Our own mini-financial crisis
We’re going through a change in circumstances and so we’ve been busy brainstorming ways to reduce our expenses. So I thought I’d share a run down of most of them with you.
Investigate and make a decision on what to do with my credit card and store card
The store card is a no-brainer really, there’s no real benefit to my having one especially with the outrageous interest rate and really I need to get the balance transferred or paid off and closed.
The credit card is a slightly different story in that, having the ability to purchase online is important to me and our lifestyle. On the other hand, the interest rate isn’t the best and a debit card might be a doable alternative (my concern is the card being invalid with some online businesses though I don’t know how realistic this concern is). I have a spreadsheet in the works comparing my current card and all the alternatives and what the total cost of paying off the debt is.
Create a budget based on our past expenses trimming where we can
Luckily we’ve been keeping track of our expenses in GnuCash however I haven’t been a bit slack at times and it doesn’t show the complete picture at the moment and in creating the budget weI realised the way we were breaking expenses down wasn’t the most effective. So I have revamped the chart of accounts and now I need to get the accounts up to date so we have a clear past picture and keep it up to date so we can have an accurate comparison between the budget and our actuals.
Drastically reduce our food expenses
Working from a meal plan and getting me back in the kitchen. My husband enjoys cooking, however there are a number of downsides to this. For a start, he hates mealplans and meal sizes/portion sizes have been on the large side meaning food wastage or leftovers that go on for days, or conversely lots of large snacks by my husband. Working from a meal plan means we can eat from our freezer/fridge/pantry more and hopefully reduce both the amount of money we’re spending and the amount of food wastage and the “oh I forgot I bought that” factor. It would also be nice to have appropriately sized servings and smaller amounts of leftovers.
Related to this, I need to do a full inventory of our fridge, freezer, deep freeze, laundry and bathroom in order to identify what we have on hand and what we need to purchase or come up with alternatives for. On the upside, we have done this in the past and so we won’t be starting from scratch, especially for the deep freeze (hopefully).
For some our luxury items we need to come up with alternatives to save money. FOr instance, My ideal breakfast is a bowl of Vogel’s Luxury Cafe-style Muesli and while I’ve said I will compromise and eat porridge as a cheap alternative , it would be nice to start the day in my usual way. Also I have all the gear to make our own cleaning products and bathroom supplies and I could get back into this and save money in this way.
One of the areas we identified that could be majorly improved upon was our food purchases which are mainly groceries.
We’ve also identified that we drink a lot of milk and go through a lot of eggs (especially when baking) and bread.
We can bake bread and part of my job for today is price up and test out refridgerated bagged milk.
For eggs, we’d been contemplating getting chickens or rather hens for some time and quite a few houses on our block have coops so we wouldn’t be bothering the neighbours with this addition. I did create a coop/chicken tractor a while back but that was using pvc piping and we’ve decided to go with a standard timber frame instead which offers an opportunity to create a better design. The initial pricing up of the total cost of the eggs is looking fairly good but I still need to design the coop and price up the construction costs and factor that into the total operating costs. It would be great if in the long run we’re able to offset these costs by selling extra eggs.
Some other ways to save money on the grocery bills is to check out alternative options to purchasing from our local grocery stores, like doing a shop at a cheaper supermarket out of town when already needing to be there, purchasing from bulk alternative stores, and buying produce from market gardens and what meat we don’t source from homekill at butchers.
Also, I’d like to be doing more baking, food processing (such as preserves and dehydrating) and maybe even stretching ourselves and attempting a $21 Challenge every now and again.
Another area in which we can save some money is in the garden, with more sustained effort we can get more produce from our garden throughout the year and on the upside we’ve been improving our skills albeit slowly with each growing season we’ve participated in. I’d also like to get into more vegetable swapping with locals when we do have an overabundance of produce. We’ve also made a start of purchasing fruiting trees and vines but now we need to get them in the ground so we can in the long term get some fruit from them!
Ideally to make the most from the garden we need to get the garden shed tidied (it’s currently an absolute shambles) and get the rest of the garden tidy (we have piles of wood and junk lying around). I’ve read that winter is the time to rejuvenate and repair your garden tools and ours could definitely do with this also.
One of the other things I’d like to do is have the inventories computerised along with the meal planning and entering the itemised grocery bills. I can’t help thinking that this would lead to an optimised system in the long run but that fact that there’s no obvious application leads me to suspcet this is a pipe dream. In the meantime I’ve started entering in the recipes I use into Gourmet which has a shopping list ability which is at least one step in the right direction.
We’re also going to run a mileage log for the vehicle to work out how our fuel is being used and apportioned. We also need to sell our other vehicle and put that money against our debts. It will also mean we’ll be saving on insurance and warrant/registration costs which definitely add up.
One other way to increase our income, is to finally get all the stuff we have cluttering up the house that has been earmarked for putting on trademe or sella actually up on trademe or sella! The benefit of this would be a bit of extra cash to pay off debt and a less cluttered home.
In a way, when we decided to look at our expenses in some areas there is nothing we can do to save money as we already practise good habits. For instance with our utilities (power, phones and internet) we already keep our fingers on the pulse and periodically check to see that we’re on the right plan or provider for our needs. The only extra thing we could do in this area is to drastically change the way we run our lives and that doesn’t make sense as these changes would impact on our ability to bring in income. False economy is not the way to tackle the problem.
All in all this looks like a lot of work and I’d like to summarise the tasks I’ve outlined:
- Kill store card by transferring balance or paying in full.
- Investigate alternatives to current credit card including, debit card or balance transfer.
- Get the accounts up to date in Gnucash.
- Keep accounts up to date in Gnucash.
- Create mealplans and shop and work from them.
- Me making the meals and planning/doing the shopping.
- Do a full inventory of our fridge, freezer, deep freeze, laundry and bathroom.
- Come up with alternatives to luxury items.
- Investigate feasibility of making our own cleaning products and bathroom supplies.
- Bake bread.
- Price up and test out refridgerated bagged milk and look into other options.
- Design coop/chicken tractor plan and price up the construction costs and factor that into the total operating costs.
- Compare prices from our local grocery stores to out of town cheaper supermarkets, bulk alternative stores, market gardens and butchers.
- Do more baking.
- Investigate and do some food processing (such as preserves and dehydrating).
- Attempt a $21 Challenge.
- Get vegetable garden productive.
- Plant fruiting trees and vines and prune grape vine.
- Get the garden shed tidied.
- Get the rest of the garden tidy (we have piles of wood and junk lying around).
- Rejuvenate and repair our garden tools.
- Look for software for entering itemised grocery bills, inventories and shopping lists.
- Enter in the recipes I use into Gourmet.
- Purchase a mileage log and start using.
- We also need to sell other vehicle, put that money against our debts and cancel insurance.
- Sell stuff already earmarked on trademe or sella.
Image from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/826187