Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordy Wednesday Week 7: Surviving the Shutdown. Going from One Income to No Income.

On the news I have heard that something like over 400,000 government workers are out of work because of the shutdown and guess who is included in that number!?!  

We have been living on just my husband's income for two years now.  When we moved we made the decision that I would stay home with the oldest and we would try to have a baby.  We have always been extremely frugal and we are good savers, so we had some cushion to make the necessary transitions between moves and life changes.  This took us about 10 years to achieve though and happened because we were always conscious about where are money went.

Since we were already very careful about the ways in which we spent our money, the transition to one income was honestly not that dramatic for us.  I think we are getting ready for some drama though because going from one breadwinner to NO breadwinner overnight (right after we bought a house) is going to be a pretty pretty challenge. 

I am probably going to be blasted by this but the reality is, this may be a wake up call to a lot of people that might have needed it.  For far too long we've been a society that lives in excess.  Too many people don't think that they've made it in the world until they have an enormous house, a huge gas guzzling car, designer duds for their children, European summer get my point.  

If you make the money to live a materialistic lifestyle, I guess it's your decision to do so.  It's an extremely subjective determination that really varies by each person.  Honestly, if someone from a second world country looked at my life they would probably say I lived lavishly.  You know what?  They would be right!

We need to not take what we have for granted. If you have a safe place to live, food to eat and a family that you love, you have the makings of a good life.  Let's be thankful for what we have and work towards providing a future for our children that teaches them to value relationships and not things. 

In the midst of this shutdown, many people are going to be hit hard.  Many people are already being hit so hard and are so far gone in debt, they may never recover. What we need to do now is support one another with kindness and compassion.  I believe it's the first step in getting ourselves out of this black hole of self-absorption that has darkened our country.  

Tips for surviving on limited incomes:

1.  Take a close look at your grocery bill.  This is a large part of a monthly budget and honestly it should be.  Since we are a lacto-vegetarian family, we already save tons of money not buying meats. We do spend a lot of money on quality fruits and vegetables because it's important to me what we put in our bodies.  

Here are a few tips and how we save money on groceries:
  • Consider at least a partial vegetarian lifestyle.
  • We don't always buy organic but I do try to buy what's in season and on sale. 
  •  Avoid waste by planning a menu. 
  • Use coupons whenever you can. 

2.  Eating out should be a special treat.  Listen, I like to go out to dinner and have someone cater to me for a change just like anyone else.  The problem is, when you are on a limited income this kind of mentality can get you into trouble before you know it.  

Sure, you can go to your local fast junk food place and feed your family of four for $10, but do you really want to put that garbage in your family's body on a regular basis?  Even the step up mid-scale restaurants use garbage preservatives and frozen foods in their dishes and you pay them probably about $50 to poison you and your family.  When you eat at home you are not only saving money but you are in most cases eating healthier foods by controlling what you eat.

Of course we need to be treated sometimes.  As a busy mom, we all deserve it.  Here a few ideas: 
  • Compile a list of affordable local restaurants that use fresh foods.
  • Take turns hosting a dinner party at a friends house each week.
  • Consider becoming a mystery shopper to supplement lunches and dinners.

3. Leave your credit cards at home. If you have your credit card on you, you might be more likely to make that purchase immediately.  If it's a big purchase, sit on it a day to make sure it is still something that makes sense to buy.

4.  Save up cash for purchases.   When you do this it does two things.  It allows you time to consider the purchase to make sure that it's justified and it helps you develop patience which we all need in the grand scheme of things.

Just a tip.  I save up cash in the bank for purchases but still use my card to buy things.  That way, I never carry a balance but I still reap the credit card cash back rewards.  Just make sure that you have the money to pay the bill first. 

4.  Cut out unnecessary spending.  You know what is unnecessary, don't make this complicated.  Don't spend money on "treats" for yourself everyday on things you are capable of doing yourself.  Do you need a $20 a week budget for coffee?  Is it necessary to get a $50 mani/pedi every week while you are out of money or is it something you can do on your own for awhile?  Believe it or not....cable is a luxury.

5.  Embrace the bartering and online sales world. Living frugally is not always easy and can take some creativity at times.  There is also a great reliance on other people that comes when it comes to spending less money.  It's sort of becoming old-school in a lot of ways, like a village.  Anyway, here are some "village" resources that you can use:
  • Barter your services with friends. Babysit their kids and have them mow your lawn.  Bake their child's birthday cake and let your friend make a pot of chilli for your family.  You get the idea.
  • Sign up for your local freecycle group and get emails from people in your community giving away their unneeded goods.  I promise you that you will be surprised at what other people give up.  
  • Craigslist is another local option for buying and selling.  Check out Craigslist for gently used items before you buy them in the stores.  Also, downsize your life here.  I've made over $1000 this year so far by simply selling our unused items.  It should be your first option for selling before putting the goods on Ebay since you don't have to give anyone a cut.
  • Ebay and Amazon are other options for selling off your easily mailable items.  I have made a good chunk of money doing this.  Not enough to live off of, but enough to supplement our life.
How has this shutdown effected your family?  Anyone else have any hints for surviving on a limited income?