I have been working on how to get back down to our budgeted amounts in the areas we have been going over. I had forgotten that we have $625.00 a month going into our Medical flex account. That is the largest thing that has hit our budget and at the first of the year I will not need to fund it at that level. We have three in orthodontic treatment this year is why I put $7500 a year into that account. This is a good example of how having money automatically taken out of your paycheck and put into another account helps you. I knew the money was there but "forgot" it is coming out. We became accustomed to living without it. Orthodontics is not an expense that will be occured every year- we pay it and that will be done.
I bought $1200 of Kroger gift cards in the last few months. For those of you without a Kroger, they had a promotion where if you bought a gift card worth $300 you got a bonus $30, $60 for a $600 card and $120 for a $1200 card. Kroger is my closest store and I can also purchase the cheapest gas without driving about 6 miles to Sams (I would use the difference in price to drive to Sams only for gas)
I have been looking at each of the areas where we have been going over budget. Before I just increase those catagories I want to try to decrease my expenses instead. Here is some of my ways to reduce the cost:
1.We have been eating out a lot. Because I have not been prepared my husband has picked up lunch a lot of days. I am watching to make sure that we have lunch items for the kids and my husband prepared.
2. I am cooking food to have for quick meals. I used to do once a month cooking but that is too much work and time involved. It is easier to make up a few things at a time. I baked potatoes and made twice baked potatoes to freeze- those are great to pull out and microwave. I am planning on cooking up some things to freeze like brown rice, cook my dried beans, diced potatoes, more baked potatoes, pancakes, french toast, calzone/ hot pocket type sandwiches, uncrustable sandwiches, biscuits, ground chuck, chicken meals, cookie dough, and I really want to try to make homemade bread and tortillas.
3. I pulled up my squash and zucchini plants because the were attacked with vine borers and died this week. This weekend I replanted the spaces in my garden with pole beans and lima beans, a row of cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce. Hopefully we can get some of that to grow before it turns cool in November.
4. I am trying to be more watchful of what the kids eat. It seems like they eat as fast as I bring in the food. I need to monitor them more carefully so they don't eat me out of house and home.
5. I am watching my leftovers and using or freezing them. I have thrown away a lot of food lately.
6. I am looking for new menu items because I have been making the same things over and over. I like to try new things.
Electricity and Water
1. Changing the dishwasher to air dry at night instead of heat dry. If we have to wash in the daytime we have to heat dry because we need the dishes back. Our counters will fill up with dishes waiting to go into the dishwasher and I hate that.
2. My kids will take a bath at night then again in the morning because their hair was crinkled. What!? Stick that pumpkin under the faucet!
3. I have been doing this and it is working well so will continue to gather all the water for my plants and garden that I can. I take all the glasses that are in the kitchen and pour leftover water from melted ice into a pitcher I keep by the sink. I will have the pitcher full by the end of the day with "caught" water and pour it on the base of my garden plants. When I planted my tomato plant in a container I planted a water bottle with holes in it and I pour the water into that bottle to water it from the bottom. Sometimes I use my HUGE popcorn bowl and fill it with water. I throw in the crusty dishes and then rub off the gunk before putting them in dishwasher. I then take that bowl of water to the garden or compost pile if it is dry.
Our water bill was still $99 last month. Normally, it is around $80 so I am not sure why it increased so much. Whatever we intake in usage we pay for in sewage.
4. Hanging clothes to dry. I put them in the dryer for about 5 minutes so they aren't crunchy. I have three drying racks. I put them outside on my back deck on nice days or in my laundry room if it looks like rain. Anything that I can hang I hang in the laundry room. You can even hang towels- two to a hanger.
5. I am filling my oven when I turn it on. I either make two or three meals or make cupcakes or baked potatoes at the same time. Don't waste that space while you are already paying for the heat.
6. I read to put the crock pot outside to cook so that you don't heat up your kitchen. What a great idea! I also want to make our solar oven as a school project.
7. We have the air set to 78. The upstairs is on a timer and is higher in the daytime so it is miserable upstairs during the day. We spend our daytime downstairs and use the fans. I am not suffering all day to save anymore money in that area.
8. We have our main computer in our bedroom upstairs and a laptop downstairs. I have been turning off the upstairs computer because it really adds a lot of heat.
9. I have learned to say no to the kids about spur of the moment baking of cupcakes or cinnamon sticks. I was really wimping out and giving in to their puppy dog eyes and whimpering. I do need to pick up some things they can snack on that don't require baking- like freeze pops.
10. I need to make sure the kids put up their clothes that aren't really dirty so I am not washing so much. They don't need to play in clean clothes. Am I the only one that finds folded clothes under the dirty ones when you are sorting for the wash? That is lazy and really inconsiderate of them to make me work again for their clothes to be clean. I am addressing that character flaw.
11. We bought and installed some bamboo(?) shades in the family room and breakfast nook. The evening sun was horrible. I have been pulling the curtains shut on the family room windows to block some of it. Heat...Dark....Heat....Dark.... It is a toss up in your life.
I made a list of where we drive to try to figure out a gas budget. We have a YukonXL, full size GMC truck and Toyota Camry.
1. Drive the Camry whenever I can to use less gas. My husband has to go early to church on Sunday mornings. He was taking the truck and then we all would come in the Yukon. I realized that he should take the Camry and that would save a little.
2. I combine all our shopping into one big trip. Walgreens, Publix, Staples and Southern Market are all on the way to church. Target, Walmart,and Sams are all about 6 miles away. I am going to make those stores a monthly trip instead. We have a CVS, Kroger, Dollar General Market, and Rite Aid less than a mile away.
3. The only other trips that we make are for work and my daughter going to the college. We told her that she needs to start paying for her gas, but we provided it up to this point.
This is pretty much all the areas that I found to reduce these expenses. We just have a big family and that requires more food, water, electricity and gas than a smaller family. We are also all home all day so we use more than if the kids were at school or I was at work. A $500 grocery budget is really tight. I hope to add to my garden little by little and be able to produce a lot of our food, but for now it is a hobby. Our electric company said they expect to increase their costs by 10%. I would rather reduce where I can than absorb the increase in each of these areas.