What I Learned about Surviving Hard Times

I first started to try and find ways of saving money around the house when my husband and I were hit by hard times. Like most couples we had our ups and downs, but then he was hurt in an industrial accident. No more job. It took weeks to get workmans' compensation to kick in and we had 2 children and lots of bills. I was working, but my paycheck would never match his.

First, we moved from a large rental home to a duplex. Then I started looking at our bills from the last 6 months and our biggest expense was food. I knew I had a problem. No more running to the grocery store every time someone changed their mind about dinner. But I needed a plan, and help. So I did what most of us do, I went to my mom. This isn't as lame as it sounds. My mother had me very late in life. She was born in 1914. So she had lived through the Great Depression, and she'd lived through the rationing of WWII. Plus she'd raised my sister and I on a next to nothing.

Here's what she told me:

  1. Plan your menu (down to dessert and drink)>
  2. Make your list from the menu
  3. Use coupons
  4. Only buy off the list
  5. Start working on paying down your debt. You must pay more than they ask for.
  6. Charge nothing! Pay cash only.

Some sounded simple, but if you're a fulltime working mom, planning a menu is tough. I was also short on ideas and asking the kids was a bad idea. If you say "what would you like for dinner," they quickly reply "McDonalds". I say, "No, something I can cook." "Oh!" Then a very blank stare follows. Asking my husband also was a deadend. His reply was "Oh, I'll eat anything you cook" That doesn't help me. So I went where I always went when I needed ideas. The Library. If you haven't discovered your public library, do so immediately. I not only found cookbooks, I found books on how to live on less. Simple living. How to use leftovers. 1000 and one things to do with hamburger (which was a meat I could afford) and books on inspiration. How to survive all this. How to budget my money. Cheaper ways of doing things.

Here are the best hints I still use:

Buy the dryer sheets on a roll. Cut the roll down the middle. Use half. (I think the big name makers heard about this great idea because they started putting them in boxes folded. Much more of a pain to cut.) Tthe cheap brands still come on a roll and still make your clothes cling free.

Are you addicted to new hair products? I have very thin hair. So I was always trying the new hair shampoos. When they're new, they come with great coupons and are generally on sale. So you get shampoo and conditioner for almost nothing. Problem: You never use the conditioner. It always outlasts the shampoo. Or you discover it makes your hair feel worse. Now what to do with it? If you're like I am you can't throw it away. Answer: Shave your legs with it. I love this idea.

Last idea. Get help. Make your budget a family matter. Make sure the whole family knows that they need to tighten their belts, too. You can't do all this if your children think that every time they go to the store they can have anything they want.

Figure out which one of you is best at the bill paying and give that person the job. It may not be you. For years, I was responsible for all the money. This was highly stressful. When asked how we were doing, I was almost embarrassed to say. Our situation has changed a lot from those old days. My husband was reeducated into the computer field. We had another child, and I now stay home. But our money was always tight. Finally I couldn't take the presure anymore and asked him if he would be willing to do the bills. He took it on. We decided how much I would need for groceries each month. He gives me a check every 2 weeks which I deposit into my own account. Any extra at the end is mine.

I still hunt for ways to save money. That's why The Dollar Stretcher is on my speed dial for the internet. I still read all I can find on the subject. Funny, now they call it "Voluntary Simplicity". But when it hits you out of the blue, You don't feel like a volunteer. And it sure doesn't feel simple. But you will survive.

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