In the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it was like being poor. Over the years, I’ve heard Mama say several times that she wishes she knew then what she knows now–that nowadays she’d be a lot better at poverty. I think I would be, too.
I lucked out with my husband. He makes decent money, although staying afloat andtrying to pay past due bills before the collection agencies start calling is a constant balancing act, regardless. I try to cut corners where I can, but with two kids in school doing ever more expensive things, it’s becoming quite the trick. If we didn’t have the ability to borrow money at no interest from Mom, we’d be in way above our heads with the finance and payday loan companies. As it is, we got suckered in to borrowing from one of them again just before the beach trip. I have no idea how we’re going to get ahead enough to pay for Christmas this year, but I’m sure we’ll manage it…simply because we have to.
But I have a few tricks for getting through the rest of the year, and just in case anyone is interested, I’m going to list a few of them. Fair warning: there are going to be at least a few of these that make it clear that I don’t always practice what I preach. When you see those, please give me a little break and know that I do the best I can, but sometimes shit comes up and my “plan” (such as it is) takes a back seat.
- We don’t do cable or satellite services (with the exception of internet), and if it weren’t for the fact that family members have Sling TV, we wouldn’t have it, either. Believe it or not, we discovered that we didn’t use cable. And we know that because we got service again after a little more than a year without and not a one of us was remotely interested in using it. That being said, we *do* use Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime (the Amazon we also share with family), and we have several “family” Apple TVs that all share the same 160-some movies.
- We have a family full of iPhones (6), and it was cost-effective for us to subscribe to Apple Music rather than to continue to approve monthly purchases for the three teenagers. In more than a year, we have yet to fall out of love with it.
- We make big purchases once a year at tax return time. We do not buy furniture or computers on payments from places like Rent One or even Big Lots because they try to kill poor people with their crazy ass interest rates AND they have subpar products. Why pay more for less? (In the beginning of Hubby and I’s relationship, I did have to make an exception to this: the kids needed new beds and it couldn’t be postponed for a half year.)
- We shop for groceries on payday after we’ve planned our meals for the week. Because of the teenagers and their propensity for eating us out of house and home, the weekly shopping includes ALL OF THE JUNK FOOD EVER; however, I unapologetically buy only the cheapest crap food I can find. This means that I buy Aldi brand EVERYTHING. Spaghettios, pizzas and pizza rolls, fruit cups, potato chips, cookies, cereal, Pop-Tarts, you name it.
- I hit two stores a week: Aldi and Wal-Mart. There are very few grocery items that I buy from the latter, and those are mostly for Hubby and I. My love for Aldi cannot be overstated: I get a cart full of groceries for about $70, and there’s not a single thing in that cart that goes to waste. They also make eating healthy unbelievably easy; no one has better or more affordable produce.
- I buy stuff I know we’ll use when it’s on sale…provided it doesn’t push me over budget for the week. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas that I cannot exploit as much as I’d like. Sometimes it takes money to save money, and we don’t have the extra money to spend.
- I know what we use and where I can get it at the best price. Sometimes, that best price is online, so I buy a few things regularly from Amazon (cat litter and flea medication, iPhone chargers and in-ear headphones). Because of the “family” Prime subscription, I don’t pay for two day shipping.
- I know I should, but I do not coupon unless something I will use appears magically under my nose. I simply do not have the time. Plus, I really hate buying a bunch of stuff we might not use. That’s a waste of money I’d rather put somewhere else.
- I never buy name brand OTC medication. We use way more of this stuff than we probably should, and not paying for Tylenol and NyQuil makes a BIG difference in the course of a year.
- We’re lucky to have two teenagers of fairly average size and shape, and I can get clothes for them on the cheap at places like Ross and TJ Maxx. I also sometimes get lucky at yard sales and on Facebook swaps. We used to shop a lot at Goodwill, but in the last year, that’s become largely cost-prohibitive as they increased their prices. If I can get new stuff at TJ Maxx for $5 more, then I’m going to get the new stuff and keep the kids happy.
- I try to keep a handle on clothing that leaves the house and nag INCESSANTLY until it comes back. This keeps me from having to buy so many replacement items.
- We eat out once a week, but only if we have $20 extra to do it. Lately, we’ve been keeping it healthy at Subway.
- Recently, we’ve decided we like furniture that looks a bit more lived in and a lot less cookie cutter. I buy these things at an extremely reasonable price at various thrift stores in my area. I got all five of the following items (2 of one of the nightstands) for $225 total about a year ago, and I can’t tell you how loved they all are, as well as how much they feel like they are uniquely ours. Bonus: they’re very well made and MUCH cheaper than the new, fiberboard alternatives every single time.
- We bought our bed without once laying in it. My brother recommended it, and since he and his almost-wife are about our size and have the same back issues, we took their word for it. WE LOVE IT and the next time we need to replace one of the kids’ mattresses, we’ll do the same thing without thinking twice. It’s five times the bed (remember we got the last ones at Big Lots) for about half the price.
- We buy all new bedding on Black Friday. It’s the best time to get all the good stuff for less than you’d normally pay for the cheap stuff. (For example, the $25 Wal-Mart sheet sets cannot be beat, I don’t care what anybody says.)
- We try to buy subscriptions a year at a time, and we put them on our Christmas lists so we don’t have to buy them ourselves. That way, we skip an additional monthly charge and we get something we want. Step-son gets one for his Playstation, and this year, I’m asking for a re-up of my New York Times subscription. Or maybe a year of Photoshop. Or a classy WordPress premium plan. So many choices!
- I stopped obsessively buying new yarn and started obsessively using leftover and yard sale yarn. This was only possible because of my newfound love of scrap afghans, which I found that I like much more than patterned or single-color ones.
So anyway. That’s some of the stuff I do to try to cut corners. Hopefully, this was helpful for some of you. And if not, well, it was helpful for me to write it all down. ❤