In Part 1 I shared why we chose to live as a single income family. Now we will cover some of the practical realities of our choices.
Reduce & Reuse
We reduced in some areas and reused/re-purposed in others
Areas we reduced:
We sold one of our vehicles and became a one vehicle family. This saved us on insurance, maintenance, gas/petrol and time. The gas/petrol and time is saved because instead of my making a special trip for groceries during the day while Rob is at work he picks up groceries on the way home when he is driving by or close to the store anyway. With Rob doing grocery shopping alone we are able to stick to our list and he gets in and out quicker than when we have the children at the grocery store.
We cut down on packaging. We buy fewer prepackaged goods than we did at first and stick to produce etc that doesn’t come prepackaged. We also buy bulk quantities of some dried goods which also cuts down in packaging. This saves money and time. The packaging costs are built in to the cost of items so the less we have the less we are paying for. It also saves us time sorting through recycling too.
Eating out. This is a big saver for us. We both like to cook and we both like to eat good food. So when we want a fancy meal we make it ourselves. It is now rare for us to eat out unless we are on a trip somewhere, and even then we like to buy groceries and prepare food if we can. Even a visit to the dollar menu can quickly add up to more than the cost of a much healthier home cooked meal. If you don’t know how to cook invest in a couple of good books that will teach you step by step, or invest in a cooking class. It will save you money in the long term.
We moved closer to where Rob works. Reducing his commute by 30 minutes each way every day saves us a lot of money when fuel prices continue to rise, not to mention lower maintenance on our car as it builds less wear and tear. As an added bonus it gives Rob an hour extra every day to spend playing with his children instead of sitting in the car.
Areas we reuse/repurpose
Clothes never get thrown away in our home. If they are too worn to wear they go in the rag box. When I’m looking for fabric for a project I’ll check the rag box first. When I was pregnant with Seth I decided to make some newborn sized fitted diapers/nappies so we would not have to buy throw away diapers until he was big enough for our stash of prefolds. I used a large pile of old t-shirts to make some very cute diapers/nappies. The total cost of 24 fitted diapers in newborn size was less than $10. The only supplies I bought for this project was Velcro and elastic. I had everything else. I recently looked at the price of these items to buy premade and they ranged from $15-$25 each. Even though Seth was a big baby and quickly outgrew them I still saved the money for the 5-6 weeks of throw away diapers/nappies. We saved at least $50 even with just that little use.
We also are always looking for ways to repurpose/reuse in the kitchen. I buy dried goods in bulk and store in old jars that were once the packaging on something else. I have a row of flour and sugar jars that originally contained biscotti. In the pantry I have rice, pasta etc in old catering size mayonnaise jars. I wash out jam/jelly jars and reuse to store sauces in the freezer. If it can be cleaned out and is re-sealable then we will find a use for it. I even reuse old laundry detergent bottles to store my homemade detergent. Empty spray bottles of cleaning fluids are refilled with homemade versions to do the same job (those recipes/tips are a whole post in themselves.)
Plan a menu
Early on in my blogging life I shared an 8 week menu plan we were in the process of implementing. It has since had several revisions and we are currently looking at expanding it to 10 or 12 weeks, with only a few firm favourite meals repeated (who wants to wait 12 weeks for pizza or burgers.) Having a menu plan works for us. We like a lot of variety in our meals. We like to cook. What we don’t enjoy is having to think about what to cook. Now that we have small children it is even more important to take some of the thinking out of the process. I’m even working on a menu plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks for myself and the children. I like knowing what to take out of the freezer, what to put on the grocery list and what to do when my almost 2 year old has a hungry day and wants to eat every 30 minutes.
We’ve been using the menu plan for about 3 years. We know almost instinctively what to buy at the grocery store. I still keep a running list on the fridge that we use to do the actual grocery shopping. Rob will take it with him on the days he has to pick up groceries on the way home. Otherwise we shop for groceries once a month, which is generally how long it takes to have a list big enough to justify a special trip for groceries. This strategy has saved money in another way. We stay out of stores, so we reduce the temptation to impulse buy. When we don’t go to the store for only 2 or 3 items we are not tempted to buy another 10 items we don’t really need, costing us money we had not planned to spend (even if the item is on sale, it only saves money of we would have bought it regardless of the sale.)
Menu planning has also helped us to avoid the temptation to eat out or order take out food. On those days when I can’t get even 5 minutes in the kitchen without a meltdown from one of the children it isn’t a disaster. We both know what is ready to cook and either of us can have dinner on the table just by following our menu. I will say at this point we are not slaves to the plan. We will readily swap around meals within the same week, especially for a meltdown day. Having crockpot/slow cooker meals has also been a blessing on those days too.
I’ll have to do a post just on food, as this is a big area of spending for us, and also an area where we can really save when we need to. I’m sure it will be the same for you too.
Some of the choices we have made that make us kinder to the environment are really areas where we save money, and being green is just a happy side effect.
When we were pregnant with our first born we had no spare money. I already knew I wanted to use cloth diapers/nappies. I knew it was kinder for the baby and their delicate skin. I also knew it did not have to cost a lot of money to get started. Rob was sold on it as I explained how we could build a stash of cloth diapers/nappies cheaply and just how much it would save us financially over 2 years. We used a gift card to buy our initial 5 dozen cotton prefolds, then we just paid for the waterproof covers and fasteners. Total outlay for us was only about $30. The actual cost if we had not had the gift card would have been about $90. We did end up using throw away diapers/nappies for the first 6 weeks until Aiden was big enough for the prefolds. Again we used gift cards for most of that cost, but it was more than $80 for that 6 week period, almost as much as the cost for a complete cloth set up. We did add 4 pocket diapers/nappies later to use overnight, and then we bought more covers and 4 more pockets when Seth was born. The pockets cost about $20 each. Add in a few extra fasteners and for 2 boys we have spent less than $300 in cloth diapering supplies in the last 2 years. We also have enough supplies to last several more babies, as we currently only use about half of our supply since we wash 3 times a week. The more babies we have the more we will save in this area.
Homemade detergents and cleaners are another money saver that has the added benefit of being green, but since I’ve already promised another post on this topic I won’t go into details here.
We have a small car, a Nissan Versa. It fits the same number of people as most of the larger vehicles we see on the road. However it not only cost us less to buy it, it costs less to operate too. It is more fuel efficient than the larger vehicles. With the right kind of car seats we should be able to fit 3 children in the back, which is exactly the same as those fuel guzzling SUVs we see on most of our neighbours drives.
So this has turned into a much longer post than I originally intended. I’ll continue with posts on food and cleaners, and a few other things we do to make that single income count.