Family life / Frugal living

Make your bills fit your budget

One of the first things a family thinks about when they’re considering Mom staying at home (or Dad) is whether or not they can afford to live on one income. Over the past few years I’ve gone over our finances more than a few dozen times trying to figure out how we were going to survive on one income. Last spring we spent a time trying to figure out how to live with half of one income (that didn’t work very well).

When I start working on my budget — money plan — I write out all of our monthly expenses starting with all of our bills, estimated gas money, estimated grocery money, and our tithe (despite being written last it’s always first). I always over estimate our bills so that way I don’t come up short in the end. I write everything on the calender so when a paycheck comes in I know where the money needs to go.

This is something I try to do on a month to month basis, but every now and then the budget should be evaluated to see if there’s somewhere money could be saved. It’s especially important to do this if you’re considering cutting back to one income. Sometimes we have have to see what comforts we’re willing to  give up.

Two years ago we made the decision to eliminate our satellite and traded it for Netflix and Hulu. Now instead of $60-200 a month for satellite we spend $20 a month for Netflix and Hulu. With all of the shows and movies that come and go on those two streaming networks we never go without something to watch. Honestly we’ve got so much on our “Favorites” list on the two that we have a few months worth of TV at least. Trading 50+ channels for streaming also allows us to watch the shows we like whenever we want rather than planning our life around what time our favorite show comes on. It also motivates me during the day to focus on other things besides TV — things that are more important.

I recently took a look at my budget and got a little frustrated because I couldn’t find anywhere to trim and save money. I can’t change our phone bill any more than I’ve already cut it back and our internet bill is as low as possible. We’d cut it, but we use it for streaming so I’m not willing to cut that just yet. Our gas bill is already super low and our water bill won’t get much lower. We use cloth diapers so we’ve already cut that expense.

Since our three house guests recently moved out our electric bill has still been atrocious. We expected it to be high with so many people in our house, but now that they’re gone it’s still high. It’s been cold and we’ve been using the heat a lot I guess, but our electric bill has been dancing around $300 a month. We realized that the small heaters we were putting in the bedrooms at night were part of the problem. We thought we were being smart by only heating the three bedrooms at night rather than the entire house, but it backfired. Once I started paying attention though I started noticing all the lights that were left on all the time. I quickly started enforcing a new rule: All lights off unless necessary. During the day I open the curtains and the majority of the lights in the house stay off all day. Honestly it’s nice having the sunshine in the house.

When it was still cold and we were using the heat I bumped our heater down from 72 to the recommended 68 degrees. It took a few days of adjusting to the new temperature, but it wasn’t a big deal and will be well worth the lower bill. Now that it’s started warming up I’ve been opening all the windows and turning on the attic fan during the day. The heat/air unit has only been on twice in the past two weeks and that was only at night. Yesterday I actually turned the air on to 78 for about two hours in the late afternoon because it got up to 81 in the house. Yes, that’s warm. It’s been staying between 75 and 79 and with the windows open, fan on, and cool clothing it is easily manageable. It best that we started now because if we were already adjusted to the air being on 75 or lower it’d be hard to adjust to it being warm. We’ve done this every spring and it keeps our electric bill low for a few months in the spring and fall. I haven’t always stayed faithful to this method through the summer, but I’m going to try my hardest to do it this year.

When we were living in our apartment about four years ago I actually got our $150 electric bill down to $98 by using this method. Hopefully I can get it down low again — probably not that low because now we’ve got two kids and a big house, but lower than what it is now. I haven’t gotten my bill yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

The most important thing about shaving money off of your bills is putting the money saved back or using it for another bill. That way when something unexpected pops up or the electric bill is a little higher than last month you’ve got the money to make up the difference.

I’ve not always done well at this in the past — saving money — but I’m making an effort to now because of the problems we’ve had in the past. It is top priority to our family that I get to homeschool and stay at home so it’s a top priority for us to save money when we can.

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