Friday, January 29, 2010

Budget: belt-tightening just a bit more

Dh and I have a running battle with our budget ... in the words of Mr. Micawber from David Copperfield (played to perfection by Bob Hoskins in the excellent BBC version): 
He [Mr. Micawber] solemnly conjured me, I remember, to take warning by his fate; and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a-year for his income, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy, but that if he spent twenty pounds one he would be miserable.
Well, we'd rather be happy than miserable. 

So, we have to belt-tighten just a bit more ... trying to shave off the monthly budget (and keep it UNDER budget) is not hard, but does take some additional strategies and willpower (and I'm pretty good at the strategies, not so good at the willpower part!).

What are we doing?
  • by making and baking our own sandwich bread; we are saving almost $50 per month while also getting a better food-product for the kids and warming the house with the oven.  Besides, making the bread not only gets out my agressions but is building my upper-body strength.
  • by saving our credits from Amazon to buy resources for our home-school unit studies; for instance, I just ordered The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, Lore and Events and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games with our credits.  See, everytime someone orders a resource from Amazon that I've linked, I get a small (REALLY, REALLY small) commission ... but the commssions add up and I didn't have to pay anything for our upcoming Winter Olympic Unit Study!
  • by baking cookies, brownies and other treats from scratch; again, we're saving probably $10-15 per month by not buying the already-made or packaged mixes for treats.  When Lent starts, we'll wipe out this category completely (well for Monday-Saturday; Sundays we can indulge!).  Again, the kids are getting a better, healthier option and we're heating the house.
  • by putting the thermostat down to 66 and using the gas-log to take the chill off the house in the morning.
  • by designing and knitting gifts for various folks; as I knit a gift for someone, I always say a prayer for the recipient.  So, not only is the recipient getting a unique gift, they are also getting the benefit of the prayers said.
  • by grocery shopping every two weeks, avoiding the pre-packaged and sticking to the staples -- flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, cheese, etc.  It's amazing how much I can shave off our monthly grocery bill by avoiding the seductive pre-packaged stuff.  And, again, we're eating better.
Some of the other ideas I have "cooking" include ebaying some of my knitting books -- many of which are now collector's items but are just collecting dust -- and my unused home-education resources.  I have some amazing books, supplies and resources I've collected over the years ... but if we're not using them, what's the point?  Someone will get a great deal and we'll get a bit of cash ....

I'm also trying to do a better job of submitting knitting designs to publishers ... I won't ever make a fortune with my knitting but it's a way I can bring in a little bit of income, using the gifts God has given me.

So what am I missing?  I don't do coupon cutting -- too often the products are those packaged, name-brand products we don't use anyway.  Is there a great budget-saving tip you want to share ... please post in the comments and I'll do a follow-up with all the great ideas.

Hugs and prayers for all of us that are feeling the pinch of the economy ... may it make me a better steward of our resources!


  1. The one budget-tightening thing I did was to go through our pantry, our three freezers and our cookbooks. I then sat down with my husband and kids and we discussed our favorite meals. Together we came up with a weekly menu based on favorites coupled with food on hand. I've been able to pare my grocery list down to just staples, which we purchase on a monthly basis.

  2. Paula -- I really like this idea ... I've never been good at making/keeping a menu but it sounds like it helps with the budget and may be worth a shot.

    THANKS and blessings to you and yours!

  3. Mary, I love posts about budgeting. Even when I don't necessarily have to tighten my belt, I'm very conscious about what we're spending. We've been on the Dave Ramsey plan for years and it has really disciplined us. We use the envelope system for the big things like groceries, gas, entertainment etc. We set amounts for each envelope and put in cash on payday twice a month. I'm really careful now about what books I buy as well. I used to buy way too many books, but for the past 4-5 years, I've relied heavily on my library and I "audition" books (especially cook books and knitting books) before I buy. We also re-sell a lot of our unused stuff on Craig's List. I like keeping a simple home and that means not buying too much and always being vigilant about what we're not using. I like your idea about grocery shopping only every two weeks. I really dislike going to the grocery store and this is a great idea. I don't know why it's never occurred to me