I’ve been writing blogs about how we stretch our monthly budget (You can read more about Budgeting Basics and Budget Criteria). Today, I thought that I would give you a look into how we trimmed down our budget further even after the remaining expenses met our two criteria. We found ourselves in the dilemma of still having more expenses than we had income. What do we do????
Cutting the Fat
We next looked at each budget item and evaluated them one by one again. Even items that we’d determined to be God-honoring and necessary would need to be dissected. I’ll use two of our areas as examples of how we dissected each expense.
Utilities: Where we live, we have electrical, gas and water as utilities and, before we purchased our house, we had received estimates from the utility companies of the prior owners’ expenses. We found that, on average, they were spending approximately $450 per month on utilities. Yikes. When we moved into the house, we found that estimate to be pretty accurate without modifying our practices a tad. So, we started cutting the fat. I’m pretty much an energy Nazi around here so… these practices may seem extreme to you. However, they accomplished out goal. We made the following changes:
1. Air Conditioning/Heating – In the winter, we moved our thermostat as low as we could (without making the kids sick). Usually, the heat didn’t get set above 70 degrees. Since Spring weather arrived, we are utilizing God’s AC. Our windows stay open (and sometimes the back door) in an effort not to turn on the actual AC. Although it has taken some adjustment comfort-wise on my part, as long as the house stays below 80 degrees, we do not turn our AC on downstairs. I do, however, have the upstairs set on a timer and it keeps the kids’ bedrooms at 76-78 degrees since we do not open their windows.
2. Water – Water has been tricky for us. Originally, it was our highest utility bill consistently. We had to turn to a professional and have our toilet looked at because it was constantly running. In the end, the professional fixed TWO toilets and we reduced our water bill by $136 in one month. The professional’s fee was paid for with one month’s savings. There have been no other big areas that we have been able to save drastically for water. So, we’ve been making little, consistent changes in the hopes that they add up. Specifically, we do the following:
I. I scrap food off of our plates. It may sound like a stupid, insignificant decision but it costs us money every time we turn the faucet on to wash food down the disposal.
II. We only run a full dishwasher. If we had room left for a couple of glasses, it waits. If I feel the need to run the dishwasher sooner than it is full because I need something quickly, then that one item comes out and is hand washed.
III. I use the most water efficient cycle of our dishwasher. Since there are five (soon to be six) of us, we run our dishwasher 2 – 3 times per day. Each time we run the dishwasher, I save gallons of water by simply choosing the most efficient cycle. We don’t need the “Power Scrub Plus” cycle because we take the time to scrap our dishes clean before placing them in the dishwasher. Yes, it costs us a little more time but no actual money paid to the utility company.
We, as adults, don’t take baths. The kids take baths but share baths with siblings of the same sex since they are so young. As adults, we take short showers and, usually, only one shower per person per day. If my hubby is planning yard work or I’m planning big house cleaning projects that would require a shower afterwards, we don’t shower until we are done working. It’s not my preferred method but it greatly cuts out gallons of water usage per month.
C. Watering our lawn
We bought a house in which the former owner took wonderful care of the lawn and we’d like it to stay that way. As of now, we do not water our lawn. However, we have not hit summer yet. Our plan for water conservation includes a homemade water recycling system that I’ve seen on Pinterest. Since the former owner’s water bills skyrocketed during the summer months, this will be paramount for us. 🙂
This has been the biggest area of just abandoning usage. Typically, we do the following:
A. We leave blinds open until the sun goes down. Because of this, we only use the actual lights in the evenings.
B. We do not watch TV all day. The kids are allowed to watch one movie per day (and that is dependent on taking a good nap and doing their chores… in other words, they watch a movie maybe 3 times per week) and we watch TV in the evenings after they go to sleep.
C. We minimize the use of electronics. I’ve heard it said that, for every electronic item with a light on (even a stand by light on the front), it is drawing power. Therefore, you will frequently find me walking through our house and unplugging items. Blow dryers are unplugged as soon as finished being used. If I have to leave my desktop computer on for longer periods of time, the monitor is turned off if I’m not sitting in front of it. There are more but I’d just sound more neurotic than I already do. 🙂
D. Speaking of blow dryers, I don’t blow dry my hair unless we are going to a church event (if you’ve seen me with my hair not blow dryed and wondered why… well, this is one reason. The other is laziness. HA!). Again, it may not seem like a huge change but every time I don’t plug the blow dryer in, I am saving our family money. Plus, it’s a time saver also!
Well, this blog turned out to be a tad longer than I expected and I didn’t name all my craziness. So, next time, I will talk a little about my grocery shopping craziness. Again, the other parts of this blog can be found by clicking the following:
BTW. Please note: I’m not a debt counselor or any type of professional who is qualified to give out actual financial advice. I’m simply telling you some of the ways that I am helping stretch our monthly budget. If you want to read actual advice from a qualified debt guru, I recommend Dave Ramsey.