Living Expenses

Updated on February 28, 2011
B.H. asks from Dallas, TX
41 answers

I am a stay at home mom with 3 kids under 4 and am struggling with paying the bills. I recently refinanced my mortgage and now pay $2000/month including taxes and ins. I would like to downsize but can't sell my house in this market. My husband brings home $4100/month after taxes, health ins, and only 3% 401K contributions. So after our mortgage payment that leaves us with $2,100/month for day to day expenses. We thought it would be enough and we're very frugil but can't seem to get our spending below this amount. I'm just wondering if others are able to live off this amount. Is this considered low income or is this a decent income and maybe we just need to find more ways to spend our money even better.

More info about us:
We are lucky to not have any debt "yet". We have a little bit of savings from when I stopped working. We are digging into this savings and will run out soon if we don't change our ways. We know we should sell our house but we will probably owe more then it's worth (due to market) and that is even if we can sell our house. So right now I think we need to wait a couple years till the market picks back up. We just need to find ways of making the $2,100 we have left after the mortgage payment work. I appreciate all the suggestions so far and will definately look into those. Of this $2,100 we tried to budget about $550 for grocery, $250 household/diaper/baby items, $250 utilities, $250 car payment, $250 gas for car (my husband drives a lot for work), $100 car ins, $90 tv/internet, $90 cell phone (we don't have LAN line), $50 doctor/pharmacy, $50 car maintanence, $50 kids activities, $120 preschool, $50 personal care (we are thinking of cutting our own hair), $50 clothing, $50 toys/gifts. So this adds to about $2250. We also go beyond this since we always seem to have unexpected expenses.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all the advice! It made me realize that there are ways to save and I just need to get used to living off less. I think we'll get rid of cable and I actually think it will be a good thing since tv is such a waste of time and we as a family can read more books. I do shop and get kids clothes for $4 an item by going to Kohls and Carters and using coupons. However, I think I may shop garage sales and get these same items for $1 an item. Shoes though I have to buy new. My husband said he'll cut the kids hair and with the weather being nice we can just do it outside to not have the mess. There are so many activities in the summer we can do for free that this category for now can be almost $0. We are also going to be very cautious about using electricity and also turning off lights when we don't need it. I am going to try angel food ministries that someone told me about and we may even be able to take $100 or so off our groceries. I do already shop at Woodmans and Meijers for groceries. I also shopped around for car insurance and am going to switch to a cheaper plan that will save $30/month. When my cell contract ends I will swith to a cheaper company. With all these small endevours I bet we can save a lot of money. I will definately check out the Dave Ramsey book everyone is recommending! Thanks again for all the advice!

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J.G.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Have you considered trying to work from home? There are lots of ways that you can work from home, brining in either a supplemental income or even replacing a full corporate income. I work from home, and right now since I just started I'm brining in a supplemental, but my goal is to work towards completely replacing what I made before I came home to stay with my kids. If you're at all interested, I can give you some more info, if you'd like. www.workathomeunited.com/joycita or [email protected]____.com I've really liked the cahnce to work from home, so far.
J.

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C.H.

answers from Chicago on

Don't forget about CVS and their extracare bucks and they do take competitor's coupons. In the last 3 years, CVS has paid me to fill my perscriptions. Whenever I see a prescription coupon the paper (Meijer/Dominicks/Target/Walgreens), I clip it. Most coupons are for $20.00, but from time to time, I'll see one for $25.00-$30.00. I have well over $150.00 in CVS gift cards now. I also do their extracare bucks and only buy items if they are free or almost free with coupon.

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D.D.

answers from Chicago on

I help my young parents all the time with stretching the budget. It's not that hard to do when you are only looking at about $200-$300 to make the difference. Thanks. D. D.

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A.M.

answers from San Francisco on

Sweetie if I made as much as you guys we would be sooooo happy! Right now we live on $2100 a month if that! We have rent, food, car, insurance, diapers, baby food/formula, utilities, phone, gas, doc copays, car maint, and many others! We find a way to make it every month! Its hard, but if my family can make it on what you have left after morgage then I am sure you can find a way to budget more! Me and my husband both work so we also have daycare to deal with as well... We are a family of 4 with 2 kids under 2 and me going to school... Maybe you could try finding a better utility company, that helped my SIL a little and my MIL. Kids don't need to have money spent on activities bc the summer has lots of free things for kids :) Also do the kids really need a new toy every month? Have you tried looking at resale shops? I buy almost brand new kid toys for real cheap at those stores. Also try getting coupons from the diaper and baby item websites! I live off coupons for diapers and formula, the good kind :) Use coupons for lots of things like shampoos and conditioners, soaps, foods, and you can find cheaper tv and internet... Check though ATT they have a few good deals. Try finding clothing at resale shops very cheap and almost brand new! Buy your meats when on sale and freeze them. Have you tried finding a cheaper home insurer? I know its in the bill, but my mom found a cheaper insurance for her house and saved about 400 a year! Good luck :) You can do this!

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R.P.

answers from Salt Lake City on

One thing you could do is write down everthing you buy for a month, everything. Write down Starbucks, 10-cent candies (are those still around), donations, all bills, I mean every last cent! Now sit down with it and see where you can trim your budget. Do you really need cable/sat tv? How fast does your internet connect really need to be? Can you trim you food budget by using coupons? (lots of good sites for coupons you can print)
I use coupons for everything I can. I don't even eat out unless I have a coupon. I don't have cable-never have. I do have semi-high speed internet which I need for my job. If I need something and can wait a bit for it, I check out freecycle, craigslist and a local media stations web site. I sell things my children have outgrown. It brings in a little money and cuts down on clutter. You can sell on Criagslist, ebay, amazon, maybe local classifieds. You can google ways to save money. You can buy used clothes for the children instead of buying new. Hand-me-downs are great if you can get them. I was getting hand-me-downs from my sister's son now I give my sons outgrown clothes to my nephew. Also, check out Dave Ramsey. There are so many success stories in his Total Money Makeover book it may give you inspiration and motivation. You can also listen to his radio show or check out his website. Good luck and don't forget to let us know how things go.
BTW
Great preschool program to do yourselfhttp://www.letteroftheweek.com/Preparatory.html
I don't know what activities your children do but mine do crafts. I never pay for craft supplies. I get all mine through Criagslist and freecycle. Haven't bought any for 2-3 years!

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J.M.

answers from Boston on

I'm in the boston area, and so I think our COLAs are probably about the same, and we're in pretty much the same boat, financially. In general, the breakdown of our monthly budget is:
$650 - groceries
$500 - needed non-food items (diapers, dog food, doctors co-pays, gas, etc)
$400 - "extras" - going out to eat, new clothes, beer/wine, activities for the kids, etc.
The rest goes to house payments, insurance, ultilities, car payments, a smidge to savings, etc.

We were also going over our monthly budget until we sat down, figured out this general plan, and committed to sticking to it. As other posters have suggested, writing down every expense really does help (my husband made a spreadsheet that automatically deducts from each column, so we can see how much we have left for the month).

While we could eliminate the "extra's" column and save more, I knew, like a diet, that if I was told I couldn't have anything, I would get tired of that an binge, which wouldn't be helpful. So we don't totally deny ourselves, we just have to keep it within our own limits.

That's it for us in general. If you'd like more info about how we stay in these boundries, feel free to message me privately. And good luck. I know how hard it is to try to really commit to a realistic budget.

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D.W.

answers from Indianapolis on

You've received good advice so far.

My only recommendations are to look at what are necessary expenses vs. unnecessary ones.

For us, necessary are mortgage, car payment, day care, groceries, utilities, toiletries, clothing for kids, gas, contributions to 401K and 529 accounts.

Unnecessary (I don't mean completely, but more luxury) are cable, going out to eat, activities for the kids.

If you can prioritize what is absolutely essential, it may be easier to budget.

This housing market stinks, and our house is worth less than we bought it for 6 years ago despite having refinanced last year as well. So, I hope things turn around there.

In our case, our incomes are much higher than the cost of day care, so it is a necessary expense for us at this time.
We try to save money by doing a lot of our shopping at Costco/Sam's Club and storing the extras in closets/freezer.
We try to purchase the kids clothes only during sales, only at stores that have high quality/lower cost (Kohl's, Target, Old Navy). Both kids have wide feet, so we have to spend more on shoes, but we try to get things like Crocs when we can on sale so they always have a pair to fit into.

I cut my kids hair (and my own until recently) to save those costs. My husband won't let me cut his despite doing a good job.

We tend not to go to movies, but like using Red Box and free On-Demand movies when possible. I brown bag at work as much as possible.

We've set $15 limits on gifts for birthday parties.
We're going to ask people not to bring them to our son's 4th birthday party in a few weeks - because we know what it's like to be on that side of the economy.
My family no longer exchanges gifts at Christmas (unless nominal in cost such as photos of the kids who they don't get to see often because of distance).

Believe it or not, getting a new car recently saved us $200/month on our payment. We are putting the savings into paying down our mortgage/car early and more into 529's.

Also, doing things like a Flexible Health Savings account - reimburses for copays, Rx costs, etc. can be a big savings because it's taken out pretax.

Another recommendation is to put AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE onto a credit card such as Discover that pays cash back. We put our cell phones, cable, groceries, day care, etc. onto our Discover, pay if off in full each month, and usually get a few hundred in cash back at the end of the year.

Good luck. Sorry for the long message - hope it helps.

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I.G.

answers from Seattle on

Like another mom said, you money is also about my take home income. I only have one child, but we pay ALL of our expenses from the $2400 I bring home. Including rent, utilities and EVERYTHING else.
You spend $200 a month on items that are luxuries. If we don't have the money we don't get haircuts, clothes or toys. Period.
I have a prepaid cell phone that I spend maybe $10 a month on and we have a broadband line for $25 a month.

I think your first step is to acknowledge that you don't have too little income, you are simply living beyond your means. Make a list of every single item that you buy for 2 weeks and look at it. Them go through it and mark everything that was either not absolutely necessary and every item where you spend money on a national brand, instead of buying off brand. I am SURE that you will find all kinds of ways to stick to your budget.

Good luck.

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A.S.

answers from Dallas on

I consider your husbands income to be a very decent income. My family of four lives off of about $2400 a month. Of course we live in different areas so your cost of living may be higher.

I'm sure that you can find stuff to cut out of your budget if you look at it hard enough. Write down everything you spend in a month and see if there is any unneccessary things you would be willing to cut out.

Check out Dave Ramsey's book Total Money Make Over it is a great tool to live within your means and save money. Also check out the forum http://www.livinglikenooneelse.com/forum/index.php? it is full of people who follow Dave Ramsey's plan. I have learned so many things from the people there.

If you really have cut out everything you can and you aren't comfortable with the amount of many you have to live off of look into other ways to make money. Check out www.makemoneyonline.tonoftips.net for some ways to earn online in your spare time.

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L.M.

answers from New York on

I really think the problem is your mortgage is way to high for your income, but since that can't be changed, you'll need to make cuts in other areas.

I think it's a good idea to keep track of every penny you spend for a month or two. By doing this you'll discover the things that you really don't need or can cut back on.

$50 for kids activities is the first thing. Do they need these activities? There are lots of things you can do that are free of charge, check out programs at the library, programs at the local park & rec, pack a picnic lunch and go to a lake/beach for the day.

$50 for clothing - ok the kids will need new shoes, but you and hubby probably don't need anything, and you can get the kids clothes on clearance racks, yard sales or consignment stores.

$90 seems really high for 2 cells phones. Maybe you should look into a plan that better suits your current needs.

$50 toys/gifts - ok every once in a while you need to purchase gifts, but I'm sure you don't need any more toys. Most kids have way too many.

Good luck.

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J.T.

answers from Dallas on

i don't think your income is your problem, your problem is that your mortgage is 50% of your take home pay! we bring in about $8K per month after taxes, health ins, 401K, etc. - and our mortgage is the same as yours, and i feel like it's too steep for us - we have our house on the market and are just waiting for the right buyer to come along... i'm not giving the house away or taking a loss on it, just waiting until we get a contract that will allow us to break even. in my opinion, you've got to find a way to bring in more income, or find a way to get out of your current living situation. do you have car notes? credit cards or other rotating debts? what do you spend per week/month on groceries? i'm an accountant and VERY budget conscious, i have helped a lot of my friends/family members work out realistic budgets for their situations - i actually enjoy doing it - if you give me an idea of your other bills(in a private message if you'd prefer), i'd be glad to give you some budget suggestions. also, look into coupon clipping and join the grocery game.

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G.R.

answers from Dallas on

i think is enough one time when i was pregnant and my husband was working very little time we survive with 2300 a month to pay everything include rent,bills,car,grocery is hard but we survive thank god,you need to make a budget you will made it

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G.G.

answers from Chicago on

Just a couple of things you may want to consider. As a single mom the first thing that went in my house was the cable tv. We don't even have broadcast tv. We have our library card that we use to rent videos and Books. We listen to quality programming (including unbiased and fully covered news) on our local public radio station. My boys are 12 and 8 and we've done this for 5 years now. My youngest doesn't even know who Oprah Winfrey is and my oldest is still trying to figure out who is P. Diddy. (That feels good)

Another thing you may want to consider is enrolling your pre-schooler in a free pre-school program offered by the Salvation Army. You may have to fudge a little by Not counting your husband's income, but if you want your little one to have the benefits of preschool without the costs, the Sal Army or similar organizations like Ada S McKinley offer free or extremely low cost preschool (low cost as in $30/month).

If your husband can telecommute from home even once a week that may help save on gas.

To pick up a little extra cash from time to time, you may want to also start participating in some focus groups/research studies. They're always looking for Mom's with young kids and you can walk away with anywhere from $50 to $100 cash for 1 or 2 hours of your time. These are easily found under the ETC. category on Craigslist.

Good luck and God Bless.
G.

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H.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

Try turning all that stuff they've outgrown into money at stores you always shop at, like Target and Walmart. Check out www.Zearly.com. You can have them come get your hand-me-downs and they'll give you points for anything that is still in good condition. You can use your points to buy other cloths or save them to get gift certificates to other great stores!

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J.C.

answers from Champaign on

You need to have a cash system. We take out cash for all of our non bill items each month and divide it into envelopes in our safe. (so we have a grocery envelope, we have a household envelope, a dining out envelope, an entertainment envelope, a random envelope, and several others). If there isn't any cash in the envelop then we don't spend the money. It is that simple, there is no such thing as going over each month. The envelopes for gifts, car maintenance etc. usually don't get spent out of each month so they start to gather money and there is enough in there if we need it for an "emergency" with the car or something.
Our take home after deductions from his check and rent is around 1900 so it is close to yours.

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M.D.

answers from Indianapolis on

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

Well you came to the right place. I was looking at your prices and budget and am just asking if you shop places like Aldi's, Cosco, Sam's club, etc. where you get lots more for your dollar. Except for pop at Sam's club. For some reason it is very expensive. Do you run out and shop a lot or do you do one big spree and work with what you have as far as cooking goes? Once a week is good. Do you stock up on milks when it is 1.99 a gallon somewhere or do you run behind and run to Jewel or Dominicks where it is almost $4.00 a gallon sometimes!! Canned soups and soaps are very cheap at Aldi's, cake mixes and awesome brownie mixes are great there, even coffee too (well we love Aldi's for just about everything).Do you cook a lot? Perhaps making several meats on a weekend will be helpful to spread out during the week in casseroles and tacos and sandwiches. And your house smells great all day. Invest in a crockpot or two and cook a beef and some pork in each at the same time, with spices on a slow cooker and your houe smells wonderful then. Skip lunch meats at Deli's like Dominicks and Jewel and go to the local fruit market and cultural stores.If you are a stay at home mom does your child need to be in preschool? Could you babysit? I know three kids is tough but perhaps what is one more...You cannot skip diaper items, but even your own female necessities can be found cheaper at a dollar store than a $7.00 box of tampons at Jewel.
Do you go to garage sales? That can be a family outing and there are always toys and clothes at those. We do cut our own hair so that is a savings and the thing we are all caught with is that tv/internet which seems to be a necessity these days. We pay too much for that. There are a lot of ways to save. It can be a challenge. There are bread stores and outlets all over the place (look it up). Some require a drive, but that's another family outing. Little ones don't really care what the next adventure is, so you can make this your adventure. A cheap or free one. Sounds like you are on the road to a great life. Enjoy the little ones they grow so quick.

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S.C.

answers from Fort Wayne on

That amount is about my husbands take home pay. Out of that money we pay rent, car payment, cell phone bill, groceries, internet, car and renters insurance, groceries, etc. I am a SAHM and I have 2 kids, 3 & 9 mos. It's tight, but we do it. We don't use credit cards at all. If we don't have the cash, we don't buy it. When we first cut up our cards it was a BIG shock. Now I don't even notice it. I save up for the things that we want. I buy clothes second hand or wait for a REALLY good sale. We buy all of our meat in bulk when it's on sale and freeze it. We rarely eat out.
The best thing to do is to keep a spending journal. Write down what you spend and where, including your bills. It will give you and idea of what you can cut out.

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L.B.

answers from Chicago on

B.,
As a stay at home Mom, did you ever give any thought to a homebased business. This will provide some added income and also provide a tax write off. This requires some contact with the outside by phone or when you shop, go to pre-school activities, etc. Homebased businesses are the next up and coming way to an income and wealth.

View this website for our product line which is Nutrition, Body Reshapers, and Skin Care. www.ardysslife.com/lljbcreativesolution

There is hope at the end of the tunnel, my homebased business has allowed my husband and I to meet monthly expenses.

L. ###-###-####

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J.S.

answers from Chicago on

We have a very similar situation with mortgage to income amounts. Here's my advice: Figure out a way to live with one car - it will save a huge chunk of money. I know it seems impossible, but it really isn't if you commit to making it work. Perhaps you could pay another preschool mom a small amount to drive your kid to and from? Ask husband to do a grocery shopping on his way home from work so you don't have to do that, or one day a week drive him to and from work so you can run errands and do doctor appointments on that day. Use cloth diapers - saves a bunch of money and really isn't all that difficult. Be really careful about keeping lights and tv off as much as possible to cut down on electric bill - it doesn't seem like much, but it all adds up. Get rid of the tv, internet, and cell phone. You can get a home phone line for about $12 per month and only use it for incoming calls. Get a prepaid cell phone and put the minimum on it for emergencies (T-mobile is I believe like $20 for 30 minutes that are good for three months). Cut out the kids activities and start doing free activities at home - make play doh, walk to the park, go on a scavenger hunt in the yard, etc. You can do it, but it does require some sacrifice. I recently wrote a blog about how we do these things at : http://urbansuburbanfamily.squarespace.com/home/2010/3/24....

Good luck!
J.

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K.B.

answers from Chicago on

Wow, a lot of people have all kinds of advice for you.

I'm just want you to know you're not alone - we're there too (but not for long!). Mortgage is too high for our income, "basic" expenses are eating up the rest of our income. We *do* have credit card, car, and student loan debt in the mix as well so it was basically looking like an uphill battle. We wanted to sell the house, but didn't think we could in this market and didn't want to leave our neighborhood anyway. Oh yeah, and I am also a SAHM of 4 and struggling to figure out how I can make this work.

I don't know what your faith background is, but I will offer what worked for us. I prayed. I prayed a lot. I prayed specifically that God would show us a way out of the mess we got ourselves into - that He would help us as we follow His plan for our lives. I got our priorities straightened out and looked to God for guidance to find a way out. And He is showing us.

My husband's company offered him a job that requires us to relocate. Every rough step of the process has been made smooth for us - we sold our house in less than a month and are moving when the school year is out. Where we are moving, the cost of living is less, the housing is less, the property tax is 1/10, and we are managing to get more house than we thought we could for a lower price. Not only that, but my husband got a raise in the process as well. If you were in this process you would know without a doubt that everything good that has happened is beyond good fortune and happenstance - it's God in and through it all.

So while all this advice is good, my advice is to pray about your situation and believe that God will answer.

Blessings to you and your family!

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J.P.

answers from Boise on

I haven't been in this situation, but have you tried writing everything down that you spend money on? When my husband and I decided to start paying down debt, it was amazing what we were able to cut out that we didn't even realize.

I just read Denise's response and we are paying down the debt with The Total Money Makeover. It is a good read and only about $10-15 if you can't find it in the library (there was a 40 person wait list when I looked for it!).

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J.M.

answers from Chicago on

Go to the library and get Dave Ramsey's Total Money Make Over.
It will show you exactly how to live on what you have and even save money in the process.

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S.H.

answers from Huntsville on

I bring home $2000/month from my full-time job. I get some extra $$ from freelance Web programming, but that comes in different amounts at different times.

Our monthly expenses for rent, 2 car payments, daycare, cell phone, internet/cable TV, car insurance is about $2000/month.... so yeah, we're struggling :(

You didn't say what your other expenses were, but I wish I had $2000 left over every month! lol

Don't go out to eat. Save on groceries by looking for sales & coupons. Buy in bulk when something is cheap. We like to buy items that are buy 1 get 1 free every week at one of our grocery stores.

If you have cell phone(s), see if you can cut your minutes or anything extra off. Limit your phone usage to nights & weekends (our nights & weekends are free) when you can.

Cut down your cable TV bill if you can. Cancel it completely if your family doesn't even watch TV much. We went without it for 4 years or more before.

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L.D.

answers from Chicago on

I was stressing about paying the bills, then I went to this "super-couponing" class at our library. I am now saving about 80-90 % on diapers/personal care & a minimum of 50% on my grocery bill. It has been a godsend! I also called the phone company & DirecTv & the both dropped my bill $20/mo & even gave me a couple of freebies! Go to www.jillcataldo.com, start there~ every little bit helps!

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C.G.

answers from Chicago on

I noticed that you listed "preschool" as one of your expenses. Did you know that Illinois offers Preschool for All, making preschool a part of the public school system and therefore free? About a month ago, the state announced they were cutting funding for this program, but a week and a half ago they announced they were reinstating the funding. My daughter will be attending the neighborhood preschool for free come this fall. It will give us a chance to evaluate the public school to determine if we want to continue sending her there after preschool. I realize that sending your kids to the best school you can is important, but this is only preschool, which amounts to mostly organized play. In your situation, I would think eliminating this expense makes a lot of sense for all of you. I'd recommend looking into it for the 2010-2011 school year if you will still have a child in preschool.

A.W.

answers from Kalamazoo on

Have you tried to sell your house? I've heard that the rule is that your housing expense should not exceed more than 1/3 of your income - yours is more like half. My husband brings home about $5000/month and we keep our mortgage around $1500. We talk often about moving to a larger nicer (and more expensive) home, but we like the flexibility and breathing room. It's not that your income amount is too small, it's that your mortgage takes up almost half of it. Maybe you can get by for a few years and then you could get a part time job to help with groceries?

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M.J.

answers from Chicago on

one thing you can do to help with your utilities is to to get on the nicor and com ed budget plans. this really helps keep things balanced throughout the year and you don't have the big up and down utilities in the summer and winter. Since you are home with your children, you may want to think of supplementing your income by watching someone else's child a few days a week. you can get some good grocery shopping tips from jill cataldo's website. She does the supercouponing seminars at local libraries. also, you can try to take advantage of the numerous "free" programs that local libraries typically provide, especially during the summer months. Also, the local libraries have videos etc that you can borrow for free for in-home entertainment!

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G.H.

answers from Chicago on

B. you guys are house poor but you still can make it work til things turn around & are able to sell. cut out preschool, clothing can be purchased much cheaper, cut back on hair care greatclips has coupons or sales for $7.99, i bought clippers for $12.99 & do my sons hair, toys/gifts can be cut down drastically.....your cell phone is a bit high, you can probably cut that back to about $60.....& $90 for tv/internet is high, maybe cut out cable since summer is here & go to red box or to rent movies at the library is free.....if you have an older car maybe get liability insurance.........

I really enjoy the Dave Ramsey class my husband & i just attended

But I dont agree with the one poster that said to put everything on a credit card, DONT DO THAT, people who are tight on money should not be using credit at all Cash ONLY

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N.S.

answers from Chicago on

Not sure where you shop for groceries but Woodman's is great! They have everything and are very cheap! I got to Wal-Mart for all of my toiletries and cleaning and paper products because they are a little cheaper and go to Woodman's for all of my groceries. I normally have quite a cart full and rarely have gone over $200 for approximately 2-3 weeks of groceries. Not sure what kind of cable/dish you have, but maybe cut out any movie channels if you get any and just do the basic package. Garage sales are great for kids clothing cheap. Hope this helps and good luck!

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D.K.

answers from Chicago on

You have already gotten a lot of responses and I haven't read them all, but here is my 2 cents. This is definitely not low income. We are in a similar situation with 2 incomes.

I am surprised that you are thinking about cutting your own hair but you don't think that cable/dish is extravagent. Obviously priorities are always different : ) We have been cable/dish free for 5 years and we don't miss it. We pay about $30 a month for our internet, we don't have a LAN line and we don't have cable/dish service. So you could save $60 easily a month. In Chicago, with an antenna you get a lot of free TV service including Qubo, which has kids shows on 24 hours a day including 321 Penguins, Veggie Tales, Curious George, etc. You can get a tuner for your TV pretty cheaply and record the shows you like and watch them whenever.

My other suggestion would be that $550 for groceries and $250 for diaper/baby items is a lot. However, I don't know if any of your kids are on formula, that tends to get expensive fast, or how many are still in diapers. But if I were you I would track where that $800 a month is going and see if there is any way to cut it down. You may want to try cutting coupons. I use thegrocerygame.com because I don't have time to keep track of all the coupons, etc. myself but by cutting coupons and stocking up, I definitely save back my $5 a month and more.

Also $50 a month in car maintenance on a car that you still have a payment on seems like a lot as well, but you don't have anything budgetted for home maintenance. I would double check what your actual costs are for those two items as well.

Finally, $50 in toys/gifts in a month also seems like a lot, but again, I don't know your situation. However, if you are having problems making ends meet, that is one area that should propably be cut down.

Good Luck,
D.

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B.M.

answers from Chicago on

$2100 left to spend after house payment? Wow, you are doing better than we are! But, I can see where we don't have some things that you do. For instance, all of our cars are paid off. Plus, we only have two kids verses 3 kids, which also can make a difference. Your grocery bill seems alot to me but like I said, you have an extra person too. I usually buy fresh vegetable and meat so I do some home cooked meals. Usually I notice junk foods are more costly than the fresh items. Also, is $250 for water and electricity? This seems high for me too, but if your are a stay home mom, this may be too. I have a programer for my house, which I really cut down the cost by turning it down when I am not home. We have been getting used to having the temperature down to 67 during the winter. When it is getting warm, my heat has been off since April. At night, I have used my log burning fireplace to keep the house warm. Do you really need the internet at home? I save $30.00 since I cut the internet too. Do you need preschool? I would have not paid preschool if I was a stay home mom. Is this full day? I would even try to cut the hours in half. I think I only spend $37 on haircuts. My boys have short hair so we don't go every month maybe once every 2-3 months. I have long hair so I can go a couple months too. $100.00 for clothes and toys every month? Way too much. My boys get these things on special occasions only, birthdays and holidays. Clothes I buy alot but I wait until the clothes are too small then buy more.

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L.C.

answers from Chicago on

My husband brings home about $8000/month and our mortgage is the same as yours and sometimes it is still hard to pay all the bills. I think your mortgage is too high for your income, but if you cant move, there are other ways to save. I shop at Aldi, Walmart and garage sales. I do cut my kids hair and watch everything we spend. This time of year is great for garage sales. Especially for kids stuff. But if youre still tight on money, i would consider moving even though the market is slow. You never know when unexpected expenses are going to pop up and put you in debt.

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J.G.

answers from Cleveland on

Currently we are living on less they you have left after your house payment is made... all incomes included we get about $1500 a month for a family of 5 with 1 due in July. My house payment is $460 a month, plus I have to pay out about $250 in credit card bills, $300 in utilities, $200 in insurance & other bills. So, we have very little left for gas, diapers & extras.

We are considered low-income... if you want to know what is & isn't low-income you can go to http://liheap.ncat.org/profiles/povertytables/FY2010/pops... - most states offer assistance to families that are at the 150% poverty level. Which based on that chart - my family would be below poverty if we were a family of 2 - lol.

We have cut out everything we see as extra execpt the internet & dish tv... we don't go to the movies, we only eat out maybe once a month if that, we do all our own home impovements, landscaping & yard work. We don't hire a babysitter or any other sevices. We go to local parks & playground to exercise & have family time. Groceries are only what we need, clothes are gotting at the Goodwill, Salvation Army or other 2nd hand shops, coupons are used where/when ever they can be & my kids understand that $$ is tight & we can't just go out blowing it just cause we want to.

I wish you luck in finding a way of getting by on what he makes. Take care!

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M.F.

answers from Chicago on

You say that you don't have any debt but you do - you have a car payment every month. Since this is one of your larger expenses, is there anything you can do about it? I am not sure of your specific car situation but perhaps you could sell your car and get a cheaper one.

I agree with lots of other posters about writing down every single cent that you spend. I used to do this and then it sort of became a game with me to see which category I could get to be even smaller each month. After a few months, you just get used to spending at the lower levels.

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V.K.

answers from Chicago on

Thanks for posting this question, there is so much you can cut down before you start feeling depressed. I think everyone is free to make their own choice in how many kids to have, but thinking about the financial impact is really important. I have 1 child at 3 yrs and we are struggling, three is a lot of kids for me. But again it's a personal choice.

I think looking into a money making opportunity is a very good suggestion, even just for lifting up your spirits and self-esteem. Getting a job at a daycare center with a good discount will give you freedom, some cash and have your kids near.
Shopping at neighborhoods garage sales, get Free stuff on craiglist, bed, household items, tv's even clothes. I pay $95 on my cell for family plan and most co charge this amount, I am also looking into a prepaid phone. That's too much $ and I never used to have one, now i can't move without it.

I wish a had a magic wand, but here it gose... visit your LOCAL PANTRY often as well as the sourrounding ones for diapers, even list something right here, perhaps someone in your area can help rid of their extra items that can be of great help to you.
Make cheap colorful business cards and give to friends or neighbors, post at grocery stores if they have things or friends that have older kids for toys/ books/ baby items to give away to moher of 3.
Kids activities can be simpler, going outside, renting from the library is all I ever did and even though it was poor I had fun so don't worry about the kids, that's when creativity kicks in. That's a good place to start and make connections with stay home Mom's
Hope this helps, Bless your family

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D.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

B.,
It doesn't matter if other people consider your income high or low. It is YOUR income and you need to live on it, right?

Are you familiar with Dave Ramsay? Pick up O. of his nooks at the library today (Financial Peace or Total Money Makeover) It is good, common sense advice for saving money and living on less than you make. I cannot recommend Dave Ramsay enough!

Do you have any credit card debt? That needs to go. Do you have more than O. car payment? If so, gotta go. Cut your cable services, phone services, etc.

personally, I think your mortgage payment is too high for your income. It should be about a fourth of his take home pay and yours is about half. can you sell your house and get out even? If so, you might want to consider doing that. Sounds like you are house-poor to me.

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A.M.

answers from Chicago on

do you use cash back credit cards? I have a chart in my wallet with which one is paying the most back for each item eg groceries, home, lawn, clothing. I have a costco amex and get back $350 a year on it and the other bring in may be another $500. Could you take in a lodger? a college student for a few semesters? That would add maybe $500 per month. Could you offer babysitting services or in home day care? Are there any other things that you could do to bring in a little income? Can your husband get reimbursed through work for the gas mileage? It really looks like you need to increase income as your expenses are likely pretty cut to the bone or relatively close to it. Good Luck.

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S.K.

answers from Chicago on

We cut our cable and use an hd antenna. The antenna was about 60 dollars and we saved over 20 per month. You can get netflix starting at $9 per month. They provide streaming to your computer or tv (with the correct device) and 1 movie per month. That's loads cheaper than cable tv. You can buy toys for the kids at garage sales or resale shops. I know vidal sassoon has an academy, I think it only costs about 10-15 for a student to cut your hair. Ask around, there may be other salons that offer the same type of offer. That's an awful lot of diapers. You may want to switch to the off brands or store brands. Is it possible for your husband to carpool with somebody else from work? That will also save a lot of money. It's really hard to cut to the bare minimum. Good luck.

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J.P.

answers from Chicago on

I haven't had a chance to read through all the responses, but I wanted to thank you for the question b/c we are struggling, too. I appreciate that you were willing to share all your private info. I, too, am a SAHM and my husband makes a few hundred less than yours a month - but our mortgage is a few hundred less, too. So I think we are exactly the same. Your expenses are similar to mine and I just read a response that said $50 for personal care each month is too high and they spent that much in a year! That's ridiculous! But I'll bet you can save some money in that department... Good luck.

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N.P.

answers from Chicago on

cut out preschool and do free library things instead (save $120)
cut out tv/internet ($90 saved)
cut out your kids activities, they don't need them at that young age and the library really offers tons of free things (save $50), visit playgrounds, parks and forest preserves in your area instead
don't buy new clothes at all and make gifts for the next few months ($100 saved)
sell everything you don't use - go through every cabinet, drawer and closet - I bet you can get a couple thousand that way
look into selling his car and getting a less expensive gas wise car - I know someone that got rid of her SUV and got a more efficient car and even with the car payment and gas she was still paying less then she had on gas alone with the old SUV
don't know how you can spend $50 on personal care a month, that is our yearly budget for that

You may have to get a second job, find a way to make money from home or create and sell things. Or your husband may have to get a second job.

You should listen to Dave Ramsey and follow what he says.

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