While putting dirty dishes in the washer I was contemplating making a trip to Aldi for baking mix and eggs since we're out of both. Then I started thinking about how if I really wanted to save money I should act like we don't have any and make do with our pantry items. I have made my own Bisquick mix before and I'm no stranger to using soy flour with water for an egg substitute.
Almost a year ago I posted this blog giving my ideas for helping those in financial straits. I started thinking about what I would do right this minute to keep a warm roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The goal should be food, shelter and warmth.
Find anything of non-sentimental value that we didn't need and sell it. Hold a garage sale for the little stuff like books, clothes, toys, and furniture that doesn't have a great resale value. Sell anything special on Craigslist or ebay. Even our scraped together yard sale stuff made us almost $100.
If you are physically capable of temporarily hiring yourself out to do yard work, babysitting, personal shopping or housecleaning do it. Someone somewhere needs those services and is willing to pay you for it. Swallow your pride and roll up your sleeves.
After you've combed the couch cushions, your coat pockets, and the top of the dryer for spare change you might consider taking long walks to collect cans or any other saleable scrap metals.
No you won't get rich but you will get exercise, a few dollars, and a chance to brain storm about your situation.
Turn your thermostat down. Pull out extra blankets and wear a jacket if you get cold. A hot cup of tea costs pennies and will keep you nice and toasty. Consider insulating your pipes and water heater. Did you turn your hot water heater down to 120 F?
Call the credit card company if you need to and get them to work with you on your payment schedule.
Unplug all unused appliances and turn off lights when you leave a room for long periods of time.
Do all your baking on one day so you only heat the oven once.
My favorite tip from my previous article:
"Cancel everything that you can't eat, doesn't keep a roof over your head, or keep you warm at night. That's right- get rid of DTV, cable, Netflix, Blockbuster, and any other expensive money sucker that drains your wallet monthly. Do you have a library card?"
Saving and Getting Food:
Don't throw anything out unless it's rotten. And I mean completely rotten. A bit of mold can be cut off of cheese and you can cut the mooshy part out of the apple.
Don't throw out leftovers- that's not trash. That's tomorrow's lunch. Just have a tablespoon of veggies- that's soup fixins that you can freeze.
Clean out your pantry, freezer and fridge before you buy anymore food. When you do buy food buy ingredients like flour, proteins, and whole fruits and veggies. You'll save money and eat better.
This suggestion is a little subversive but I'm sharing nonetheless. Don't be afraid to dumpster dive. I've never dumpster dove for food but I still have jewelry and other things that I gleaned from a dumpster. My kids still play with toys that were found in a trash pile. If my family was hungry I wouldn't have a second thought about looking in a dumpster for a few cans of food or a head of lettuce. If you think about it only minutes ago it was perfectly good food on a grocery shelf. If it's not rotten, poison covered or dirty what's the harm in taking free food? Is it better to go in a landfill?
My last suggestion is to ask for help from friends or go to a food pantry. And that is what I suggest you do last. I think asking for help is great but I also believe you need to help yourself first.
Entertainment and Holidays:
Library cards are wonderful things. A whole world of dvds, books, music and books on tape available for your own free entertainment provided you don't rack up a lot of late fees.
Board games and card games with the kids instead of a night at the movies. They'll have wonderful memories of special family time spent together too. You don't even need packs of microwave popcorn for snacks. You can whip up your own with much cheaper popcorn kernels.
Potluck dinners for holidays can be wonderful! Everyone gets to show off their best dish and you don't get stuck fitting the bill for the whole meal. Get inspiration from Meredith about how to make a humble pitcher of water seem decadent and lovely.
A smaller, second hand Christmas or Hanukkah is nothing to be ashamed of either. You can find nice toys, books, and puzzles at garage sales for next to nothing. A little bit more expensive but still a good alternative is the thrift store. A few candies or chocolates bought on clearance or from the dollar store and you're done. I can attest personally that nice second hand items are still as exciting at their store bought counterparts. Nice sweaters, jewelry, purses, electronics, or cds can be found used for teenagers.
If your children are used to a big swanky unwrapping party on Christmas I suggest you discuss with them that things will be different this year. You might want to explain your financial situation to them. I truly believe that above all children truly just want your love and attention. And you can't put a price on that.
A few years ago my single mother (a real estate agent) friend was down to her last $1000 in the bank with Christmas coming, a mortgage payment, a car payment and no more income in site. This was just after the real estate market started to tank. She turned her heater down to 50 degrees, and put her little space heater in whatever room she walked into. Every conceivable cold air leakage problem was addressed with carpet remnants or rolled up towels. She and her little boy took hot baths at night (while the mini heater was heating up her bedroom) before they got into bed so they'd be warm for sleeping. While she was looking for a steady job she also enrolled in WIC to help with food supplies. Her close friends gifted her with store gift cards or their own pantry supplies because she let them know of her situation. She got a job a month later but I learned a lot from her about ingenuity from her brief period of poverty.
My friend is very proud but she swallowed her pride and did what she had to do. I'm proud of her for that.