02-08-2013 07:43 AM - edited 02-08-2013 07:45 AM
Still doing all of the things listed previously...and a few new ones.
* Believe it or not, portion control! I actually measure out how much cereal, beans, etc. What I have found is that I can be full on a "serving size" instead of eating the "eyeball size". The grocery bill is actually dropping a little bit!
* Eating more beans and rice each week.
* Buying bulk (when it is cheaper - it's not always cheaper per ounce).
* If there is something I really like to eat in a restaurant, I experiment at home to see if I can recreate the dish.
* Making more things from scratch. In the end, it's actually cheaper to make it from scratch, long term.
* Bought a single serving coffee maker that uses real coffee (not the premade packets you have to continually buy).
* Experimenting with making my own cereals (yums!) and with eating things like spelt berries and quinoa for breakfast (way cheaper than cereals!).
* Saving coffee grinds and tea bags for the garden.
* Saving eggshells for the garden. Other people save theirs and give them to me.
* Buying spices whole (like cardamon seeds, cinnamon sticks) and grinding them as needed. The spices stay fresh longer when bought whole. The flavors seem to really pop when grinding whole spices and adding to dishes.
02-24-2013 12:20 PM
The official news came down the pipeline – furloughs. We had been warned – expect a 20% pay cut. We had been warned – look for another job.
Each one gave us a different angle to “plan” for.
Look for another job – tough to do when the agency has a hiring freeze, but top boss could direct a lateral or a unilateral move. So not too worried about it. In this day and age, with all the red tape, it would be at least a 9-month warning of unemployment. Time it just right; maybe do an “early” retirement. Can’t touch the IRA’s or the TSP (401k) plans due to age. Lol – not old enough to legally touch it, but hey, met the requirements for retirement pension. So we could limp along on that if we needed to. And with nine months warning, we were taking it seriously enough to make some changes so we could survive on less. Retirement income is approximately 1/3 of current income.
Twenty percent pay cut. OUCH. How much warning? About 30 days. Still, OUCH. I ran the numbers. It is not pretty. Remember last month? I paid off the mortgage with my credit card. I have been applying nearly everything I can into the debt. Making record progress. Along comes a twenty percent pay cut, on top of insurances/taxes/etc. going up 50% and not going to make it.
I should rephrase that. We can make it but not at paying the current amount on the cc to get it paid off. So still focusing on applying every penny to the cc’s and looking at what I can reduce elsewhere. Stop laughing, because I actually did find a few places to reduce spending. I know, we all thought it was impossible.
More on this part later.
Furloughs. Days off without pay. Can’t use vacation time or sick leave or comp time. In one word, that sucks. Means being home all day, which means utilities, go up, and food bill will probably increase. So I thought about this. We can’t rent out our space because with the furlough, work says come in and work 3 days, take 2 off.
So I decided to use up all of those “points” that I have accumulated from the days of travel. I have quite a few “free” stays saved up. So during furloughs, I am going to travel locally and stay in nice hotels. The kind of place that offer kitchens in the unit, or free meals. I am going to use THEIR electricity, THEIR water, and THEIR Internet. At the end of the stays, I should be balanced out on the whole utility thing. Might even come out ahead on the food bill. They all offer free coffee, right? J
The travel expense will be mitigated by not traveling to work with traveling to a freebie place to stay. So I expect that be no change.
Where did I find a way to cut expenses even more than I have already?
Some of this may sound extreme. But this is what I am looking at with a twenty percent pay cut and furloughs. Two hundred dollars a month to pay for EVERYTHING, including my son who is in college and can’t get student loans.
Two hundred a month after I pay the scheduled cc payment.
My strategy is to continue to pump as much into the cc’s as I can. The projected payoff is currently the end of November 2012. One month ahead of schedule. But that depends on my being able to keep paying x amount every paycheck. What happens when the furloughs and pay reductions kick in? Ouch. I really don’t know. I do know that I am going to try to put as much as I can – the same scheduled amount – on the cc’s as planned.
I am going to convert as many points as I can into payback. For example, two credit cards allow me to redeem points for cash (a payment on the cc). Once the financial challenge kicks in, I will be redeeming the points then to help pay for basic expenses.
I am going to take as many “free” trips as I can.
I am going to look at how I can reduce the utilities. With all of that time off, I should be able to find a way to jerry rig something to use more gray water, right?
So, going into this furlough and pay reduction, I am doing it with a sense of peace and a feeling of wellbeing. I know I am going to get through this ok. I do have a small emergency fund but will not be touching it unless I absolutely need to come December to make sure those cc’s are paid off.
PS – I feed others (friends, neighbors, etc) almost weekly. I do it because I can and I enjoy sharing what I have. One of those neighbors (retired) has already informed me that she will make sure my family and I are feed during the tough times. She said it is the least she can do after all the times we have fed her. I don’t expect more people to come out of the woodwork, but I do hope that people will pull together to share what they do have and to help others in need.
02-24-2013 11:54 PM
What an inspirational post. I'm going to make my family read that tomorrow. I applaud you for your efforts to live financially sound.
Here is my household.
I come home from work, I work 48 hour shifts. Walk in the house, wife's at work, kids at school. Every light in the house is on. Even in the garages. TV's are still on, computers are all on. I spend the first 10 minutes going from room to room turning off lights, TV's, ceiling fans, etc. Heat is turned up to around 80 so I have to turn that down.
After school kids come home, I have 2 teenage children, 13 year old girl and 17 year old boy. Son comes home with his friends, they hit the fridge. Looks like they haven't eaten in days. Now he drags home at least 3 kids, sometimes up to 8 or so. And they all have to eat here. Now they go to the living room. They turn the TV on, and 3 different computers and then drag out laptops and drain the bandwidth so nothing hardly works. Streaming movies, games, music. I have a 150 GB cap monthly and then I have to pay extra. I always pay extra.
These kids don't go home, they stay here. So I have to feed these kids every night. 2 of the kids haven't went home in months. So we feed them, wash their clothes, etc. And on the weekend he has about 6 or so stay at night. My food bill is ridiculous.
My daughter either drags her friends home or she wants to go out somewhere every night. I call her "Princess 40 dollars" because everytime I come home she needs 40 dollars for something.
I love the DW but I think she can't help herself. I'm afraid to say anything about being low on money, because whenever I do she spends more. I guess if we're running low she wants to make sure she gets what is left or something.
I sometimes am at a loss at all this. I can't spend any money. I talk myself out of anything. I tell them this isn't working out, I have all these people figuring out how to spend money and only one that is trying to make money. Now my DW does have a job, but it doesn't make anywhere near what I make. I know better than to bring that subject up, but I think she should help.
I make a good salary, but they are going even beyond that. And when I finally get enough and say something about it, I'm the bad guy.
I'm afraid it's going to take something drastic to get their attention, and that day is coming close. When they come in and all the phones are turned off, the internet is off and I've pulled the breakers to half the house and seperated the accounts. Hate that it would have to come to that, but no one will listen.
Rant is over,
02-25-2013 08:04 AM - edited 02-25-2013 08:28 AM
I am glad the post was inspiration to you. Please let me know if I can help you tame the bills. It takes a little body armour, a lot of determination, but you can take control of the situation.
Do you want suggestions to curb the teens and the wife?
I drove my family nuts by unplugging everything! I literally will check to make sure things are unplugged. And if they weren't, I would unplug them myself. But I tell you, I saw a $14 a month drop in the electric bill from unplugging my roomies computer back in the super early days. After that experience, I was convinced that unplugging everything not in use (within reason) makes a HUGE difference on the electric bill. And it does.
Washing machine - unplugged.
Dryer - unplugged.
Microwave - unplugged. <--- this is something we use daily, but you know how lazy people can be, so sometimes, it didn't get used.
Computers - unplugged.
Lamps - unplugged except for the one on the timer.
Internet - the surge protector gets turned off unless the net is in use.
Coffee maker - unplugged.
Stove - stays plugged in.
Water heater - I compromised. At our last place, it was a gas water heater. I had it on "warm". Since the water doesn't get super hot and it runs out, people take shorter showers. At the house we just bought, I converted to a tankless water heater from an electric water heater. In the beginning, I made sure it was unplugged from the wall. I stopped doing that, but make sure that the water heater is turned off. If we are gone for 24 hours or more, the breaker is shut off.
I worked hard to identify vampire lights and get rid of them.
The breaker box. I loved doing this. When the box was upgraded, the electrician failed to label or to accurately label all of the breakers. So all of them were turned off. I figured out which one was the fridge, labeled it, turned it on, and put tape over the breaker so no one turns it off.
Found the furnace one, labeled it, and the majority of the time it's off.
The rest of the breakers - unless I know exactly what it goes to, it stays off. Amazingly, only 4 breakers stay on all the time. And they are correctly labeled.
The dryer for the breaker is actually taped in the off position. So is the dedicated breaker for the shed. So is the dedicated breaker to the a/c.
I still cringe when lights are left on. We have been switched over to the LED lights and to the other energy saving bulbs. I tell you, I have noticed that people have decided that they do not want to wait for the light bulb to "warm" up. So they will dash in and dash out of a space without turning on a light.
Food - I did a couple of things with the kids.
1. Planned the big get togethers. Kids hated talking about it in advance, but it was much better to indulge mom in private than have mom interrupt the group to talk food. So one of two things would happen...A) they kids would know in advance that they were going to order pizza and needed to chip in money or b) I would give teen $20 and say make it last.
2. I cooked a lot of things from scratch. So there would be a big pot of chili or beans or soup that they could help themselves to. The kids knew that any homecooked food was free to take. There was literally no prepackaged food here, like chips.
3. I had "weird" food that I would encourage the kids to try. Like cheese made from rice. Like tomato sauce made from beets and carrots.
4. I encouraged kids to bring their own food and to help plan food at my house.
Just some of the things I did with teens.
04-18-2013 06:08 PM
I have actually started to write an update several times, but was waylaid.
I am so excited to say that my mortgage is paid off! Yeah, I know, I bought the house in June 2012. I know I took a HUGE risk moving the mortgage balance to two credit cards with a zero percent balance transfer offer, zero fees, for x amount of months.
I will tell you, on paper, BEFORE I did the transaction, I wasn’t sure if it was reasonable/doable. But I also know from experience that I CAN do what on paper looks impossible. I had talked to the family, we were all on board with this, and we went for it.
On paper, my mortgage moved to the credit cards was going to be paid off in January 2014 (still within the “free” time period). Both cards have been paid off.
How’d I do it?
On a sad note, my dear husband actually sabotaged my efforts. I had a plan to have everything paid off by May 2, 2013. (I know, this is April 18, 2013 – just a tad two weeks earlier than scheduled.) He just had to have some snack foods and just had to eat out and just had to make an eye appointment for next week. We have to pay cash for the eye appointments. DH’s attitude is not to rush things along with paying off the cc because we still have time under the zero percent window. He doesn’t get it. I get that he doesn’t get it. It’s freedom from the debt and the pressure of figuring out how to make things work when there is less money coming in.
He came home from work today and I said we are going out to eat to celebrate. On a piece of paper I had written, “It’s done! J” He didn’t get it. I just let it pass. Eventually, it will either click OR he will ask again how we are doing with the debt. I don’t play mind games, so he knows he’s safe. And he said he didn’t get the message on the paper which he read at dinner. That’s ok. I know I did a good job. J
Despite the excitement of getting the balances paid off today, we still have a struggle ahead. I have to pay back the accounts we borrowed from and repopulate the CD’s I drained. (For the CD’s at Navy, I left the bare minimum in the account so the CD is still active.)
I can tell you I feel 100% relieved that the mortgage/cc balances are paid off. And I will be resting a bit easier when I repay the accounts I borrowed from.
The next update will be interesting!
04-26-2013 08:29 AM
I'm still amazed! Congratulations on all that hard work!
I've just purchased a house and will be trying to save as much money as I possibly can!
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