I know many of you make a lot more and I am glad for you. Our family made a conscientious decision to live on a smaller income for many reasons. Each family must do what they think is right for them. We are judging no one and hope no one will judge us either. I know people who have a mortgage payment that is more than our take home income. Glad for you but am also glad it is you and not me.
First of all, we drive a car that is 15 years old. It is paid for so we have no car payment. We do not see the need for a newer car when the car we have works just fine for us. This car has driven us from eastern Oklahoma to New Mexico two times and to Galveston, TX there and back. We have had the car for 2 years now and my hubby does all the maintenance on it himself. As far as insurance goes, we carry the state minimum.
Secondly, we do not have television reception (no dish, cable, or nothing like that). We have a Blu-Ray player and that is what we use to watch movies. We have allotted $35 a month into the budget to purchase new movies (DVD/Blu-Ray) etc. so that is our entertainment allotment per month. Wal-mart has DVD's for $5 and Triple feature Blu-Rays for $13 so we can actually get a good deal of movies each month to add to our collection. Many people have suggested we use Hulu or Netflix but our internet is capped and we can not do this. Besides, our family likes to watch movies over and over again so owning the movies on disc works for us.
Third, I know soda pop or coffee is a huge amount of money for some families each month. We rarely buy soda or coffee anywhere. If we want coffee, we make it at home. Soda pop, yes we occasionally stop at the store and buy a fountain drink but it is a treat and not an everyday occurrence. We may buy a total of 3 two-liter bottles of soda a month. The kids and I drink mostly water at home and hubby survives off of coffee. We purchase kool-aid or make iced tea or drink milk too.
Fourth, install water saving fixtures and faucets in your home. Not only is saving water good for our earth but Kohler sinks (a popular sink choice) match up beautifully with new faucets that save water and are quite attractive. If you are handy, you can also replace old toilets with new eco friendly versions that use less water which will show a huge difference in your water bill. Another huge plus is that you can also receive tax deductions for upgrading to more "green" products around the house. It is a win-win situation.
Eating out: We eat out usually just once-a-month and that is when we do our monthly grocery shopping. We usually stop at McDonald's and we all get a meal. It helps that we live in a small city that has no fast food restaurants in it but even if it did, we still would not eat out much. The $20 it could cost to feed our family of 4 at a fast food restaurant could be better spent by buying $20 worth of groceries. The key is asking yourself: Okay, I can spend $5 getting us all a fountain drink or I could spend the $5 buying a 2 liter bottle of soda, a loaf of bread, and a pkg. of hot dogs and have a little left over. Which is smarter? Same with a meal out. $20 can buy a LOT of groceries and feed your family for several meals. I have received many rude comments about McDonald's should not be considered eating out. It is eating a way from home so it is eating out. Please be nicer.
I have also signed up for Mypoints.com and regularly order free samples online. I have heard all the excuses as to why others do not do this but it really helps out. By only clicking on emails (never made a purchase yet), I average $100 in Walmart gift certificates a year from MyPoints. I get free samples in the mail at least 4 times a week by only requesting them. Some samples are for full size products. In fact, I just got a free coupon in the mail for $9.00 worth of bacon or lunch meat. It IS worth your time to do these things.
If you smoke, quit smoking or buy loose tobacco and roll your own. You can save yourself and your family a LOT of money. My hubby used to smoke over a package of cigarettes a day but once we had to cut back, he took up smoking a pipe and we buy his bag of pipe tobacco for $15 and the bag lasts him a full month. That switch saved our family a LOT of money. (Yes, I know smoking is bad for him. Yes, I prefer he would quit but it is his only vice and I love him).
Clothes and shoes: Okay, don't freak but I own just 3 pairs of pants. All three are black pants that can be worn with anything. I own 4 dresses and probably 15 tops. That's it. Why? Because I do not need more. I can get by with that. And shoes, well I own 2 pairs of shoes and 1 pair of boots. My husband and boys have about the same number of clothes and shoes. We do not need designer labels or a ton of clothing. I try to buy from garage sales and thrift stores for our clothing but if I can not find what we need, we buy new from retail stores such as Walmart. I could allot more money into the clothing budget but I see no need to. We have learned to get by with less. It was a personal decision that works for us. I do not judge someone because they have a closet full of clothes. It is just not what I need at this stage of my life. I do not feel the need to come up with the Jones'. :-)
Household needs: One of my weaknesses is my shampoo. I love Pantene shampoo and that is one area that I splurge but I do buy the $1 conditioners. Walmart always has White Rain brand or another good brand on sale for $1 or less. When I buy household items, I buy what we need for one month so I do not have to run to a convenience store or another store and buy items for more than I prefer. If I see toothpaste on sale for a good price, I buy 10 of them to last quite awhile. We never buy paper towels or napkins. We use washable hand towels instead. Same goes with paper plates and disposable cups. No need for them, we use the ones in our cabinets instead. We make our own dishwasher detergent, our own detergent for washing clothes, and our own fabric softener liquid. I clean with bleach or vinegar. There are ways you can cut out a huge chunk of your monthly bill here if you try. We currently spend $50 a month on household items (toilet paper, etc.) and usually have money left over because we do not use that much.
Utilities: We have a well and do not pay a water bill. Our home is total electric so there is no gas or propane bill. We try to keep the electricity bill down as much as possible but the bill gets to be close to $250 in the summer and about $150 other times of the year. We turn off lights when we leave a room, etc. We cook in a crock pot at least one meal a day so that cuts down on heating the house and on running a stove or oven. I try to cut out process foods and "easy" foods so we do not use the microwave as often as many families. Also, we do our laundry by hand outside and let them "line dry". This saves on water and electricity. When it comes to using the dishwasher, I ask myself "is this dish really that dirty?" If the answer is no, it is easy to just hand wash it and put it away. No need to run every little dish through the dishwasher and use all that water and electricity if you don't need to. We could save more money on the electric bill by turning up the thermostat in the summer time and down in the winter but I suffer from MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and can't stand the heat. It makes my symptoms worse so this is one area we do not skimp on.
Groceries: We spend about $400 a month on groceries every month. We eat breakfast (usually pancakes, breakfast burritos, cereal, etc.), then for lunch is usually a sandwich or soup and supper is a cooked meal. We do not buy many "snack" foods or heavily processed foods. If we snack, it is on popcorn or homemade desserts. Instead of hamburger Helper, we buy rice, pasta, etc. and make our own. We have chickens for fresh eggs and grow food in the garden. We can our own salsa, jams, etc. I make my own chicken broth and chicken stock. I buy whole chickens and use pretty much EVERYTHING! I buy generic food items mostly. Little cuts here and there really add up and we never go hungry. In fact, we help out friends by sharing our groceries and still have enough for ourselves. Also, we shop just once a month. This planning saves us a lot of money because rarely does one run to the grocery store and only buy just what they need. Every time you go, you spend more than you expect to. By going only once a month, we avoid these extra expenditures.
Gas: Don't run to the store every time you think you need something. Learn to slow down and think if you really need to run into town or whatever. We rarely run into town for one thing. If we run to town, we make it worth the trip. We pick up the mail, visit family of friends, go to the library, etc. all at once to save gas and time. Is it necessary to go to the post office everyday or can you get by with going just once or twice a week? Plan your trips and save that fuel.
For the people who are bashing my post right now, for so many petty reasons, I am just trying to help others. Sorry my grammar and "writing tone" is not perfect. I am a hick. Hence the name of the blog. Why you would come to my blog expecting anything other than country wisdom is beyond me. Regardless, I forgive you. :-) Anyway, people have also commented on us using more water by washing outside. No, that is not true. We have figured how many gallons of water to wash outside compared to using a washer and we use less and the sun dries our clothes. We do not even own a washer and dryer now so there's no going back.
Does that help anyone? I hope so. Do you have any questions? I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. I am no expert. I just know what works for us.