A letter to my supervisor:
“Bringing home our little boy has rocked my world and totally shifted my priorities. I could not have predicted the affect he would have on every aspect of my life and how much love I would feel for him in just a short amount of time. I have decided to submit my resignation today.”
[cue happy dance!]
Now, I join the ranks of the hardest working, most richly paid and under-appreciated people on the planet – stay at home parents! And I couldn’t be happier.
Moving down to one income is something we considered long and hard. We can make it work, but to keep a good cushion in our accounts each month which, in turn, will help maintain our sanity, we’re looking at any and all ways to save a little dough. Here is a list of saving strategies we’re practicing as our income downsizes. Several of these are just a way of life for us, but others we’ve really started buckling down on since I decided to leave my job.
- Pare down the services you use – we haven’t had cable or satellite TV for several years and we don’t regret it. It’s amazing how many channels you can pick up with a good antenna. We also don’t have cell phones. In the past we were both at work all day sitting by a desk phone and we didn’t see the need for another way to be contacted. Now that I’m home every day we need one even less. I must say it’s nice not being able to be contacted 24/7. No one calls me while I’m in line at the grocery store or when I’m picking tomatoes in the garden or pushing our little guy in his swing. I like that.
- Evaluate insurance policies and get quotes from different companies. I’ve just recently contacted an ELP (Endorsed Local Provider) through Dave Ramsey and faxed them our declaration pages to get new homeowner’s and automobile quotes. I don’t have the specifics yet, but they have called me back to indicate they can offer us better coverage at a better rate. Win-win there!
- Call providers to lower rates – Our trash pick-up bill keeps going up every quarter. I called them to ask if there was anything they could do and in just a few minutes they lowered it by $10 a quarter which is $40 for the whole year. That was an easy call. Our home phone and internet are currently through different companies, but our phone company has a bundle with satellite internet which sounds like a better deal. I’ve requested information about it so we may be switching internet providers soon and saving another $25 a month.
- Negotiate medical bills – I’ve been given discounts of both 10% and 15% off my medical bills if I paid them in full. I had to ask if they would give me a discount if I paid in full, they didn’t just give me the option, but by asking I’ve saved $200+. I plan to do that from here on out on larger bills.
Watch What You Spend on Food
- Menu planning – I take inventory of the food we have on hand and menu plan around it so as not to be wasteful or purchase a duplicate of something we already have in stock.
- Eat at home – Hubz is the leftover king. I love that he’ll take leftovers to work instead of going out with the guys. I grab a drink and some crackers or a piece of fruit for our little guy if I know we’ll be out for a while and there’s a chance he’ll ask for something (“I’m hung-y” he says). We’ll also take our own coffee if we’re leaving the house early or take a couple travel mugs of sweet tea to avoid buying a drink somewhere.
- I try to can, freeze and dehydrate as much produce as possible during summer and fall and keep an eye out for folks who have extra they want to give away. There are so many things we DON’T have to buy because we put them up like green beans, corn and tomatoes. I told my Mom that last year the only tomato products we purchased were ketchup and tomato paste. Everything else was in a jar in the pantry. I love that.
- Avoid paying for convenience – I cut up my own lettuce and shred my own carrots and cabbage. Those pre-cut food items can really take a toll on your grocery budget. A 10-lb bag of potatoes will make a heck of a lot more french fries than that bag of Ore-Ida at a similar or even better price. And, how cheap is it to make your own pie crust instead of buying one? I hate the mess it makes, but I’d rather keep those pennies in my pocket. Boxes of pudding don’t cost much, but making pudding from scratch is both easy and SO much better for you.
Combine Trips to Save Gas
- If I’m going to be out for some reason I try to think of what else I can do while I’m out – the post office, bank, library, any other little errands that I can accomplish in the same trip. Our little guy likes to stay home so I try to limit our time away from the house and the more efficient I can be when we’re out, the better. My goal is to only use 2 tanks of gas a month. Giving myself a goal like that helps make it more measurable.
DIY Whenever Possible
- Everything from changing brakes on the car to doing haircuts at home to grooming the dog ourselves, the more we can do, the thicker our pocketbook will be.
- I also make my own dishwasher powder and hand soap and use vinegar and baking soda to clean with whenever possible.
- We try to make use of what we have around the house to help solve various problems – like making a chick feeder out of recyclables and using cottage cheese tubs to protect our seedlings.
Pay with Cash
- That debit card swipes way too easily for me. It’s harder for me to give up cash. Moving to a cash budget makes me even more aware of my spending.
Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
- Cut coupons. I don’t have 5 subscriptions to the Sunday paper, but I do try and pick one up most weeks. They usually pay for themselves and then some. If there’s a good coupon in the paper that would allow me to stock up on something at a really good price I’ll look for a bundle of that coupon on ebay. That recently allowed me to stock up on Hellman’s Canola Mayonnaise for $1.49 a jar (super good deal!).
- Print coupons – I always scour coupons.com for coupons on items we use. They reset/update every month so I try and check them out at the beginning of the month before the good ones run out. I also look at specific companies’ Facebook pages and websites to see if coupons are available. If I’m heading into a specific store I’ll look for printable coupons for that store like Target or Goody’s.
- On-line coupons – Google “coupon code” for just about any on-line store and you’re likely to get a hit. Case in point – my car needed new brakes and rotors. Hubz is my mechanic (thank goodness – big money saver there!). He told me what I needed to pick up at the auto parts store (Advance Auto is the one closest to home). I searched on-line and found a coupon code that gave me $50 off if I ordered on-line. I placed my order, saved $50 and by the time I got to the store they had my order ready. I walked in, signed for it and walked out. Saved both time AND money.
- Take advantage of technology by using rebate sites and apps when possible – Ebates, Ibotta, Checkout51. I was recently able to get printer ink through Ebates with a 20% off coupon code and a 16% rebate. Ibotta almost always has a rebate on Huggies Pull-Ups which our little guy uses at night. I had a $2.00 off paper coupon and was able to get another $2.50 back through Ibotta to make the Pull-Ups 50% off. Checkout51 has new rebate offers each week and isn’t specific to a single store; for example 25¢ or 50¢ back on bananas or tomatoes or yogurt.
- Shop yard sales – I keep a running list of household or clothing items we need so I can be more purposeful when I shop yard sales.
- Our county has a recycling center that includes a reuse center. We no longer donate to Goodwill, but to the reuse center. We’ll take in some donations and see what others have dropped off that we might be able to use. We like to call it the ‘free store’.
- Look for a local Habitat for Humanity ReStore in your area. We have one not too far away and we can often find paint, miscellaneous hardware items and some decorative things there at really good prices. It all goes to help the cause so it’s a good thing all around.
Use It Up
- We try to get the most use out of the products we buy – Hubz is currently driving my 1998 Cavalier to and from work. We bought it for $5,200 in 2001 with 66,000 miles and it currently has 307,000 miles. Would he love a newer truck or Jeep to drive to work? Sure! But that little Cavalier still gets him from A to B and, with great gas mileage to boot!
- I am still wearing shoes that are 8+ years old and have a few pieces of clothing older than that. They still fit and still look good so why shouldn’t I?
Use Less Electricity
- I use the clothesline (we have this one) in the summer for every load of laundry except our slacks and nice shirts (aka Hubz’ work clothes). I picked up 2 drying racks (like this) at yard sales so I can still ‘line dry’ clothes during winter.
- Our main lamps and tv/dvd player/Wii are plugged into outlets that are switched so when we flip the switch they are truly off.
- I don’t plug my iPod into an outlet to charge it, but instead charge it in the docking station on the alarm clock that is always plugged in anyway. I don’t charge the tablet overnight as it only needs a few hours to reach a full charge – no reason to charge it for 8 or 9 hours if 3 will do the job.
- I only plug small appliances in when they are in use, i.e., coffee maker, stand mixer, toaster, candle/tart warmers, little guy’s lullaby music player and nightlight, etc.
- If the weather cools down a bit, I turn off the A/C and open the windows – my rule of thumb is 48 hours. If I can keep the A/C off for 48 hours straight, I’ll do it. When the time comes to turn it back on I do it early morning when the house is still cool so it doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the house down.
- In the winter we use our wood fireplace as much as possible. Luckily, if we use the ceiling fans to help move the air around, it can heat the whole house. Since I’ll be home this winter we should be able to take advantage of this more than we have in years past.
Cheap or Free Entertainment
- We love movies, but seldom go to the theater, instead opting to rent from the Redbox for $1.35 (just went up from $1.20!) or check out movies from the library for free. A couple Redbox movies and a homemade pizza make for a great movie night at home. We signed up for emails from Redbox and we get a free rental email almost every week. We used one last weekend to rent Gravity.
- We also try to hit up local events like the county fair and attend Hubz’ work-sponsored events which usually include a meal and some fun kid activities.
- Instead of going out to dinner with family or friends we try and have a potluck at home or the local park. We still get to catch up and eat good food and the kids always have a good time.
I know not all of these ways will work for everyone, but hopefully you found a few ideas in here that you can put to use in your own little world.
If you have other ideas or can expand on any of these, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!