York Swirls

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Little Things and The Big Debt

There has been some developments since my last post.  I started getting that writing resume out, just like I said I would.  Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that has been a good fit yet.  I actually got offered a job, but the writing would have cost me so many hours in research that I would have been making less than minimum wage.  I'll keep looking, but it's slow going.  Thinking ahead, I'd like to write some articles for family magazines, maybe work on that novel.  Slow, but rewarding, work.
What I have come to realize, is that I can do a lot more to help our budget from home than away from home.  Already, I know with a freelance income, I'm going to lose around 40% to taxes.  It might be even more than that because of the tax bracket we are in.  So, while I'm not giving up the writing, I'm not giving it the same amount of time that I was a few weeks ago. 
So, here we come to my next venture.  I have been working to reduce the household budget.  All those changes that look like little things really add up.  Here's a few examples:

Finally getting the twins out of nighttime disposable diapers: $135.41/year ($0.186 each diaper)

Dropping Netflix and using Redbox and Library Movies: about $240/year (Netflix $25.93/mo)

Making bread at home: about $174.72/year (2 loaves at Sams/wk = $3.86; 2 homemade loaves/wk = about $0.50)

Making homemade cleaners: at least $116/year ($10.47/mo vs. $0.75/mo)  That's a fairly conservative guess at how much I spend in cleaners monthly, so I'm sure the savings will be higher. 

Just those few things give me $666.13 each year to tackle my debts.   That still leaves a lot of work for me. 

Worth Every Saved Penny!

Here's some of the other things I've done to drop our expenses:
1.  Make a budget.  Know what my limits are and discover how creative I can be.
2.  Get the kids to hang up the towels and only wash them once a week.
3.  Pajamas get worn 2-3 times before washing.
4.  Turn down the thermostat to 62 degrees during the day and 68 degrees at night.  Lots of cuddling going on around here!
5.  Research vegetarian meals and work towards 3 vegetarian suppers each week.
6.  Starting a ebay or half account to resell homeschool books.  Must get more books somehow!
7.  Selling baby gear at the Second Hand Kids store.
8.  Stockpiling.  I'm big into couponing now.  I use http://www.couponmom.com/ and http://www.moneysavingmom.com/.  I'm getting lots of free and super cheap deals using coupons, coupon clipping services and free/cheap deal alerts.
9.  Switching to ink cartridge refills. 
10.  Try to get showers (for Mom) at the gym (which also means I have to go 5-6 days/week.  See how I'm tricking myself into being good!).  I'm paying them well enough that I'm pretty sure they can take the hit to their water bill!
11.  Switching to digital scrapbooking once my paper pile/supplies are exhausted.  Not the easiest change for me, but I know I'll save on paper, glue, photo printing, etc.  I can get a 12x12 printed for $1.99 and it's great quality printing.  There's lots of digital freebies for the takers.
12.  Set a food budget ceiling of $500 for our family of 7.  I'm hoping to drop it lower than that.  Yes, we still eat fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc. in abundance! 

We're writing off this sugar as a purely educational expense!

Things we cut out of our budget:
1.  Store oatmeal packets
2.  Fruit Snacks (Not REALLY food people!  LOL)
3.  Bacon  (sniffle, sniffle)
4.  Meat over $1.68/lb.
5.  Store pizza
6.  Store bread
7.  Store granola bars
8.  Drawing paper (Backs of computer paper mis-prints and the backs of junk mail work great for coloring!)
9.  Cereal over $1.50/box.  I've been finding ways to get it at $1/box with coupons. 

Things I'm learning how to make or am already making:
1.  cloth diaper liners
2.  re-usable Swiffer pads (I'm not giving up my Swiffer.  You'll have to pry it from my dead broke hands.)
3.  Floor cleaner that I can put into a spray bottle to mimic my $$$ Swiffer cleaner.  (Sad, I know.)
4.  Fruits and Veggies from my own backyard.
5.  Water for my garden with rain collection and bath water repurposing.
6.  Bread, granola bars, healthy pizza pockets, healthy pop tarts, homemade oatmeal packets, etc.
7.  Anything that we can wash to reuse: table napkins, baby wipes, hankies, etc.

That's just a few of the things we are trying out.  I hope it inspires you in your homemaking budget.  I hope to get some of those budget friendly/health friendly recipes posted for you soon.  I'm off to the gym for an awesome workout and a long, hot shower.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Goals

I have to say, I'm not a big fan of resolutions.  It just seems like a lazy way to put off something that you should be doing already.  Okay, maybe that's a little harsh, but I think it stings with a little truth, too.  Let's think about it.  What are the top resolutions that people make?  Lose the weight, stop smoking and get organized.  All things that we should have been working towards on December 31, 2010, right? 
Instead, I choose to make different goals for the year.  I'm already going to the gym and cutting calories here and there.  I'm always thinking of ways to be more organized with my crazy life.  Don't smoke and never will.  So, I think I've got those covered.  No, I want to create tangible goals that I know will push me.  Things that fall under my radar with the busy-ness of life.  Here it is folks:

1.  Resume my professional writing career (translation: get paid to write).  Some ways I can work toward that goal are: blog regularly (lucky you!), submit writing and resumes for freelance gigs, set aside regular writing time in my week, research writing opportunities.

2.  Pay down (at least) $10K in debt.  It takes a little guts to put that out there on a blog, but it's truthful.  Due to the down economy and stagnant home values, we are still struggling with a school debt, car payments, etc.  Are we paying our bills every month?  Yes, absolutely.  However, we aren't making the progress we'd like to make towards becoming debt-free.  So, I'm trying to return to professional writing (see above), I'm making a lot of new from-scratch items, we're turning down the thermostat during the day and researching ways to cut more out of our monthly expenses. 

3.  Have a great homeschool year.  That means, we need our 3rd grader to be prepared for her standardized testing in April, we need to get through those Saxon Math programs, we need to transition the twins into a regular, challenging phonics program and I want to make sure we're fitting in our music, art, typing, Spanish and geography. 

4.  Increase my faith in Jesus Christ.  For me, that means a variety of things.  I need to regularly do some of the things I haven't been so great about.  I need to be better about fasting.  It has been a long time since I've been pregnant or nursing.  It's time to get back to the fasting habit.  I need to hold regular Family Home Evening.  I want to get my Sunday School lessons read and studied ahead of time.  Most importantly, I want to incorporate more service opportunities into my family's daily life.  I had an experience in December that taught me very clearly that I could read the scriptures and pray all I wanted to, but, if I really wanted to know the Savior, I would need to do the things He would do. 

5.  Finally, I need to work on refining my character.  I need to put aside anger/frustration/irritation and put on kindness.  I need to smile and be grateful.  I need to stop complaining.  Life is so very good. 

Okay, so that sound of resolution-ish.  That's okay.  I'm happy with where I've been and where I'm headed.  I think it's going to be a great year.