we like. :-) It's so much more than we had when we first got married.

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    3. hi again.. as I said earlier, 'take it for what it is worth' as in-- you know best about your life. :) For me, finding work right now has so many 'but..' problems. I took a 30 min. walk today and it literally ruined the whole day--so that's what I'm up against with fatigue. I might start doing a little babysitting for my daughter --just early in morning so they can patch together some overlap in their schedules. I don't think I'll be paid though. I'm up against a little problem with my etsy shop work--I don't think I can continue working with wood. My hands aren't cooperating with using the saw. But-- for a while I've thought this might happen and I may switch to paper items, maybe as soon as 'now'. I put the shop on vacation so I can pray about it and see if can have a few products to list in the next week instead of wood. Life is full of changes. It is very true the Lord will help us, sometimes-- he wants us to do more, sometimes not. Will keep you in my prayers. :)

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  8. I think you are doing amazing. I am no where near your level of frugality. The only bill I would think might be lower is your water bill. I know that you are already really conscious of that though.

    I would try to find another small job that is even just a few hours a week. God certainly can open the door to something that will work for you.

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    1. I'm always working on the water bill... as you suspected. Recently I had to stop dumping the buckets of 'run off' cold water because I hurt my back. I use the water from the washing machine to water my plants (not veggies). I have a lot of little things I do throughout the day to save water. I'd like to put in a drip system for the veggies but hubby thinks it won't work with our present planting system.

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  9. Hi Georgene,

    I have been following your blog for some time and this is the first time I have ever posted a comment. I so admire your trust and dependence on our Lord Jesus. He promises to provide for our needs and answer us when we cry for help. I am sure you are seeing his blessings and provisions as you are such a good steward of the resources He is providing.

    I have been "studying" for a while now on how to live on less, cut food costs, etc. I also live in California and it's not the cheapest place to live by far! However, what comes to mind and what I have been learning is:

    1. Make homemade as much as you can.
    2. Soups are a great inexpensive alternative for meals, eating them as often as you can.
    3. Use coupons and buy only what is on sale at the grocery store with those coupons. The store ads are what you base your menu on.
    4. I save a lot at Vons using the "Just 4 You" digital coupons you load onto your card. I usually save $80.00 to $100.00 a week that way.
    5. I believe you can watch anything you want on a computer and could possibly do away with your satellite service. Even if you paid the cancellation fee at $275.00, that would probably be cheaper than paying every month until your contract expires. There is also Hulu and Netflex as options for TV watching.
    5. I follow "Living on a Dime" "Better Budgeting" "Hillbilly Housewife" and I bits and pieces from the "The Prudent Homemaker". I learn a lot from these ladies and am still learning.
    6. Also, if you use your Vons card you earn gas points and I save about $20.00 on a tank of gas because of those points.
    7. If you aren't already, you can apply for the "Care" program with the gas company and edison for up to 20% discounts on your electric and gas. It does help.
    8. Maybe you would consider food stamps. That would help a lot. Also, we have found food distribution companies that offer a box of food for $25.00. No questions asked. We live in Southern California, but they are probably all over the place.
    9. We also recycle and use that money towards our groceries.
    9. We rarely ever eat out at fast food either.

    I know God is not slack in giving us wisdom and I pray that He will reveal what you need to do and when with the resources He has provided. He is faithful. We always have to remember we live by faith and not by sight! Lord help us right? Blessings to you and your husband Georgene. You are an inspiration!!

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    1. Agree with you on cancelling the satellite contract. And so true, there are tons of programs "free" for the watching on YouTube, and Netflix is $8/month. I say "free" because of course you have to pay to connect to the internet.
      And, our local library lends movies, so that is another option for entertainment, and only costs money if you return the items late.

      Bean

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    2. I would even cancel the Magic Jack and just have a cell phone. We haven't had a land line in years. If you use a phone quite a bit, a pay-as-you go may not be a good option, as it nickel and dimes you for minutes and you will have to load it often, but it would be worth a try. Some plans will even let you use your existing cell phone. It's worth looking into. All you can do is try and see what works or what doesn't work. It is so true, you'd be surprised of what we really can do without and make it.

      By the way, barely making it is making it! I learned not to be scared when we were on our last dollar, as God still provided even with a dollar left at the end of the month, and in your case $11.00 left over! We should all live desperately dependent on our Lord no matter what our circumstance!

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  10. This may be a reflection of what I am struggling with myself, but I think your budget is too tight. But to be clear, I am struggling with my own budget and keep having too many things come up that I didn't plan for, and your budget may be a lot more complete than mine, in which case, you could be a lot tighter than I am and have no problems with it. We have just always had more slack in our budget and now things are tighter and I'm struggling with that.

    A couple of different blogs are doing homemade and frugal gifts series right now - Stacy Makes Cents (the links are on Facebook) and the Happy Housewife.

    When I am trying to be more frugal, I usually pull out my copy of Tightwad Gazette and read it. It's like an old friend at this point, familiar, comforting, and good for my mindset.

    The Delphi forum No More Debt is really good about offering budget suggestions - both how to save in certain areas and what is reasonable. They have a private folder that you can request and they will help you without putting your numbers out for just everyone to see.

    Thank you for your posts. You (and the people who leave comments, too) give me a lot to think about and encourage me to be frugal.

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    1. I am with you. My budget doesn't have the slack I am used to having. I don't like it. We are working on it, but it's still really too tight for my liking. :)

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    2. Thank you Sheila! I'm heading over to check out the forum!

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  11. Wowsers, you are going to be on a tight, tight budget with no wiggle room. I think all you can do is see how it goes, try it for a month and you will know if it is doable. I am not too sure what else you can cut. We do Virgin Mobile, for our cells, although you have to purchase a phone up front, the monthly fee is reasonable, and NO contract. I am not sure if VM has a $10/month or less plan. One thing to think about is the service reliable, if the cell phone is your only phone to call for help in an emergency you want it to work. Does Magic Jack work if the power and internet go out for some reason?
    I guess the main thing is to be flexible, give this plan a whirl, you may find it very doable, but if not you are creative and I am sure God will provide for your needs.
    And one thing I learned while my husband was off of work was that we can live on a lot less than I imagined and it was a good lesson.

    Keeping you in my prayers.

    Bean

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    1. Hi Bean,
      No, Magic Jack will not work when we lose power and internet. That is one reason we have kept the cell phone. I'm so glad to hear your good report on how God provided during your husband's time off.

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  12. Hi Georgene,

    I recently found your blog via the Prudent Homemaker's blog responses.

    The link is from Mr.Money Moustache's blog .The information is also supported through Clark Howard podcasts ( I listen to him and Dave Ramsey via podcast).
    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/05/30/republic-wireless-19-for-an-unlimited-everything-smartphone-plan/

    Watch out though, MMM has a potty mouth.

    My mother always made a simple dough at Christmas and shaped it into Christmas Tree shape, she would add sometimes a tiny amount of candied fruit into the dough and sprinkle on the top of the dough. After it baked she would use a simple icing sugar glaze on top.
    I always made a very simple, very quick, delicious caramel corn recipe that you make in the microwave.
    Love your blog, love the response also.

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  13. Sorry, I think Clark Howard ( he has forums on his web site) and MMM have seen a drop in the Republic rate. $10 a month for 1000 minutes or text messages ( not each but up to a combination of both)

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  14. I think the budget is tight too but we have lived on tighter and made it work. You have been doing a great job of making things work now for a long time and know yourselves. I was just wondering though. You mentioned hanging the stevia up to dry. You are tying it inside a paper bag right ? That way you won't loose any of those sweet leaves. Those leaves when dry can drop inside the bag and not be lost. On a funny and sad note: ...years ago I hung my sunflower heads in the garage to dry. The mice loved them!! :( I have tried growing stevia. I also live in S. California. Mine just get tall and spindly. Not bushy at all. What am I doing wrong? They leaf out only on the top third of each branch. Are you supposed to cut them back at the tips to promote more branches? When? I can't seem to find anything about this part on the net. Sarah

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    1. I have no experience with the Stevia so I'm not sure what to tell you. My plant was in a bad spot but it seemed to do okay. It wasn't bushy but there were plenty of leaves. I should have taken your advice and put the Stevia in a bag because the leaves are falling. I hope to 'grind' it tomorrow along with baking the sunflowers.

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  15. Good Morning, Georgene! Would your hubbie be more comfortable sleeping with an electric blanket during the chilly winter months?
    Also, I make my own soap. Yes, it starts out very soft. (It was liquid when you poured it into your molds!) Once you let it sit covered in a warm place for a couple of days, you can take off the cover and let it sit open for a couple of days more. Try cutting it when it's hard enough to hold its shape but still soft enough to cut easily. Then set the individual bars out to dry, turning every day and allowing room for air circulation. Since you say that the soap is hardening a bit every day, it sounds to me like you mixed it correctly. My bars usually take 3 to 4 weeks from the time I pour them into the mold until the time I can use them.
    We have a Netflix account, we enjoy it very much. We also have an Amazon Prime account, which we actually use more. Amazon is cheaper than Netflix. (Netflix is $8 a month, Amazon is $79 per year.) With that prime membership, you get free shipping on all the "prime eligible" items Amazon sells. I don't know how often you shop Amazon, but we use it quite a bit for the items we can't find here--I think Amazon is actually losing money on us with all the free shipping I've received!
    One more thing: I was given a food dehydrator too, what a blessing! I am drying onions in it right now as I type. Enjoy!

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    1. We have an electric blanket but it makes him too warm. We have tried even using an electric warming mattress pad and that didn't work for him, either. We hope to get a Netflix account after our contract is up for Dish in June. Thanks Stacie!

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  16. Hi Georgene,

    I checked and Clark Howard talked on his September 18th,2013 pod cast about the best deals on cell phones. Check his web site you might be able to access the podcast with out going through iTunes. It is free as is Dave Ramsey's. Anyways I was wrong Republic is still $19.00 month. Verizon has a good pay as you go and the best deal is ZAK ( spelling?) at less than 4.00 a month.

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  17. One suggestion is to call your utility company and ask if they help lower income families. My mom called the electric company and she now receives 40% off her electric bill and 30% off her water bill.....just one little paper to fill out in Arizona.

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  18. I love your blog Georgene. Thank you so much for all that you share and for being so inspirational. Kindest wishes, Wendy

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  19. Hi I love your blog. Try talking to your utilities like mentioned above. You have to qualify.aka it just goes by income. You will save a certain percent.California I think it is called cares for power but just google and the phone i think is universal life line
    there is also alot of info on hip 2 save saving on cell phones.
    I belive hud will come in and retro fit your house for winter
    give new energy star appliances etc.
    You will figure it out with Gods leading.
    Blessings,
    Patti

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    1. Thank you for the info on Hip2Save. It was interesting!

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  20. Hi Georgene,
    I'm really late reading your latest post, but I wanted to comment…As far as Christmas gifts, we have pretty much stopped giving gifts to everyone in our families. Several years ago we explained to them that we were on a tight budget and we would not be able to exchange gifts & would feel better if they would not give a gift to use either, that we were all adults and had plenty, & that we wished to focus on the real reason for Christmas while not stressing our meager budget. (It was becoming such a financial burden to purchase gifts for everyone, and very stressful...and we realized it was taking our focus away from the real reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place). Everyone happily agreed, some even breathing a sigh of relief as they confessed they could not afford gifts either but didn't want to mention it to anyone. Another suggestion is to not buy/exchange gifts with family members but to plan something fun for the entire family to do together...ice skating/hot chocolate, zoo or museum trip, or some other outing. Another suggestion is for the family to get together and draw names. That way each person is only responsible for ONE gift. And put a cap on the gift amount, something affordable for everyone. Another Christmas idea is to have a White Elephant exchange, where everyone brings something they no longer want but may be useful for someone else. You could also go a step further and play the Thieving Santa game with the gifts (draw numbers, choose gifts, someone else can "steal" that gift from you but then you choose another gift and you can "steal" someone else's gift or keep yours. Fun game with much laughter! Yet another suggestion for Christmas gifts is to set a dollar limit, such as five dollars, and people must purchase gifts from thrift stores. I've read some accounts where people have begun doing this and have made it into a game to see what type of gifts they can get for their money... lots of times brand new items or very nice gently used items can be found while thrifting or yard saling. As for looking into a cell phone company, I don't know if you have Consumer Cellular there (website is www.consumercellular.com) but they have great service, awesome customer service, and low prices. We recently switched and have been happy with the service. Prices start at $10 and there are no contracts. Just pay your monthly bill. Also here, we have Dish Network for our satellite service and have the "Welcome Package" that has lots of channels and only pay $19.99 mo. (They just went up from $14.99). I don't know if they advertise the Welcome pkg now, used to they didn't but I found out about it by calling and asking what their cheapest plan was. We too have had times where our budget has been as tight as yours, and we've had times where we've had much excess. We recently have had to really tighten our belts and do some adjusting to our budget due to my husband wanting to expand his side business and purchase equipment. We know that after praying about it, this is what we need to do, and even though it is sometimes very hard to see the last few dollars in the checking account we have to remind ourselves to put our trust and faith in the Lord. As independent people, sometimes it is an exercise in faith to do so, since we are so used to wanting to fix everything ourselves and solve our own problems. Many blessings to you and your husband as you navigate these trials.

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    1. So many wonderful suggestions and ideas. We do a 'white elephant' for Christmas which sounds like the game you play. I have been looking into the Consumer Cellular so thank you for that. I really appreciate all of the time you put into your reply to help me. Mission Accomplished! :-)

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  21. You should contact your Electric and Gas providers and ask about low income programs. Some companies provide a discount if someone in your home has a chronic health problem and suffers from the cold. Your phone co should have a discount program called Lifeline for low income. An electric blanket is a great way to save on heating costs for winter. They can be pricey $60-$80+ but are well worth it. Freecycle.com is a great place to get free household items. People post stuff they want to give away in your area and you can ask for items you need too. Don't give up your internet unless you have no choice. It's a way to find low cost resources to help out. Good luck.

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    1. I am a follower of FREECYLE. I've been blessed it many times. Yes, we have signed up for the discount CARE program through PG & E plus I have the discount for my CPAP machine. It's a blessing. Thank you!

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  22. Georgene
    May I ask who your internet provider is we have to move and
    our internet has been provided.
    Thank You
    Blessings
    Patti

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    1. Hi Patti,
      We use Earthlink for now. :-) Husband wants to change to Comcast down the road.

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