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?