I'm really hoping this post doesn't make me sound too Little House on the Prairie...though yesterday I was pumping at work and watching a rerun of Little House, and I thought, That's not a bad way to live...
Anyway, we've needed to cut back. A lot. When you drop one person's income by a third...and then another third within a few months, it catches your attention. We've tried not to rely very heavily on my income anyway, but still...you know what I mean.
In anticipation of having children one day, we long ago started looking at ways we could save money here and there, and it's become a fun challenge rather than an absolute necessity. But now it's becoming more necessary, especially if we want to keep savings accounts available for things like medical bills not covered by insurance (I lost my amazing insurance when I cut down to one day a week and had to go on Matt's, which is fine but not as great as what I had), property taxes, etc.
It's interesting...kind of like when you move (multiple times) and balk at how much *stuff* you have, when push comes to shove and you need to cut stuff out of the budget, it's alarming how much stuff you've been willing to pay for that really isn't all that life-changing.
So I thought I'd bounce off of you the stuff that we've been doing to cut back or change things, and I'd love to hear what you do as well!!!! Always open to suggestions! Maybe this'll give you some ideas too (not that any of mine are that imaginative)...
1) Line drying Except for Matt's work clothes and Levi's cloth diapers, I line dry almost everything. Yes, our towels are crunchy (you can always fluff them in the dryer, I just don't take the time), but at the end of the day, do I push my chair away from the dinner table and say, "My day was wrecked because my bath towel was crunchy?" No. It is a little time-consuming in the winter when things are drying in the cool basement as opposed to the sunny, warm breeze, but it's not that big of a deal. And ya, of course I use the dryer when I simply don't have time to line dry. No use in being a Nazi about it. But every little bit counts. Heck, even when we lived in apartments stuff would be draped over chairs, the shower rod, etc.
2) Reusing plastic bags When I was in college and dating a very Dutch guy from a very Dutch family, I rolled my eyes and snickered at the sight of plastic sandwich bags drying by the sink at his parents' house. Well heavens to Betsy, here I am washing out ziplock bags and hanging them on the line to dry, too. But you know what? It's one less thing to buy, I'm never out of baggies, and it's one less thingy going out to the dump. So I swallow my pride and do it. We use cloth napkins too. I mean, really, you get them for your wedding and they fill your drawer, so you may as well use 'em!!!
3) Cloth diapers Disposables and wipes cost roughly $1500/year. We've probably spent ~$700 on cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and related items, which is a lot upfront, but then you're set for every kid here on out. Yes, I use disposables when we're out and about and for sitters, again no use in being a Nazi. We've seen no change in our utility costs from using the dryer more, probably since it's offset by the line-drying of other things. But no diaper rash equals not having to stock up on butt cream, either.
4) Try some vegetarian dishes We've run the gamut from eating fast food to vegan (as in, ZERO animal products) and everything in between. Now we've settled in a delightfully "flexitarian" diet that includes local, hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed meats; butter and milk from pastured, grass-fed cows, etc. That being said, we only enjoy those things in small doses on the menu to stretch them out...like once a week. Most dishes are rice, bean, and vegetable based and are FABULOUS!!! And our grocery bills are waaaaay cheaper!!! I'm still doing triple-flips over The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast which has amazing, easy, and cheap recipes that you can totally tweak and add meat, cheese, whatever to. But on any given day I can be like, "Dude, I have bare bones in the house," flip open that book, and find a fabulous recipe with a handful of ingredients that I already have on hand. Eating healthy is *not* expensive, and this is from someone who buys organic produce, milk, and meat (since Matt has to eat gluten-free, we can't buy packaged stuff, pop, etc...THAT'S what made our bills start to go down). Just pick great foods, eat smaller portions, and enjoy it! I mean seriously, you don't really see me or Matt blowing away, it's not like we're not eating here.
5) No-drive days Yeah, $4/gallon gets MY attention. Fortunately I'm not in soccer-mom stage and live within walking distance of a whole lot of things in town. Still, I'm not exactly walking with an infant to run errands in the winter, so it's not like that's my easy solution for everything either. But now as I plan out my weeks, I pick at least one day - usually two - that are designated "no drive" days. Clearly that'll change when I have older kids who have to be driven hither and yon. But it made me realize how many times I would just mindlessly fire up my car and go...when it could've waited. Prevents impulse errands/shopping/buying too. This summer we'll do even more walking and biking, which of course is a nice benefit of living in town. Um, and slow down on the road. Matt drives 65 (yes, 65) on his way to work (commuting to GR is a gas-eater) and seriously, it saves majorly on gas.
6) Put cable on the chopping block There. I said it. Ouch. We haven't axed our cable yet, but we're about to. I was watching the early morning news a few weeks ago with Levi playing next to me, when he suddenly stopped moving and stared, glazed and transfixed, at the TV. I was like, Aw-heck-no and shut if off. Now, I'm not trying to be a Nazi again. Parking him in front of Veggie Tales (or whatever) for an afternoon when I'm busy or sick WILL happen someday and I'm okay with that. I love TV, don't get me wrong. I think a day of watching HGTV with a vat of popcorn could be a national holiday. But that's exactly the problem...I could easily spend a few hours/afternoon/the day on the banality of TV...and for what? Ew. Not how I really want to spend money after all. With shows online now, and Netflix, we really don't need it anyway if there's something we'd really like to see.
7) Make your own household cleaners Seriously, I think vinegar could probably write a State of the Union address. It's capable of everything else. I use it to clean everything. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together are cleaning superheros. One spray of each kills pretty much anything, including E. coli. I've made our laundry soap now for the past couple of years and it works fabulously...including on spit-up soaked garments. :) A box of washing soda and Borax will pretty much take care of your whole house - toilet, bath tub and all...though I do splurge and buy Seventh Generation toilet cleaner and Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day for scrubbing the tub.
Of course, there are obvious things, like shopping at thrift stores and garage sales, turning off lights you're not using, etc etc. I'm not a coupon clipper because most coupon-able stuff is stuff that Matt can't have or we just don't buy anyway.
So what do you do?? I'm open to more ideas!!