This is a guest post from my cousin, Mrs. Darling. It originally appeared on her site in a slightly different form.
The examples I give for living successfully on one income are real ways in which I make ends meet here at my home.
Every week my husband gives me an allotted amount of money to spend. This is not grocery money or money for bills. This is money for anything extra we might need or I might want; my hair appointments, nails, clothes, jewelry, decorative things for the house, etc. When that money is spent I never dip into the other funds although I have access to all our accounts.
My husband believes that a coat, a new pair of shoes, three pair of pants and five shirts are enough clothes to last the kids for half a year. In the fall and spring we all go as a family and purchase the clothes needed for those seasons. Yes, we buy them new, but on sale. Whatever other clothes the kids have I buy from my weekly allowance and believe me I do buy them more clothes!
At this point you probably expected me to say I shop at thrift stores. Actually I don’t. I hate thrift stores. I hate the stench and the grime. I hate the germs. I hate that some other kid has already worn out my kids clothes. I hate faded colors and balls on the clothes. [J.D.'s note: I, on the other hand, love thrift stores, and will continue to advocate their use.] I do, however, garage sale. It’s easier to find nice things at garage sales. Go to the pricey neighborhoods and you can find clothes barely worn or with the tags still on them. They are clean and smell fresh.
When my kids were babies and toddlers I bought almost all of their clothes at garage sales! But now that they are older I have problems finding anything. Little boys wearing a size 6, like my son, wear out their clothes so fast you can’t even find them at garage sales. Girls clothes my daughter’s size are either too immodest or have all sorts of sexual innuendoes written on them. I shop exclusively department store sales for the kids now.
I buy most of my kids clothes from the clearance sales at 50% off or less. By doing this I can get wonderful quality clothes that will last the season and never look like they were pulled from a rag bag.
To save wear and tear on the clothes and to save on the heating bill I dry almost all my clothes either on the line outside or by hanging them on door frames and clothes racks. Towels are about the only thing that don’t get hung up. I hate wrinkly scratchy towels. I put fabric softener in all my wash loads except the towels. I need the towels to actually soak up water not have everything slide off of them like they will do if fabric softener is used. Hanging the clothes keeps them from shrinking in the dryer heat and it also keeps the colors bright and vibrant. I never hang colored clothes in the full sun.
We heat the water in our kids swimming pool by solar heat. We also do a good portion of the house heating by solar. All of it used to be heated by the sun including the hot water until we tore things up to remodel. My husband has designed the heating system in the house in such a way that the water is heated in solar panels then pumped to a holding tank in the garage. In the winter we turn the valve on the solar and the water is rerouted to pipes in the back of the wood stove where it is heated and is then stored for use-again in water tanks.
My husband has also designed a little door to open high on the wall above the sun room when the temp in the sunroom hits 72 degrees. The door opens and turns on a fan that automatically blows the warm air into the house. When the temp in the solarium reaches 70 the fan turns off and the door shuts over it. When I don’t want the fan to come on, like on these hot days, I just flip the switch on the wall and it keeps it from opening up. This keeps our heating bill down to almost nothing.
Every bathtub, shower, and sink have energy saving faucets on them. Almost all our lights have dimmer switches on them. Although we have natural gas for heating we never use the gas furnace to heat the house. I said never. And I truly mean that. We use the wood stove and the above mentioned sunroom. We live by an unwritten rule that the furnace does not get turned on for any reason. Now admittedly our winter temps don’t get as low as some of you folks but we do wake up to mornings of solid ice outside. How do we deal with those temps? We pile more wood on the fire. Wood is plentiful in the Pacific Northwest so it’s not like we have to pay an arm and a leg for it. In fact we could actually get it free if we needed to. The upstairs addition to the house is heated by hot water that right now is heated by the natural gas. When we are finished with the remodel the hot water for the heat upstairs will be heated by the sun and the wood stove.
We operate two freezers for food storage. My husband does all the grocery shopping because I positively cannot shop as cheap as he can. He watches sales like a hawk. His commute home from work takes him across town. He “coupons his way home” in the evening that way he never has to go out of his way to hit the sales.
Canning your own food is really not a money saving investment anymore. If you want to can your own food than do it for the taste quality rather than the savings. The only way you can save by canning is if you grow your own fruits and vegetables. We grow a large portion of our food. I have all the blueberries, grapes, apples and plums I need for an entire years worth right in my back yard. I make my own salsa and tomato products and can my own peaches and pears. But again, the peaches and pears are not economical really because they’ve gone up considerably in price the last few years. I always get a chuckle out of someone telling me they’re going to start saving money by canning. You can get your food far cheaper at canned grocery outlets or bent and dent type stores.
I grow my own herbs and what I don’t grow I buy by the bulk. Oregano by bulk is .20 a pound. You pay eight or ten bucks for a few ounces in the jar. You will find this true of all spices. If you buy bulk there is no reason not to have your cupboards stocked with all manner of wonderful seasonings and spices to help make your meals special.
Baking your own breads and pastries is still a wonderful way to save money. Unlike canning, you actually can come out ahead by baking. Bake and make as much stuff from scratch as you can. Your bank account will thank you. I even make my own hamburger and hotdog buns. Why not? I’m putting my own home canned ketchup and relish on them so why shouldn’t the buns be homemade? They’re easy to do and very economical.
Buy all your kids toys at garage sales. To buy them new is foolishness. Kids tire of toys so easily that you can find them like new at yard sales. My kids get new toys at Christmas otherwise it’s garage sale stuff. I have never yet had a child cry from disappointment because his toy wasn’t new! Do not buy dollar store toys. They are cheap and only clutter up the toybox. Most of the time they will break before your child even gets them home. A bargain is not always a bargain.
I buy all my gift bags, tissue wrapping paper, tea light candles and party supplies at the dollar store. They are good for those disposable items only. If you buy anything other than consumable things at dollar stores you’ve pretty much wasted your dollar.
Oh my, I could go on and on. Instead I’ll open this up for questions. If there’s anything else you want to know feel free to ask me in the comments. I’m so out of time!