Hi everyone! I have my friend Lyn guest posting today.
I am sure that many of us can agree that it has not been the easiest of times. One of the best things about frugality is that you can be as creative as you would like to be with it or can be. There are many frugal tasks that I would like to do, but I've learned this year that I've needed to be a bit selective due to health issues.
For example, I don't use coupons nearly as much anymore and have approached shopping in a more simple way: "Buy it when we need it, and plan ahead when we can." The two thoughts may not seem to agree with one another - but they actually do. By not using coupons as much anymore I can focus on what is necessary, which allows me to not spend so much time shopping - which comes down to basic foods and less prepackaged foods. By purchasing needs ahead when I can (on sale of course) I am able to not shop as much anymore. I am spending a lot less time dealing with shopping in general.
With a tighter budget I'm needing to again reassess and think of ways to trim the budget. It's not an easy task to do as we've cut back many times already. Some of the easier decisions have been to:
*Reduce the cable bill (we have basic channels only now - without it we have no t.v., and sadly, the boxes did not work for us). This is our only entertainment expense, other than internet.
*Lower the internet bill - I went from a comfortable speed (not the highest) to one of the slower speeds. Yes, if need be we could go to the library, but with 30-minute limits, it would not give us a satisfactory amount of time. I feel that having our internet actually "saves" us money with all that I'm able to research and save on. Our total monthly bill for landline phone, very basic cable and cable internet is $71.00/month. If you want to lower your bills in these areas, you have to ask for the lowest plans available (they usually don't offer them). Doing your research goes a long way.
Other things that I am doing are to cut back the food budget for short periods of time - in order to be able to save for other necessary things. With the upcoming winter months we have high electric heating bills and more expenses in general. I am sure that many of you can relate! Cutting back the food budget (especially if you have an adequate pantry, fridge and freezer) can help immensely.
My husband and I live on a smaller income and have done so for quite a few years (without me having to sacrifice health and return to work). It's been a combination of going without, hard work, and especially a lot of grace from God. We continue to not do many things - we don't go away on vacations, we eat out minimally, in general we stay home and enjoy what we have.
I certainly don't want anyone to think I am perfect or that I don't struggle, as I do at times. However, I give up or delay gratification at times simply because it's necessary. It may not always be fun, but sometimes paying a bill or planning ahead for a need instead of a want may be more important. No one likes to feel deprived, but sometimes it's something that must happen whether we like it or not.
My current motto to my husband is "If I don't have to buy it I won't". Don't you ever get frustrated when you feel like all you do is open up your wallet? We all know what kinds of things we can make do with or replace with something else. There are things on my list right now that are off of my list for now and for the long-term. Only you can decide what is or is not a necessity for you and your family. The important part is to be brutally honest about what is a need and what is a want if you need to cut back. For example, I'm reducing paper goods to only toilet paper and kleenex right now (presently I have a stash of toilet paper and paper towels to last awhile). Everything else to me is not necessary - we have cloth napkins, rags for cleaning, even cloth feminine pads.
For those of you who need to live similarly right now or for a season, here would be a few suggestions to start with:
*Go over your budget line by line (reduce anything and everything possible)
*Ask yourself what can you give up? What are some free or low-cost things you could do? I don't believe in not ever doing something that is fun, but it's important to be sure one can really afford something. If you can't pay your bills, you simply can't afford wants right now.
*Can you have a no-shopping week, a no-shopping month even? If you were to come up with a menu of meals, how long could you go without spending on food and imagine what you could do with that money. (I am presently doing a low-spend month for November on my blog to do just that.)
*Can you share resources or barter with a neighbor or family member? It doesn't hurt to ask. People may be more receptive, especially in this economy.
*Give even when it seems like you have nothing. Giving some extras or items you may not use to the food pantry or to a shelter will make you feel good instead of focusing on your troubles. There are many things one could do, including giving your time. Giving makes you feel blessed.
*Are there items you could sell to help make a little money? How about selling books on half.com or amazon.com, clothing at the consignment store, or selling on Craigslist? These may not bring in a lot of money, but it all adds up.
*Have a goal of when to put the heat and air conditioning on. Try your hardest to stick to it and find creative ways to keep warm or stay cool. Heating and cooling are some of the most expensive items in the budget.
*Make frugal challenges and it will keep frugality fun, not boring. It will keep away the feelings of deprivation if something is enjoyable, versus a burden.
*Read or reread "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" for inspiration, or read other frugal books and blogs for inspiration.
Personally I find cutting back easier to do than to earn more money, simply due to my health. I can do many cost-cutting measures on my own terms when I am well enough to do them. On my blog I don't write about getting deals. Instead, I write about living on a smaller income and being grateful with what we have. I enjoy making do versus spending my days looking for bargains. When I do shop, I like to spend as little as possible and prefer not paying more than I need to. Sometimes, spending less is more about not shopping at all. In this materialistic world, we all could learn to live on a bit less. Often less really is more.
Lyn blogs at Essential Thrift. She's a homemaker who enjoys frugal and simple living and making her husband's hard-earned income stretch.
*all images are from Google Images