Saturday, October 19, 2013

BIG expenses on SMALL budgets

Good news! My final grocery total ended at $278.38 for last month. My goal was $300. I'm so thankful! Now I know it's possible to stay within budget  if I keep close track of what I am spending! This month I'm going to try and spend even less.

Living on a small budget reminds me of a juggling act.  If you let the ball drop on a large bill and don't prepare then it can have a toppling effect on the rest of your budget.

The 'envelope method' has worked especially well for our big expenses that come around yearly. I also have expenses that are due every 3 months like the car's oil change and my hair cut and color. After I figure out our monthly and yearly needs I divided it by the number of months.  I withdraw the amounts each month from the bank and divide the money into each 'envelope' compartment in a plastic file I found at the dollar store.  The biggest challenge is to not 'dip' into the categories.


Here is my personal list:

Long term:
- DMV yearly fees ($10 a month)
- Accounting fees (year end taxes)( $15 a month)
- Christmas gifts  ($25 automatically taken out each month and goes directly into a savings account)

Short term:
- Hair cut and color ($25 a mo./ use on 3rd month)
- Allowance ($25 each a month)
- Oil change ($15 a month/use on 3rd month)
- Savings ($50 a month)
- Birthday gifts ($25 a month)
- Pet savings (emergency fund/ goal $100)
- Dentist/Medical ($10.00 a month for co-pays)

I find it much easier to come up with $25 a month than $300 all at once. So, this is how I prepare for big expenses and it works very well for us!

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Here are a few things I did to stretch our budget this week along with my typical frugal day:


1. Free pumpkins! A friend blessed me with 5 beautiful pumpkins! I plan on canning them to use for pies and holiday breads to give away. I may even try a Martha Stewart idea I saw where you drill holes throughout the entire pumpkin and then place white Christmas lights in each hole.  It was exquisite and I've wanted to make one for years!

2. The fall garden is still in progress. Nearly 100 Stockton Red and 70 Walla Walla onions have been planted. Also 75 sweet peas and 2 kinds of garlic are popping up from the ground. There is also 15 celery and 12 swiss chard plants, 27 broccoli, 9 cauliflower, 25 green cabbages, 6 red cabbage and 2 varieties of beets. A row of carrots have been planted, too.  Hopefully I'll be able to plant some collard seeds this next week. I hope the Lord blesses my cabbage crop so I can try my hand at making homemade sauerkraut.

3. I had 5 buckets of finished compost. It was used to mix in the ground before the vegetables were planted. Store bought bags of mulch or compost are so expensive. Making my own compost is free and minimal work.

4.  My son and his family were moving last weekend.  My daughter in love offered me some half used bottles of hand soap. I was happy to take them and add to my own bottles.


5.  The vegetable garden did so well this summer that I'm looking for places to add more beds. There
was a large piece of dirt between the square foot garden and the berries which is now serving as a bed for the celery and the swiss chard. I keep looking for more and more spots to use for vegetables instead of flowers. I want to learn more about 'vertical gardening', too. I really think that our little city lot could eventually keep us supplied in fresh veggies and berries year round!

6.  I'm still preparing the home for winter. I think I'm almost done. The window air conditioners were covered on the outside with heavy plastic and duct tape. Small rags or insulating foam have been pressed into the space between both windows to keep more air out. Last year I happened to be walking by one of the air conditioners and felt an obvious draft. I investigated and discovered air rushing in at the bottom of the unit. I might as well been piping the hot air from the furnace directly to the outside.

7.  I continue to look for low carb meals that are meat free to stretch our grocery budget. (Oh, and I posted a few more low carb recipes over at our Family Recipe website.) Meat has gotten so expensive.  I made a veggie burrito this week for lunch. It's a recipe I used to make years ago. You saute chopped red onions in a little barbecue sauce (or you can buy SF ketchup or make your own). Smear it on a warmed whole wheat LC tortilla along with mashed avocado, a slice of dill pickle, shredded red cabbage, mushrooms, shredded carrots and alfalfa sprouts. You can also add lightly steamed broccoli or any veggie you like. It was very good and husband said it's a 'keeper'.

Well, that's about it for this week. Most of my extra time was spent in the garden.  I wonder if you use a different approach for dealing with big expenses?


Blessed to be a homemaker,

Georgene