I had a conversation with a friend at church Sunday about how we afford for me to stay home with the kids. I really had to think about it because the things we have implimented come so easily to us now that I really wasn’t sure for a second.
When I was still working, our first step was to add up how much I made each month. From that, we subtracted child care costs, gas, money for extra food and a”nice” clothing, and any other expenses that pertained to my job. That gave us an amount that was our “deficit”. I believe it was like 250 dollars a month after everything was subtracted…but that 250 dollars really kept us afloat at the time. Our objective, then, was to either find a way to bring in 250 a month or to remove 250 from our current expenses.
Because I had two small children, which provides plenty of work for a mother, I wasnt sure I’d have the time to do any work from home type things. I figured I could sell on ebay ocassionally for extra cash, but I was more concerned with finding a way to reduce our spending. A look at our grocery bill revealed a lot. We really had too many convenience foods on the list, perhaps because of our busy lifestyle, but also because of daycare lunches, etc. I started to wrack my brain about how I could shrink the grocery bill.
By making things from scratch, shopping sales, and using the produce that is readily available in our community, I was able to (in most weeks) get our bill to roughly 35 dollars a week. Sure, there was much beans and rice to be eaten, but I figured it was a complete protein/carb meal.
As times got a little better for us financially, we were able to increase that budget a bit, and things got a bit easier. I found more interesting ways to save money. I discovered Dr. bronners magic soaps, and realized that one large bottle (which is less that 6.00 at trader joes) lasted us over four months. No need for bar soaps, bubble bath, or body wash. It was all in one bottle and felt amazing to boot.
We switched from sodas to iced tea, (usually waiting to buy it until it was buy one box get one free at our local supermarket) we started using cloth napkins, and tea towels instead of the paper variety. I switched to cloth diapering for Trin, who was around 2 at the time. I made use of everything that came across our path. If we were given oranges (which are in abundance here and are often offered up by local farmers) I juiced them, and froze the juice for later. If a certain cut or type of meat was cheap, I found seven different ways to fix it. I shopped the ads, and planned my menu around whatever was the cheapest. On Sunday, I always tried to have something special, Even if it was one ham steak cut into four pieces with plenty of inexpensive sides (potatoes, frozen veggies, etc). I conquered my fear of baking from scratch and learned how to turn a few peaches into a delicious Sunday dessert.
As the years went on (and yes, we lived that tight for years) we found new an interesting ways to save money. We had added Piper to our family, and I can honestly say that we didnt feel a pinch in our budget at all adding her. We cloth diapered, breastfed, and used all of Trinity’s clothes instead of buying new ones. By my 3rd child I had realized that 90% of the crap at baby stores is unnecessary. The only purchase we made for her was a co-sleeper. I truthfully only bought 2 outfits for her the entire first year she was alive.
As the kids get older, things get more expensive. This is where my obsession with thrift-storing comes in handy. I very, very rarely EVER buy new clothes for the kids. I have learned how to sew pretty decently and make almost all of the girls’ clothes. Piper is going to be 4 this year, so we’ll have one more spring/summer in pillowcase dresses. I buy all of the pillowcases at thrift stores for .50 or less. I also shop the bargain bins for fabric. I usually buy the fabric for 2$ a yard or less.I purchase the vast majority of my clothing in thrift stores as well, although I have recently started sewing for myself too. I do buy our shoes new (most of the time) when the shoe store has buy one get one 1/2 off.
I am now making most of our bread…our tortillas…all of our desserts, birthday cakes, etc. I put my breadmaker to use almost every day, and it just tickles me to no end.
I refuse to pay an arm and a leg for milk, so I buy powdered milk in a huge box, mix it in my little milk bottles, and have discovered that the 15.00 I pay for that box lasts us an entire month.
I buy meat in bulk and section it for meals in the freezer. If something is on sale or going out of code soon, I buy it all up and freeze it.
I buy very, very few convenience foods. Frozen waffles I will keep on hand for hectic mornings. I also will buy a big carton of goldfish crackers because for less than 6.00 the kids have a great snack for roughly two weeks. Sometimes I’ll pour them all in a big bowl, mix in some pretzels, and even some Chex cereal (or whatever I have) and put them into little ziplocks. This way, the kids have a handy snack for home OR the car. Works out well and I can get approximately 60 small snack bags full for under ten dollars.
Another great way to save money is cutting the kids’ hair myself. I literally bought a clipper set with a “how-to” video to do Gavin’s hair until he recently decided to grow it out. I trim the girls’ hair as needed. The hubs used to have me cut it, but he’s moved onto fancier styles, and considering he is the shirt and tie type of guy, we pay to have his done professionally. I pay for mine as well. Nice to have something for ME every couple of months.
When we have a party to go to, I usually make the gift. Tote bags for young girls…baby slings for baby showers…baked goods for a housewarming..you get the idea.
Because of our simple lifestyle, I find that we have more freedom to do fun stuff with the kids. We have a modest rent payment which helps SO much, but we also dont live in the nicest area. I dont have that need to have the big fancy two story house with granite countertops. Sure, it would be nice, but its not necessary. We have one car, although the hubs carpools every other week, so I have the van then. If I need to get around, the local transit will take the kids and I anywhere in town for a total of $2.25. That’s a .50 cent field trip for each kid.
I buy the non-clumping kitty litter, generic hair products, whatever dish soap is on sale, but always name brand toothpaste (LOL!) and only Tide detergent. I find its worth the price because it really gets the clothes cleaner, therefore helping them last longer so I dont have to buy or make new stuff as often.
I also have some websites that have taught me SOO much about livin’ on a dime.
www.lainesletters.com , both of which I’ve mentioned before.
It can be done, ladies, if its something you’re feel called to do…its not impossible, even in this crazy day and age.