Faith, Family, Friends, Fellowship, Food, and Fun

Friday, January 30, 2009

Saving dough

I am not a big spender. I never have been. I never could be. I got a job when I was 16 and worked a 2nd job as a lifeguard every summer. I had to buy my own cars and put myself through college. I was not just another one of those 'poor students,' I was so poor that I qualified for food stamps and housing assistance. Even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, I think it taught me to spend money on the things that are needed, not wanted.

When I graduated from college in '96, I started teaching at $24,000. Isn't that sad? I lived with my parents (boy was that fun) that first year and saved all I could to buy a house. I did it too. It was a nice house, one year old, over 1800 square feet, perfect for a little family. I had a little more money since I was a working woman, but money was still tight. I was paying back student loans. Things continued to be tight as I furnished my house.

I moved back to College Station in 2003 to work on my Master's. One class cost over $1,000! That's just not worth it for a teacher who will only get $1500 more each year for a Master's. I also got married that year. We sold the house in Fort Worth and bought a house here but it wasn't 1800 square feet. Oh no, houses here cost much, MUCH more than in Fort Worth. Our house was a little more than 1600 sq ft AND it still cost more. We didn't pay for cable. We didn't run out and buy furniture and draperies for each room. We got the cheapest cell phone plans available. We continued living simply. We turn lights off when we leave a room- my mom used to charge my brother and me if we left lights on. If you know my mother, that doesn't surprise you. We keep the air on 78 as recommended by air specialists. We use our fans. We conserve fuel by not running several errands a week, we make lists and go run all our errands at once. We were eating "out" a few times a week, but mostly fast food. We buy our groceries at the best priced place in town and trust me, that's not fun. It is always crowded and most of the people are running around like a family of ants whose ant bed was just stomped on. Thankfully we only have to go there every 3-4 weeks because I can plan that far ahead. I buy about 10 lbs of ground meat at a time and divide it by the pound when we get home. I freeze a few pounds raw. I cook some with onion and freeze it. Then I cook the rest with taco seasoning and freeze that. Then I only have to clean the pan once. I mean Stephen only has to clean the pan once. I'm not a big dishes fan. You are ready for 10 meals like burgers, Taco soup, chili, enchiladas and more (recipes on my blog). We do the same thing with chicken. We buy a huge bag at Sam's and grill it, then either use it the rest of the week in pasta salad, garden salads, casseroles, enchiladas, etc... or we freeze it and have it ready for recipes that call for cooked chicken.

When our first was born, we went into debt. She was premature and it's a long story but, a lot was not covered by our insurance. The debt kept mounting. Then our 2nd was born prematurely too and while it didn't cost as much as our first, it still put us behind even more. We got some loans from family and we cut up all credit cards which we didn't abuse, but they were convenient for grabbing a bite out. Then our 3rd was born prematurely too! You guessed it, more medical bills. We were definitely struggling and could not cut back any more. We stopped eating out completely.

You know all the guests on Oprah and Dr. Phil like Suzy Orman? I never learn anything new from them because I had to cut back a long time ago. We don't have nice cars, but we won't have any more car payments after this summer. Clothes and shoes are cute but I don't buy trendy because next year they won't be so trendy. I think that's a waste.

Last May we bought a brand new house BUT our payments are hundreds less because it is outside city limits, taxes are lower, and it is bottom of the line cabinets, lighting fixtures, etc... We can change that out a little at a time. We want to save money now so we can buy bigger and better in the future, when all the kids are in school and we are both working full time.

Last summer, we finally payed off our last credit card and started paying back that family loan. We were told we didn't have to pay the loan back but we insisted! Things have been looking up. Stephen got another job and his video business has been growing. It's a little strange because while things are getting better for us, our economy is really hurting those around us.

With Stephen working nights Monday through Thursday since September, we have been going out to eat every Friday night and calling it Family Night. Woo Hoo, what an excuse to eat out. Last week our bill was $29 including tip but it hit me that Friday Night Family Night was costing about $120 a month and then we always grab McDonald's on the way home from church and that's $12/wk, $48/month so we're spending about $170 a month eating out. Let me grab my calculator, that's $2,040 a year. I told Stephen that we need to cut back. We need to compromise. Every other Friday we'll grab take out and save at least $8 in tips and drinks. And instead of McDonald's where we eat off of the dollar menu and the kids expect Happy Meals, we'll grab Sonic's $1 menu. We can all eat for $7.50 and get drinks at home.

So what about you? Have you had to find a unique way of saving money?


Kathy's Korner said...

I think we are weirdly related or something.

So much of your post I was nodding my head through!

I too put myself through college, joined the air guard to help pay for it though. I WISH I would have looked into food stamps! I ate the cheapest grossest stuff then!

My first teaching job was for 26k. and that is sad!!

We acquired large dept acquiring our family...through adoption however.

Saving money....its so hard! Like you said, I already do what the expert recomend. The heat doens't ever go above 68.

But I do allocate 50/week for family fun, movies, out to eat, ball games. I'd never added it up before...but 2400 a year! Is it to much? Because we are a family of 6 we already buy off $ menus. Giving that luxury up would be hard.


OH! You asked for tips. :D

I trim the girls' hair myself (curly hair is forgiving) I grew my hair out again and go for haircuts about every 2-3 months now as opposed to every 6.

I buy concentrated cleaners on line. Or use vinegar. It really cleans so much...I recomend lighting a candle though after :D

And have no frills on the phone. Not even a long distance plan. LD calls must be made after hours on the no frills cell phone

Texas Aggie in Florida said...

I can totally relate! I was completely debt free when we married 8 yrs ago and even up till Lexi was born we were debt free except for our vehicles and house. And then something happens when you have kids doesn't it? All the sudden, we were racking up huge credit card debts not because we were spending frivilously, but b/c we were trying to pay the $700/mo daycare bill and our house payment kept going up every year. It was insane and then I went and did something genius, I quit working full time! Way to go! That didn't help for sure! So we had this crazy debt but absolutely nothing to show for it! I laugh at those financial gurus too. They always talk about cutting out the Starbucks and fancy cars and things that we just simply do none of already! When we were going through such a tough financial time, I wanted so badly to go on one of those shows and say "HERE, FIX THIS" and let them try to find just one area that we could cut back in b/c we had already cut back to the bare bones. The next thing left was living in our car! Thankfully, things are MUCH better now and we are debt free again and although our vehicles are 6 and 10 yrs old, they run! And they're paid for! We don't use credit cards either and I guess what helps us the most as far as saving money is menu planning! I highly recommend it. It cuts down on wasteful spending at the grocery store. If I'm buying a tub of sour cream, it's b/c I have 3 meals on my menu that week that require sour cream whereas I used to buy it for one meal and then it would sit in the fridge and rot. My kids share meals when we eat out, even happy meals. Or most of the time if we eat out, we try to pack something for them rather than ordering theirs off the menu. I don't know how much longer I can get away with that. We do eat out a lot more than we should but we try to share entrees or one of us gets water and the other gets a real drink and we share sips when the waitress isn't around. We also try to put $300/mo into our savings account and it has come in handy a few times. There's that occassional dentist bill or car repair that comes up and we have the money for it now whereas we used to have to put it on the credit card. Credit cards are evil!