After the decision was made for me to stay home and home school our boys, we had to figure out how to make up for the hole left in our budget when my income was removed. To be honest, I didn’t have a huge income to make up for…I just barely made above minimum wage, and I only worked about 36 weeks out of the year; but we were definitely going to come up short! The first few steps we took to fill in this hole in our budget were:
- Staying home. I was driving about 30 miles round trip to work five days a week. My new goal was to consolidate my errands, shopping, trips to the library, etc. to one day during the week. We figured out that this would save around $75 a month. Also, we were now eating at home. Previously we were spending almost $30 a week on school lunches and at least another $20 a week at the drive-thru after school. That’s like earning $275 a month just by staying home.
- Cancel the satellite TV. We bartered for an old fashioned metal antenna and hooked it up to our TV. We were surprised to find that we could get about 8 TV channels, including a local station and PBS. This saved us $75 a month. A little bit later we signed up for Netflix and we also use the free streaming service from www.hulu.com.
- Cut our food budget. This one was hard, and I’m still working toward my goal of $75 per person per month. We were able to go from about $800 a month to $500 within a couple of months just by cooking from scratch, cutting way back on eating out, and packing my husband’s lunch and snacks.
- Change income tax withholdings. We had been getting around a $3000 tax refund every year. We changed my husband’s withholdings so that we would have that extra $250 to use instead of loaning it to the government interest free!
- Temporarily stop all unnecessary spending. We didn’t buy anything new for six months. We used the clothes we already owned, only buying the kids a couple of second hand items as they outgrew things. I used vinegar and dish liquid to clean with (that’s supposed to be better for us anyway). We used the library for books and videos. And…gasp…we didn’t take a vacation that year!
Now, I’m not telling you that we decided that we were going to live like paupers forever. We just decided that for a short time we were going to be very focused on figuring out our financial priorities. We have since added back some small luxuries that are important to us, but now we have a much better idea of what that is. Also, these are just the first steps we took…we now have totally different, and in many ways much happier, lifestyle than we did before we got so weird!