Budget Advice

Updated on March 22, 2010
R.D. asks from Lake Jackson, TX
19 answers

Hi Moms. I know we are all feeling the pinch with the increase in prices in EVERYTHING, however I was specifically wondering if any of you have have survived on about $70 a week for a family of four? After working out our budget with the increase in gas and electricity etc... we will have about that much to buy all of our food and household items (paper towels, toilet paper, light bulbs etc... but not gas, or baby stuff). If I want to continue to stay home with my kids (and I really, really, really do) then I really need to make this work. Any advice would be so helpful. We have already cut out all eating out, coffees,treats, and new clothes so I really need some ideas on cutting down food costs. I know we are all being affected by the economy right now so even knowing I'm not alone in this struggle will help. Thanks so much.

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J.S.

answers from Killeen on

I love the advice you've received so far! AND I've read Total Money Makeover, too.

Have you thought of working from home? I actually left my corporate job 3 years ago to work form home. It was a huge financial impact initially, but it's amazing what you can learn to live without when money is tight. You can also make extra money by selling things you don't NEED (and don't have sentimental value). I've made money on ebay and craigslist and garage sales, too. A $100 here and there helps!

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M.S.

answers from San Antonio on

I cook a lot of meals like my grandmother used to cook...ones that really make food go further. Like meatloaf, you can add a lot of filler (crackers/bread crumbs) to make the meat go farther...salmon croquettes (one can of salmon) can feed the whole family (once again those fillers)...pastas are cheap and go far...beans and rice go a long way. Stuffed bell peppers when they are on sale...I can make four of them with half a pound of ground meat. Frozen store brand veggies are second best to fresh.

Oh, this might not be an option for you, but we have a garden and for about $20 to $30 in plants and seeds we have whole seasons of vegetables and fresh spices. Right now we have tomatoes coming out our ears, basil, rosemary, thyme, snap peas, zucchini, squash, mint, and blackberries. In the fall we have lettuce, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, arugula, more squash, etc. My husband helps me out doing on line research on when we should plant each item and then the kids and I go water them and pick the veggies...oh we had carrots last year and so many onions it was unreal. We also grow cilantro, oh and peppers.

It is getting tougher and tougher to make that money go as far!! Filling up my car with gas is over $70...one of my friends fills hers up now at half a tank, so she is only spending about $30 at a time...she says it makes her feel better. She still spends the same amount each month it just feels better at the time to only spend $30 dollars.

Well, I have rambled on...sorry...{{{hugs}}}

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J.B.

answers from Houston on

Hey R.,
Well you have gotten lots of great ideas so I will throw mine in the hat. What has worked for us is book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. I am always talking about it on this message board but that is because it is so awesome! Basically it teaches you a system to plan a budget and pay off your debt. Ultimately what is so hard for so many of us is that such a big chunk of money is servicing debt, cars and our homes. So many of us don't get to actually use our paychecks! Anyway it helps you to get a realistic budget as well. We are attacking our debt through a "debt snowball" system and we have a budget that allows for haircuts, going out once a week, clothing etc. Now granted, I found someone to cut my hair for around $20, so you can always cut back wherever you want to, but when we need clothes or a birthday gift for someone we have the money in the budget. Anyway, I would advise checking it out. You can look at the book at Barnes and Noble or check out Dave Ramsey online. It is not any get rich quick scheme, no investing for riches etc. It is a simple plan to help you get out of debt and plan for the future. What we do to ensure that we still enjoy life is when we pay something off we reward ourselves. ex. We are about to pay off our truck, so we will take or debt money for two months and save it and buy a bedroom set. That way we still get to plan for buying what we need or taking a trip etc. But we never do it without it being a reward and our budget is not affected. Anyway, it does take planning and patience, but you can have the things you want and don't have to live in a scarcity mentality. I shop for what we need because we have a reasonable grocery budget, but I don't go over it. Anyway, I am going too long! Check it out if you like, and if you have any questions feel free to message me. This really changed our lives financially and everyone I know who is on it or has done it says the same! Best wishes whatever you decide!!

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B.P.

answers from Houston on

I just wanted you to know you are not alone. Most of my suggestions have already been mentioned. We used tons of coupons, Angel Food Ministies and the crock pot. I found a good crock pot web site that I'll post: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/ . That ususally stetches your $$ by feeding your family more than once.

I know a lady that feeds a family of 5 on $50 a week. She uses something called http://www.thegrocerygame.com/. In theory the way it works is: if you purchase the items they have on sale for 3 months, even if you don't need them that exact moment, that you will have a full pantry at reduced prices. If you have ever noticed, the grocery stores put things onn sale in cycles during 3 month periods. The Grocery Game uses this plus manufacturers coupons together to get a lot of free or almost free stuff. Check it out. It may work well for you.

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K.B.

answers from Houston on

Hi R.-

You've already been giving a lot of good advice, so I just have one more thing to add. Look at everything that you buy that ends up being thrown away after use and look for something reusable to replace it with. For example, instead of using paper towels for drying hands or cleaning the house, how about using clothes that can be washed and reused? Do you use plastic baggies or brown lunch bags for sack lunches or leftovers in your fridge? Use tupperware and reusable lunchbags instead.

As far as grocery shopping goes, you might already do this but each week I sit down with the ads for the 3 major grocery stores near me. I make a list for each store based on their best deals. I then match up my coupons with each list. For me, two of the three stores are right across the street from each other so it's not a problem to hit both stores to get the deals. The 3rd one is further away so I plan that trip for a time when I will be in the area for something else. I have a second refrigerator/freezer so I can stock up when there is a particularly good deal.

Also like the other mom said, plant a garden if you can. It will help with budget and it's a lot of fun for the kids to watch things grow.

Good Luck,
K.

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K.N.

answers from Austin on

There was a story a few weeks ago on NPR about coupon websites. Check out this archive of the story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9234... It mentions a lot of different resources available to help stretch your budget by using coupons and the "tricks" for coupons.

Goes without saying that certain items should stay out of your shopping cart because they boosts your grocery bill higher... alcohol and tobacco. Easy to dismiss tobacco if you and your DH are not smokers, but you should also nix beer and wine... and that includes all fixings for margaritas...

You can always use white distilled vinegar as a cleaning solvent instead of windex & 409 type products. Cost per liter of vinegar should be cheaper than cleaning supplies.

And stop using the clothes dryer as much; hang wet clothes outside. Shouldn't take long for it to dry in this darn texas heat! That should help on your electric bill. Same with dish washer--although with 2 small kids at home, you might need to use your appliances just to preserve your sanity!

I thought a while about your question and honestly, it struck me as odd that you feel you have a choice in whether you work or stay home... With the current cost of full-time daycare for 2 children, can you afford to go back to work? Do you have free childcare available... Like, a friend or relative who is willing to watch your kids for free?? Otherwise, you would need to pull in a salary that, after taxes, covers the daycare costs plus a few thousand for the additional cost of gas, car maintenance, work clothes, formula, etc.-and that's just to break even.

The only other thought I have to pass on is, wow... $70 per week equals just under $3700 a year or $10 a day... $3 for each meal to feed a family of 4?! How much savings are you and your husband able to put aside right now? You should have at least enough in savings to cover the mortgage for 3-4 months, plus a thousand in the event your car and refrigerator break during the same month. Because all it takes is your husband to get laid off or injured... if he lost his job, what a pickle you'll be in! It sounds like you're already living paycheck to paycheck... Sweetie, you really need to figure out a way to work from home or do something that will bring in a second source of income for your family. You're in a very precarious financial situation, especially in this economy.

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L.H.

answers from San Antonio on

Leftovers!

Recently, we got a brisket for $12, and yes, I know that sounds like alot of money, but we have gotten 4 meals out of it, and that's feeding teens even! My fiance and I both cook(alright, he's a chef!) and we can get very creative with food. Sometimes spending a little extra on one item can end up saving you money in the end. A larger piece of meat can stretch if you work it. A meat loaf made with a pound of hamburger feeds us twice...meatloaf the first night and grilled meatloaf/cheese sandwiches the next night(those are a favorite here), paired with some tomato soup, it's a steal!

Sometimes those prepared meals can be great too, for about $3, you can get a Betty Crocker boxed meal, throw some frozen veggies in another pan and there's dinner for under $4 total.

Another recommendation? Check out freecycle.org. for a group in your area. Everything is free, that's the deal. You can get everything from electronics to food, coupons, etc. I've seen offers for free formula, formula coupons, diapers, etc. It's actually a recycling based group, formed to keep folks from throwing away everything and instead giving it to someone else who might need/want/be able to fix/etc. A friend of mine turned me on to it and she actually made some friends who had kids, and the whole group of moms ended up recycling toys and clothes together, saving bundles of money that way!When one kiddo outgrew something, it went to the next mom, then on to the next, etc.

Good luck! and I know you can do it, because I did it as well when my kids were little!

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Y.A.

answers from San Antonio on

I feel your pain. I am on the same boat except I am still working, trying to pay off some debt before quitting work to stay at home. With my last paycheck, I decided to hand it over to my mother (it's a long story and insignificant to this response)hoping that it would be a practice run for when I do quit work to see if we are in fact going to make it on my husband's income. Well, even though he brings home a good income, our debt exceeds it. Unfortunately, I have come to the realization that I am the one that has gotten us into that debt and now I have to work until I pay most of it off. Anyway, the reason I wanted to respond is to let you know that you are definitely not alone. For the last two weeks, without my paycheck, we were forced to live off off $150 for gas and groceries each week. Now, we only have one child and a dog so actually we are a family of four because I am still having to pay for dogfood, which i had to include in the budget. It is very scary, to say the least, and frustrating. I wish you the best of luck and please know that NO, you are not alone!!!

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A.H.

answers from San Antonio on

Hi R..
My name is Emily H. and I'd love to share a wonderful opportunity with you.
Please check out our website: www.advocare4champs.com
as well as www.presentation4women.com
As for cutting down on food costs, try googling "eating on a budget". I'm sure lots of good information will be there. Also, maybe check into a food pantry (where food is given to needy families; found in many churchs). I'd also check on whether or not you qualify for food stamps and/or the WIC progam. (stands for women, infants and children). It enables you to have access to some food staples like cheese, milk and formula. You are definitely NOT alone in this struggle. I hope you can stay home with your kids; that's so awesome that you've been able to do that. Please consider checking out those websites; this opportunity has helped many stay at home Moms in the same situation you're currently in.
Hope this helps.
Emily H.

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A.P.

answers from Austin on

You've gotten some great advice so far!
I'd just like to add that you can eliminate baggies, paper towels, etc. from your home and save tons! We also refill our soap dispenser only half way and the other half with water - makes it last longer. Vinegar, bleach and windex are pretty much the only cleaning products I buy besides dish soap/dishwasher soap and laundry stuff. I have tile floors and don't even use a mop anymore. I take a wet towel and walk on my floors - makes the grout stay cleaner longer too!

I love to shop the "reduced for quick sale" meat section at the grocery store. I stock up when I can on those things. For example, last Tuesday was the last day of our local Randalls ad. Well, the ad had stawberries for $1.47/lb. Well, by Tues. night all the strawberries they had were gone and the boy was restocking with fresh, huge strawberries, but I got them at the sale price because the ad was still good. They had also reduced a lot of meat that didn't sell over the weekend and I got about 2 weeks worth of meat for $28! So I say, learn about your local grocery store - ask the butcher when they clearance the meat and go check out what you can stock up on!

When I was in a real pinch - I used Angel Food Ministries almost exclusively. Here's how: the menus provide you basically a weeks worth of food for $30. You'll still need to add a few things like bread or milk or cheese and veggies, but the bulk is there. Order 4! Yes, you'll eat the same thing each week, but some creativity will shake things up.

Best of luck to you sweetie! Hang in there! :)

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J.H.

answers from Austin on

You can also check out The Coupon Mom website www.couponmom.com (I think that's the website). It has lots of free stuff you can get and looks at grocery store sales and connects them with coupons to get stuff really cheap. I use The Grocery Game www.thegrocerygame and it works, just takes about 3 months of stocking your pantry before you start seeing real savings.

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B.R.

answers from San Antonio on

Your best advice would come from Dave Ramsey!! Go get his bok The Total Money Makeover. It has saved me and my husband. You could even call into his show and he will tell you what to do. He is really good. He is not in it to make money. He will even tell you not to buy the book. I will give it to you! I really mean it. Dave Ramsey will save you!!

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K.K.

answers from Houston on

I can't afford to stay at home myself, but on your budget you can use any advice you can get.

A few things we do to save money:

Have a garage/yard sale periodically to get some cash - w/ kids you always have toys, clothes they outgrow that you can sell.

Coupons - live off whatever happens to have the coupons out that week, or on sale. I almost never buy anything that is full price. I watch the clearance racks like a hawk (Target is great for these) :)

For a night out treat, we go to places that have kids eat free - there are some websites listed in the business review section of mamasource, I think, or google "Kids eat free." On other nights, my kids are picky, skimpy eaters anyway so we buy one kids meal and they split it - it is wasteful to buy them each a meal anyway b/c they never eat it all, my kids eat about half anyway so why waste money and food? Bring home your own leftovers which usually are enough for another meal so it makes it more cost effective to allow yourself out every once in a while. Also, my kids rarely eat much of their side items so I feel free to just order my main course and eat their veggies. Hey, I paid for it, can't let it go to waste!

Use the library for entertainment, or the $1 redbox video rentals when you need to spend money for a movie. If you have a neighborhood pool, kids can go there practically every day for free recreation.

Hope this helps. Oh, and my kids LIVE off peanut butter practically (on crackers, bread, toast, etc.) and it is nutrition on the cheap. Rice, beans, noodles, mac and cheese, anyone? :)

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H.P.

answers from Houston on

I buy bathroom tissue once a month or so because I buy it in big bulk when I see a good price (4 toilets, so I have to be watchful!). This way it's not part of my weekly budget. We buy the folded paper towels from Sam's. They're the ones with the "flaps" folded over on either side. The quality is good, and we don't have to worry about shopping for them for a few months at a time. Also, I use my paper towels over and over. Example: When I wash my hands, I hold on to the paper towel after drying, using it for when I eat or need to wipe something up. That might help you go a little further with them.

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J.S.

answers from Houston on

$70 a week is TIGHT! But here's one thing that might help:

Angel Food: www.angelfoodministries.com
They sell boxes of food at wholesale. You can find a sponsor church in your area. It's for families of any income level. You could probably take a small portion out of each week to set aside to place orders.

Other than that, just the usual advice. Plan your meals, use coupons when you can, but only on things you'd buy anyway. Buy store-brand.

And it may be worth it for you to look into something you can do as a stay-at-home mom to earn just a little extra money to supplement the food budget. Maybe mystery shopping? I know a lot of direct-sales companies have start-up costs, but mystery shopping usually doesn't if you're going through a legit company. Or maybe take in a child for a few hours a week to earn some babysitting cash. Just some ideas.

Good luck!

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L.F.

answers from Austin on

I totally understand.
I cut anywhere I could. Do you have cable? Call them and see if there is a cheaper bundle. Do you use disposable diapers? Switch to cloth, it saves us about $75 a month. Call your insurance company to see if you qualify for any additional discounts. Call credit card company to get interest rates down.
Go to the dollar store for paper towels and household stuff.
I know it's not specifically cutting food costs, but doing all the above mentioned saved our family a lot of money.

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M.B.

answers from Houston on

The Grocery Game for sure!!! Check it out online, it's worth it and it works, trust me!!

We are all in the same boat, regardless of income,things are crazy right now, so, you are not alone girl!!

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B.M.

answers from Houston on

I can totally relate. Check out this website. It's great and helped me a ton! Some of it is extreme, but there is still a bunch of good information. Good luck

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/index.htm

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A.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi R.D.

If you're looking for advice on the regular, I would recommend checking out blog.greensherpa.com It's the accompanying blog to a personal finance website, and they offer a lot of great tips. The company's COO, who's a mother herself, wrote a great post the other day about the struggles of being a mom and entrepreneur. http://blog.greensherpa.com/index.php/personal-finance/pi...

Hope this helps, and I hope you get as much out of this blog as I do!

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