Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cutting Expenses When You Think You Have Nothing Left to Cut



I know that many of you are really struggling with your inability to make ends meet right now. This post is for you. I hope it gives you hope--as well as some ideas for how to live well, even when you are living below the poverty line.

Some of you know our story, how we went 8 months without any income in 2007, and bought nothing for a year--no clothes, no food, no diapers (for my three in diapers), no toilet paper--and certainly nothing else.

We made more in the four months of income we did have in 2007 than we did for all of 2011, and more than we did in 2012, too, by a considerable amount.

How have we lived on so little?

I've learned to do things differently.

One thing I have learned is that there is always something more that can be cut.

You may have gotten rid of cable years ago (we did in 2007), you don't go out to eat, you have one car or perhaps no car, you make your own laundry soap, you clean with rags and use cloth napkins, you've recently lowered your insurance rates, you cut everyone's hair at home, you make birthday and Christmas gifts,  you already turn off the lights diligently, you bake your own bread, you have a garden, you cook from scratch, you drink water at all meals, and you don't even own a cell phone.

So what else can you cut if you already don't have those expenses?

One of the biggest things to amaze me is that we continue to find ways to cut our expenses. It's a regular thing for us to do. Both my husband and I evaluate each of our expenses all the time.

If you're struggling with making ends meet due to a loss of income, evaluate your expenses--every single one--on a regular basis.

Even tiny changes make a big difference. You may think something that only saves you 5 cents a day isn't worth doing. However, that one thing will save you $18.25 a year. If you find 20 tiny ways to save that each save you 5 cents a day, you've saved $365 a year.

Of course, not all changes are tiny. Some changes may be a lot bigger than you think!

If I hadn't made changes, I can tell you that we would have lost our home years ago. The changes I've made have been essential to our survival.

If you feel like you've already cut everything, here are some suggestions to cut some more. What seem like simple, tiny changes, will often result in bigger savings than you imagine.



Electricity:

Assuming you're already turning off any lights, appliances, unplugging things, etc., here is more that you can do:

When you eat dinner, make sure that the only lights on are the ones above the table. Turn off any other kitchen lights. When the nights are long in the summer, don't turn on any lights at the table.

Use less light while showering. If you have a single light choice in your bathroom, use that instead of one with multiple lights. If you shower after the sun is up and you have a window, don't turn on the lights at all.

When you're in a room at night, consider what light you really need. If you're reading, turn on a lamp with one bulb instead of the overhead light with several bulbs. If you're coking early in the morning, turn on the light over the stove, instead of all the lights in the kitchen. During the day, don't turn on the lights--just open the shades or curtains.

Shut your computer off at night, and make sure it's set to sleep if you'll be off it for a while.

I read a study that evaluated the cost of turning lights of and turning them back on versus the cost of leaving them on when you leave a room. They found that if you are going to leave a room, it's worth turning off the lights with incandescent bulbs if you will be gone for 2 seconds, and with fluorescent bulbs, for 2 minutes. When you leave the room, turn off the light.


Heating:

Use old towels, blankets (baby blankets work too), or t-shirts to roll up and put in front of drafty doors and window sills.

Challenge yourself to keep your house colder in winter. Set the thermostat 2 degrees colder than you usually do. Layer on more clothing, including thermals and wool socks. Put more blankets on the beds. These don't have to be the proper size for the bed; use crib-sized baby blankets and throws if that is what you have.

Open the oven door after cooking to warm the room.

When it gets warm enough to not need the heater, turn it off completely.

Cooling:

Keep the air conditioner set at 79ºF. Resist turning on the air conditioner for as long as possible. When it begins to be hot, but is still cool in the mornings and at night, open the windows early each morning to allow the house to cool down. Close them as soon as it starts to warm. Open them again in the evening when it is cool again.

Only run ceiling fans in rooms while you are in them.



Cooking:

Turn the pot of rice or pasta off a minute or two before it's done cooking. It will keep cooking and use less fuel. You can also turn off the stove on vegetables that you are steaming after the water has boiled; leave the lid on and the vegetables will still steam. Likewise, turn off the oven 3-5 minutes before you're done cooking.

When you're using the oven, use the whole oven. Bake four loaves of bread at once.


Water:

Bathe a baby or young toddler in a sink or tub instead of the bathtub.

When starting a bath, fill the bottom immediately, rather than letting the cold water go down the drain. If possible, have more than one child use the bath water. Fill it a little lower than you usually do. If possible, shower instead.

When showering, put buckets in the shower to catch the water while the water is warming up. You can also leave the buckets in to catch water while showering. Use that water to water potted plants, to water your garden, to pour into a top-loading washing machine, to flush the toilet a few times, or to scrub the floor.

Take shorter showers. Challenge your children to take 5 minute showers as well.

Use the water from steaming vegetables, canning, and what is leftover in drinking glasses to water plants.

Fill water containers from the faucet and put them in the refrigerator to keep cold. You won't be wasting water waiting for cold water and the chlorine will dissipate, leaving you with better tasting water.

Garage sale dress

Clothing:

If you're finding the thrift store too expensive, try garage sales instead. Aim for prices that are .25 to $1, spending up to $3 or $4 for something more expensive, like a child's coat. Keep a running list of needed items so that you only purchase the number of items you need. To maximize time and minimize gasoline costs, stick to community garage sales, and consider going with a friend. You can drive one time and she can drive the next.

Mend and makeover existing clothing. Turn long-sleeved shirts with worn cuffs into short-sleeved shirts.

Repurpose old sheets into clothing (garage sale can be a good source for old sheets, eepecially top sheets, as the bottom sheet wears faster).

Attend a clothing swap. If you can't find one, set one up and invite other people.


Gasoline (Petrol):

Stay home more.

Take a bicycle instead of driving when possible. Or walk!

Cut your grass with a push mower.

Carpool.

Check out more books at once from the library and renew them online to reduce trips to the library.

Ride a scooter to work. If you get one under 200cc's, it doesn't have to be registered or require insurance, which saves more money. They get 60 miles to the gallon. You'll need to figure in more time to work (they go 20-30 miles an hour), but even a short commute can save you several dollars a day in gasoline. Purchase a used one. Keep a gasoline can at home for fill ups, since they only hold one gallon of gas.




Cleaning:

Much cleaning can be done with just water and a rag. If grease is a problem or there is a lot of dirt, a few drops of dish soap in a bucket of warm water will go a long way.

For killing germs on non-porous surfaces, vinegar works well. Soak orange or other citrus peels in vinegar for three weeks to make your vinegar smell like citrus (note: granite and marble are porous surfaces that will be pitted with vinegar and should be cleaned with water, and a mild amount of dish soap).

Cheaper than vinegar and newspaper for washing windows is a few drops of soap in a bucket of water.


Food:

If you are still able to shop (i.e. not living from your pantry exclusively) but need to lower your food budget, check out my series on Eating for 40 Cents a Day.

Stop buying things you don't need.

Toiletries:

Switch brands to lower cost brands.

Compare the price of toilet paper by the length (not by the number of rolls). I switched to purchasing POM toliet paper from Sam's Club, as it the lowest price I can find.

Regularly evaluate where you can purchase items for the lowest cost. I found, to my surprise, that our grocery store has the lowest price on both mine and my husband's deodorant. They have it on sale as part of a mix and match ten items sale. Deodorant isn't always listed in the ad when they have this sale, but on arriving at the store, I have found that it is often part of the sale. Their sale price is 50% to 60% lower than I have paid anywhere else.

Make homemade hair detangler. You can even make it using free samples of conditioner. It's just a small amount of conditioner (a tablespoon) mixed with a squirt bottle full of water. I used an empty spray gel bottle for mine, but you can also purchase a bottle for $1 in the travel section.

Sign up for free samples.

When you get to the bott.om of a container, cut it open to get several more days to a week's worth of product from it.

Take your own bags to the store. Several stores will give you a credit of 5 cents (Target) or 6 cents (Winco) back in credit per bag that you take



Gardening:

Look for less expensive sources for seeds.

Grow open-pollinated and heirloom varieties and collect the seeds to reduce your need to purchase seeds.

Make changes to your garden to grow more in the space that you have. This can be accomplished in several ways: growing more vertically (such as pole beans, 6 foot tall varieties of snap peas, and cucumbers), converting more of your non-garden areas to garden by building beds or adding pots, growing food in the front yard, and adding edibles to your flower beds.

Grow more fruit. Add fruit trees, grape vines, and berry bushes.



Instead of feeling like you can't possibly cut anything else, look around to see what else you can find. Every month I find at least one way to cut our expenses. Last month I saved $110 in utility expenses just by making more small and simple changes.

What have you cut when you thought you couldn't possibly cut any more?

136 comments:

  1. Lovely post. So many things I'd not thought of. :) Thank you!

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  2. You are such an inspiration! Thank you for positing this as it is something I am still struggling with.

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  3. Thank you for this post! I always get frustrated when I go to a saving money class/blog/book and find that everything they suggest is stuff we already do.

    I love poinsettias for Christmas time, but in the past my plants have not survived past January. This year I did my research and am determined to get the plant to next Christmas. Yes, it

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    1. We always save over our geraniums and tuberous begonias. Good luck with the poinsettia...what is the trick? I have never been successful.

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    2. In the past I have always over watered. They like to dry out between watering. I'm planning on watering better, fertilizing and pruning. Then in September they have to be put in a completely dark place for so many hours a day. After six weeks or so they should start turning red. We will see.

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  4. Great post! You have listed so many things that everyone can apply to their lives. Thank you.

    Your water conservation reminded me of when I was growing up and we had to limit water. We moved into an old house when I was about 6 that only had a cistern and no other source of water. The water wasn't fit to drink so we had to go to our neighbors house every evening and fill up 6 water bottles (mostly 2-liter size) at their well so we could have drinking and cooking water. Talk about learning to ration water!

    Here are a few tips we did to conserve:

    1) We hand washed our dishes in the kitchen sink. We limited our dish washing chores to mealtime only and then when we washed we would fill one side of the sink half-full for washing and the other side half-full for rinsing. My dad always had us pour a tablespoon of bleach in there for disinfecting our cistern water. Running water to rinse dishes wasted too much water.

    2) We only had a bathtub then, unfortunately. We got in the bathtub as it was filling up and would wash our hair under the faucet as it was filling the bathtub. We were only allowed to put about 3 inches of water in the tub so we had to be fast. We kept a cup on the side of the bathtub for rinsing down. We would scoop up the water from the tub and pour it over ourselves as needed. It's kind of like you would do when you bathe babies.

    3) Brushing our teeth was done with our own bathroom cup. It's kind of like when you go camping. You fill up the cup, dip your toothbrush in the cup to wet it, apply toothpaste, brush your teeth, rinse your mouth with part of the water, and then rinse your toothbrush out.

    4) I know it sounds gross, but due to water issues we had to limit flushing the toilet. I'm not going into details here, but brown gets flushed down immediately, but we had to stagger our other flushes.

    5) We didn't have enough water to use the washing machine and we ended up going to the laundry mat ---which is not frugal. I've heard of people being creative this way too. Just think of camping. :)

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    1. Limiting toilet flushes to "when needed" also saves on the sewer bill, since any "household" water is also charged to the sewer. Watching that sewer bill can get interesting. For example, if you water from a hose bib on the house, you are using household water to water the garden or grass, & you are paying sewer bill fees on that water, even tho it isn't going there. If you re-use water from the shower, or the kitchen sink "waiting for it to warm up", or the canning water, or the cooking water, you are also saving on the sewer fees because you didn't turn on the water again. When we rotate our water storage, I use the contents of the 2 liter bottles to deep water the trees, & when they are done, the remainder goes into the Rubbermaid trash cans that hold my rainwater catch. Where I live, it is illegal to catch & store rainwater unless you have a "water right" - we have a small one & I keep it for that purpose. I rotate the water over a couple of weeks, when the weather is nice & things are growing. I can use the "warm - up" kitchen sink water to refill the bottles, then I change the date & back into the storage cubby for them. I figure I already paid both the water & sewage fees for the water I am rotating out, so I should use it for something useful. I have on occasion emptied a bottle into the pitcher to chill & drink, but after being stored for a year, it tastes a little flat.

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    2. Marivene, our sewer bill is the same no matter how much we use. Each year they raise it about $3, but that's all. Our usage amount doesn't change anything as it is a flat rate for everyone. I know it does change in some states, but here it is the same, non-negotiable amount.

      That said, I have practiced the flushing less experiment--and it made a difference in my water bill. It's not fun, but it made a noticeable difference on our bill. One way to do it is to just not flush at night. (Especially if you're pregnant, the constant flushing also can be a lot more water.) We have low-flow toilets (and shower heads) by law here--and this still makes a difference in our bill.

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    3. We had a to replace a toilet recently. The new one uses half as much water as the old, meaning we will save around 1 cent on every flush. It's the most used toilet in the house, so that'll add up!

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    4. We have cut our water usage by at least 20% by changing toilets. And we don't flush every time we use the toilet.

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    5. You can also put a bottle of water or some kind of heavy object inside the water tank in your toilet. This way, the tank doesn't need so much water to fill up. have a look at the picture here, cause I'm not sure I'm making myself clear... :p http://olmo.pntic.mec.es/~sluh0001/ahorroWC.html

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    6. Brandy... Ours also does not change. It is a set amount. As is the water. But when we remodeled, we still installed low flow shower heads and low flush toilets w/ the option to press one button for urine and another for #2. Did not cost much more... I think about $150. But well worth it enviromentally despite no savings.

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    7. I think water will become refreshed when oxygen is added. You may want to try tipping just a bit out then shaking the rest. (Top on) It is the introduction of ait in our faucet water that makes it taste fresh.

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    8. Angie, pouring it into a pitcher does the same thing.

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    9. You all have made me so grateful for our well. Granted, it is muddy after our frequent heavy rains and we have to turn on the tub faucet and run it until the water clears up! However, we have a filtered spout on the fridge for clean water at those times. There is no water or sewer bill and the only conservation needed is during hot water usage to save on gas- working on that one.

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    10. One more...having a well and tons of rain has enabled us to pop the low-flow pieces out of our faucets for some intense water pressure. My husband owns a plumbing company so he knew how to do this.

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  5. For saving water in the shower you might want to consider a "Navy shower." You get in wet yourself and turn the water off while you soap yourself. Then turn it back on to rinse. It's an easy habit to get into. It may be too cold for you to do this in the winter in your area but it works well for us here on the Texas Gulf Coast.

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  6. Thank you for your posts. I have been a daily reader for about a year. I have learned so much practical and money saving advice. Thank you!

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  7. We have an uninsulated closet in our apartment. When the outdoor temperatures were below zero (C) we used it as a fridge (and unplugged the actual dorm-sized ice forming fridge) because it had temperature like a fridge.

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  8. yes, thank you Brandy! I appreciate you sharing your tips here on your blog! I've gotten so many great ideas here! Thank you!!

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  9. Great post! Just wondering though about a few things. For your laundry detergent, have you tried it without the oxi-clean? If so, have you noticed much of a difference? I have been using 1 bar of ivory soap, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda. I also measure 2 tablespoons per load and it seems to work good. Not sure how much difference adding oxi-clean would make on our laundry and if it would be worth the added cost.

    Also, I have tried to make homemade detangler but found that it didn't work so well on my daughter's hair. She has very thick and super curly hair(think Shirley Temple!). It's such a mess and so tangled in the mornings that we spray it down with water using a spray bottle, and then work in leave in conditioner before brushing and then it dries beautifully. Have you found any particular conditioner to work better than others? And about how much water do you end up adding to the tablespoon of conditioner since a lot of spray bottles vary in size? Just wondering if maybe mine was too dilute.
    Thanks!

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    1. I've been making homemade laundry detergent for 10 years now. I've found better results with the oxi-clean powder and I have tried it both ways. I look for coupons and sales to buy it. Also Sam's Club and Costco sell it in bulk and often have sales or coupons for it too. I measure 2 Tablespoons each time.

      Your daughter will most likely need something different with curly hair. I am liking Suave conditioner the best, though the samples of Aveeno and Garnier Fructis that I used were nice too. I did have a sample of an expensive brand that I didn't care for at all.

      The bottle I use is a spray gel container the holds 5.7 ounces. I had heard to use more but I found we didn't need it. Your daughter might need a heavier amount for her particular hair. My girls have thin, straight hair (though one has thicker hair with bit of curl that we expect will turn curly when she gets older; my husband has curly hair). I used to buy Infusium leave-in conditioner and water it down, but even on sale, with a coupon, and buying the bulk bottle, I was still going through a bottle a month, which was $8. This is a huge savings and I haven't bought anything to use for several years, as I have used a bottle of conditioner that I had for years and some free samples of conditioner. We just use shampoo and then the detangler on their hair.

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    2. Kelly,
      I too have very thick very curly hair. If you use vinegar and water to rinse her hair at bath time, morning tangles will be less of an issue.

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    3. I've tried the vinegar and water method but it didn't help too much. Right now we shampoo every other night and always use conditioner in the shower. I use the same stuff on her hair as I do mine in the shower. She just turned 3 and the baby shampoos actually made her hair dryer recently. I think it also is partly the dry winter weather. I have thick curly hair too, but mine was never as curly as hers is. Since we started washing only every other night or every third night and switching to all adult products its been easier to manage. Every morning we wet her hair with a spray bottle and put in Paul Mitchell leave in conditioner and her hair curls beautifully. We've tried so many of the spray in detanglers and they used to work ok but her hair seems to stay tamed better with the leave in conditioner. I was able to get a bottle of the Paul Mitchell leave in conditioner for $8 at ulta after a coupon and this will last a LONG time because you only need a dime sized amount at a time. Thanks for your suggestion!

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    4. Do you use conditioner plus vinegar/water rinse, or just vinegar? Because when I tried it before I was trying the no-poo method of baking soda then vinegar rinse and both our hair was very straw like and I didn't really have the patience to play with the ratios.

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    5. Kelly, I have curly hair, and the conditioner that works best for me is one with aloe vera and jojoba oil. I use about 1/3 of the amount that I used in the past with other conditioners.

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    6. I found for our hair it wasn't the detangler spray I had to change but our brush. Spent about $8 on a square brush called tangle teezer. Made all the difference in the world. Before I would spend about an hour untangling my daughters hair, now it's 2 mins.

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    7. Vinegar works really well for me. I have long, thick hair and have always struggled with using conditioner to keep it soft and tangle-free but having to wash my hair every other day because of my oily scalp. So I quit buying expensive shampoos and conditioners, donated the ones I had to the local shelter, and now I simply mix 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 99-cent Suave shampoo in a bottle and it's 100 times better than any other professional shampoo! I also brush and detangle my hair *before* getting in the shower, and "comb" the strands with my fingers during rinsing, so there's no need to detangle it afterward.

      The combination vinegar + shampoo is also wonderful for washing delicate fabrics - this I heard from a specialist, and it does wonders for my business casual clothes.

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  10. At one point in our lives we had a difficult few years, much like you had, Brandy. My husband had a saying that helped us through those times: When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging. Before we tried any new approach we would ask "Is this digging the hole deeper or filling the hole". Sometimes our ideas would have only been a bandaid rather than a solution. Most of the time the true fixes were painful, but they were the correct solution.

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  11. Have you seen any information on turning off and on the CFL bulbs? Would that be the same as what you say about fluorescent bulbs?

    In the winter, once you finish baking and turn your oven off, leave your oven door open to allow the heat to come into the room (as long as this is safe with your children, of course).

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    1. Thank you. As we have more and more of these, I've been wondering this.

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    2. CFL = compact florescent light
      So they should be the same as the traditional florescent.

      Great question!
      Lea

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  12. This is something I need. I do SO much to save money. We live in the country so we have well water, we burn wood for heat. We don't own an air-conditioner. We have one car. We don't have a cell phone. We don't have cable. We only spend $200.00 a MONTH on food (for a family of six) and I preserve/grow everything else. I mend. I make things. Sometimes I think there is nothing else I CAN DO.

    But you are right. There is always something. I needed to hear this.

    This past week I went to Salvation Army (after over a year of not going) and discovered that they sell men's boxer shorts for about 50c each on half price day. I was amazed because boxers are SO expensive at the store. It would gross me out to by ladies undies but boxers I could TOTALLY do. :-) It made me realize (once again) to always be seeking out alternatives to buying new.

    Here's a question for you- what do you feed your children for lunch? I am doing a nothing-but-dairy grocery challenge for the month of February and I have officially run out of sandwich bread. (I always bake everything, including bread, with the exception of sandwich bread for lunches because it has always been fast and easy for our homeschooling days.) Do you bake enough bread for sandwiches at lunchtime or do you have other types of lunches?

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    1. I have 4 1/2 months of menus on my website that include 3 meals a day plus a snack, so you can see what we're having there.

      But the short answer is, most days we have soup for lunch with some homemade bread, or we have leftovers (which is often leftover soup). Sometimes we have burritos or salad from the garden.

      I have made bread for sandwiches, but as we have a much smaller food budget per person that you do, sandwiches are more of a treat. I wrote a post about how we do sandwiches here http://theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com/2013/07/sandwiches.html

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    2. Yesterday, at 4-H club, I had one of the older girls "test out" the white bean dip from your website. It was SO good that the moms were taste testing it off the counter, and only about 1/2 of it made it to the lunch time hour where we put out the 6-7 recipies the kids make during the morning. So, that would be a great lunch-time option.

      We dipped it out with tortilla chips. The huge bag is less than $5 at Costco and we've serve company once, the family once, and now the 4-H club (15-20 ate it), and still have chips left. It was very bland, which was nice since we have younger ones in our club, too, plus little brothers and sisters who come along. For me, I'm going to want a little more garlic and spice in there next time. YUM. We are going to teach 2 classes on healthy snacks at an upcoming county-wide 4-H event and that is definitely one we are going to have the kids make.

      So, thanks for a great recipe!

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    3. And here I thought $200.00 a month was impressive! It FEELS like it is hard to do. I enjoyed your 40c a day series and agreed with and implement all those strategies but I guess not to the same extent? I'll check out your menu's but one MORE question, if you don't mind...

      Does your family consume lots of dairy products/drink lots of milk? If so, how can your $100 budget afford these things? If I could get the dairy stuff squared away, I probably could cut our budget in half but I don't see how to do that. (Next year our heifer should be milking and THAT will help!) but for now- I'd love to know how you handle dairy needs.

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    4. Rebecca, I LOVE dairy products and we could easily spend $100 a month just on those. Because our income was cut so much, and all I have had is $100 a month, I have had to limit the amount of dairy that we purchase. With a higher income, I will gladly add those things back in.

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    5. Hi Rebecca, I've been struggling with reducing dairy in our budget as well. I've gotten a TON of amazing tips just through reader responses on this blog. Some things I've started doing include: Reducing the number of meals I make that require cheese or sour cream. I used to do a "Mexican Night", an "Italian Night", and "Pizza Night" just for simplicity in planning my menu. However, all three of these often incorporate cheese. I've been revamping my menu to replace these recipes with soups and stews, lentil-based meals, and other vegan recipes. I simply checked cookbooks out of our library and found recipes I thought my family would like. There are many ideas on the internet as well and I have some friends who are vegetarian which helps, too! I also started removing 2 cups of milk from an unopened gallon of milk and replacing it with 2 cups of water. Since I make my own yogurt, the 2 cups of milk that I take off the top is just what I need for my yogurt and the kids never know that I've added water to the milk! While I haven't weaned us off of dairy completely, these are a few of the things I've done to reduce the spending in this area. I could easily spend upwards of $75/month on dairy alone. This month it's less than half that! I buy all my cheese in 5 pound blocks from Sam's, but because cheese freezes well, I don't have to buy it as often. I also buy a 24 oz. canister of Parmesan cheese from there, but I recently found the 8 oz. ones at Winco for $2, making it cheaper than Sam's. If you have either of these stores near you, I highly recommend checking them out. Good luck!

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    6. Andrea,
      We were used to drinking 2% milk so I buy whole milk-divide it into two milk cartons and add milk to the rest of the carton and shake well--tastes like 2%.

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    7. Julie,
      I tried the 'cut the milk with water' thing and it tasted horrible, nothing at all like 2% milk. Is there a trick? It tasted like nasty water.

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    8. Jennifer,
      No trick, my kids couldn't tell the difference nor can I. Shake it really well. 2% milk is watered down so why pay for water?

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  13. We got rid of our landline phone completely and switched our cell phone service to Republic Wireless, which is $19 a month. You only get a choice of one phone, and you can't send picture text messages, but for us that's a small sacrifice.
    We cloth diaper, and all our diapers are bought used. We've saved a lot by buying them used! We also use cloth wipes, cloth feminine products, unpaper towels, etc.
    Every time I get a new bottle of shampoo/dish soap/ laundry detergent/ perfume/ what have you, I pour half of it into an empty bottle and fill them both with water. That way, you get double the product for the money, and we haven't noticed a difference in the amount we have to use to get clean. The only thing I don't do this with is the Tide I use to wash cloth diapers.
    I pick up used, but still useful things from the curb on trash night. We live on a military base, and people will put stuff out for free when they move rather than dealing with it. I clean it up, sometimes refinish it, and sell it on Craigslist. I've made somewhere around $3000 last year by doing this, and that wasn't the most I could have made (I went two or three months without listing anything). It costs a little bit in gas to collect bigger things, but most stuff I can get home by wearing my son in the Ergo and loading up the stroller. There's also the cost of dish soap to get things clean (watered down, of course!)

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    1. How much do you pay in taxes for your phone?

      Half our landline bill is taxes. It's $10 a month for service but $19.82 after taxes. I don't have call waiting, caller id, or long distance. I hear about "less expensive" cell phone deals, but they usually turn out to be more after taxes and have very few minutes.

      I love your furniture sales! That is awesome!

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    2. Have you looked at an Ooma phone system. Its voip from the Internet. Ive had it for over a year and have had no problems st all. I kept my own number and the service comes with an additional number, caller id, answering machine. I think my bill right now is like $4.

      Sorry for typos kindles just don't type well!

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    3. Republic Wireless really is that cheap. You have to buy the $300 phone however. My bill is $25 a month but I have data.

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    4. H Strain-- How often do you replace your phone? If you replace it every year, you're paying $25 a month for the phone and $25 a month for the service, which is $50 a month.

      This reminds of when the phone companies used to rent phones to people. . . .

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    5. Brandy, I just got a phone for the first time in my life in Dec. My husband bought it for me as a gift. My goal of the cell phone is to have it make me money. I earn roughly 200 Swagbucks a day with my phone and I also coupon and price match with my phone. I use SwagBucks to buy groceries. My phone saved me $82 in Jan alone. I will not replace my phone very often. My husband had his phone for 5 years. It was a company phone. I expect to keep mine just as long. My phone is making me money. It is nice having one now that I do. I thought I was the last person on earth to have one.

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    6. How do you earn that many swag bucks a day?

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  14. Very inspiring post!

    KK @ www.preppypinkcrocodile.com

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  15. A couple of other ways we save: We save the water used for cooking or steaming vegetables like potatoes, corn, green beans, etc. and add it to our soup stock. We are not wasting those valuable vitamins or minerals by pouring them down the drain. Or we pour them over our dog's dry food. She loves the veggie smell, and she is getting extra vitamins and minerals that way.

    The single best thing we do that I love is saving the juice from cans of corn (or you can save the juice from cooking frozen or fresh corn). We began to make homemade jelly from the corn juice. It is delicious, and we call it Faux Honey-Apple Jelly, as it definitely has a honey flavor and consistency of apple jelly.

    We have begun to save money by purchasing the #10 cans of veggies (and other items like tuna, chili, tomato sauce, etc.) at Costco. Don't know how many cups of corn juice we can get out of the #10 cans yet, but if I use the juice of two 15 oz. cans of corn, I can get 3 1/2 half pints of jelly. My son loves this jelly more than any store bought brand!

    Responding to the lady who had to do laundry at the laundramat: My MIL taught me to do laundry when the washer wasn't working in the kitchen sink. She washed all her clothes that way and only went to the laundramat to wash sheets or other heavy, large items. If you have a deep, double sink, it is easy to do. The hard work is just standing there for a long while. But you can soak them for an hour or so and then let the water out and soap them up again. Hand scrub each item, let soak in the rinse water (emptying the rinse water and refilling when too soapy), and then hang out or roll in heavy towels to soak up extra water before throwing in the dryer. You can buy washer boards and other hand tools for washing at Lehmen's or on Amazon.

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    1. I would love your recipe. I am very curious now.

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    2. Recipe for Faux Honey Apple Jelly (made from juice from canned, frozen, or fresh corn or corn on the cob):

      2 cups corn juice (approx. 2 cans of corns)
      1 pkg. (1 3/4 oz.) powdered pectin
      3 cups sugar
      3-4 drops yellow food coloring (*optional*)

      Bring corn juice to rolling boil for 5 minutes. Add pectin and thoroughly dissolve. Add sugar and bring to boil again for 5 minutes constantly stirring. Ladle into sterilized canning jars and place in water bath canner. Fills approx. 3 half-pint jars. This really is yummy!

      I read about a woman who makes jelly by ladling jelly into sterilized jars and then simply turning them upside down on a towel to seal. I tried this, and it did seem to work, all the jar lids "popped", but I am a little intimidated about whether or not I am storing food correctly, so I can them in a water bath canner. If you have a large family and were going to eat the 3 half-pints of jelly right away, I think her method of turning the jars upside down to seal would be fine -or you could put them all in the fridge.

      You can use any fruit juice to make jelly. I don't buy maraschino cherries very often, but when I do, I save the juice. YUMMY jelly! You can also make peach jelly and pineapple jelly this way. Once you make it once using a sort of template recipe, you can adjust and make it very easily.

      One reason we make jelly from juice rather than using real fruit is because we live in Alaska where growing fruit is only possible in the form of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, etc. Fresh fruit in the grocery stores here is outrageously expensive, and quite frankly, it doesn't have the flavor fruit in the lower 48 states has. Canned fruit for me, anyway, is much tastier than the stuff that we have to pay a lot for and tastes like cardboard!

      Anyway, I never throw any veggie or fruit juices from cans or from cooking down the drain anymore. If I open a can of tuna, I pour it over the dog's food. If I open a can of turkey or chicken, I save the juice and add to soup stock for turkey or chicken pot pie.

      I have to add that, like one of the other ladies who posted a comment here, my family does not HAVE to be so "draconian" or austere. We have a good income and no debt. BUT, this is how we achieved this success, and so every penny saved is indeed multiple pennies saved down the road as inflation grows and grows every day. We LIKE to save and not be wasteful with the earth's resources, and we enjoy outsmarting the powers that be in their quest to drain us of more and more money. Every item you can recycle and repurpose, extend it's life or use, is one more item or food that you cannot be taxed on!

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    3. Turning the jars over is called "open kettle canning" and is no longer considered safe. Water bath canning jelly is recommended, though I don't know about your recipe since corn is pressure canned. For other juices they should be water bathed.

      Have you tried growing arctic cloudberries or sea buckthorn? Those berries might work for you.

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    4. I was quite interested in the idea as well. I found several recipes online but they are for "corncob jelly". With the corncob version, they boil the cobs in water, strain and use the liquid for the jelly. One I found added an acid in the form of lemon juice. Here's one from the national center for home food preservation. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/corncob_jelly.html Interesting idea. Thanks for sharing!

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    5. Rhubarb will grown in Alaska, & makes a wonderful jam or jelly. Also makes great pies & crisps.

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  16. Growing up the husband and I both lived in families where everything was cut "to the bone". We did everything from limiting flushes to eating meatless for months. Fortunately, we haven't ever been in a situation where we had to look for more to cut. I am frugal because I truly enjoy it. I am also frugal because the end goal is to retire early. If you are frugal you save money faster and need less money during retirement because you don't have a high end lifestyle to uphold.

    I have cut some things that I had never planned on cutting because I found better, cheaper, more fun ways. Examples:
    -Laundry detergent. I started making my own on a whim and I LOVE it
    -Cooking from scratch. My husband and I were raised on homemade food. I always cooked from scratch. I got into the more "involved" cooking such as bread, pizza, etc. because it was SOOO much tastier
    - Baths. I was raised in a home without a shower just a tub. I didn't take my first shower until I was 17. Now I prefer showers over baths. I only take a bath when I am not feeling well.
    -Dryer. I line dry 80-90% of our clothes. It helps up the humidity in our VERY dry apartment and saves us a few bucks each month
    -Cleaners. I started using citrus infused vinegar for a LARGE portion of my cleaning and I LOVE it. Everything is clean and smells wonderful.

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    1. Good point Cecile, drying the laundry inside ups the humidity in the house which is very helpful in the winter.

      We grew up with only a tub also, no shower. I still prefer a bath, but mainly because it soaks my bones and muscles better. In winter a shower is almost painful. Summer is OK. But back when we just had a tub, hair washing was always a separate event. You took a bath when needed and when our mother or grandmother thought our hair needed washing we were handed a folded up towel and to keep the soap our of our eyes and leaned our head into the big kitchen sink to get our hair scrubbed vigorously.

      One thing we (my daughters and I ) do as we have long hair, is just wash the crown area..the part area, whatever it is called. That is the area that tends to be oilier...the other 2 feet or so is basically dead and relatively dry. That is easy enough to do in a couple minutes in the sink.

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  17. I'm so very glad to have read this today. Things have been very difficult and beyond depressing these past few months. My husband's business hasn't been doing well and so we have no income coming in, yet the bills continue to pile up. I'm behind on my mortgage and various other bills and have no idea how we are going to manage. We have had to apply for food stamps and at least that's been a blessing. All of the stress is wreaking havoc on my body and I'm suffering from anxiety and my insides are so inflamed it makes eating difficult and I'm always in pain. Doctors have done so many tests and simply say I have lots of "itis" likely caused from stress and anxiety and I have no idea how to deal with it. I'm already on a bunch of meds and suffer from depression which is terrible especially in CT in February. This was the little encouragement I needed today. :)

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    1. Thinking of you and hoping things get better.

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    2. Lisa, I encourage you to apply for the government program that used to be known as "commodities", now known as TEFAP--The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Each state has income guidelines based on the size of your family. With no income, you would qualify!

      I volunteer at the distribution for this in my town. We never know what we will be sent. It may be a lot or a little, but anything is a help. Normally, there are several cans of fruits and vegetables, maybe beef stew, dried potatoes, juice, dried beans, usually meat. Meat is usually chicken, or ham. Sometimes it has been turkeys, catfish, or lamb roast.

      Good luck!

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    3. Lisa... I understand. I live in CT and my stress manifested into high blood pressure and psoriasis( rash from high blood pressure). My daughter also deals w depression therefore i also feel her depression. I hope you find all you need to lift you up here thru brandy and her commentors. Will pray for you and your family.

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    4. Lisa, I pray you find improvement in your situation soon. Have you heard of FISC? They do financial counseling. I have a friend that is one of the counselors. Here it is located in the Goodwill store and funding for it comes from many sources. We also have another service in town, a bill paying service, also funded by things like United Way and grants that helps people budget. They will take over paying your bills for you from the income you have. I have heard very good things about both these places and that when you start working with them the places you owe money to see you as seriously working on the problem and I have heard that hassling is cut back. Possibly there is something like these in your area.

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    5. Lisa, I understand how you feel. I have suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression. In addition to medication, have you tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? The basic idea is changing the automatic thoughts you have when you experience an event. Studies have found it as effective as medication, which is particularly important to me as I'd like to have children soon. There is lots of information on the internet about it. It has been working for me, and I feel more energy and motivation. I am praying for you.

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    6. Lisa,

      I will pray for you. From beginning 2009- middle 2011 we were in the exact same position you describe financially. I felt like NO ONE else was in the same position we were and I felt so isolated. Hang in there. It WILL get better.

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  18. I always like to say that a penny saved is more than a penny earned now, because it's not taxed :). I loved your thought that 20 ways to save 5 cents a day would yield an extra $365 a year, which could yield even more if you put it into extra garden beds or fruit trees! It encourages me to think of a few ways that it would be worth it to make those small changes.

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  19. today's blog is terrific and I wish it could be read for those just starting out - they always seem to wonder why everything costs so much. All choices have consequences and choosing how to spend your money definitely has major consequences.
    Something I do to save money is to save, in the freezer, all vegetable scraps (onion skins, carrot peelings and tops, etc) till I have about 2 cups,toss them with about a tsp of olive oil, put in shallow casserole dish and bake in the oven, with anything else, until they start to brown. Then I put them in a pot, cover with water, and cook for about 2 hours on simmer or in the solar oven. Drain well and I get about a quart of veggie stock that I use for sauteing thus not using oil and giving more flavor to whatever I'm cooking. The veggie scraps I compost.
    Our county recently changed out the electric meters to digital read. We are now in the process of reading the meter daily at a set time and then reviewing what we'd used the previous 24 hours. The AC will make a big difference but we haven't used the heat or the pool heater - we'll just wait for warmer weather.
    Also, we scrupulously check our water bill (it's been misread twice in the last 12 months), our credit card bill (we pay it off at the end of each month, don't use checks or cash, but have found returns not properly credited) and review all of our receipts each month. This way we have been able to see where we have spent more than we wanted especially on food when shopping before lunch - now we take a small snack if our errand running will take more than 3 hours.

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    1. I've been saving onion skins, carrots peels and celery root ends for years but never once thought of making them into vegetable broth. I always used them to season poultry broth. Thank you for sharing this so I can add vegetable broth to my freezer!

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  20. I used to look and look for a real list of ways to save because I already did all that the other lists had. Your list is what I used to look for. I think it is fantastic!

    I am currently in a better financial situation than previously, but part of that is our change in habit. My husband has his 3rd interview for another position that may pay significantly better, and I am already worried that somehow we will let these frugal habits slide if he gets that job. Seems silly, but I know how easy it is to slip since you know the wiggle room is there...

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    1. Im not sure if you read my comment Penelope, but once you live the frugal life because you WANT to it is so much fun. The husband and I make enough money that we don't have to do many of the things listed, but we do because we WANT to. Don't worry about the increase of money throwing you off of your game. Every time that we get a bonus, raise, etc. I adjust our direct withdraw into savings to pull that amount. It was like it was never there. It hangs out in savings and gives you peace of mind, AND you can enjoy saving money!

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  21. Great post! My favorite way to buy clothes is at church rummage sales. There are several a year around here and I get lots of nearly new (or sometimes new) clothes for less than a dollar each. At the end of the sale they have a bag sale where you get a large paper bag for $5 and you can pack it full to the brim. Much cheaper than even thrift stores.

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    1. Our church has something we call a clothing exchange, twice a year. We set it up in the fellowship hall with tables marked for all the sizes of Men, Women and Children. Also accessories, things like toys, blankets and linens too. We have lots of clothes racks for hanging dresses and coats. We hold it in spring and fall. On a Thursday everyone brings in and sorts and lays out their donations. On Friday you can "shop", take whatever you need. You don't have to have contributed in order to "shop". On Saturday morning we open to the public and they can come in and take as much as they can use. Whatever is left over is packed up and dropped off at one of the charity thrift stores. So the spring one concentrates of warm weather clothes and the fall one is meant for winter clothes, boots, etc. The whole thing is no charge. We have done this for probably 20 years now.

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  22. I am curious about how much you pay for internet service. We have cut cable, landline phone and do many of these things, but even shopping around the best we can do for internet is $40 a month. Since it is our primary means of entertainment (and also our main way of getting books via our library for reading on our tablet), so cutting it is not an option

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  23. One way to tell if you are spending money is by the amount of garbage you produce. I recycle as much as I can which is mostly milk jugs and veggie cans. I don't have garbage service - roughly $30/mo. I took a small load to the transfer station before Christmas and don't have a full garbage can yet.
    Also, as others have mentioned - use cloth rather than paper. One of our grocery stores gives $.05 off for every bag of groceries that you use your own cloth bag. Like you said, it adds up.

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  24. We got a new toilet and our water bill dropped by at least 20%.

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  25. I don't see internet service as entertainment, though that's certainly a perk! My husband works for several hours a day from home every day, both early in the morning and into the night, and sometimes he works from home all day (at least once a week), so having internet at home is important to us for that reason. We researched it and we have the lowest possible cable internet with the slowest cable, which is still much faster than anything else (we compared speeds).

    However, even if that weren't the case, as it most likely isn't for you, it may be worth it to you in the form of internet coupons and deal matching. I print and use $25 or more of coupons each month. With the sales matching I save even more.

    Those savings come close to the cost of your monthly bill. If you find more ways to save by being online each month to equal your monthly bill, you've broken even with the perk of entertainment.

    I don't have a cell phone. I have a landline and pay $18.62 to $19.21 a month for the phone (it goes back and forth every month because of changes in taxes; the actual plan is $9.95 a month and the rest is taxes). I don't have caller id, call waiting, or long distance. I haven't seen a less expensive cell phone deal here than that. I don't know what you're paying for your cell phone, but that is something I would look at.

    $40 a month for internet after taxes is pretty good.

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  26. I have had an AT&T GoPhone account for several years now and it's pretty cheap. But I didn't get it only for price, it has good coverage in my area. It cost me $25 every three months to load it. I pay 10 cents per minute out of that $25 for calls and I buy a texting bundle each month for $4.99/200 texts. Since I mainly text this is a good deal for me and I rarely use all $25 and all the text package. The phones run anywhere from $14.99 for a very basic phone to $250 for a Samsung Galaxy. If you are a texter or a low volume user it works great but if you are always on the phone it would not be a great option for you.

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  27. Hi Brandy
    Maybe you've already done it and I just haven't seen the post, but have you considered switching to LED-light bulbs?
    They are a bit more costly than "regular" bulbs, but they last so much longer and use far less energy(about half, I believe) and also omit far less heat, so you won't have to cool your house as much in the long Arizona summers.
    They used to have either a very cold light or a very dull light, but these days you can easily find ones where you can't tell the difference between LED and "regular".

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    1. We looked into some to replace our halogens. They're $35 to $50 a BULB. For now we're not making those changes as they would cost too much.

      (I'm in Nevada, but it's hot here too).

      In the summers we don't turn on the lights. Most days we don't turn on the lights at all. At night we don't need lights until after 8 in the summer, which means we don't use many lights at all. We use more lights in the winter at night. Consequently, our halogens have lasted us many years; some have been here for 7+ years and we haven't replaced them as they don't get a lot of use.

      We may eventually switch to LEDS as they improve and hopefully come down in price, but for now, we're keeping what we have and replacing with the bulbs we have when a light goes out on occasion.

      Our big electric use is air conditioning. We have learned that by keeping it set just a couple of degrees higher we can put off turning it on for a month. That is a huge savings, as our house has 2 a/c units.

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    2. I don't know what sizes you are using, but the most expensive LED we have was $20. We shopped around and found that prices varied a lot.

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  28. Thank you so much for posting this today! My husband just lost his job on Monday. We are a family of!8 with very little income so this will really help!

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  29. This is a great topic Brandy. My dh and I have a running joke that either of us can make any changes we want, as long as nothing is different.
    Right now, we were blessed with an early inheritance. It is a huge blessing and offsets some of the massive costs we have had with medical bills and home repairs. We have had two critically ill children and my dh needed a heart procedure for afib. We have insurance but we have met our max out of pocket (6k) for over 5 years. Added in all the added costs of being ill, it's been rough. I truly despise any hospital that charges for parking. One child had to see a specialist in Pittsburgh so that added in tons of costs not paid by insurance. As Dave R. would say, Murphey MOVED IN. Add in utility increases, gas prices, rising prices for anything the kids want to do (even Scouts has been expensive with our oldest, almost Eagle). I had been looking for something to bring in money but I still have one home with me full time and every opportunity dried up or ended up costing us money.
    With that being said, I have half of this inheritance money sitting there and I don't know what to do with it. It would take about 8 years off our mortgage and save us about $700 a month or we could actually put it away and maybe dream a little big and have dh retire by the time he is 75. I am afraid to let go of it toward the mortgage because things are so tight for us month to month. Has anyone else had this problem? I have never had to decide what to do with money before and it isn't likely happen again to I need to get this right. As an added problem, our kids get aid for college and any liquid assets we have will count against them. We will have college age kids for a long time as our youngest is 5.

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    1. If the inheritance money is in a retirement account,like a Roth IRA, it will not count against the college aid. You can only put in a certain amount each year, but I would begin doing that for your retirement. The interest will be tax free.

      I used part of an inheritance to pay off the house, but I would not advise doing that unless you have enough to completely retire the mortgage, since otherwise it does not remove an expense.

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    2. If you are a fan of Dave Ramsey as I am, you might consider setting aside 6 months of expenses and use the rest for mortgage payoff. That way you get a little ahead on the mortgage but have a cushion to ward off Murphy! Plus with a 6k dollar deductible, you should be able to have a health savings account which helps save for medical expenses and you get a little bit of a tax break.

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    3. I agree with Marivene re the mortgage payoff...unless you are very close to paying it off you could risk losing it all should something worse happen down the line. Possibly do two payments at a time if you want. Yes, can you start an HSA for your medical bills? Also if it the difference between being able to put money aside for emergencies and retirement on one hand and children's activities on the other, I think the children's activities would have to be re-evaluated or they could be working a bit to earn that money.

      I know nothing about this DAve Ramsay that is quoted so frequently so I cannot weigh in on that. I only feel that is probably easier not to get into debt in the first place than get out of it, circumstances allowing.

      Also lots of people are able to work with having children at home still. If the situation is dire enough you can work it out that you are home during the day and then when your husband is home you can do an evening shift like at a fast food restaurant or an order center if there are any in your area. Or at a grocery or convenience store or the mall. For example we have a couple at church that have done this for years. She works the am shift and he is home with the children (he loves to cook and bake so takes care of that during the day) and then he goes for the 2nd shift. They work at the same place...he picks the children up from school and meets her there and she takes the children home.

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  30. If people would do these things when they aren't in financial hardship, when a lean time hit they would have a cushion. I used to iron quite a few things, now I lay the hot clothes straight from the dryer and press them with my hand and then hand. Works great for dress pants. Also if I do iron I turn it off when I'm half done. Holds the heat a long time. Thanks.

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    1. "If people would do these things when they aren't in financial hardship, when a lean time hit they would have a cushion." Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Gloria. Families would not be in so much trouble if they lived this way. :)

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  31. Hi, Brandy. Thank you for this inspiration! One expense I don't recall you mentioning is dental supplies--toothbrushes and paste, etc. Especially since you are such a large family, I'm curious how you approach this. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are almost always free with coupons. I am just guessing that is what she does.

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    2. I don't know what Brandy does, but our dentist always give each of us a free floss, brush, and paste when we go for our regular check up and cleaning. When we were working and had dental insurance, this was twice a year, so we only had to buy brushes twice a year to change quarterly, and used coupons on those. Now that we are retired and have no dental insurance, we just go once a year, and get half as many freebies.

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    3. We use the dollar tree for toothbrushes. You can sometimes get 4 to a pack and you don't have to bother with coupons. Also, we have some free ones from hotels. Most hotels will have toothbrushes at the front desk if you just ask. I'd say use baking soda if you were really tight on money and couldn't afford toothpaste. I don't like using flouridated toothpaste so we buy a somewhat frou frou brand, but I'd use baking soda if I didn't have the extra funds.

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    4. I find personal care items the easiest to get for very little..There are always an abundance of coupons and store sales and with doubling the coupons you can get toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, feminine products, toothbrushes, hand lotion etc for almost free. Also, you do not need much more than a dab of toothpaste on the brush, not the lovely curlicue that is shown in the picture. Experiment til you are using as little as possible to get your teeth cleaned. I am guessing most dentists give out a brush, toothpaste and floss at each visit. That seems standard. Ask for an extra once in awhile, especially if you are paying the entire visit and care yourself.

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  32. Excellent post! Thank you. Some of these principles bear repeating because we need reminding. Sometimes I feel I'm being irrational in trying to find places to save because the payoff is too small. But the way you explained the annual savings was helpful. Other times I feel deprived by trying to save in some areas but when I read the way you explain it, I am reminded that we are capable of doing so much more for ourselves and for that I should be grateful. Keep up the good writing!

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  33. These are such great ideas! We live in a similar climate to Las Vegas and we bought a solar oven so we don't turn on the oven at all when it gets warmer which cuts on cooling costs as well. We also haven't bought shampoo or face wash in years. We use baking soda instead. I love it and wouldn't go back.

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    1. I love baking soda! I have used it as face wash for years too, and I wouldn't go back either! I love it because it is a scrub and a cleanser that only removes the excess oil from your skin, therefore, no dry skin! No harsh cleansers and it is so mild and deep cleansing at the same time! I have dry itchy scalp and it is perfect as a shampoo too. it scrubs and is gentle but cleans great. If you color your hair (I no longer do) it will not strip the color. And it is the only cleanser I use on the bathtub, it works so fast I am done before I start.

      Thanks for the encouragement that I am not the only baking soda user! btw, I have sensitive skinned red head preteen daughters and they use it as a cleaner too. It works like a charm on pimples!

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    2. Another use for baking soda is as deodorant. I keep a jar in the bathroom and right after my shower I dip my fingers in it and spread it around my wet pits. I've used it for over 15 years and it works the best of anything for body odor. If you want it to deal with perspiration then mix it half with cornstarch or arrowroot. It is the healthiest, cheapest, most effective deodorant I have found.

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  34. Oh, I saw several comments about air conditioning, I live in st George Utah where it gets quite hot and I read a book about how pioneers use to hang wet sheets by the windows for their air conditioning. I haven't tried it yet but would love to give it a try.

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    1. It probably works as adding humidity to a dry environment would make you feel cooler. When the children were younger we used to take long trips in the summer in our VW bus out west (it was 115 when we were in Las Vegas) where it was always hot and dry. We had no air conditioning but we had several spray bottles that we kept water in. We would spritz ourselves with water and feel much cooler while the water was evaporating. My husband didn't fuss with the bottle, he just would dump a cup of water on his head.

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    2. Hanging wet laundry to dry cools the area where it is drying, through evaporation. Energy is required for water to evaporate, & that energy comes from the warmth in the air. It is the principle behind using a swamp cooler. When you spritz your self with water, the energy required to evaporate the water comes from your body heat, so it cools you off. When I worked as a NICU RN, it was critical to gently dry premature babies in the delivery room, before they lost body heat due to evaporation, since all babies are wet when they are born, & hypothermia can kill newborns, esp premature ones without enough brown fat to keep themselves warm.

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  35. One way we cut expenses on paper for the babe is opening up envelopes from junk mail and using the inside. It's great scratch paper for doodling or practicing writing :)

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    1. We do too! Whenever I need a piece of scratch paper (for grocery lists, etc...) I always peek in our recycle bin (indoors that we haven't taken outside yet)

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  36. What a wonderful post. So many ideas!

    I recently ran across a Facebook group for my local area which is a "buy nothing" group. It is basically for local offers and swapping, everything is offered freely. You can put something you have to offer or something you are looking for. This may be available in other areas as well. And it is nice as it is specific to your town so you don't have to drive far for pickup.

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  37. Accept what is offered to you. See any donation or gift from someone as a blessing. I at first had a hard time with not feeling comfortable accepting "charity"...now I see everything as a gift from God.

    Don't be afraid to ask for leftovers at an event or a discount on a purchase. The worst they will say is "no" and you are not any farther behind, but they may say yes and you will be ahead!

    I always take napkins when I pick up pizza. They offer them and it is a few less that I need to buy or use. I also do not put a napkin at each place at the table. We only take them when we need them. I have not switched to cloth as I am not sure the cost of the washing them is cheaper than using a few a week of paper ones. I but a pack of 150 for around $2 about three times a year. I think laundry would be more than that.

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    1. I just throw cloth napkins in with the other laundry, and it is said to be more economical to wash a FULL load. Since we've been using cloth for 20+ years, I feel sure they have paid for themselves many times over. But that's me...I have a thing about not spending money on "one time use" products!

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  38. I have started using the large chip bags again by cutting them the size of individual bags and putting my daughters chips in them for her lunch. I seal them with a mini flat iron I have. It works great and I haven't had to buy baggies in quite a while. I get about 3-4 small bags for every large one. Every day I discover more uses for packaging from other foods. This is fun and I feel good about saving us a few extra dollars. I will also be making some cloth sandwhich bags soon. They look simple enough to make.

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  39. Thank you so much for this post, Brandy! I always learn something new from you and from your devoted readers. Thanks to your insight as well as input from other readers regarding water bills, I went back over several months of garbage/water bills to determine how our bill was being calculated. We are on the right track by reducing our water usage because we are on a graduated billing system meaning we are billed one price for the first 10,000 gallons, then another price for the second 10,000 and so on. By staying below 10,000 gallons we are paying the lowest price. Our town also calculates our sewer charge using 70% of the first three months' worth of water use and plugging that into another formula. So, our monthly sewer charge will be the same all year based on our first three months' worth of water use. However, since we've been diligent about reducing our water, I'm hoping this charge will come down as well. Finally, I noticed that we can request a smaller trash can and save $1.20/month. This goes back to what you were saying about making changes that seem like they won't make a big difference. By changing the size of our trash can, we will save $14.40/year, which doesn't seem like a lot, but because the tax is a percentage of the entire bill, by incorporating all three of these things, we should see even greater savings. Needless to say, I will be calling the town utility line tomorrow to order our new garbage can! :)
    Thanks again for another insightful post. I look forward to seeing more comments from this community of faithful stewards. God Bless!

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    1. Our water is tiered as well, but they switch the tiered amounts between months; one month the first tier is 6000 and the next month it is 8000. Also, one month the meter has less days and one month they go 34 days. Of course the longer one is also the month they do the smaller tiers, so that they can get the most money from everyone. There are 4 tiers and even in winter we hit the third tier with so many people at home using the water indoors.

      Do you have to rent trash cans? Ours has an option to rent them but you can also provide your own cans instead which is what we do.

      $14.40 IS a lot. I think of it this way: that's 14 dozen eggs you could buy this year that you couldn't before; or, that's 25 pounds of oats. That's significant. It's money you don't have to make, and that is important. I'm so excited that you found a way to cut your bill immediately!

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    2. We are required to use the city trash cans, which are all the same size, & picked up by a special hook on the truck that dumps them into the back. It is possible tor rent a second can for those who want/need it, but that is the only "choice" here. In our little cul-de-sac, we try to cooperate so no one needs a second can. If I have empty space in my can when I set it out, both my neighbors know they are welcome to tuck a bag or two inside. Since both neighbors have 4 children & ours are grown, they usually have more garbage bags than we do.

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    3. We are a family of five, but with recycling, compost, and cloth diapers, we only produce one kitchen bag of trash per week. We were taking our trash to the township dump every few weeks, but they increased the price and quit taking trash in January and February. Last year we asked our neighbor if we could share his curbside bin and split the cost. He is a bachelor and doesn't ever fill it. He said we could share it at no cost. I try to bake him something or bring him eggs from our chickens every now and then. It would be about $20 a month to have our own curbside bin.
      It is interesting to read all the different ways this one expense can be reduced.

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    4. We have rural garbage pickup which for about the last 4 years uses bins. They supplied each household with a bin for garbage and one for single stream recycling. They were billed to our taxes, a very minimal fee. They look pretty indestructible so I plan on them lasting for years and years. If you feel you need a bigger garbage bin you had to pay. These are not large and we seldom fill them up. They are picked up every week. I haven't seen anyone in the area with a larger bin. We are not in the city, but in a township. We could burn if we wanted, but no one does that anymore, beyond leaves in fall. Back when I was young, I do remember my grandfather taking the garbage out every day to the back and burning in an old oil drum. Our garbage service is also billed on our taxes, same as sewer.

      Similar thing to Marivene sharing a bin is that everything must be in bin and bin closed. Cannot protrude out. Either you have to save for the next week or find someone who will let you stick a bag of garbage or some recycling in their bin. BTW, the more recycling they pick up the larger tax credit we get. We also compost year round so that keeps all the fruit and vegetable scraps out of the garbage/landfill.

      You want to keep in theory as much as you can out of a landfill. Landfills are finite and expensive to acquire and develop a new site.

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    5. It's interesting how things are billed differently in different places. Here we are not allowed to burn leaves.

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    6. Brandi, we are in a township/village...we have a whole different set of rules than the city. We are five miles out. Volunteer fire department...everything is separate...different garbage co, different cable provider etc. Our taxes are much less too. We are included in the school system and the library. In town the leaves can be taken to the city yard waste recycling (we need to get a 25.00 permit/yr to use that) or raked to the curb and in the fall a vacuum machine sucks them up. Nothing re' branches, grass clippings, leaves, garden waste can go to the landfill. The city has a very large yard waste recycling facility as mentioned. They collect all the yard waste and compost it up or chip up branches for mulch. It is used in the city parks and given out to city residents for free. You can also drop off your motor oil there after doing an oil change.

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    7. I would love it if our city had a green waste pickup for grass and branches. We can thankfully take the branches to the dump with a copy of our trash bill for no extra cost (but there is gas to get there). We have a lot of branches in the winter and grass in the summer. Most people just grow rocks here, though :)

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    8. Athania, our city just got into recycling last year, but you have to pay $6 a month to have the blue can. Since there is a large recycling bin at city hall, where I put our utility bill in a slot each month to avoid using a stamp (it is close to us, hence on the way to almost anywhere I am going), so I dump cardboard & paper there. I recycle the cans & scrap metal myself with our 9 year old granddaughter, but we don't make anywhere close to $6 a month! Most times it is a dollar or two.

      Our bins do not have to be closed, but if the garbage bag falls out when the lift on the truck picks it up, they won't get out of the truck to take it. We pay $9.93/ mo for one garbage can. If I needed more than one, I would probably pay for the recycling can, because it would save $3.93 over getting a 2nd can, but we all just feel they charge too much, so we work together.

      We are allowed to put grass, branches etc in the can, but it cannot be more than a certain weight, which has proven very useful for me. I accept grass clippings from the neighbors to use as mulch in my garden & around bushes, and people are very willing to give away extra wood, bricks, patio pavers etc, because they don't want to pay the $10 dump fee to haul it separately to the dump.

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    9. Haha Marivene, you shortened my name. BTW in case any one is wondering it is
      ah-thah-NAY-zee-ah. Thanks Mom for making me the only child in school with a five syllable name and years of nicknames from younger siblings and cousins who couldn't even pronounce it, like Ah-nay . And its not even from the German!

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    10. I was pretty close on how I have been pronouncing your name in my head, so I'm glad you posted that. I love your name, it's very beautiful and beautiful sounding!

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    11. Thank you Stacie. My mother came across it as a character in a book. My sister is Petronia.
      Also since my father was a big opera fan I am thankful to not be Brunhilde!

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    12. Leaves go into the compost pile here and also get used for mulching plants to keep down the weeds and keep the moisture for the garden. I also throw out any plant-based scraps into the compost pile. That makes a rich soil to enrich your veggie garden, which is also a way to save a lot of money, even if it is very small or a container garden.

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  40. A terrific book is Tamar Adlers Everlasting Meal Cooking with Economy and Grace. It was a lot of ideas to make very nice meals with what you have and using it all as well as doing it efficiently, saving time and money. One thing I started doing after I read her book is to use one pot to do all my boiling, starting with the blandest ingredient and reusing the water. Also to always boil twice the pasta or cook twice the rice. Sometimes I freeze it to use later but some times leave it in the fridge and a few days later use it to make a pot of soup or rice pudding. You only use the stove once, one pot of water, and only have to wash the pot once instead of twice.

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    1. Debbie, that is a great book. Also is HOW TO COOK A WOLF by MFK Fisher/Fischer. (Can't remember if it has a "c" in it or not.)

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  41. We compost all food scraps and use any yard waste or grass clippings as compost. They definitely help hold in the moisture. Also started recycling all glass, plastic, and metal since our county now has recycling bins.

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  42. You are an efficiency expert! Although we are not facing extreme financial hardship like you did, things feel tight sometimes. And I know we waste a lot. These are all great tips for cutting back! Thanks for sharing.

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  43. Hi thank you for sharing, if anything this blog entry should get people thinking :) I am wondering about the homemade conditioner. How much is a squirt bottle? A cup of water, a quart? :) I am interested in making.

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  44. We were making powdered laundry detergent, using the same ingredients, with Ivory soap. However, we found the process of having all that dust in the air was too much for our sinuses! So far, I am pleased with the 'laundry sauce' I made last week using similar ingredients, except the soap is Fels Naptha, and it is reduced by gelling with hot water.

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    1. When I made my batch of laundry soap, I wore a face mask. I also used Fels Naptha, which I grated by hand.

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  45. I've developed lots of little money-saving habits like these :) (although I could be better on some things).

    I only wash my hair every 5-6 days. This might not work for everyone, but my hair looks/feels good and a bottle of shampoo lasts me a very long time. I also can take shorter showers on days that I don't wash my hair. And I wash my hair when I have time to air dry it- so no blow dryer electricity needed.

    I usually leave my coat/ hat/ gloves on when I drive in the winter so that I don't have to turn the heat on in my car very much.

    For anyone who has Kroger in their area: I realized recently that you can get 50 fuel points each time you fill out their receipt survey. There is a limit of one per week, but still, 100 fuel points adds up to .10 off a gallon at the pump. I'm hoping to use these surveys to get up to at least 200 points each month. (This would mean a savings of about 2.60 for me when I buy gas).

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  46. I'm trying to teach myself to look for used or alternatives before making a purchase. For example, my son is signed up to begin track & field next month. He has outgrown nearly all of his athletic shorts, down to one pair that fits. I figured it'll cost around $15 per pair (I wanted him to have 2 more.) if I can find them on sale. It occurred to me that there might be an okay selection at this time of year (winter, lots of snow) at a thrift store. So we stopped at a Savers, which I think benefits veterans (bonus!), and were able to find two pair in very good condition for less than $12 total. Not only did we spend less, but we kept those couple pairs of shorts from possibly ending up in a landfill somewhere and, I like to think, saved a little in production costs ultimately by not purchasing a new pair - ha ha.

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  47. I made your recipe for laundry detergent, grating a bar of Ivory soap instead of Oil of Olay as that's what I have on hand. I really like how clean and fresh my clothes get, and without the perfume scents of the other brands. My cost was $11.50 + Ivory, but I live in a mountain resort community. Next time I'll get ingredients in the city to cut cost. Am tracking how many loads I get from this batch. Thanks for the recipe!

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  48. Brandy, what are your thoughts on tithing when on a "not high" income?

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    1. ALWAYS pay the Lord first. If you want a testimony of tithing, pay the Lord first. Then pay your bills. There is never an income where you don't need the blessing of paying tithing.

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    2. I really want to pay tithing, but I'm worried about having enough to pay for the necessities of life for my family if I take 10% right off the top. (I'm a single parent and money is -ALWAYS- tight). Does it get easier (less scary) to just pay tithing the more frequently one does it?

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    3. The Lord gives us all that we have. He asks us to show our faith by paying Him first.

      “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

      The only way to gain a testimony of tithing is by paying it. When the money is super tight, that testimony will grow more firm and even quicker as you pay the Lord first. For me, it is not scary; I have paid tithing for 19 years (since I was baptized). As you pay faithfully on your increase, you will no longer be afraid to do it.

      It is easiest to pay the Lord first, rather than last. He loves you and wants to bless you. Think of the widow's mite. Christ said that she was blessed above those who had given of their abundance, for she had given all that she had.

      God will bless you beyond measure as you pay your tithing. Put the Lord first. He has promised blessings to you if you are faithful in paying your tithing. Why wait any longer for those blessings? Pay tithing on your next paycheck and see the blessings He has in store you.

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  49. I "new" thing we are trying to do is collect aluminum cans. We go for walks daily or bike rides usually we find 1-2 grocery bags each week. WE bring them home and crush them, then put them into a huge black trash bag. WE do this until we have 3 black bags, then we take it to the recycling place. Last time we made $14.86 which we used to buy milk, bread, eggs and cheese. It's been beautiful weather here in Arizona so we already have filled 1 trash bag these last 2 weeks. It's SLOW progress but I feel like we're cleaning up the earth and getting paid to exercise at the same time!
    ~God Bless, Heather~

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    1. Heather, I used to do this with my grandmother. Thank you for mentioning it! I love what you did with the money

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  50. Hi!
    I am captivated by your blog. You are an inspiring, hard-working and industrious woman. I admire you! I feel that my life is very different from yours: I am an artist, my husband and I have one child (and are scared to have more!), and we live in San Francisco. Living in a city with astronomical rent prices, we have made many financial sacrifices to keep me at home with our child, something that feels like a rarity when living in an expensive city where usually both parents MUST work. I am so proud of this achievement. The point I wanted to make was that even though I feel very different from you, your lifestyle and outlook on life/family resonates with me so strongly and I think that is a testament to your gift as a writer and photographer, as you are able to express your vision so authentically through your blog. I wish you and your family all the best and look forward to reading more.

    Sincerely,
    Maysha

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  51. We cut out more and more as the months go by. The biggest thing we have learned is to rethink each and every purchase we think we need to make. We ask ourselves if we really need it. If we do need it, then we figure out a cheaper or free alternative. Being diligent takes time and effort, but we often have more of those things than we do money. Thanks for all of the great tips in this post and for linking up with us at the #SHINEbloghop. ~Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

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