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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for October, 2012

Thrifty Tips

Over at Rural Revolution, Patrice Lewis has listed some ways that she and her family save money, and has encouraged other bloggers to do this too.  I thought, after I saw her post, that this would be the perfect way for me to break back into blogging after our whirlwind move.

Frugality is no new idea to us.  Everywhere we have lived, we have had to pinch our pennies.  Sometimes, when it is very quiet for a moment, I swear I can hear them yelping from the pressure.

The last job I held was almost 17 years ago.  At the time, Shay and I worked at the same store, and together we made less than $900 per month.  Of course, $900 went a good bit farther in 1995 than it does now, but we certainly weren’t burning up the world.

Then I learned I was pregnant with our first child, and I became so ill, I had to take a leave of absence.  I was never able to return.  With that, we could not afford for Shay to continue to work at the store, and he found a job as maintenance man for a hotel.  This didn’t pay as much as we had both made together, but it came close enough, for a while.  Eventually, an earlier unwise decision overcame us, and we sold our little home and moved south to start over.

Shay moved from job to job for a while, looking for some income somewhere where he was allowed to do good work, and where he didn’t have to compromise his morals.  That was harder than it should be.  Eventually, he landed in apartment maintenance, and then became a maintenance supervisor.  Now he is a public housing inspector and does an awful lot of driving.  But even though he’s part of corporate management now, his net income is not a lot.  Definitely not what I bet you think corporate management would make.  Actually, it’s about what he was making at his last maintenance job, just a little bit more.

I know someone who makes three times as much, and is constantly borrowing from friends, and has collectors hounding him.  It’s all in how you choose to spend.

So we have had to save money wherever we can.  It’s getting harder.  I hate to shop anymore.  Every time I go into the store, prices have gone up.  I feel like (and probably look like) the proverbial deer in the headlights.  The prices scare me, and make me worry for the future, trying to stretch my husband’s income to feed our family and pay the bills.  I have to repeatedly pray, and tell the Lord how worried I am, and thank Him that I know He will take care of us through all this somehow.  We see bad things coming down the pike… worse than they have been the last several years.  It’s just a matter of how fast it will get here.

I remember a light switch plate my great-grandmother had at her apartment, in the bathroom.  I have no doubt she put it there just for me:

Reach up just as far as you can.  God will reach down the rest of the way.

This isn’t a “God helps those who help themselves” type thing.  (By the way, that is not in the Bible… a lot of people think it is.  God helps those who cannot help themselves, though.)  It’s more of a “Whatever you need to do, do your best at it, and God’s grace will cover the rest.”  I know that part of being a godly wife and mother is taking the money my husband earns, and using it in such a way that my family is well cared for.  But God knows that as prices go up, Shay’s paycheck isn’t, so I have to scrimp and save as well as I can, and trust God to carry us through it.

Here are some of the things we do to pinch our pennies:

  • We shop at thrift stores and yard sales whenever possible.  It is rare that an article of clothing that is actually brand new crosses our threshold.  I cannot imagine how much we would have spent on clothes for the children if we had been buying new clothes to replace the new clothes that they had outgrown.  I buy for the future, getting sizes I know I will need eventually, if I find them at good prices.  We don’t just shop for the kids there, though.  We shop for our own clothes there as well.  Many nice clothes can be found at thrift stores and yard sales, if you look carefully.  You can also find small appliances, decorations, furniture, and sometimes even fabric.
  • When I have to shop retail, I go with a list.  If I buy things that are not on my list, it is normally because they are things that I needed but forgot to write down.  Seeing the item jogged my memory.  I keep my list general, as much as possible.  I don’t shop for ground meat, chuck roast, and country pork ribs.  I shop for meat — and buy whatever is at a good sale price.  Near Thanksgiving, we’ve been known to buy three or four turkeys.  One year, we were able to get the frozen turkeys quartered on the butcher’s bandsaw.  That works as long as they don’t use a metal clip on the legs.  But it was nice to be able to cook 1/4 of a turkey at a time, at various times of the year, rather than a whole turkey now and then.
  • We buy good quality store brands as much as possible.  Some things don’t do well in generics or store brands, but most things do.  Sometimes, even the store brands go on sale, and we can save even more.
  • We go to one movie a year — whatever Pixar is offering.  It’s been a rare year that we have deviated from that.
  • Other entertainment we limit as well.  We had cable in Florida, and my uncle has it, but it isn’t even available here.  Satellite is, but we don’t have any intention of getting it for anything but internet.  We actually don’t have a TV at the moment, but we’ll get one to watch VHS and DVD on.  But regular TV?  It just isn’t worth it.  I’m tired of trying to find something worth watching among 100 channels, and VERY tired of scrambling to change the channel when an inappropriate commercial comes on!  We might try putting up an antennna, but we’re not paying for TV past that.  Our kids have a Wii, only because my brother gave them one, and they have some fun computer games (but very limited time on both).  We buy most of our movies at yard sales and thrift stores.
  • We go to the library.  ILoveBunnies is an avid reader, and received a Kindle for her birthday from my uncle and his fiancee.  For ebooks, we go to Project Gutenberg, Open Library, ManyBooks, Free-eBooks, and Obooko — places with free ebooks.  We get books at thrift stores and yard sales, too.  She has spent a couple dollars on one ebook at Amazon.
  • We cook from scratch, whenever possible.  We have a nice complement of seasonings, most of which contain no salt, as we like to add salt separately.  Prepared foods are more expensive, usually lower quality, and have things in them that you wouldn’t put in yourself.
  • When we have leftovers, we use them.  If we have enough, we might have the same thing two nights in a row.  If not, we’ll cook a few nights and then have a “Leftover Night”.  Other times, leftovers are saved and used in pot pies and such.  We also will save small amounts of gravies and vegetables in a zipper bag in the freezer.  When the bag is full, we have what we call “Freezer Soup“.  Tomato sauces get saved in another bag for a future batch of spaghetti.
  • We buy large cuts of meat that we know will give us several meals.  A pork shoulder roast will give us a dinner (for 5) of sliced pork and whatever else we put with it.  We might have a second night of sliced pork.  Then we’ll pull it, if we haven’t already, and have another meal of Sloppy Joes.  We’ll get a leftover night or a number of lunches from the meat left from that.  But don’t forget the bone!  We don’t pick the bone clean, we leave some meat on there.  We freeze it, and pull it back out when we want to make split pea soup, or 15-bean soup.  Boil the bone, and the meat all falls off, and the marrow comes out of the bone, and you get a really flavorful broth.  With that, we have soup for two nights, and then more for a leftover night or to freeze and pull out for dinner some other time.  That’s how many meals?  That’s 5 or 6 meals for 5 people, plus quite a few lunches, from one pork shoulder!  We just did this last week.  The bone is in the freezer now, waiting to become a wonderful soup.
  • We buy in bulk.  We belong to Sam’s Club, and buy only what we can get for less there than anywhere else (not everything is cheaper at Sam’s!).  Yes, there is a membership fee every year, but that normally pays for itself my first shopping trip after paying it.  Even at the grocery store, I don’t go for the package of two pork chops, I go for the package of twenty pork chops.  It’s almost always cheaper per pound.  I can divide it up at home and freeze it in zipper bags.
  • I am learning how to can.  I have a pressure canner, and will be planting a vegetable garden.
  • We raise meat rabbits.  At full production, I can put rabbit meat on the table twice a week on average.  If I add more rabbits, I can serve it more often, or have more meat on the table for a meal.  When I was paying $15+ for 50 pounds of rabbit feed, it was costing me about $1.25 per pound of bone-in rabbit meat, which is pretty cheap these days.  I can sometimes get chicken for less, and occasionally I can get pork roast for less.  Other than that, our rabbit meat is cheapest.  Eventually, we plan to expand our rabbit production so we have enough to trade with neighbors for other meats and vegetables.
  • I am trying a horse feed with the rabbits, as it is much less expensive than rabbit feed.  As long as you compare the ingredients and analyses, you can often substitute.  I found the highest-protein, lowest-molasses horse feed I could that is is locally produced.  I bought a bag of alfalfa pellets as well, to raise the protein a bit more for the rabbits.  They are getting used to it.  There is barely any molasses in it, so I think it should work out well.
  • I am learning how to sew.  I am much farther along with this than I am with canning.  When I go to a thrift store, I look at draperies and sheets as potential sewing fabric.  ILoveBunnies is learning, too.
  • We carry debt only when necessary.  If we don’t have the money, we don’t buy it.  For emergency dental, medical, or car work, we will use credit for as short a time as possible.  At the dentist, for instance, there’s no interest as long as it’s paid off in a year.  Naturally, we had to make an exception for our new home.  Getting a well-built mobile home instead of a stick-built house saved us a lot of money, as did being able to buy the land outright.  Our mortgage is $750 per month for 20 years, and we are paying extra on the principle to get out from under it faster.  NOT renting saves a lot of money.  Rent would have been 2 – 3 times as much, for less house and land.  And it wouldn’t have been ours, so we couldn’t have done what we wanted to.  ALSO… we’ve heard quite a few stories in the last few years of families renting and keeping current, but the landlords weren’t keeping up with their payments, so the houses got repossessed and the tenants were displaced… in spite of the fact that they had been faithful.
  • We have ceiling fans.  Continuously circulating the air helps it feel cooler, so you can be comfortable at a higher temperature.  It costs less to run the fans than it would to keep the air conditioner at a lower temp.
  • I shop used for most of my homeschool supplies as well.  There is an annual used homeschool curriculum sale that we go to.  I buy for the future, so that I’m not stuck needing to buy something new later, because I didn’t take advantage of the deal when I saw it.  I also buy on eBay sometimes, and on HomeschoolClassifieds.  Recently, I actually found a whole bunch of various sizes of nice glass test tubes, many Pyrex, for $5 at a thrift store!
  • We combine errands to make one long trip into town to get everything done, rather than driving 70+ miles round trip every time we need to do something.  This saves lots of gas and time!
  • I build our computers.  This has several advantages.  I can build machines with almost the latest technologies, overbuilding them so that they will still run well years from now when applications are more demanding… and I can build them for half to a third of the price of buying the same machine new from Dell or another builder.  And I know exactly what is in the machine… I can research the quality of every single part.  Another nice thing is that my computers come with no unwanted software (which is known by a very unflattering nickname) that needs to be removed.  I can put exactly what I want to on it.  I do buy Windows, but everything else I put on it is free, open source stuff, or other freeware.  I have Open Office for an office suite that is just as good as Microsoft Word, but is free.  I use Irfanview for simple photo manipulation, and GIMP for Photoshop-like graphic capabilities.  I use Avast and Comodo for computer security, both free, and together superior to Symantec and McAfee, in my opinion.  I also use CCleaner and Defraggler to keep our machines running lean and mean.
  • Shay, being mechanically inclined and very handy, regularly repairs broken items.  He is about to dismantle and re-glue an old chair of ours.  Many repairs don’t take a lot of knowledge, and can be done by most anybody who checks out a DIY book from the library.  I also patch clothes, to a point.  If the item is just disintegrating everywhere, I won’t.  But if it just has a couple of trouble spots, I’ll patch it.  I patched a pair of New Balance shoes for my uncle a couple years ago, when his toes wore holes in the tops of the shoes.  I put small pieces of leather inside and outside the holes, tacking them in place with super glue, and then sewed them in by backstitching with embroidery floss.  My uncle said it took a one-year pair of shoes and turned them into a three-year pair (he would get gel inserts now and then for them).  He just got a new pair, and I stitched leather into the inside in the same place.  I didn’t have to put one on the outside, because there was no worn hole.  His coworkers noticed the stitching and asked about it.  They were intrigued by what it was (oddly, they had never noticed the piece of leather I had sewn on top of the old pair) and remarked that New Balance shoes were great, but they all had that same problem.
  • We will shortly be putting a timer on our water heater, so it’s not keeping water hot when we are not going to be using it.
  • I will be completing my solar oven soon, and will begin using it to cook and experiment.
  • I am a member of Freecycle, a collection of local groups in which you post something you need, and someone may contact you who has it; or you post something you have and wish to give away, and people who would like it contact you.
  • I am a member of PaperBack Swap, SwapaCD, and SwapaDVD.  On these sites, you can list books, music CDs, and DVDs.  When someone requests one of your items, you send it, paying the postage yourself.  When it is received, you receive one credit per book, CD, or DVD disk (multi-disk sets are one credit per disk).  You use these credits to request the books, etc. that you would like — not necessarily from that same member, but from any member — and they pay postage to you.  We use PaperBack Swap mostly.  I love it!  That’s why I have a link to them in my sidebar.  Incidentally, if you use that link to go sign up, once you list a certain number of items, I get a referral credit I can use to request something!
  • While we do have cellphones, we do not have smartphones or data anything.  Bunny-Wan Kenobi just got his first cellphone.  These days, we consider it a safety thing.  It cannot be a bad thing in this day and age, for my kids to be able to get in touch with me or Daddy or Memaw.  Not that they’re away from us, really, but still.  We don’t have a landline.  It actually is not available to us here.
  • Shay trims his own hair with a trimmer, and I use another trimmer to cut Bunny-Wan Kenobi’s and Mom’s hair, with different guards.  I just give ILoveBunnies’ hair a trim occasionally, and Mom has cut my hair in the past.  I think ILoveBunnies is going to have to take this job over, though, as my mom has lost pretty much all of her central vision now.  None of us is interested in fake nails, hair extensions, hair dye, expensive serums that promise to keep you looking young, etc., so we don’t spend money on lots of things we don’t need to.
  • Every payday, I try to pull out any money we had left in it from the last paycheck, and I put it in our homebound savings account.  Which is to say, it’s cash on hand.  We try not to touch it, and it comes in handy in an emergency, another way to avoid going into debt!  It is not enough to make it worth it for some nincompoop to come over uninvited and try to find it, though.  My definition of a lot of money, and his definition of a lot of money, probably won’t have much in common.  Haha!

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can think of right now. :)

Don’t forget to read Patrice Lewis’ Frugal Tips post, and you’ll find a list of links to other bloggers’ tips at the bottom of her post!

I’m back!!! The move is done!

I certainly intended at first to continue posting all while we were improving the land, setting the home on it, building outbuildings, moving in, and all that.  Within reason, of course, since there was a period of time during which we had no internet access.

As it turned out, the craziness increased exponentially the closer we got to moving.  We were hardly ever home (at my uncle’s house).  When we were, we were either packing like mad, or exhausted.

We moved on September 6th.  Like I said, we had no internet access for a while.  Even once we got it a few weeks ago, I did not have much time to devote to posting.

Now that I’m back, I want to bring you through the rest of the process we have been through.  My next post will be a response to a post over at a blog I love, and, after that, I will pick up where I left off… after the bushhogging, the delivery of the container, the delivery of the home to the dealer, and all that.  I don’t want to skip all the adventures and misadventures we’ve had along the way.

I will be working to post frequently, so I can pull you up to present-day happenings as quickly as possible.  :)