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Friday, July 19, 2013

Life is keeping me incredibly busy!!

Hi all!
Life has taken a turn that is keeping me incredibly busy, too busy to get online to write to you.

First off, it's summer, which means harvest and preservation of all that grows here. I'm working my frugal behind off taking care of it all.

And second, my husband's work situation suddenly changed, and we're facing a 30% drop in income.

I've been reworking budgets, brainstorming ways to conserve further, and looking into how to grow our income.

I have slashed our budgets across the board, including dropping back to a one-car family, reducing the grocery budget to well below $200/month, heating the house less, leaving lights turned off unless it is truly dark inside, and we're even considering selling our home and downsizing to a much smaller (and cheaper to maintain) home.

One of the helpful things I am doing is keeping a log of ways that I save money, on a daily basis, and how much each activity saves. For instance, I started Christmas and fall birthday shopping the other day, shopping a clearance sale at Lands' End. I bought 3 gifts for my son (2 for his birthday and 1 for Christmas), which had been on my list for him anyways, and saved about $40 over what I would have been willing to pay, had I waited until the fall to shop. (There's a big difference in "what I'd be willing to pay" and what the store claims is a savings, for my purposes. I only calculate savings on a what-I-am-willing-to-pay basis.) That shopping took me 2 hours online, for a wage of $20/hour. I am also shopping for winter jackets for my two daughters, for their Christmas gifts this coming year. Shopping in the off-season will save me a substantial amount on gift-giving, which will be a great help, as I cut the gift-giving budget in half for this next year.

I also hung a load of wash to dry in the sun, for a savings of 50 cents. I spent about 20 minutes hanging and checking the drying, for a wage of about $1.50/hour.

I refurbed a pair of very worn shoes the other day. I was hoping to replace these shoes this summer, but a refurb job using only what I had here at home, may prolong their life by a year or two. In case you're wondering, I painted a pair of faux suede sandals, with acrylic paint. The faux suede had worn off in patches, leaving a mottled finish everywhere.

Time will tell if my efforts were fruitful, if the painted finish looks good after wearing a few times. If not, my cost was nothing but time. And anyways, they couldn't possibly look worse than they did before. If I delayed the purchase of a new pair of shoes by 2 years, I estimate my savings to be about $5 or so (for those two years of extra wear). I spent about 1 hour in total on the painting of the shoes, for a wage of $5/hour.

I trimmed my hair the other day, instead of going to a cheap haircut place. I extended the life of my haircut by another 6 weeks by trimming it myself. I look for the super cheap coupons of about $8 or $9 for a cut, no style.  One will usually surface in mid to late August (for the back to school crowds). I spent about 1 hour on the trim, saving about $10 after coupon and tip, for a wage of $10/hour.

By logging all this info, I can easily see which activities will save us the most money for the effort. However, the high hourly wage activities are not available every day.

So, we need to grow our income. I have been putting together my resume, and am looking for employment. Unfortunately, having been out of the main workforce for the last 26 years impairs my hire-ability for many positions.

I have also been researching taking in a boarder, to boost our income. Technically, paid lodgers go against the ordinances for our neighborhood. As do home day cares.

I do believe it will take a combination of all three of these areas (changing the budgets, conserving more, and increasing our income), to keep us progressing towards our future goals for retirement.

So, that's where I have been these past 10 days. Life has been keeping me incredibly busy. (And you thought I was off on some beach reading a fun novel!! LOL! Couldn't be further!)

I hope your life has been much more relaxing than mine. If not, and you find yourself as busy as I am these days, know that you are in good company! Have a great weekend, and I'll try to keep you posted on the various ways I find to cut our spending and increase our income. This is the value of blogging -- sharing information can be mutually beneficial for all of us.


  1. Lili
    Sorry to hear of your husbands's drop in income. Been there, it's not fun. You are taking a pro-active approach, which is practical. Review all current expenses-what is now a luxury? kids cell phones? cable? the once a month date night out? new clothes? paying for kid's clothes? etc. Set your parameters. Have you discussed these changes with the kids at home? Are they able to step up and fill in any gaps?

    Good luck. Hope you don't have to sell the family home, you've invested so much in your gardens to be self sustaining. Would be hard to find that elsewhere.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thank you. After I got over the initial shock (and had my pity party), I got right to figuring out how to make our finances work for us.

      Funny you should mention what is a luxury, as that is exactly the phrasing I have been using with myself and the family this past week and a half. What is a luxury? Shaving cream is a luxury, lights on in the house when it's not dark is a luxury, more than 1 1/2 cups of coffee each morning is a luxury, meat more than once or twice a week is a luxury, using the oven to bake one thing at a time is a luxury, etc.

      When you put your mind to it, costs can be cut significantly. Most of the time it just takes a change of mindset/habit. For example, do we need to toast our bread in the morning? Would untoasted bread also be good? Can I make two days worth of coffee at a time (refrigerating the leftovers), then remember to unplug the coffee maker afterwards?

      Sometimes, we leave kitchen appliances plugged in 24/7 because they have clocks on them. Well, just how many clocks does a kitchen need at one time? There's the clock on the coffee maker, the clock on the radio, the clocks on both ovens, the clock on the microwave. So, I unplugged the coffee maker and the radio. I can plug them back in for use, and we'll just live with the clocks being wrong.

      Do I need to wash my blue jeans that have only been worn 2 days during the week, (to appointments/ teaching Sunday school where I stay pretty neat and clean), simply because it's the end of the week? My work in the yard clothes do need to be washed every week. But clothes that stay clean can go another week.

      Anyways, thanks for your support. I read your blog for encouragement, but especially now that I have to be more vigilant in saving money.

  2. Oh No! I've been wondering if something was up since I hadn't seen you around on the blogosphere. I'm glad it's just a change in circumstance though and not something more dire like a health problem or other catastrophe.

    Congrats on cutting your own hair. I've been doing mine for over 20 years now. Of course, it's not terribly difficult since it's all one length - I really just lop off a bit and even it up when it starts getting split ends or looking too raggedy. Having naturally wavy hair hides a multitude of sins in the evenness department. Giving up on the whole concept of "modern hair" has saved me a bundle though, and in truth, I don't really think that anybody notices.

    Best of luck with your increased frugality. My general advice in this department is to take a long hard look at those "fixed" expenses and see where you might be able to reduce something. For me, getting rid of services that I hardly ever used like cable TV, cell phone service and even long distance service on my landline has saved a bundle. I've pretty much found that there are other ways to meet the need for much less money (Netflix, library, prepaid cell phone for emergencies, using said prepaid cell phone for the once in a blue moon long distance call etc.)

    I also went through each bill to see if there were stray charges on there that I really didn't need to be paying - there was a $5/month charge on my telephone line for some sort of "repair insurance" in case there was a problem with a line in the house - but I can easily fix that myself it it happens so I cut the cost. I also decided that it was ridiculous to be carrying comprehensive and collision coverage on a 20 year old car that I hardly drive anyhow, so I cut it back to just liability.

    In terms of making money - have you ever considered writing an eBook with all of your frugal tips? I think you have a goldmine of information to offer - the grocery shopping techniques alone would be a great eBook!

    I'm a big fan of those sorts of money making endeavors where you put some time in upfront but then get to keep making money off of it indefinitely. Of course, it doesn't sound like you have a lot of time right now, but it's something to think about. Plus you could use your blog to promote it and then all of your blogging time could help to pay for itself. Just a thought...

    Best of luck. I'll be interested to see how the ultra frugal can take it a step further!


  3. Hi Cat,
    Thanks for your support.
    You're right, fixed expenses are rarely "fixed". We've just become accustomed to how we've been doing things. Insurance sounds like it's a set-in-stone thing, but as you pointed out, on an older car, you can get by with just liability. Insurance prices can be competitive, and we can get back to shopping around for insurance regularly. Consumers can reduce their utility use significantly (another area people assume is "fixed"). Even property taxes can be challenged, if one does their due diligence in researching the surrounding values and appealing the recent assessments.

    We don't have cable, as we really don't watch much TV. But all of my kids do have cheapo pre-paid cell phones. We pay for a bare minimum of minutes. If they want to be more chatty, then they can buy themselves minutes. But basically, I want to be able to reach them when they are not near a regular phone. With my daughters now working downtown, and taking two buses each way, and walking a mile and a half home from the bus stop in the evening, them having cell phones buys me peace of mind. And I realize that I am paying for this peace of mind.

    But I still have no need for a cell phone myself, and neither does my husband. I will check our bill for any unnecessary fees, though. So thanks for that tip on the repair insurance -- what a rip-off!

    I'm not sure my head is organized enough to write an ebook. LOL! I do feel scattered a lot of the time. But thanks for the idea, and I'll give that more thought. Maybe, just maybe. And I know what you mean about setting something up once, then continuing to reap the rewards for some time.

    My husband and I have been super frugal before, and we can do it again. We just need to shed a few lazy habits we've acquired and get back to our more frugal roots. Again, thanks for your support. It's appreciated.

  4. I was just thinking I must have missed a few blog posts of yours recently but sorry to hear the reason why I haven't. 30% is a big drop in income but I know that with your mindset you will make it work, and without a corresponding drop in happiness I'm sure.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for the vote of confidence. Yeah, it's a bummer, but I can't let it ruin our happiness. I do keep thinking of more ways to save, and knowing that I haven't depleted the supply of money-saving tricks is a huge help.
      Thanks for your support.

  5. Not sure how the school expenses are handled for your girls, but there are lots of ways to save money at college because everything is so expensive. For instance, shopping online for books.

    Even though this is hard to deal with, I think you're up to challenge. If anyone can research it and come up ideas on how to change things, you can. Good luck.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      that is good to know, that there are many ways to save on higher education costs. As soon as the book lists come out for fall quarter I'll have my daughters go online and compare prices (they are excellent shoppers!). So thanks for that tip.

      When I get bad news it always takes me a little while of living with it, then I see that it's not so bad after all. And I'm sure this will be the same. In fact, I'm already thinking of ways that this could be a blessing for me, if you can imagine that.
      Thanks for your words of support.

    2. Couple of other thoughts:
      check with your CPA/financial planner re: tax liablility for 2013, using the new, lower income anticipated for the rest of the year. Should your husband's withholding now be adjusted?
      Also: if you have a change in circumstances, update FAFSA for any aid as well as financial aid at college.

      Carol in CT

    3. Thanks, Carol.
      We did the figuring on the tax withholding, but forgot about the FAFSA changes. That could make a real difference. Thanks!

  6. Hi Lili, I was wondering what was up. I'm sorry to hear about your change in circumstances, especially since you're so frugal already. I bet your sterling organizational skills will be very evident on your resume, and a smart employer will do themselves a favour and snap you up ASAP!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      Thank you for your support. I hope I come across as organized. Sometimes I do feel scattered.
      This is not the worst thing that could happen to our family, but it is keeping me quite busy trying to sort this all out, and find our way to our future. I hope to get back to regular blogging very soon.
      Thanks for your support.

  7. I am sorry to hear about the income situation, very frustrating! 30% is a lot in an already frugal household but you have so many skills that I am sure you will be fine. Good luck on the job hunt and don't be afraid of applying for jobs - be sure to hand deliver your resume so they get to see your smiling face and you will get hired.

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      Thanks for the suggestion on handing in a resume in person. So many people are doing that online these days. Maybe handing one in in person may set me apart from some of the others. I know doing that did get my daughters several interviews.

      Do you know what's surprising? I keep thinking of ways that we can cut back further. My first thought when I heard the news was "how on earth can we cut back any further?" Then I just keep thinking of more and more ways to save money in our house.
      Thanks for your advice and support.

  8. Oh no! I had envisioned you walking the beach and relaxing. Boy was I wrong! So sorry to hear about your husband's job.

    My first instinct was similar to Cat's--I don't think I know of anyone more frugal than you are--I would think seriously about writing an e-book. I'm sure something will work out. I'll pray for you!

    1. Hi Kris,
      Did I have a yummy pineapple-y drink in one hand as I was walking on the beach, in your thoughts? Because that sounds really good to me right about now!

      okay, so I'll give more thought to an e-book.

      When things like this happen, after a good pity party, I like to think about the good that could come from this. Maybe this will motivate me to do something more with my time. I appreciate your prayers, and I am certain that we'll figure out how best to go forward.

  9. So sorry to hear about your income drop!
    Bravo on the haircut! I recently did the math, and I've saved several *thousand* dollars by doing my own cut & color for the last 20 years : )

    If you do move to a new house - be aware of something I discovered when I thought I already knew everything ; ) - A house that has two walls connected to other houses - like my current one - can have heating bills that are HALF that of a 4-exterior-wall house : ) And, since such houses are in town, you also save massive amounts on gas & time for the commute. Just a thought if you DO decide moving is your best bet. (On the down side - we have no land to garden - but I think our savings way exceed what we could save by gardening)

    1. Hi Anna,
      That's very impressive on the savings on home hair cuts and color. I did the math once on savings for always (and really, I mean *always*) packing lunches for my husband and 3 kids. The savings were incredible, somewhere around $50,000! There are really so many ways to save big money by doing mundane things like home hair cuts and packing lunches.

      Oh, now that would be nice, lower heating bills, and probably warmer in winter, as well! It would also be really nice to be close in to the city, not just for the commute, but you probably have a lot of activities right at your doorstep.

      My attitude with staying in our house or down-sizing, is that we need to look at all possibilities. And in the end, if we stay, at least we have deliberately chosen that path, and whatever sacrifices it may mean. There is something so empowering about intentional living. I find I waste much less time moping about circumstances if I feel I have made choices.
      Thank you for your words of support.

  10. I'm sorry. I just assumed you were swamped with produce.

    Wish you all the best in working things out. I'm sure if anyone can do it you and your family can.

    1. HI Shara,
      I am swamped with produce, but not in the way that you are right now. I'd love to have a bunch of tomatoes come my way as they have for you!
      Thanks for your good wishes! Things will work out fine. They may be different, but they can still be fine.

  11. Just covering all bases here... but your DH may be eligible for unemployment even though he is still employed, because of this reduction. Every state is different but be sure you know what he is eligible for. We were just talking about this at home the other day relative to the federal furlough days.

    1. Hi Jen,
      That's very good information. It won't work for our particular circumstances, but may very well be the information that saves someone else's finances. So thank you for that.

  12. Sorry to hear about the income reduction. That's a huge drop.

    Another idea for an e-book would be a "garden recipe book". You've already published some fabulous recipes on this blog & you probably have many more!

    Hang in there!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thanks for your support. We're adjusting. And I think that's what this is all about -- adjusting.

      Oooh, now I do like that idea of a garden recipe e-book. Now that's something that even I, as an extreme tightwad at times, could see buying! Thanks for the idea!

    2. I just remembered seeing this post over at

      It may or may not be of interest to you. :)

    3. That was just the other day, wasn't it, Sharon? I saw it on my reader, but didn't have time to read the whole post. I'll check that out. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. I am so sorry for your financial struggles. A 30% drop is huge but it seems you are taking this well by keeping a positive outlook. Having to make a decision on having to give up a home you love and have put your heart into is hard. I have no advice as I think all the frugal tips I know you already know as well. Best of luck.

    1. Hi Lois,
      Thank you for the good wishes.
      I do feel that we are in a better position than many. Having been using many money-saving strategies over the years already means that this lifestyle isn't totally foreign to us. And that in itself will make things easier.
      As far as the house goes, I feel that we can't let ourselves get into the mind-set of "we must hang on to the house not matter what". Family matters more than things, and our priority is find the path that keeps harmony in our family, whether we stay or move. But as selling and moving is a huge amount of work, that will be one of the last options.

  14. Hi Lili, I'm just catching up and wanted to say I'm sorry to hear about your drop in income but I know you have the skills to deal with it.

    In terms of making extra income - I've noticed you have ads on the side of your blog. Are you getting the money from them? Even though it's a free blog, you can make money from it:

    You might also want to try survey websites to make some extra cash, just make sure to calculate the earnings per hour.

    1. Hi Economies,
      Thanks for your support.
      The ads are revenue generating. However, they pay so very little (think penny or pennies per click), that I could be blogging 3 more years before Adsense would ever send a check. I will check out doing surveys. My sister-in-law has been doing them for several years and she gets some nice bonuses from time to time, sometimes its products, sometimes actual cash.
      I am currently brain-storming ways to boost our income, so I appreciate all suggestions.


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