Here are some ideas to consider
for hard financial times.
Written by Pamm Clark


Little things that will add up quickly . . .

Start with the basics. Look at your expenses and trim the excess. Stop going to Starbucks, skip the soda machine, eat at home more often, skip going to the movies (borrow DVDs from the library), double up on trips out, etc.

Make sure you pay your bills on time and keep your bank accounts in the black. Avoid late fees and bank charges. Apply this to just about everything like returning movie rentals and library books on time to avoid extra charges.

Look at your phone, internet, cable, satellite, and cell phone plans. Is there a way you can bundle these, or change your plan to make your monthly total less? Are you paying for internet access to your cell phone that you really could do without? Are you paying for a land line phone and a cell phone when only one is really needed? Are you paying for extra channels that nobody really watches anyway? Take a good look at your services and make some hard decisions. Here's what we did:

      We made the decision to switch to cell phones only. We had our home phone and internet through the same company. We have digital cable with a DVR through another company. We called the cable company and asked about their internet service. They told us if we bundle our cable with their internet, it would be just $20 more per month than we were paying for just cable. I was floored! At the phone company I was paying close to $50/month just for internet and when we added our home phone, it was close to $100/month! Why didn't we check into this sooner? With all the savings, we were able to get cellphones without paying any more monthly.

Update: We have reduced our bills again. Read about it here: Reducing Our Cable Bill. We also cut our cell phone bills in half by switching to Virgin Mobile. Yes, we had to spend some money upfront buying new cell phones, but the lower monthly fee is worth it!

Please shop around for services and packages that will suit your needs. I wish we had done it a lot sooner. Times and technology have changed so much. Prices and packages change all the time. Even if you are in a contract with a company, most of the time you can change the services and packages within the same company. Set up an email reminder to call your cable company, cell phone company, and other services and ask if they have a better package you can sign up for. If you want to change service providers, you can find out when your contract is up and make that date the focus for getting things changed over.

Keep asking questions. The best tip is to ask people in your area about who they use and what they like about it. That is how we found out about a cell phone package that would suit us.

Consider going green . . .

There are some services you don't have a choice about like water, trash, electricity, gas, etc. Your best bet for saving money on these items is to use less. If your trash service charges per can for pick-up, then work at reducing the number of cans you have to pick up (ask about a recycling program in your area). Turn your thermostat down (or up in the summer), use natural lighting as much as possible. Double up on your cooking (when cooking a meatloaf in the oven, put potatoes in there, too, along with another meatloaf for another day). Hang your laundry out to dry. Put a brick in your toilet and reduce the number of flushes (flushing every other or every third use). Start being conscious of what you consume and teach the children to be good stewards of energy and resources.

Eliminate buying paper towels, napkins, baby wipes, disposal diapers, even toilet paper and other paper products. You can use rags for paper towels, cloth napkins, use baby wash clothes instead of baby wipes or even toilet paper, you can even buy cloth menstrual pads. Search eBay or other places online for these items. Make one change per week or month and switch over slowly.

Consider alternate transportation everywhere. Take the bus or other public transportation. Ride bikes. Carpool with other parents and neighbors. Walking is great exercise and green transportation!

Harder choices . . .

You might need to ask for help. This is not easy for anyone as we all like to believe we can take care of ourselves. Remember, God gives us these times to remind us we need Him and each other to get by. Some places to ask for help are your church (or any church if you don't have one), Consumer Credit Counselors, your welfare office, Salvation Army, and your local food bank. Your local phone book should have a list of helpful agencies in it.

When things get really tough, harder choices will need to be made. Many think they need cell phones and cable TV--we don't. Many think we need a house with a room for each person--we don't. Many think we need new seasonal wardrobes--we don't. Many think we need weekly entertainment and are entitled to go out because we worked hard all week--we don't. Many think that we've worked hard for the toys we have and we are entitled to keep them--we aren't.

When things get really tight, sacrifices will have to be made. Here are some things to consider:

      *Cell phones may need to be turned off for the time-being. If you are in a contract with a company, most have an option where they will turn off your service for a nominal monthly fee, then you will resume service when you are able to pay in the future. You might need to check into that.

      *Cable TV is NOT mandatory. You can still get TV service with an antenna. We had one installed a few years ago for just under $100. It was put on top of the house and fed through the existing cable lines to all TVs. You don't have to do that, you can just get rabbit ears for each TV. It's easier to get by with an antenna than you think. You can also get by with watching shows through the internet, either through network's websites, Netflix ($8/month), and/or Hulu (free and paid versions).

      *Have a yard sale or sell on eBay. Go through your house and consider nothing as sacred! Collections, toys, furniture, recreational items, electronics, everything..... You may have to give up some things just to pay some bills or to buy groceries. Look for the lesson God is trying to show you as you make these decisions.

      *Consider renting a smaller house. We were in a situation once where we needed emergency housing. A friend rented us a 50x10-foot trailer for our family of four. It had one bedroom that just fit our bed, a bathroom, a kitchen without working appliances, and a living room where we put our kids' beds and toys. It seemed desperate, but boy were we happy to be there. We learned so much there! We sold everything we owned in excess (to pay the rent). We focused on basics like cooking (without a stove or oven), homeschooling, and family time. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world! We stayed there eleven-months. It was a very short eleven-months.

      *You may have to turn your car (or other vehicles) back in to the dealer. If you can't afford the payment, you can't afford it. Look into a voluntary reposition as an option.

      *DO NOT USE CREDIT CARDS. It will just make the problem bigger to use credit cards. Cut them up. Pray for a different way to fulfill the needs.

      *Seek counseling on if bankruptcy is an option for you.

Pray.


If you are going through hard times, here are some free and low cost ideas:

Toddler Curriculum

Preschool Curriculum

Homeschooling for Little or Nothing

Bible Study on Miracles

In a Pinch Meals

Got Leftovers?

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