Well, part one turned out to be pretty long, LOL, but I do believe that you all know how much income fluctuates from year-to-year, and about what my monthly bills are.
This, by the way, is turning out to be one of the leaner years. We will make do, though. We always do.
Last year was a great income year for me, which afforded me some advantages for this year. Mainly in ability to stock a pantry that is just now looking depleted. My income tax refund and my $300.00 stimulus check was spent well, at the Goodwill, the thrift shop and Wal*Mart, as well as in paying ahead on some bills. This practice is always helpful.
My daughters jumped right on the bandwagon at the Goodwill, and that was where they purchased almost all of their clothes that they needed. Teenagers sizes change at times. They are great at finding deals on clothing, by the way. They are not afraid of yardales and thrift shops. This will aid them greatly in their adult lives.
Before I go any further, I would like to discuss how I will be able to pay bills when my younger daughter moves and I am no longer receiving survivors benefits for her.
It seems reasonable to say that I will have to pay all of the bills by myself when she is no longer here. However, many of these bills will not be as high. Consider these facts:
* She uses more water than I do when showering, etc. She is a teenager after all.
* My sewer bill will go down automatically when the water bill does. I pay about twice as much for sewer as I do for water.
* I will not be using as much electricity after she leaves. Teenagers are constantly using electricity in one form or another. And there will only be one of us using the computer, so it will not be used as long each day.
* I will not use as much oil, because I will not be heating her room. I stopped heating the small bedroom when Skye moved and am now using it as a pantry. I can also turn the heat down lower. I can stand it at 60* during the day, 55* at night, but it is too cold for her at those temperatures. This savings is also reflected on my electric bill.
* Food costs will go down dramatically. I may see the most savings here.
* I do not use near as many bath and body products as she does.
I’m sure there may be things that I have missed as well.
(By the way, I will do the same thing for her that I do for her sister. I get my friends and family involved in putting together care packages for her that consist of personal care items, as well as a couple of fun items, that she can use. I, personally, only have to spend a few dollars this way. I do this a couple of times a year to help her out. Way cheaper than when she was living here.)
Also, when she moves, that is the end of the homeschooling. I can then look for something to do for work outside of the home if I have to.
Another also: I do not own a vehicle, so this is not a cost for me. However, since gas prices have risen, I do give some gas money to whoever I can get a ride to the store with when I have to go. I walk almost everywhere. It is good for me. I have lost 51 pounds over the last-and-a-half.
Okay, so here are the things that I currently do in order to be able to afford to live, even during the leaner years when my income is only around $4,000.
NOTE: I have to keep doing the same things each year, and not lose sight of the fact that my income may be lower the next year. This is part of low-income living.
These are my rules for myself. They are pretty blunt, in order for me to keep on track. This is so because I can’t allow myself to slip. I must be stern with myself. Please, take no offense to the bluntness.
1. Always no what costs what, where. Always keep track of sales.
2. Always know what you will need for the next two or three years, and what projects you want to do, and what maintenance will need to be done on your home (and care if you have one). Keep an ongoing list in your purse/wallet at all times.
3. Go to yard sales and thrift shops, consignment shops, flea markets and dollar stores, but always know good quality when you see it. Also, frequent clearance aisles, racks and carts in grocery, clothing and other stores.
4. I, for only the third time in my life, will have to go for fuel assistance this year. Start looking into this during the summer months. This will not pay for your heating source for the whole winter, but will be a little bit of a help. Doing the may also, indirectly, afford you with a tiny discount in your electric and phone bills. Look into Penquis C.A.P., The Salvation Army, Crossroads Ministries, etc.
5. Use coupons, only when you can’t get another brand cheaper. I mostly purchase store/generic brands. However, I am changing my diet in order to lose weight. I will be purchasing a lot more fresh produce and such. Eating (mostly) vegetarian under a nutritionists guidance. This will be a challenge, because fresh produce is generally more expensive than the cheap stuff. We have to do what we have to do.
6. Figure out what your wants and needs are. Only get your needs. Wants are just that, wants. (I do treat us to a want once in a great while, but only if I have the cash.)
7. Take anything that anyone wants to give you, even if you don’t need it. You can always give what you don’t want to someone who can use it, sell it in a yard sale or online, or drop it off at a thrift shop. I put things out on my lawn with big free signs. My daughters were clothed this way for many years. Keep anything that a younger child use later, and remember that you may still have more children, even if you don’t think so now.
8. Find recipes for cheap meals. Also, be creative with what little bit you have on hand. Some lettuce with carrot slices and two sliced strawberries makes a great salad.
9. Use Freecycle.
10. If they put it out by the road near the trash, they no longer want it. You can ask just to be sure.
11. When people say, “What do you (or your children) want for Christmas/your Birthday?” Tell them, towels, dishcloths, a shirt, pants, books, food, a care packages of household or personal items, a comforter. Never mind the wants, go with the needs.
12. Grow what you can for food.
13. Walk everywhere you can.
14. I have gone to the food pantry each Friday for the past few weeks. Go there before going to the grocery store. Very nice, helpful people, who do not make you feel bad.
15. Work as much as you can, but put your family first. Work hard. Do not be afraid of doing something new if it will net you an income.
16. See if your landlord will give you a discount if you pay your rent early. Does not work with subsidized housing.
17. When I used to live in low-income housing, I had a wringer washer even though we weren’t supposed to. It was an old electric one that just looked like a cabinet. It uses less water than me washing the clothes out by hand, which I had previously done a lot of. When I could afford to, I used the machines in the laundry room. Air dry the clothes, etc.
18. Use smaller appliances, like a slowcooker or toaster oven, rather than the stove. They use less electricity.
19. The park is free, and you can pack a lunch and drinks.
20. I do not suggest welfare unless it is necessary. It is for a lot of people now. Take it if you need it.
21. Stock-up when you can get things cheaply: Food, shampoo, etc.
22. Find recipes for homemade cleaners.
23. Look up free stuff online.
24. If you need something, let everyone know that you are looking for that item. Sit back and wait, maybe it will come to you.
Overall, just do what you have to do to survive. I made about $10,000 dollars last year but, with the rising prices, it was like I had made only half that. The only tangible thing that I got out of last year, really, was the stocked pantry, which is now mostly depleted.
Please, if you have any questions, either comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to try to help you with ideas on how to live in our economy. Apparently, we are officially in a recession now. Who would have thought, huh. (LOL)