Pay Down your Debt and Live a More Fulfilling Life

Years ago I used to shop for my entertainment.  We went to movies and ate out, hired a babysitter, the whole 9 yards.  I bought new clothes because I wanted to impress people with my good looks and I wanted my kids to dress nice so they could make friends.  I bought foods made by other people because I didn't ever have the energy to cook anything myself and it was a fast and easy alternative.  While that stuff was nice I always felt unfulfilled.  I mean, I was working all the time, I had no energy for my family, we never had any money, what was the point?

The last several months have been rocky while my husband has been unemployed, but it really has given me a lot to think about.  It has helped me to think about everything I have done to help us to save money, to hone the skills I have developed over the last eleven years.  Would it have been nice to have another income to fall back on?  Sure!  But we're making it, and you can too.

Eleven years ago I quit my full time job and I've never looked back.  Yes, ocassionally I look at my friends who live the kind of life I used to live and feel a tinge of jealousy.  Really most of them say they envy me, and why wouldn't they?  I set my own schedule, I never have to miss one of my kids' performances during the school day, we have plenty of food, I have time to pursue my hobbies, and we were even able to save some money for a rainy day.  How did I do all of this you ask?  I had to give up a lot, but I think it was worth it.  Read on to hear some of the things I did.

1.  Cut the cable.  Seriously, who needs to pay $100 a month to have shows to watch all of the time when there are plenty of free things to watch.  There are only so many new shows anyway, do you need to pay all of that money to watch reruns?  As an added bonus I have a lot more free time than I ever did before since I had to get my money's worth.

2.  Eat in.  Really it's not hard to throw a few things in a crock pot or roasting pan and just let it cook.  Make extra when you prepare meals and package them in freezer containers or can them for a quick meal when something unexpected comes up.  I know there are places I could take my family of 4 and easily plunk down $50 for one meal.  Do you know how many groceries I could buy with that same amount of money?

3.  Have a staycation.  Sure, it is fun to go exotic places and brag about your trip to Disney land but it costs a lot of money to fly to your destination, eat out, rent a car, plus the hotel stay.  Think about all of the money you could save by checking out places close to home, some of them may even be free!  All of the memories with money to spare!

4.  Lose the home phone.  With the prevalence of cell phones think about how many phone calls you get at home anyway.  Does it make sense to pay $40 per month for another phone when you always have one in your pocket anyway?

5.  Forget the data plan for your cell phone.  Yes, I know it's hard not to check facebook while you're out and about, but is it honestly worth the extra expense when you can just use wi-fi to do the same thing?  Money saved $100 per month.  Apparently smart phones "require" you to have data so I had to take the $15 package but that still saves me $85/month.

6.  Check your phone usage.   Unlimited talk and text? Wow, those plans sure are expensive aren't they?  Why pay $45 per month to have a smart phone with unlimited talk when you only use 300 minutes?  I'd rather add a line to an existing plan for $10 a month.  That's a potential savings of $35 per month!

7.  Quit buying frozen and prepackaged foods.  I'm not going to say this isn't a tough one.  It's great to just go to the freezer and zap up a dinner in the microwave, but you pay a lot for that convenience.  With a little planning you could make your own and consume less chemicals and preservatives at the same time.  (Have you ever looked at those ingredient lists?  Yikes!)  Next time you cook something make twice as much and freeze half of it for next time.  Don't forget to label it!  How much you save depends on how many of these you buy, but I know a family lasagna costs about $10 at Walmart compared to a little bit of flour, milk, and salt to make noodles, (or even $1 to buy noodles) a few tomatoes and herbs out of the garden, and some shredded cheese so the same meal would cost us about $8 less.  Not too shabby.

8.  Make your own home remedies.  I'd be lying if I said I have never struggled with this one, the family took a lot of convincing to get on board.  Obviously there are still going to be times when going to the doctor is a must.  Essential oils can be spendy, but they last a long time, a little goes a long way.  You can use them to make your own cleaning products, soaps, lotions, scented candles, and aroma therapy products too.

9.  Turn down (or up?) the thermostat.  Really a few degrees don't make a big difference in your comfort, but it can really help your wallet save a lot.  Usually we run our air all summer, this summer we have only used it for the hot and humid days choosing to use ceiling fans most often instead.  That has saved us about $50 per month.

10.  Grow your own.  Yes, I realize we can't grow our own oranges here in WI but if you can grow something that is normally an expensive part of your grocery budget you can end up spending pennies for things that can end up costing several dollars at the store.  Buy the rest when it goes on sale.

11.  Take advantage of the sales.  We love bacon in our house.  Who doesn't?  But at $5 per package we couldn't afford it very often.  That's a one pound package.  So it cost $5 for one meals' worth of bacon.  Then I learned that there is a butcher who sells their ends and pieces of uncut bacon for $1 a pound when it goes on sale.  So we could buy 10 pounds for what we could buy 2 pounds worth of packaged bacon for?  Sign me up!  Good thing I got the meat slicer for Christmas a few years ago.  We stock up on our favorite products when they go one sale and freeze, can, or dehydrate the extras for future use.

12.  Buy generic.  I used to be a big coupon shopper, but these days I find even with coupons it is way less expensive most of the time to just buy the store brand.  Most of them are just as good as the brand name, except Pepsi.

13.  Make your own.  Yup, you can.  Recipes abound from making your own soap, deodorant,  lotion, shampoo, body wash, face cream, moisturizer, laundry soap, toilet bowl cleaner, you name it you can find it on the internet.  Of course some of them require more work than others, but start slow and find others who make the same things you do.  Compare notes to find the best recipes.  Instead of paying $5 for one bar of soap you can spend that much for enough olive oil to make a couple of batches of soap.  If you don't want to store it all they also make great gifts, which you also won't need to buy!  Double bonus!!

14.  Fix your clothes or repurpose them.  A pair of pants is expensive.  I have seen many people throw them away because the got a hole in them when a simple repair job could have saved you from having to pay another $20 (or more!) on a new pair.  Grease stains can easily be brushed away if you cover them in baby powder, pants that are too short can become great shorts or even bags.  There is so much you can do with this "garbage"!

Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Please leave me a message, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cindy

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