Parents, Do you find it increasingly harder to make ends meet for your family?

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I know that everyone is going through hard times these days, I’m just wondering how others deal with it. I’m trying to gather others ideas and opinions to see if I can better serve my family.

My husband and I both work full time in a small town hospital. I am an RN and he is a PT assistant. Together, we gross around $ 60,000 a year. We used to feel we were doing well, but have been going down hill in the past year. We have already refinanced our mortgage, have loans on our vehicles and are still paying off student loans. I feel that this debt is spiraling out of control and taking my family down with it.

I’m looking for:
-Creative ways to cut the grocery bill, for a family of 4
-Ways to save on childcare (Infant and toddler)
-Is there anything that can be done to save on utilities?
-Any other money saving tips

11 Comments
  1. Reply
    *~Mrs. Taylor~*
    May 2, 2011 at 6:20 am

    wow 60,000 a year I wish we were making that kinda money! but yes times are getting harder and harder especially for those of us making about 20,000 a year….thats why we are going back to school for bachelors degrees! work is very slim where we live!

  2. Reply
    Kammy Bernard
    May 2, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Grocery’s: Shop the “outer aisle” for one week, sit down and plan a menu with only meat/dairy/veggies/fruits and leave out all the items that are in the middle aisles of grocery stores and you will be shocked how much you will save. My husband went on a diet and we cut out all processed foods and saved easily $ 200 a month. Try it and compare it to before and you will see a price change. Obviously, pack lunch and don’t buy, make coffee at home and don’t go to Starbucks, what I do is when making dinner, I always make too much and put what we don’t eat in tupperware containers for a quick grab the next day to work and all you have to do is stick it in the microwave!
    Childcare: Here is the shocker I learned: Sometimes (not always depending on area) going on a website like care.com will save you money vs. a daycare. For a full time “nanny” working 8 hours a day at $ 10 an hour for our 2 kids, we only pay $ 1600 compared to the $ 2000 a month the daycares in our area charge. Granted, we only have a “nanny” on the days I work so only a couple days a week, but the concept is the same and I used the actual prices they have on there.
    Utilities: If you have PG&E or Smud, they have a free program where they will come out and weatherstrip your home making it more energy efficient, hence saving money each month, use fans and open windows instead of the air and wear a sweater during the winter and close your curtains to keep the heat.
    Random: The most important thing is to pay down your debt and do not refinance again. Remember the bottom line and learn from mistakes. Oh, and definitely have a savings account because what would happen if one of you were to get in an accident and could no longer work? Always have a back up plan just in case basically.

    Good Luck

  3. Reply
    ♥Jarrett my little pumpkin♥
    May 2, 2011 at 6:40 am

    My husband and I live in Southern California sharing an apartment with my sister who is a single mother and we still can’t save any money. We both have car payments, health insurance, a son who is in day care two days a week, rent, utilities, grocery bills, gas for our cars, auto insurance, and whatever else. We don’t even make what you and your husband make combined. Together we both make 25,000 a year and still have a hard time making it because we live in a city where people want to come and live, a lot of people come here to follow their dreams in the music industry and movie industry, which has driven up the cost of living that in no way my husband and I will ever be able to afford a house for our family. We are stuck in jobs that doesn’t really allow opportunity for growth and with the economy the way it is there is no way I am going to leave my job for something that pays way less than what I make now. We feel stuck and are trying to make it out of California to somewhere else where the cost of living is a lot cheaper and we will be able to buy a house.
    When I go to the grocery store I take 50 dollars( a week) cash with me and make it last to feed a family of three and sometimes my nephew, this is all I allow myself to spend for the week. I come up with recipes with things that I have in the house so I don’t have to over spend at the grocery store. Use up what food you already have and buy the basics like meat, fruit and vegetables, milk etc, but your stables should always be potatoes and rice. Write a list before you go shopping and stick to it. Make different casseroles for dinner they are easy to prepare and are budget friendly.
    For your job, one of you work the overnight shift and the other work the day shift so you won’t have to shell out money for child care.
    Turn off lights and unplug things that aren’t being used to save. Use water when only needed and invest in a crock pot because it only costs you 10 cents a day to use it and this should save on your electricity bills. If you have a cell phone then cut the costs of the plan and if you have a house phone get rid of it and put that money towards your cell phones. Only buy things that you need and not the things that you want and I say this buy make the 30 day rule, if you want it wait 30 days to see if you really want it or wait until it goes on clearance. Go through your stuff and have a small yard sale to get rid of the things you don’t need or use. There is always someone else willing to buy your things and that gives you a little bit extra cash for any household bill. Install CFL (or, even better, LED) bulbs wherever it makes sense. These bulbs might cost more initially, but they both have a longer life than normal incandescent bulbs and they both eat far less electricity.
    Sell your car and invest in a cheaper one so you have some money left over to put into your mortgage or student loans, look for a cheaper place to live, save even a penny and most importantly talk to you family about your fears and the situation you are in.

  4. Reply
    Ava- Lola's mommy!
    May 2, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Hon I know what you mean. I’m a single mom & I’m always having trouble making ends meet. Things have been a bit easier lately ( I got my car paid off!!! Ya!) but it seems like something ALWAYS pops up. Life’s funny like that eh? Anyway to answer your question…..

    1. Coupons! They can really save you a lot. Shop around & see what store is cheapest. I actually buy my groceries at one store, & everything else (paper goods, cleaning supplies, bathroom stuff, & pet food) at another store. I’ve saved about $ 20 a month doing that. If there’s a sale on something that you use a lot, stock up!
    Plan your meals out ahead of time. Set a budget & stick to it. Don’t buy processed junk, it’s cheaper AND healthier to make it yourself. And of course…. don’t shop on a empty stomach.

    2. Daycare is expensive. Have you checked & see if you qualify for government assistance with daycare? You can apply through your State Human Resources Administration.

    3. Make sure your getting the cheapest possible. Call around & see if there’s anything cheaper out there. Unplug! If your not using something unplug it.

    4. Set up payment plans for anything you are paying off. Make a monthly budget.

    Hope this helps! =)

  5. Reply
    *Eric's Wife* \m/^_^\m/
    May 2, 2011 at 7:07 am

    It is tough, especially when you don’t have the extra $ $ to spend on extras like eating out or buying toys for your kids. I don’t have a lot of answers, but I may have a couple of tips to help!

    -Creative ways to cut the grocery bill, for a family of 4: Buy generic; buy in bulk the things you use a lot- it will cost more up front, but you won’t have to buy them every time you shop; Shop at places such as Save-a-lot; cut out extras such as soda, it will make it more of a treat anyways.

    -Ways to save on childcare (Infant and toddler): if possible, see if you can do your shifts in 4 10 hour days or a few 12 hour days, that way you can spend a couple of days at home. Or see if you can work evenings once in a while so you and your husband can take turns watching the kids.

    -Is there anything that can be done to save on utilities?: YES! I did this last year, i called each of my utility companies and nicely explained to them my situation and how money was tight and asked if there was anything that could be done to lower my utility cost. you can usually put your gas bill on a budget plan, and also I was informed i could call my gas supplier and renegotiated my $ per MCF rate.

    -Any other money saving tips: buy generic diapers to use while at home (walmart’s parents choice just changed and they are very similar to pampers cruisers and are 1/2 the price!) also tighten the purse strings a little. cook at home, bring your own lunch to work, and only buy what you NEED at the store, and save the wants for when you have a little extra money.

    It’s hard i know. I am also a family of 4 with an infant and a toddler, and we make about the same $ . We are working at paying off our debt first and foremost. we cut up ALL the credit cards, and arranged payment plans with the doctors and hospital for my daughter’s ear tube surgery. This means we have NOTHING extra right now, but we know this will be a short term loss, long term gain for us. My youngest is turning 1 tomorrow, and I could only afford to spend like $ 30 on her birthday party 🙁

    Good luck!

  6. Reply
    royalbird
    May 2, 2011 at 7:21 am

    I know what you mean. My husband brings in $ 60K about and I stay home with the kids. We have four children and a baby on the way. We just bought a house and are actually paying less than we were in rent earlier, so that’s nice. But we now have added expenses we didn’t have when we were renting, like HOA and water/sewage, which our landlord covered.

    We try to cut back in utilities by having basic cable and phone packages, that sort of thing. Some gas/electric companies will average your monthly expenditures over a year and then have you pay that all year long so that you don’t have a really high bill during peak seasons, which can make it easier on the budget. And always turn off lights and other energy using appliances that don’t need to stay on (obviously, a fridge needs to stay on! lol). Also, we keep our heat down as low as we can handle it in the winter and the AC as high as we can handle it in the summer. We use warm clothes and blankets to help in the winter and installed ceiling fans (did the installations ourselves) in each room for the summer, which has helped. Opening windows in the morning and evening to cool off the house in the spring and fall, and closing all blinds and curtains at peak sun times in the summer to keep the house cool. That sort of thing.

    I can’t help you with childcare tips because I stay home with our kids.

    But with groceries, I’m a pro at saving on groceries. We have a family of 6 and I typically spend about $ 350/month on groceries and about $ 50/month on food storage. We like to have a food storage as a backup for any time we might not have money to buy food or can’t get to a store–items like canned goods, dry pastas, sauce mixes, etc, that I can pull out when we really need it. Also, learn how to cook from scratch, you can save a whole lot of money that way, buying the raw ingredients is way cheaper than buying pre-made frozen or packaged foods.

    Plan a menu each week or two weeks when you shop and really stick to that menu. And when you stock up on “food storage” stock up on sale items that match staples in your menu, like if you have spaghetti often (we do–the kids love it and it’s easy to make), then buy lots of pasta, sauce mix and/or sauce when you find good deals. Watch the sales (those grocery store flyers that come in your mailbox weekly). Base your menu and grocery list on what’s the cheapest, like if they have apples for less than a dollar a pound, buy lots of apples that week.

    If you possibly can, and I know it’s hard to do when you’re already strapped financially, tuck a little away in savings each month–we only contribute about $ 50/month right now. It will add up. Shop around for the best interest rates and go there, don’t just do it where you bank currently out of convenience. Also, if you can pay a little extra towards those loans to pay them off sooner, if there’s no penalty for paying early. For example, our car payment for our one car (we were fortunate to be able to pay for one of cars upfront a few years back when we had a little extra cash) is $ 182/month. If I pay $ 18 more each month and pay an even $ 200, it doesn’t really dent my budget that much and slices about 6 months off the life of the loan.

    Also, shop at consignment stores and other used clothing stores for kids’ clothes. Kids grow out of them so fast and until they get older, they don’t really care where their clothes come from and can still look pretty dang cute in what they wear. Where we live, there’s a great used kids’ clothing store that only sells name brand, gently used stuff for quite cheap, and it’s become my favorite place to shop for them. I buy them everything from snow boots and snow pants to ballerina tutus and suits for church for them at that store. And check your local area craigslist and freecycle websites to get good stuff cheap and free (used of course). I’ve found some great treasures on these sites for very good prices.

    Sorry this was so long. We’ve become pretty efficient and getting the most for our money since I’ve chosen to stay home. DH didn’t always make as much as he does now, and thankfully he still has nowhere to go but up, but since our first baby was born, I’ve stayed home and back in those days, he only made $ 10/hour, yet we still made it work.

    Good luck! We’re still struggling too, but somehow it always seems to work out every month!

  7. Reply
    ozboz48
    May 2, 2011 at 7:25 am

    There’s a ton of things you can do, and many of them are outlined in a book called Tightwad’s Gazette. http://notmadeofmoney.com/blog/2009/03/the-tightwad-gazette-things-i-learned-from.html

    All the best.

  8. Reply
    ஐSillyஐ
    May 2, 2011 at 7:28 am

    I saw this website here once when someone else asked a similar question and really liked some of the tips on saving money and cutting living expenses.

    Worth looking at.

    http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/

  9. Reply
    happymomof2
    May 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Money is tight for us to, and we also have a family of 4. Do you have an “Aldis” where you live? If you can buy your groceries there you will be shocked at how much you save; it cut our regular bill in almost half. Otherwise buy generics.
    Look for recipes you can make with rice, potatoes, beans or pasta as a main ingredient. All of these are cheap and healthy and very filling and you can buy in bulk. Occasionally, you can cook vegetarian meals (look online) and save even more money, and it’s a great way to stay healthy. When you must shop at other grocery stores, keep the ads they send in your mail and clip coupons to match what’s on sale; you can get things extremely cheap this way!
    With daycare all I can say is to shop around. Sometimes smaller in home day-care can give your kids more individual attention and charge a lot less money. In some areas there are churches the have daycare centers and their rates may be less expensive as well.
    I also save a ton of money by buying my kids clothes on clearance at the end of each season for a year in advance. I also will watch for big sales on toys or toys on clearance I know my kids would like and stock up (hide them!) for Christmas. Instead of rushing to spend hundreds of dollars for Christmas I already have 90% of toy shopping done and paid for at a fraction of the cost.
    One last thing, is to make sure you are driving vehicles with good gas mileage. We traded in our car for a newer used car with excellent mileage and it has saved us a ton of money. Good luck.

  10. Reply
    Chibi Oka-san
    May 2, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Cutting the grocery bill is simple, stick with the lowest cost of something. We’re very low income….and well we buy store brand if we can and cheapest. Some things you can’t buy store brand. Like hamburger helper is better as is, the walmart brand is SOO gross.
    Saving on childcare would be to find a cheaper daycare or hire a sitter that’s cheaper OR find a family member that could do it.
    Saving utilities would mean cutting back on what you can. Since my husband switched jobs (for the worst cause he got laid off) we went back on cable subscription and took a low one that had everything. We cut off our cell phones cause we didn’t need them THAT bad.
    Dont’ acquire debt. Buy things outright. Save and buy outright that way your not making payments. We bought a car for $ 1800 outright during tax time because we had none. We bought a TV outright from craigslist because the $ 40 every 2 weeks from RAC we couldn’t afford it.
    Other then that save were you can. Think before you buy, “Do I REALLY need this right now? Or do I just WANT it?”

  11. Reply
    purplefrog^murtle~tree
    May 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

    I’d say the childcare costs are eating up a good chunk of your money. I wouldn’t stress too much. Just sit down and make a budget – like another poster stated – we too started at less than $ 10/hour. My husband makes more now – however the “frugal” bug has stuck with me. As far as I’m concerned if there’s no money left to “play” There’s no money left to play!
    Write it all out or make a spreadsheet so you can visually see what’s coming in (income) and what’s going out.(mortage/etc etc). Is there a way you can consolidate your student loans and car payments? That might make a difference each month payment wise. Or you could work on paying extra on the loan with the highest interest loan – once that’s paid off – take that money and start paying down the next etc etc.
    Cut your cable- get the basics! Try to identify what your “want’s” are verses your “needs” As for childcare costs I don’t know what’s available in your area- when i was working our income combined put us over the limit for any sort of subsidy available.
    As for groceries – cook from scratch – limit takeout – make a list before you go shopping and stick to it.
    Utilities – I’m a paranoid light freak – my friends always laugh because i’m constantly saying “Did you turn off the lights? Turn off the lights!” If you aren’t in the room – turn it off!” (I also have those lcd? bulbs in any socket I could reach without a ladder LOL) Turn the furnace down when you aren’t home or at night. Put on fuzzy pajama’s.
    Invest in low-flow showerheads/toilets. (I’ve saved $ 50 on my water bill (we pay every 3 months) since trading in my old dinosaurs. We replace 2 out of 3 and by the end of 12 months the savings will have paid for the toilets. (found them on sale)
    Coffee – make it at home. Make your lunches at home. That kind of thing.
    The key is – you and your husband both need to be on the same page about this. If you don’t both make the effort to reduce your spending etc it just won’t work.

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