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I don’t know about you, but we definitely have to curb our expenses. I took a drastic pay cut when I took on my job as a Stay at Home Momma. I went from making money to not making money! We are running our household on half the income we once had. That requires some serious changes to our budget, expenses and spending.

Considering I used to conduct seminars on budgeting and saving, it’s a little ridiculous that I find this task so challenging!

When I was in my early twenties, I had an apartment, worked two jobs and went to school full-time. I made one or two meals that I ate all week. I went six months without cable and then I upgraded to the basic cable, with like 10 channels for $12 bucks a month. I drove a mile to 10 miles to work and gas was cheap then! I had a cell phone and home phone. The cell was just basic, used for emergencies away from home, no texting or internet. I made calls on Sundays from the home phone for 5 cents a minute to keep the cost down. I had one credit card with a $200 limit that I paid off diligently. I used the computers on campus and TALKED to people one on one not online. Back then, I didn’t have ugly student loans or responsibilities beyond myself! Ah, the good old days!

Now, I sit with a big list in front of me and try to figure out where I can cut. Where I used to make do with little in my twenties, I have discovered that now there is no option for “little”, it’s either “all” or “nothing”. We certainly did our darndest trying to figure out how to cut expenses.

First was the cell phone bill. We need the cell in the case of emergency with Delainie, otherwise, I’d throw it out the window. Anyway, we lowered our minutes and discontinued our friends and family plan. The only way you can get friends and family, which is unlimited calling to those you talk to most, is by having a higher minute plan. If you have a lower minute plan, you don’t qualify for friends and family. I think to myself, “uh, I need friends and family if I have 400 minutes a month, so I don’t waste those 400 minutes talking to my parents all the time, I don’t need it if I have 4000 minutes, who am I gonna call in addition to my friends and family and use up 4000 minutes?” This is capitalism at it’s best, folks! I am stuck. If you exceed minutes, holy cramoley! That is not an option. So, we reduced our minutes, discontinued friends and family perks and planned to watch our usage. Overall savings of about $10 a month. Good grief! That’s not helpful.

And of course, so many folks are just disconnecting their home phone and going with cell phones. I need a landline available in case my phone dies, is lost or signal is out. So, we pay every month for peace of mind to have a landline. That, for us, is a non-negotiable.

It just wasn’t this complicated 15 years ago. At the risk of sounding inept, I feel like you need a research degree and a swindling mind to figure out how to save money when it comes to service these days.

Once you cut a single service, a domino effect takes place and you are not saving as much money as your originally planned. After our futile attempt to lower the cell phone, we decided to try out luck at lowering the cable bill. I’m not sure why we thought we’d do better there, but we gave it a shot.

Our cable was $95, Internet $45 and phone was $60. When we discussed with them why the charges were so high, they said, “after the combo special expires all services are a la carte and you no longer get discounts for having all services with us”. So, we said, “okay”. We shopped around and found cable for less and home phone for less than our current “a la carte” charges. We made the change and thought, “A-ha!!” However, somehow, they failed to mention and we were too naieve to ask one important thing. They bump charges on their “a la cart” services if you get rid of one or more. Sigh.

I know, it’s all so silly. If you need to save money you do what you gotta do. We have choices and if we don’t feel the cost is worth the service or good, we don’t need to have it. But, we have, sadly, settled into these lives that function with these goods and services. We pay bills online, look up recipes, get coupons online, watch educational TV shows with Delainie, call long distance, travel with our cell phones and their google map option so we can reroute when stuck in traffic. It’s overwhelming to figure out how to leave all of that behind.

The struggle is with prioritizing all these wants and needs and finding a balance of saving money and finding some enjoyment too. In all of the budgeting and savings seminars I conducted over time, I always told folks that you set yourself up for failure if you try to make changes that are too extreme. It’s best to take baby steps. Just like dieting, if you deprive yourself of everything, you will binge and then be in a heap of trouble.

So, I have found that I can still control some of our expenses without driving myself crazy. I have decided to focus on my grocery bill and my gas consumption.

Every week I view the sale papers and review recipes. I create a menu of dinners and lunches for the week. Then I make a grocery list based on that prep work. I clip coupons and use them for items that are on sale and on my list. None of the extreme couponing here, folks. If the coupon wants me to buy three but I only NEED one, I get one and forget the coupon.

I am careful to make a meal list that is not too challenging. For instance, I do not put things like Beef Wellington on the list every day. Some days I put grilled cheese and soup. I purchase my groceries according to the “list”. Deviation from the “list” is a sure fire way to bust a budget. I stopped stocking my pantry with items that are “on sale”. I inventory my pantry and once a month or every other month I will shop the sale items to stock in the pantry.

I have been very successful in this endeavor. I have been saving about $30-$60 a week on grocery expenses and we have been eating out way less. I have made a rule that if we don’t eat leftovers the next day for lunch then we need to freeze them. If I make a large meal, I split it and freeze it. Then, on Friday night when I don’t have energy to cook, I take out a “frozen dinner” and I am thrilled that we didn’t spend money on take out!!

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I used to make trips to Wegmans, about a half hour away. That is a gas expense of course. So, I’ve limited my Wegmans shopping to special occasions and I stay in town for my shopping. I also don’t go to various stores for their various sales. I pick the store with the best overall sales and stay there.

We were just blessed with the gift of an extra refrigerator and I am over the moon!!! I am working on stocking meals in the freezer and prepping and freezing fresh local veggies. I will have better food available for the winter months.

I am learning to save where I can and trying to find a balance for a few, uh, necessary luxuries! If you know tricks or tips on how to get those silly phone, internet and cable bills down, please share!! I won’t lie, I feel incompetent because every time I think I’ve got it figured out, they throw me for a loop. Such is life, I guess!

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