Sunday, February 16, 2014

Update: trying to keep a lid on expenses

So what's been happening? Thursday, we were hit with another 12 inch snow storm, which is both good and bad. The good: it means that my work was cancelled so I now have another paid leave day in March. the bad: I incurred a plow bill, which I will receive at the beginning of March.

Food wise has been good: we preplan the night before, as I always have, taking out items from the pantry, defrosting meat as needed, checking that other needed ingredients are located in the freezer or a substitute selected. The Crockpot has been a true friend, DD helps set it up before leaving for work, I can often prepare the sides or get help doing so from the kids. February's grocery budget is spent; we have a bit left to cover milk. 2 weeks to go in a short month, I think we can do this. DS was given some more groceries to tide him over as he is feeling pinched due to some unexpected bills. I willingly gifted him, but reminded him that he can't expect me to cover his groceries. We're in crisis mode here.

While I did get paid 2/14, direct deposit, my check was significantly lower than usual as I am doubling up on my required deductions (HSA, medical ins, union dues, long term disability) to cover the 3/15 and 3/30 pay periods. I should have a teeny check 3/15, as now 5 of the 10 work days will be paid leave, and even tinier will be the 3/30 check (assuming that I return to work 3/26 as originally planned), with 3 of the 10 work days being paid as I will be back to work).

We continue to try to cut expenses, during this austere time, so as NOT to have to pull funds out of savings, which took a hit when I bought cars for the older 2 (one is required to pay back the bank of Mom), and my "new to me" Prius. Remaining out of debt during this uncertain time was deemed essential.  Funds are there if desperate, we continue to try to live off of what is coming in, reducing expenses at the same time. Some are fixed such as rent, auto/life/renter's insurance.

Some expenses are on hold: car wash, gas, wood for stove, restaurant, lawn care. this offers some reduction.

The variable expenses are the areas of potential savings:

-oil: since we are currently not using the wood stove, I am home 24 hrs/day (mostly), and it's been unusually cold, I anticipate that this correlates to higher oil use.
-electric-again, with me recovering, there have been "opportunities" for increased electric use such as machine drying clothes since I can't carry a basket upstairs. DD is home this morning, so we plan on doing some colored clothes in cold and hanging them up. Planning like that will help control usage.
-plowing-that's Mother Nature and we've had a stormy Winter this year
-cable-reduced previously, how much lower can I go?
-trash-tends to be under $10/month since we compost and recycle heavily. Status quo I suspect
-personal care-we continue with hair services, no clothes at the moment
-medical-luckily, it's pretty much covered if we stay in network, as we hit our high deductible
-newspaper-I dropped that to Sunday only, still contemplating losing it all together
-accountant-I set aside $/monthly to cover tax preparation
-groceries-I dropped this from $300 + DD's "rent" of $100 to cover her portion, to $100 from  DD + $100 from my budget. Significant reduction in stockpiles is noted, more will be evident over the next 6 weeks and longer, possibly, as we "recover" from this lack of income crisis.

Some possible income:

-I own some bonds that I can cash in, originally intending to do so in order to buy my next home
-I have some nice jewelry (wedding rings, gold n semi precious rings and earrings I no longer wear)that I planned on selling, then using the proceeds to have my broken pearl necklace restrung. I need to find a reputable jeweler that would give me a decent price
-I have several cases of quart canning jars to unload, a size no longer practical for my family, that I could post on a free tag sale community forum or Craigslist
-I also have my hardcover, Nancy Drew's-not sure if they are worth anything


Softie said...

I can tell you I have been looking for a complete set of Nancy Drew books for my granddaughter. (I live in the midwest) There is nothing I have found out there in decent shape under $300. I would think it might be similar in your area. Your so good with begetting I think things will work out well for you. :)

Ms. Sandie Apuzzo said...

I'm glad to see you typing more, that tells me you are feeling better. I have a question. For your family of 4, what do you budget for a month for groceries (on a typical month, not your recovery month). Thank you so much for your input. Sandie

CTMOM said...

Hi Sandie
My left handed typing skills are improving! I budget $100 per person for food, cleaning/laundry products, paper goods (what little we use), personal care items. I do not include pet food/supplies, that is under a separate budget. So, normally, I have $300 of my own money + $100 from DD (that is her "rent")or $400/MONTH. I feed all meals/snacks etc to 4 people every day except Wed supper, when youngest visit with dad. Friday is like Wed's except for one weekend out of the month when the twins stay with me for the weekend, so 3 out of 4 weekends, depending upon the calendar. Sat is usually for 2, unless it's my weekend with the twins. Sunday is bfst and lunch for 2 (unless twins are here) but supper on Sunday is often dinner for 6, as college boy and GF join us. College boy will also randomly join us for supper during the week, depending upon his work schedule. Hope that makes sense.

Marcia in rural WNY said...

Glad to see you posting again--I was beginning to wonder if you were without power. I just discovered my electric bill went down by $50 because we were away for a couple weeks. (most but not all the time was in this bill) I suppose my dishwasher,
electric stove and heating water, could be using that much. DD caught up on some of her extra laundry here, as she was coming twice a day to feed my cats. She did some blankets and things like that. (Her apt bldg. has coin operated laundry.) So the washer was used as much or more than normal, and the heat was left at the regular temperature for the cats (both are about 12 years old and each has a chronic disease.)

One cat had a stomach upset so another $260 in vet bills the minute we got back, with another test scheduled this week because she has a "lump." The dishwasher died a couple days later (I knew it was on it's way out.) so we ordered another one yesterday and will cover it from savings. Besides that, the porch chairs we had taken in a couple months ago to be recanted at the sheltered workshop were done, so we had to pay for those before we brought them home. They are beautiful--new backs and seats, and newly stripped and painted. Belonged to my husband's parents since 1935-1940ish.

There is always MORE to spend on, and I admire your determination to spend as little as possible. Once you have a pet, however, you have to take care of it. We have had quite a few cats but never two sickly ones at once before! I refuse to add up what we have spent, but will do so at the end of their lives. I KNOW it's too much, and the vet gives us 10% off of everything for being seniors.

CTMOM said...

Sorry your cats have medical issues, my last cat was a diabetic, and one of my 2 current cts has had more than his share of urinary issues. Gets pricey fast. I've already decided that my next pet situation, i will be limited to one pet-again a rescue, but to keep expenses in check.

Ms. Sandie Apuzzo said...

Hello again. Thank you so much for the reply. I have been keeping track of all spending this month, and did think to separate pet/cleaning/food. I've already cut things down by a great deal from the month before, but still need to get better. I like the idea of setting a price point for each family member. Sandie

Anonymous said...

You are like a cat and seem to land on your feet! Because you're a planner! I would caution selling off your wedding rings just yet. They might gave sentimental value to your oldest kids. I would have loved my moms engagement ring from my dad - but she was angry and sold it off to pay a bill - she regretted not having it later to pass on to my sister or me when the time came.

CTMOM said...

Some of my best "tricks" to lower the grocery bill:
-shop alternative stores
-buy store or other name brands
-do as much prep work yourself. Squash is 89/lb whole. Peeled and cubed, it's $2.99/lb. Same holds true for meat
-cook as much as feasible yourself
-try bakery thrift, produce/meat/dairy etc marked down shelves
-eat seasonally
-serve aat least one vegetarian based dinner/week
-serve soup at least once/week
-pack all food from home to school/work. Great way to use leftovers
-turn leftovers into planned overs or frozen assets. Avoid waste at all costs
-think of alternatives: canister oats vs packets/tubs, frozen oj vs dairy case


CTMOM said...

Hmm . . hadn't thought of that. DD has stated that she never wants a diamond. My 3 sons? none may want it, when the time comes. I'll never wear it, don't think I want it refashioned into something else either. Something to consider.

mikemax said...

Carol, a couple of ideas to help stretch things. Anyone who drives should be on the lookout for free wood. Granted, a lot of it will be hidden under 2 feet of snow, but I know places (and I'll be you do, too) that put out pallets nearly every day. Pallets are typically hardwoods. Have your kids tear them apart and cut to size for your stove. As the snow melts, you might also find large tree limbs taken down by wind, ice and the weight of snow.

Use your kids as much as possible for snow removal. I realize no one is going to plow a long driveway without a blade or snow thrower, but they should be able to keep porches and walkways clear.

If you anticipate being short on ca$h, look for tutoring opportunities over the next month or so. Remember the thread at the Frugalista Files on side hustles? You didn't mention tutoring. You might be able to continue some of it during the summer. With younger kids than you normally teach, you can probably tutor in many subjects besides French.

mikemax said...

Carol, you are going to be surprised (and not in a good way) how much you will be offered for your diamond ring. My son had a $5,000 engagement ring and the best price he was offered was $1,200. He kept it (and made payments for several more years) as a trade-in in case he gets engaged again (his mother always has hope, LOL). He bought it at a jeweler that offers this service, for full purchase price, so this made the most sense.

CTMOM said...

While I noted that wood is not in the budget right now, it's because I have enough on hand to get me thru to Spring. If I run out, my friend up the street has told me to take hers-they had multiple trees cut a few years ago. We also live in a wooded town, so culling deadfall for fire starting is a normal practice for us. I have a ton of pallets to stack wood on, and there are many areas where I can get more, if desired. I's need my friend with her Suburban to gather it, as my car is small, as are DS and DD's. Good thought, however. : )

DD is on stair/walkway shoveling duty as I am unable to do so. We continue with a paid plow service-a necessity, especially this snowy Winter. (more snow today)

Seeking other employment would be difficult, due to my afternoon commitments with special needs son. Tutoring-I've done that a bit in the past, here and there, but only 1 kid at a time, special circumstances. It's not something that I pursued as my heart wasn't in it, kids were often just looking for someone to do their work for them, weren't willing to follow through on their end, etc. Kind of a "you can lead a horse to water, but can't make him drink" scenario. Money for tutors is good around here, but not sure it'd be a good return on my time investment, KWIM?
Also-re: selling jewelry. I realize that I'd be getting little of a return compared to what it initially cost (paid by DX), but money in hand versus unworn jewelry gathering dust? Rather just pull the funds out of it, get my pearl necklace repaired and move on. : )