My little family lives on a modest income. I am not the financial genius of the household, that title belongs to The Hubby with his super-cool budget set-up in Excel. But I do know what's going on with our finances, and we go over the monthly budget, well, monthly.
I've said this before but The Hubby grossed $33,000 last year. I made a little income from doing daycare but it all went towards student loans so I'm not really counting that. We have been asked a lot, "How do you do it?" So this post is about how it's done in our family.
First up, the normal, "easy" stuff we do to save money.
We don't buy new cars. Used cars suit our purposes very well, thank you. And we only own one vehicle at a time, and always with cash. This helps out in a lot of ways. We spend less on gas, we spend less in insurance, and we don't have a monthly car payment. Yes, we have to do a bit more repair work, but if the car lasts us long enough the monthly cost of that car can be very low.
We live in a cheap apartment. We pay $650/month for rent on a two bedroom apartment. That's cheap for around here, especially because this place is big. Bigger than the house I grew up in. And it has an attic and garage, so we can store things that help us save money (like free baby clothes). It's not the nicest apartment, but that doesn't matter too much to us. Also, we don't pay for water here, so that helps a lot.
We discuss large purchases. For our family that means anything over $15-$20, unless we use our "blow" money. Blow money is money we have set aside for ourselves if we feel the need to splurge. We budget $5/month per adult and then any money we get for birthdays or Christmas goes into our little envelopes. It's nice to have a little mad money that you're not accountable for. But everything else is discussed. We talked about buying a $45 blender for 6 months.
Now, the "Okay, that takes a little bit of work, but it's not too weird" ways we save money:
In the summer we use a clothesline 100%. This saves a lot on our energy bill. I even dry BuggaBoo's cloth diapers on the line and it's never irritated him. And the cloth diapers take the longest to dry in the dryer, 100 minutes. And I'm doing a diaper load every other day, so that is major savings. We tired drying clothes in the garage on a line this winter but the humidity made it impossible.
We grow a vegetable garden. We are super lucky to live in an apartment that has a backyard, and they let us use part of it for gardening. Our garden wasn't great last year due to various excuses, but this year it's off to a great start. We start our own transplants which does save money, even factoring in the cost of lighting. We're also able to grow exactly what we want.
We don't heat our apartment...often. In the winter the heat is primarily off. Actually, the breaker to the baseboards doesn't even get flipped on until the temperature in our house gets to 55*F. We live in sweaters. We also use a space heater in the bedroom at night because it's cheaper to run than the baseboard.
We bring reusable bags for grocery shopping. At Winco, the store we usually shop, they will give us $0.06/bag. If we use 5 bags a week that equals $15.60/year. You might not think it's worth it, but can you think of something else that saves you that much without any extra effort?
We don't throw out much trash. We compost and recycle a lot. We don't use disposable diapers. This means we only have one, maybe two, grocery bags of trash a week. We were able to downsize to a smaller trashcan and that saves us money each month. We're considering combining trash with our neighbor and dropping the cost even more.
Okay, now for the "Okay, that's really crazy" ideas. What makes them really crazy? I base it off the responses I get from other people. And these are the ideas that really help us save the money. Each strategy does not save a lot of moolah individually, but when used together it really adds up.
We use cloth EVERYTHING. This includes diapers, diaper wipes, hankies, napkins, cleaning rags and, yes, even cloth menstrual pads and cloth "toilet paper". Before you scream "EWWW!" and run away, just listen a sec. These things are cheap. Most of them I made myself from cast-away fabric. A lot of diapers were donated to us by families that don't use them anymore. And it is sanitary. I wash them in hot water, and the water is hot enough to kill germs (120*F). I use soap, sometimes vinegar, and, hello! It's a washing machine. It's function is to wash your clothes. An added benefit is in the summer when I hang them up to dry the UV rays kill everything. And, trust me, a dryer running for 100 minutes is also hot enough to kill anything. And those is much gentler on the environment. Yeah, you have to use water to wash cloth things, but think of how much water it takes to make paper or plastic alternatives? And if your baby is potty-trained from the beginning you'll still have to flush the toilet, so that uses just as much water as a washing machine. And it's not hard. Also, TMI, but cloth toilet "paper" leaves you much fresher than paper. Just saying.
We're vegan. Eating a vegan diet doesn't have to be expensive. You don't have to replace meat, dairy, and eggs with faux meat, faux dairy, and faux eggs. We eat a mostly whole food diet, and whole foods are really cheap. We recently upped our food budget because BuggaBoo is starting to eat more and I'm pregnant and we wanted to eat some more expensive foods. Our budget FOR THE MONTH is $120. And it's possible to eat very well on that amount of money, it just takes some time. Thankfully I'm a SAHM and I'm able to take the time to cook real food. No, we don't buy organic or local or what-not. While we feel that's very important that's not a priority for us right now. Right now we want to pay off The Hubby's student loans and put ourselves in a position to buy our own land and become even more self-sufficient. But because we're eating lower on the food chain there are less chemicals in our food, even though we're buying conventional. And if you're worried about protein on a vegan diet read this.
We wash Ziploc bags. Hey, I can use a Ziploc bag at least six times, often longer, which means my box of Ziploc bags lasts, hmm, at least six times longer. Which means I saves the cost of five boxes. Those things are expensive! I have found once they're frozen they don't stand up to washing very well, so we're looking into rigid plastic containers for the freezer.
We saved all of our baby stuff. I didn't think this was a crazy money-saving strategy, but apparently it is. The Hubby has had a lot of people at his work look at him in shock when he said we weren't spending any money on Baby except for the birth. You see, all his coworkers threw out all their baby stuff after the initial child grew out of it, and they had to buy it all again when the new one came. This includes cribs and carseats. We saved all of it. We also have very generous friends that gave us their baby clothes after their children were done with them so we have boy and girl clothes up through 3T. We have spend hardly any money on BuggaBoo and expect to spend less on Baby.
We don't buy unnecessary baby stuff. Let me clarify that we find these things to be unnecessary for our family. Other families have different needs. We didn't buy a crib, we co-sleep. Eventually we bought a twin bed for BuggaBoo because our queen was getting cramped. We did not buy him a toddler bed because we knew he would eventually have to get a twin. We don't buy formula. We don't buy strollers, pacifiers, bottles, breast pumps, mobiles, bouncy seats, baby swings, or baby monitors. Some of these things have been given to use, and we have used the bouncy seat. But other than that we don't use them.
We use homeopathy. Homeopathy is alternative medicine. I've been successful with treating my family with various remedies. I usually buy Boiron blue tubes, they are a little less than $9.00 for 80 pellets. You take 1-5 pellets a dose. I've decided that homeopathy is cheaper than "modern" medicine, especially for things like colds and fevers. I've noticed that homeopathy actually cure symptoms while things like cold medicine just mask symptoms.
I'm sure there's other stuff, but I can't think of anything right now. It may be the whiny toddler on my lap is affecting my though process. If I think of anything else I'll be sure to tell all ya'll about it.