Don't worry, this isn't a whoa-is-me or whiny post ;) We all know that the price of gas, food, and everything else is higher than it has been in the past. I'm working on keeping a positive attitude about budgeting and just felt like writing about how I'm choosing to spend the money we have, and how I'm making it stretch as far as I can!
I feel very fortunate to be able to be a stay-at-home mom, it's been over 7 years since I brought home a paycheck. I have found other ways to contribute instead, and a few of them are resurfacing after some time off. E-bay, for starters. For awhile, I had an ebay business where I sold new and used children and maternity clothing - this was before I started homeschooling the kids. I hadn't really used ebay much in the past 2 years, but decided to give it a try and had some pretty good success selling some of the kids outgrown clothes. Enough that I could pay for the new math curriculum with the profits! The market isn't as well as it once was, I definitely could not make a profit by buying and reselling like I once did, but selling what they outgrow definitely helps!
Another old hobby that I'm returning to is couponing. The days of free Cottenelle seems to be over, but I did manage to get some free Ronzoni garden pasta this week! (if you have a Kroger, the pasta is on sale for $1 right now, and there is a $1/1 coupon to be found in the frozen section in front of Morning Star Farm products)The coupon policies at my 2 favorite stores have both changed in last month, my best guess is due to the Extreme Couponing show. I hit a few snags because of new policies, but I'm learning the new rules and will go from there.
The way we eat has changed over the last few months, I try to get as much organic and fresh food as I can, and this is a main focus in groceries right now, while keeping within the budget. Shopping clearance has been the biggest help in cutting back my grocery bill so I can stay in budget and feel good about the food I'm bringing home. Shopping weekdays means finding more clearance items. I've also learned to freeze things for future use, so I can buy on clearance and have on hand when the items are full price at the store. I'm also enjoying the first produce from the garden - cherry tomatoes! Much thanks to my friends for helping me successfully garden this year, I've only had a few things not survive transplant!
For now, we have been able to maintain the life that we have built without incurring further debt. There are hot meals everyday, we enjoy extra-curricular activities like dance and karate, we frequent the playground with friends, and visit local museums and go on other fun field trips. But I also realize that part of our current lifestyle includes being a home and two car owner - and this means maintenance that most often comes when you least can afford it. We learned that this past week when the A/C in my van went out at the same time that my breaker box began to overheat. I'd like to be prepared for the future, including any surprise fixes or rising costs, so I will continue to find ways to stretch what we have and share what I find. And of course homeschooling is always an adventure that can cost little or a lot, so I'll continue to find ways to make the most without breaking the bank.