Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feeling the pinch - Boring money talk

Like most Americans, my family is feeling a financial pinch. Three months out of the year are gone, taxes were due, and it was time to re-evaluate our spending habits.

All I can say is...we most definitely have to cut back on our spending.

It all kind of crept up on us. College tuition and housing aside, there have been college-related expenses that have crept into our family budget. And it certainly didn't help when the price of gas went way up during a year that we spent lots of time traveling hundreds of miles up and down I79. I'm starting to panic about 2009 when I'll have both kids in college. I may be living in a box alongside that very highway.

What else? Kids grow up and darn if they don't want to drive so we added another new driver in the family. Gone are the days when our car insurance didn't even reach $1000 a year. Quadruple that for today's bill. The kids kick in when they can, but we don't push it. They're good students and good athletes, and their driving is a big convenience for me, so we have a deal. We split gas money, and if they bring home really good grades, then I'll pay for car insurance. So I pay, but the trade-off feels fair to me.

Heating costs?? More than doubled. Thank goodness we added an electric heat pump a couple of years ago, or else I'd tell you that those costs tripled.

And there isn't very much I can do about those costs. We energy-save - our thermostats are set no higher than 68 all through the heating season and we dial back to about 66 at bedtime. We take advantage of every driver discount that we can find. And gasoline is a fact of life, so we try to consolidate trips to town as much as possible. So...where to cut back? Here's what I found:

I almost fainted when I added up what I've been spending on groceries each month. I'm only buying for three people and one of them is a vegetarian! When I consider it carefully, I can see that my food prep lifestyle over the past few years has changed, and not in a good way. I've become a short-term shopper. I'm forever running into and out of the store and picking up just enough for one meal. Fast, fast, fast. I really try to stay away from convenience foods, and that helps, but I'm still not shopping smart. For instance, I usually look at the specials while I'm in the store, but I don't plan shopping or meals around them. My pantry is pitiful.

So today, I'm going to turn over a new leaf. And I'm happy to say that there are terrific blogs and websites that are there to help me. Maybe you're in the same boat, so I'll share three of my favorites with you:

Check out Cheap, Healthy, Good for lots of good-sense advice about buying and preparing food. This blogger hits it all, including frugality, healthy recipes, and the organized kitchen.

I've been reading The Cleaner Plate Club, too, where I've found good advice about buying simple, additive-free food and supporting your local farms.

Here's a fun site called Home Ec 101. I've found lots of good tips and links to get organized and save money at the same time!

Maybe if I really, really work hard at this grocery budget thing, I won't have to take a hard look at my crafty budget. No. Please, no.

All's I can say is: Thank goodness blogging and blog reading are both free.


  1. I think that a lot of people are really having to tighten their belts this year. It's just one of those years where the economy isn't doing well and we're all suffering as a result. Good luck with your grocery planning!

  2. Hey! Thanks for the link, LS. And I love your blog picture.

  3. This evening I just dicovered your blog by random. I just read your last article. Here too, in France, we think more and more how to leave in an healthy and economic way of life. Now, we look at the gazoline price before to begin a travel (even a little) in the country , the taxes to take the highway....and so one. How to eat vegetables and fruits enough and don't spend too much money for that... I cook by myself in main :homemade for the bread, all dishes, "yogourt", pastries... I realize that it's a good way ;-)
    So, sorry for my little english, it was only some solidarity words :-)

  4. I hear you on all accounts listed! We have to pay our oil bill month by month all year and they call that a budget! Our son has his car at school, so that saves driving back and forth to get him. I had to turn over a new leaf with my husband and my diet as our blood work left something to be desired. The car insurance will go down a bit when your son hits 21.
    Our generation sure can't save diddly squat for our retirement.

  5. Between your post and an article I read on Fark, I completely rethought our monthly budget and although I have younger kids, it does effect what we can do as a family. I agree with your next post as well - We also need to throw caution to the wind and splurge now and then, spend time with the family and enjoy.

  6. I am going to look at all three of those sights. I MUST start being frugle - if I want to keep up these trips to Louisville to see my new grandbaby!