I opened the gas bill and was shocked to see it was $480!!!! That's for three months. I was shocked into the realization that our budgeting skills are nonexistent and we are in bad financial shape. I worked out a budget on a spreadsheet and realized we are just breaking even ~ which makes me feel not too bad about not having much in the way of savings but it also made me realize that we need to be doing some more to save money. The obvious place to cut expenses is food. We don't spend a lot of money on food, and we do grow veggies. I am a "creative" cook and we never eat out so there is not a lot to be saved in that area but I have been thinking of ways people save money. This is particularly relevant to outworking mothers as childcare expenses make work almost a luxury for some people. So what kinds of things do people do to cut corners and save money? One of my first projects is to get a gasfitter in to check our water heater as I am convinced we have a leak!
I am thinking of making baby slings as a sideline but they are not tremendously popular in Australia, and I kind of wonder if there's the possibility of creating a market!?!?! ~CATH
Something else I do religiously, is use coupons!! And I always try and use the coupons on days when the grocery stores have the double value coupon days. We've also recently cut WAY down on ordering out. We used to order out at LEAST three times a week, and we've cut it back to every other week! For us, that's good. ~Kenyatta
One thing that's hard for me is I have to stop eating fast food so much. One, it's too expensive to do all the time, and two, it's not healthy, especially for a pregnant person. But one thing I did do yesterday was I called Ameritech and canceled my call waiting and three way calling, everything except caller ID and that saved me $9 a month which is $108 a year. That isn't too bad. If I can shave off a little here and there, it all adds up. Next I'll probably get rid of HBO. I don't want to but I can live without it. I don't watch it that much anyway. As far as food goes, I use coupons all the time. I get coupons on the net and in my Sunday paper. ~Cheryl
OK, here's my BIGGEST BUDGET TIP!! When we were saving for a house, I did a major budget overview and found our biggest expenditures were eating out and groceries. I began the following: DH gets some cash in fist "spiffs" throughout the month. He takes some of that money to buy meat. He buys family packs, and I split it up and freeze it. Then I go to the grocery every Saturday. On Friday night I plan my meals for the week. This allows me to do two things, 1)mindless cooking. I pull out the meat of choice the night before to thaw and I (and DH) always know what will be for dinner. 2) It allows me to make a grocery list. I make a list of necessary ingredients to make what I am serving that week along with the usual milk, bread, eggs, etc. Don't forget any cleaners, toiletries, etc. I get $50 a week. I take a mini notebook and write down EVERYTHING that goes in my cart, including the stuff my 4 year old puts in. I add it up at the end of the store and IF (not usually) I'm over my limit, I put back anything not absolutely necessary, usually the chocolate I was craving. I have been doing this for six years and it's habit now.
We don't go out to eat often any more so it's very special when we do. We allow $50 a month for entertainment which usually involves a couple pizzas and movie rentals throughout the month. Not saying it's easy, but it works!! ~Janet
I find that doing a big shop once a month for all the non-perishables helps. DH only gets paid once a month so I work out what I need for the month and get it - then I only have to worry about fruit, veggies, bread and milk. I get most of them at a market called Coco's where I can get three loaves of sliced bread for $2. We go through 2.5 loaves a week so I buy enough for the month and put them into the freezer. Coco's also have very good milk specials, 2L for $1.70 or $1.90 (depends on the supplier that week) and as we go through about 8L a week; the difference between that and the normal price of $2.30/2.50 soon mounts up. Their fruit/veggies are pretty good too and I buy enough for the week.
My problem is that if I'm in a shop, I will buy stuff I don't need - so by cutting down the number of times I'm in a shop I cut down to just the essentials.
Also watch when you fill your petrol (gas to you yanks) tank - prices are always lower here on Monday/Tuesday - often by up to 6c a L. By trying to fill on those days and not the more expensive Friday/weekend, you can save a heap.
I also buy meat in larger lots and then make up smaller meal amounts which I then freeze. A good way to save here is to buy the meat when they reduce it because the UBD is coming up - when frozen it is fine long past the UBD - but you have to remember to use it as soon as you defrost it.
While we were in the States, we used to shop at Costco - I found it to be very good. It is one of those places you have to be a member of (we were through DH's work) but it is well worth it. I always check to se if the bigger volumes are cheaper; they aren't always. My eldest son always laughs to see me doing mental math when I'm comparing prices (he says I frown at the shelves and talk to myself which to a 7 year old must seem funny). The first week in the month is usually also the week they put the most specials on so that is a good time to go shopping.
We also looked at the way we were using our hot water. Aside from the safety issues - turning your water heater down a couple of degrees will save on your heating bill. We also use the cheaper night-rate-off-peak tariff as there is no need to have your water heating continuously day and night. The only drawback to this is that occasionally we will run out of hot water in the evening - but that usually means that someone has had too long a shower.
Back to food - I try to plan meals so that the stuff I used for the first meal can also be used on the next. EX: if I make fajita's one night, I will make stroganoff the next so as to use up the spare beef strips, sour cream and mushrooms. I hate throwing out a half used container of something just because I didn't make something that could use it for several nights.
With 4 males in the house though, it's a matter of survival. Both my eldest two sons can eat a horse for breakfast and still want to know what's for morning tea. ~Ngaire