How our family lived on $13,000 during graduate school-without food stamps, medicare, or subsidized housing.
This is part 14 of the Living on $13,000 or Less series. Click through if you missed earlier posts.
Wahoo! I just found a deal, 80% off the new leopard print eyelash extension/curler all in one combo pack! I’ve always wanted this versatile tool! Who knew they made that right!? Don’t mind me hon, I’m just going back out for the 15th time today. I’ll be back soon! Oh, and would you get the kids a snack? Sunny’s gnawing on her arm again…
Let’s get real
I don’t think even extreme couponers act that way, and yet reading frugal blogs can feel like you should shop—all. the. time. What a worthless way to spend a life, in the selfish pursuit of stuff. Most of us wouldn’t go shopping multiple times every day, because we want to have a life, yet the pursuit of deals can steal a lot of time.
We’re a one car family, always have been, hopefully we won’t always be. Until that mystical day of mom-car-ship arrives, my chances for shopping are very limited. In order to free up my weekends I try to go shopping once a month. When I pull that off, I only spend 3-5 hours shopping—the whole month. I’ll spend one Saturday morning taking care of errands, and bam—it’s done!
My weekends become a magical time to connect with loved ones.The month’s that I end up shopping weekly, I spend 2-3 hours a week on errands. That means I’m spending 8-12 hours a month, running around, spending money, and coming home drained. I’d much rather spend those hours at home with my family. Or crafting, it saves us money, energizes me, and it’s fun! 🙂
The balancing act
I absolutely believe the old adage, time is money. We all balance between the two in our purchases. When we’re short on time, we’ll compensate with money. Can we say Wendy’s drive thru? If we’re short on cash we’ll spend our time researching or making things.
Time and money are limited resources, no one has unlimited cash and no one has more than 24 hours in a day. We all have to figure out what our balance is between the two. If you’re waking up several times a night for a cute little milk monster—don’t feel bad to spend some money on easy snacks or meals. If you’re living on a student budget, you might decide to make meals from scratch. Just look at where you are and implement one thing to better your life.
That’s how we did it, one step at a time. After I created my shopping list, and knew which blogs to follow, some of my time freed up. So I started making cheaper meals. Once I had my menu under control I started to craft.
Play to your strengths
During a crisis is not the time to learn a completely new skill, it’s the time we rely on skills we already have. Think of what you’re good at and brainstorm ways you could use it to make or save you money. If you’re having trouble thinking of what your talents are, ask some close family and friends. They’re more likely to notice talents you overlook because they just feel natural to you.
Since I’m pretty good with my hands, I figured making things (instead of buying) would likely supplement our income. I started to look for inexpensive craft supplies (craft here meaning useful everyday items—not cutesy shelf decorations). Diaper boxes became canned food rotation devices and onion bags were our new sponges. Old clothes were very helpful for Christmas presents. Worn out jeans = roads for Sunny’s cars and old T-shirts became scarves. I also found several places for inexpensive crafting materials.
- Freecycle.com- This is a nation wide website that lists free items local people are giving away—you just have to pick them up!
- The classifieds- This sounds so old school, doesn’t it? But it works. Buying anything from a private citizen (as opposed to a business) will be cheaper. Sometimes the owner cares more about losing stuff than money. Out here in Utah the local news site (KSL) has a free section, maybe your local news does too.
- Restore- If you’re doing a bigger project, like wood working, check out the habitat for humanity restore. They carry low priced building supplies—they’re the left overs from habitat for humanity’s house building projects. Not only would you get a good deal but you’d be helping a fantastic organization as well.
If you need to gain a new skill, always approach it from a position of strength. Use something you’re already good at to help you gain that new skill. Maybe you already possess a skill with similar attributes? Maybe you have a friend with the skill and you could barter with them. Just make sure that you keep the stress to a minimum, or not much learning will be going on.
My comfort with DIY projects led to our being more adventurous—through haircuts. Yes, really. I had the hubster cutting my hair. We found it best to view this as a favor for each other and choose love first—no matter what it looked like! Part of that meant creating a backup plan. We decided to cut hair late Friday evening. So we could visit a real hair dresser Saturday morning, if needed. That took the stress off the both of us.
When we’re successful (several years later and the hubster still has a 100% success rate!), we feel achievement. Money we set aside for haircuts became available for other budget areas. Plus it’s fun to mention that my husband cuts my hair. 😀
Working with our hands literally put money back into play. From haircuts, to upcycled clothing, free sponges, and keeping our food in proper order—our time was saving us money. Without selling anything, just preserving what little we had, made a huge impact on our budget. No matter what you do, your time is valuable and worth compensation. Make the most of it!
What’s your best way to use your time effectively?
Want more from the ‘Living on $13,000 or Less’ series? Check these out!