After the past few months our household budget is totally out of whack. We had a planned trip to Florida and had budgeted for that but then life went beyond our control. We extended our trip which caused increased airfare costs, my husband stayed in Florida without getting paid while his mother was in hospice, I had to fly back to Florida with 3 hours notice (ouch that was expensive), we helped cover costs of services, flowers, extra company and bringing my father in law back home with us for several weeks over the holidays.
Needless to say we really have to tighten our belts for the next few months. I had this post partially written a few months ago and after reviewing and adding to it I think I have a good plan for my “Black Belt Frugality” mission. Here are some of the tips I’m following to help cut our expenses:
• Institute No Spend/No Drive days where I don’t use the car and don’t go to any stores. I try to do this one to two days a week. It also helps me stay on top of things I need to accomplish around the house because I’m not running out the door for a couple hours every day.
• Reduce my grocery budget by combining sales and coupons to stockpile my pantry with items we need and use at the lowest possible prices.
• Take advantage of meat sales and mark downs by getting to the grocery store early in the morning. Most items have a sell by date of the following day and as long as the meat is either cooked or frozen that same day it is fine. This technique has stretched our grocery budget for meat a great deal.
• Use minimal paper products – I don’t buy paper plates or cups and we use dishrags in the kitchen instead of paper towels. We do however use paper napkins and my husband does require some paper towels at his disposal.
• Save bread ends in freezer to make my own bread crumbs.
• Save veggie scraps in the freezer (carrots, onions, celery, peppers) for making stock or adding to roasting pans for gravy flavoring.
• Menu planning and making more foods from scratch is something I have also found saves a lot.
• Both my husband and my daughter bring lunches and snacks to work/school with them each day. My son and I also eat from home and if we have errands to do I will pack snacks and drinks so we aren’t lured in by fast food or convenience stores.
• I’ve put the electronics on light strips and actually shut them off when not in use. We have a DVR that I don’t have on the light strip as we like to record a couple ‘grownup’ shows to watch at our convenience.
• We’re keeping the thermostat set at 62 for the winter – We currently have a wood pellet stove burning in the living room that heats the entire first floor. The heat in our lower level is set at 62 degrees.
• Our last oil delivery was at $3.09 a gallon. In addition to keeping the heat down and using the pellet stove we have turned down the temperature on the hot water heater. I also rinse dishes in cold water and have been doing much more laundry using cold – except for whites, sheets, towels or more heavily soiled items.
• Use the library. I am a voracious reader. I can devour a book within 2 days or less – at 8 bucks a book it can be ridiculously expensive. My son goes to story time at our local library and I check out at least 3 books a week for myself. We also borrow videos – they have a 2 day rental with one renewal. I’m careful to return my books and videos on time so I don’t incur late charges.
Hopefully with some smart shopping, planning and patience we can get our budget back on track within a few months. I’d love to hear any frugal tips my readers have on maximizing the household budget.