Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Ends Meet

Things are getting a bit more challenging here on the financial front since we decided I would leave my part-time position with my family's business, even after John's pay has been decreased by 75% since the beginning of the year.

Now our mortgage payment is fully one-half of our take-home pay. Luckily, we do have a little bit of savings that has helped us fill in the gaps so far. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that John's business picks up quickly...before our savings run out.

In the meantime, we are grateful that John still has a job, that we have health insurance (more importantly, that we have been mostly healthy), and that we are not in any immediate danger of losing our home.

I have also been grateful that both our mothers have shared with us that things were tight for them too when we were young children. This has been especially encouraging for me to hear because 1) As children, neither John nor I realized that finances were as tight as they were (so hopefully our children will not remember things as being as dire as we sometimes feel like they are), and 2) Both of our mothers are very comfortable now, in their later years. We figure that gives us hope for our financial future too.

We have continued to cut costs wherever we can, even making a game out of it. Recently we dropped our cell phone plan and switched to pre-paid plans to be used for emergencies only, which will save us close to $100 a month. This will help to cover things like medical co-pays, which previously had to come out of savings. Next up for closer scrutiny is our land line and internet. (We never had cable TV, so we couldn't cut that out...)

Except for our food and gas budget, which has been much tighter than we would like, it has been reassuring to know that we can make it without many of the extras.

Cost-cutting measures that we have tried over the last few months that have stuck:
  • Keeping the thermostat at 60 (sometimes we splurge on a Sunday and crank it up to 64 if we're all home watching football together and not moving around to keep warm!)
  • Washing all clothes in cold water and shortening the cycles
  • Drying all the clothes on low and using a "less dry" setting (it still gets them dry!)
  • Hanging dry some clothes in our bedroom each night instead of using a humidifier for the dry winter months
  • Stretching one 3.5-4 pound chicken into 4 meals
  • Buying produce from the 1/2 price "seconds" bin at the co-op (like bananas, apples, and pears) whenever I can find it
  • Combining (and minimizing) errands
  • Asking grandparents to give the kids birthday and Christmas gifts in the form of ballet and pottery tuition, instead of giving plastic toys that will be lost or thrown out within days
  • Replacing expensive gymnastics classes for the kids with much more affordable park board classes (that they like a lot more!)
  • Cutting Snacks' hair at home instead of having it professionally done
  • Learning to make some of my own face/body/haircare products instead of buying them
  • Making all our food from scratch, including things like yogurt, bread, cereal, etc.
Things that we've tried that haven't stuck:
  • Hanging every single piece of clothing outside on the clothesline to dry
  • Running the dishwasher with cold water
  • Trying to concoct my own laundry soap
We have definitely had to become more resourceful. I am especially proud of finding evergreen trimmings a neighbor put out for recycling pick-up that I used in place of expensive spruce tops in our front planters. Looks a little more "Dr. Seuss-ish" than I would like, but the kids don't mind. And they love the tacky red jingle bell wreath I found for less than $2 at the thrift store to put on our front door!

So while we wish we had more money in the bank than we currently do, we are certainly learning to appreciate the things we do have--health, home, food, family...--much more than ever before.

I'm pretty sure we'll look back and say it was all worth it.