Friday, January 7, 2011

Coping with Less Cash

This post comes as we round the bend for 11 months of unemployment in the last year.  This is the 3rd year in a row that we have been unemployed for a time, my husband's industry being very hard hit by the recession.  But this is the longest stretch by far.  It has taught us a few things about coping that I want to share here.  This post will be most useful to those who live in my same area, but I am sure there are similar things everywhere, if you know where to look for them.

I want to list some things that we have found to stretch all the dollars even more.  Getting creative and gaining knowledge are two principles of survival here.  Every thing you learn that you can apply to coping gives you ability and security.  Knowledge is power.  Creativity is the frosting on all of that.  Ask your brain a question and give it time to respond, you will be surprised what you come up with.  Also pray.  The Lord has helped us so much, and we are grateful and acknowledge his hand in our lives.

Grocery Stores: Use coupons on top of sale prices.  Adjust your eating to what is on sale.  But also know where the store puts everything they are discounting and check out the deals each time you go.  My store has a rack for day old bakery items, a cart for non-grocery clearance, and a special sticker they use on the close dated dairy, meat, and deli items.  My big family can plow through any close dated items, or many of them can be frozen, so I never hesitate to buy them.  Sometimes I have a coupon to use on clearance items, then the discount gets deep.  We love the day old bread store.  I go once in a while and fill my freezer with bread and buns for half of what you usually pay.  Also, if you have animals to feed, you can buy the 3 day old bread by the truck load for animal feed.

Freecycle:  This is a community web site where you sign up to offer and accept free items.  It is great!  If you have furnishings or clothing you would like to see used by others, you offer it here.  If you need an item you can request it and see if someone in the community has one for you.  It keeps these things out of the land fills and can be a great boon to those strapped for cash.

Paperback Book Swap: I can't really go long without buying a biggest weakness.  So I have loved being part of this online community!  I list ten books I am willing to trade and I instantly get 2 credits to order a book from another member.  Then, every time I successfully mail out a book, I get a credit for another book.  All postage is paid by the person doing the mailing.  I have been able to keep books rotating through my home for a few dollars at a time.  Most books ship for $2-$3.  You can also sign up to swap CDs and DVDs this way.

Zenni Optical:  This was recommended to us by two different parties, but we were still a bit worried buying glasses online; however, everything was wonderful!  My daughter broke her glasses playing volleyball and we were able to get two new pair, with the special lenses and coatings our optometrist suggested for $34 shipped! Wow!

Netflix: My husband used to buy a movie a month, just because he wanted to see it.  Many of them were not a show we would watch over and over, so I felt this was a huge waste.  Netflix has been a good answer for us.  For the price of one movie ticket a month, we get to see the new releases.  Even if the nine people in our house only watched one movie from Netflix each month, it would be worth our basic subscription.  They also have a nice service where you can put your account on vacation for up to three months at a time, so when the dollars are really tight, we go without for awhile.

Savers on Mondays:  We have a local thrift store called Savers.  Every Monday they have a 99 cent sale where they put their oldest merchandise on sale for 99 cents.  They have a large selection of clothing and this is where I go if we have specific needs.  It is particularly useful for women's jeans, as they get a large selection and I can usually find a few pairs that work well each time I go to look.  Savers also has a 50% off sale around many holidays.

Free haircuts at Supercuts:  Supercuts puts all of their newly-hired stylists through a training/testing for several days.  At this time, all of the haircuts are free, they are looking for models to work on.  I happen to live right next to one of these training locations, but I am sure they are found where ever the chain has stores.  You sign up on the list and wait your turn, so it can take time, but you can't beat the price!  This is another area where learning can help.  You can buy a set of hair clippers for about $12-$15 at Walmart.  It is not hard to learn to cut hair for little boys (it is just hard to keep them still!).  I cut hair for my husband and my boys, and take myself and the girls in for the freebies periodically.  In our area, check craigslist for advertisements on when they are doing the next round of free cuts.

Trading Services:  Usually I think of this with babysitting, but my husband has offered to swap hours of his labor for car repairs and plumbing work.  Look on your local Craigslist under barter, or talk around your neighborhood.  I recently heard of a lady trading housecleaning for piano and violin lessons for her children. I know my mom used to help make dance costumes for part of my dance lessons price.

Look for Local Help:  Even if you can't trade services, many times you can get a deal on what you need if you do a little sleuthing.  There are several good mechanics in my neighborhood, and they are cheaper than using the shop.  If I can work around their schedules, I can get a good deal, and they make a bit of extra money too.  Makes everyone happy.

Craigslist: Already mentioned a couple of times, this is a great place to buy and sell used items, connecting up with others trying to do the same, is half the battle.  If you are in Utah, you can also use ksl classifieds.

Time Instead of Money:  This Christmas, many of the gifts I gave out were hand made.  I have time, and materials, but no extra money.  Works for birthday parties too.  This is another area where what you know helps you out.

Local Library:  Where would we be without it?  I love the books, movies, CDs and audiobooks we get here.  Ours has a large county system we can make requests from and several locations to choose from.  I find it works best if I go once a week.  That allows me to keep track of everything, because fines are what we are trying to avoid!

Yard Sales: O, that the summer months were here always!  I love to buy clothing at yard sales.  So often I get what I need for 25-50 cents an item.  You have to look ahead.  The children will always grow.  Our rule of thumb is to only keep things they can use in the next year or two.  But high ticket items like coats and boots are worth keeping for a while if you got them for a song.

What Goes Around, Comes Around:  If we have things we are no longer using, we take the time to pass them on to other families that can use them.  This means sorting out the worn out and cleaning or even mending, but if I give it away, I find things tend to show up at my house when we need them.  It also creates a sense of community when you are watching out for one another.  (Clipart by KarensWhimsy)

Express Gratitude:  We have been helped on all sides by many loving, helping hands to get through both the financial and emotional trials that come with unemployment.  So many times, I wish I could do for others what they are doing for me, but I trust someday my turn to help will come.  In the meantime, all I can do is say thanks.  Thanks for sharing, for taking time, for being true friends, for withholding judgement, for phone calls and anonymous donations.  We are grateful for angels seen and unseen that remind us of God's love. Thanks.

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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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