Monday, November 10, 2008

Making Ends Meet - Part Two

If you read my first entry about "Making Ends Meet" you know my family fell on hard times last year. The good news is that we are back on track with our finances. My husband has been working steadily for almost a year. We haven't gone without utilities or household products once this year. Our bills are caught up and since we've cut back on our spending we have been able to have extra cash again. We have taken some extra cash to buy a nice Christmas this year, and our Christmas shopping is done for this season. So we're back on track, though there were times I thought we'd never get through.

One thing we learned from the situation is how to save. I discovered there were LOTS of things we were buying that we could do without purchasing. Not just groceries, but other things also. We don't go out and spend money on things that we really don't need like we used to. Before our motto was "why not, we have some extra money" but now it's "that's not something we really need" ... need being the key word. We don't "need" a new DVD player because the one in the front room broke. Everyone has one in their room, and nobody really uses the front room to watch movies much. If we decide to watch a movie in there we can borrow a DVD player from one of the bedrooms.

We don't look at sales ads anymore at all. As soon as they come into the house they go right into the recycling bag. The only part of the ads I keep from the paper are the coupons. But even then I only clip what we use. If it's not something we use, no matter how much of a savings it is, I don't clip it. It's too much of a temptation to spend once you get into the store for the "deals." So we have saved a lot just by avoiding the stores and their sales. When we need something we research the prices at various stores and go get it, but we don't pay attention to what's on sale. So stay away from the sales ads! They are evil lol.

I was already a bit thrifty before. In addition to our four kids, we took in two kids after their mom died. To keep everyone in clothes and shoes, I knew already how to shop for discounts. I always bought name brand when it came to their clothes, but I would shop at the thrift stores or big discount stores for them, like Value City. But after my oldest son and the two we took in moved out, money wasn't as tight. After we started homeschooling and stopped paying for a private education we had lots more left over to spend. It wasn't that hard to keep the kids in clothes and shoes. So I started going to the regular stores more often. That was my first biggest mistake! Don't pay retail for what you can get at a cheaper price!! There is nothing wrong with shopping at thrift stores. Often times the clothes still have tags on them. When I think of all the money we wasted shopping at the mall instead of the thrift stores it still makes me sick. There's no use crying over spilled milk, but when you have no gas or electric you can't help but regret not doing things differently.

Another thing we changed was where we buy our household items. We started shopping for things at Family Dollar or Dollar General instead of Target or Walmart. Much cheaper and the products are surprisingly very good. You can get some name brand products in these discount stores as well. They are not all generic or store brand products. I believe for some things you just can't do store brand, namely soaps, shampoos, and toilet paper. Luckily we can still get the name brand products we like but don't spend as much for them. And if you have a coupon then you save even more!

Gasoline was another thing we were spending a lot on. We were spending so much to drive here and there when we really didn't need to. Instead of spending that money on gasoline we would have a bit extra for something else AND we could help the environment. This is something we still don't spend a lot of money on today. Everyone has bikes and we only drive if we absolutely have to. Even shopping doesn't require us to use the car. My husband and the boys have a little cart they hook up to one of bikes and the shopping is done that way. When we need to get a lot of groceries or supplies, or if the weather is bad, we drive. If you can get away with not driving as much you really should. It's great exercise, it helps the environment, and it helps bring down the cost of gas.

One thing we were doing is ordering takeout at least once a week. Now we might order take out once a month if that. Our favorite thing to order out is pizza. Ordering enough to feed everyone would cost anywhere from $30 to $50 depending on where we had deliver. Now we make our own pizzas out of tortillas or pita shells. Both make for a great tasting pizza and everyone can make their own pizza. A few minutes in the oven, salad on the side, and you have a nice meal in about 15 minutes. And it costs alot less than delivery even if you do have a coupon and they have this "great deal" going on.

We don't spend a lot on soda like we used to. Save the money and buy yourself a box of 100 tagless teabags for a buck. Make a fresh pitcher of tea every day and it will only cost you about 12 cents for each 2 quart pitcher. Compare that to a bottle of soda, then multiply how many bottles of soda you go through in a day. Huge savings if your family is like mine was. We could go through 4-6 bottles of soda a day depending on how many people were here. At the least that was costing us $30 a week, sometimes as high as $40. I make one gallon of tea a day, every day. That's less than $2 a week! We were drinking nothing but soda, now we drink water more because we get tired of the tea. So it's not only cheaper, it's healthier too. We do still buy soda, but we never buy more than 3 bottles a week anymore.

That's the biggest area that we were spending just way too much on was the groceries. Mainly prepackaged foods that you can really save money just making it yourself. For instance bread. I bake my own instead of paying $1.50 a loaf. While that may seem cheap, with a family my size we were buying three loafs a week at least. That's $20 a month for bread. We were also buying so many other things you can make yourself for much cheaper. Lipton noodles for side dishes, Hamburger Helper, boxed mashed potatoes, Encor and Stouffers meals, pancake mix, boxed cereals, muffins, granola bars, biscuits, rice a roni, macaroni and cheese ... just to name a few. I buy NONE of this stuff now.

And this entry is getting to be long. So I may have to make another entry to finish this up. I'll post the rest tomorrow.

Have a good night!


  1. Jenna, so glad things are not as tight this year and your hubby has been back to work for a while!! all of these are great tips!! we're doing store brands more than name brands and finding what we can handle with them and what we don't like with store brands (soups that my hubby likes to eat; the store brands aren't as tasty as Campbells) but for the most part we have gone a lot store brands

    I agree with you to shop at thrift stores or second hand stores; I know one thing my mom never skimped on and we were on a very tight budget growing up was shoes; she always got us good shoes; we might have only had one pair but they were good ones; I find myself still doing that these days; might look for them on sale, but I try to get a good sturdy name brand shoe (mainly tennis shoes)

    again great tips; hope you share more!


  2. These are such great tips Jenna...thanks for sharing them! We have started buying a lot of off brand products too, they are so much cheaper...especially health & beauty products.

    Pooh Hugs,

  3. You had some great tips! I love shopping at General dollar. They have such great prices.

  4. Hi Jenna, I feel like I just read my own life! This year has been better for us, like you, but I remember those days all too well, just over a year ago now. We even bought powdered milk instead of regular. I hope things keep looking up for both of us.

  5. Hi Jenna
    Iam so glad to find your blog!! we to have been thought the same thing and it feels so much better to be on the winning side lol But you do learn a valuable lesson about saving? Iam praying for you and your Family! Blessings Kat:)

  6. Hi Jenna, nice to meet you :>) Thank you for sharing what I know was a difficult period of your life, and all the great thrifty tips, it is inspiring me to share too! Have a great weekend. maire

  7. ((((((((((HUGSTYOU))))))))))))))))Theese are all great ideas.

  8. you should write a book on how to save on grocery bill, i really mean it, i'd buy a copy. have a wonderful new year. ((hugs))

  9. Wow, these are the very nice collection. Can you please upload more designs?
    Chicken Coops NZ