Author Topic: Any others here w/ lower income and a family  (Read 8236 times)

crunchy_mama

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Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« on: July 09, 2012, 06:22:39 AM »
I searched past posts but didn't find anything. 

We are a one income family w/ 3 and soon to be 4 children.  Husbands take home pay for this year will be maybe 38k, lots of cutbacks at his work and reduced hrs this year.  At the end of this year we are paying off the house as his job is not very stable at this point and it was causing him extreme stress w/ our mortgage over his head.  As without the mortgage we could live off of minimum wage or close to it and we live rurally and he has no advanced education, he (and I) want to be prepared to take care of our family regardless. 

By the end of the year (assuming no big events- ie transmission going out or baby to NICU) we will have enough of an efund for 6 months  and about 5k, to either help w/ replacing a vehicle or cover our insurance ded.  We need more in our car fund as both of our vehicles are older (mine is 11 yrs and his is 17yrs).  He drives an old Civic to work to save on gas and I have a van that we can all fit in.  We don't plan to replace either unless they need significant repair or with the van we space out but it is obvious we will have to at some point.  He has an older truck as well which is used for hauling and when he cannot get out, it is 16yrs but hardly gets much use and I forsee it lasting a good while w/ little problems. 

We are 36 and 33 and do plan on having more kids (our fertility or bc methods are not up for discussion or debate).  We have cut out all the extras and after the house is paid can forseeably live off about 1500 a month, keeping things fairly sparse w/ a small amount of fun.  But with those things to save up for and watch out I don't see how we can hit 50% savings rate.  I'd like dh to be able to retire early but it is not looking very likely. 

Our bills- After the house payoff-
$200 taxes and insurance
$500 groceries
$225 gas- we live in the country and dh drives 40 mi roundtrip to work
$115 electric
$65 phone and internet
$70 car insurance
$30 gifts (Christmas and Birthdays)
$25 Entertainment
$40 Personal Spending Money -
$20 Boy Scouts- American Heritage Girls
$100 Car Maintenance and Repairs
$25 Education -Homeschool Supplies
$15 Clothing
$5 Cleaning and Paper Supplies
$5 Personal CAre
$10 House Maintenance
$50 Misc
---------------
$1500

palvar

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2012, 08:18:17 AM »
Can you move closer to work?  Both cars will have to be replaced/repaired eventually.   It would be nice to take the car/van out of the equation.

James

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2012, 08:23:12 AM »
I lived for about 8 years at your income level, actually less but it was a while ago so with inflation the numbers are similar.  Obviously it all comes down to personal choice.  You could cut back and save more money, plenty of people around the world survive on much less than you have budgeted and enjoy life.  With smaller numbers even small changes have dramatic effects, so watching every penny is important, though back when I made that amount I didn't which hurt me.  There is not a big problem with planning to work longer in order to live a certain lifestyle, even with my large income I have to make that call, it's just the actual numbers that change.  Spending $500 on groceries and having lots of kids moves the numbers one way, $15 on clothing seems small and moves it the other way. (That's just me, others will see it differently which is normal)  You end up with a balance that needs to work for you and fit with your long term realities and goals, there are no rules.

I think you have an excellent base to start from, and paying off the house certainly sounds awesome, well done!  I would suggest taking one line at a time from your budget and realistically seeing if there are options to lower it.  Maybe start with groceries and gas, since they are bigger ticket items.  Maybe your husband could hang a bike off the back of his civic and start biking the last 5-10 miles into work and back.  Find a place to part the car between home and work that saves 10+ miles of the round trip miles, which should save a chunk of gas each month and provide good exercise as well.  There are lots of threads here talking about groceries, maybe try budgeting for a $400 month and see how that goes.  Or cut back $10 a month until you absolutely can't cut any more, make it a fun family challenge to see how low you can go.

Again, well done in the decision you have made, I absolutely appreciate how hard it is to pay off a house and save up the kind of money you have on that salary, especially in this society.  There are others here making similar or less, and the great thing about mustachian living is that it tends to break down the disconnect between high and low income earners, we are all seeking to live a more frugal lifestyle and can certainly learn from each other.

skyrefuge

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2012, 08:53:47 AM »
We are 36 and 33 and do plan on having more kids (our fertility or bc methods are not up for discussion or debate).

Ok, then let me see if I can get a little "meta" and open up the "not open for debate" discussion.  If someone here posted "getting rid of cable TV is not up for discussion" or "selling our new pickup truck is not up for debate", MMM and the community would swiftly dole out some punches to the face and say "hell yes it's up for debate!"  It's actually one of the most powerful parts of this community, where people regularly discover that some aspect of their lives they once thought was non-negotiable and unchangeable, is actually quite changeable.  So is there any reason that number-of-children belongs in a different, unmentionable category?  They're all conscious decisions a person makes, and even if some fall under the heading of "religious decision" (I'm sure there are plenty of people in the US who would give up their life before risking eternal damnation by giving up their pickup truck!), adhering to the tenets of a particular religion is just a conscious decision too.  When does face-punching become off-limits, and why?

In the battle between a lower income, early retirement, and more kids, it seems like one of those factors will have to lose out, and maybe after enduring some face-punches you would still say "yes, we're willing to give up an earlier retirement".  But I think you should still be open to the experiment.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 09:55:47 AM by skyrefuge »

grantmeaname

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2012, 08:56:51 AM »
$38k is over $3000 a month. If you only need $1500 a month to live on and you make more than $3000, won't you already be at a >50% savings rate as soon as the house is paid off?
Before we get into my tips, I'll echo James: that's really fantastic work to care for a family of 5 and homeschool a sizable class on $18k a year! I'm way impressed! You're solidly in ERE territory!

Here are some of my specific tips for savings, if you want to try and drive your expenses lower.
I'd have your husband look into hypermiling techniques. If he only drives 800 miles a month (40 miles*20 workdays), and he can hypermile the civic at 40mpg (seems reasonable based on a quick search of hypermiling forums), you've dropped his work gas use to 20 gallons a month, or $70. Even after your van driving is added to that, you should be nowhere near $225. He could also look into a motorcycle for further savings (Bakari has a fantastic blog post about it not being as scary as you might think).

Do you think you could cut down your $100 a month car repair expense by insourcing more of the repairs? Intuitively, as the driver of a single 10-year-old-but-unreliable car, it seems like you might be able to squeeze some money out of that category, and it is 7% of your total monthly expenses.

Your utility bills may also have room to be cut, although not knowing your prices, your market, and your home, it's hard to say. Michael Bluejay has a great, up-to-date website for cutting electricity and natural gas usage if you can get past the 1995-era web design. MMM has a series of posts on utility costs. And as Michael Bluejay notes, electricity costs vary even in the same place from the same provider, so you may be able to cut costs by switching providers (while you're at it, you could shop around for insurance). Regarding your telecom bill specifically, I'd urge you to check out I.P. Daley's now-famous superguide.

Your grocery bill is impressively low, but you might be able to drive it even lower. How do you feel about a couple of meatless meals a week? Despite my reservations, I was pleasantly surprised how many meatless meals I can make that aren't made of painful faux-meat and meat-substitute: beef with broccoli, without the broccoli; pasta bakes with just veggies and tomato sauce; summer grilled or winter roasted mixed vegetables; eggs and pancakes. Do you grow any of your own herbs, fruits and vegetables? Could you expand your growing if so? Do you coupon? Do you shop with your middle finger? I'm sure you already do a couple of these things based on your impressively low costs, but the ones you don't could help you feed your family even cheaper!

If you want reading recommendations, the slightly-outdated Tightwad Gazette and Early Retirement Extreme (author's referral link, not mine) are the first options to come to mind.

Finally, you could try and raise your income to address the other half of the savings rate fraction. It's hard to be prescriptive without knowing your situation's specifics, but MMM notes that it's easier to raise a low income than cut low expenses (pep talk here, can't find the other relevant posts today for some reason).

sol

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 08:57:08 AM »
Early retirement can basically be done two ways; you can cut your expenses or you can raise your income.  Since you're unwilling to have fewer than four children and three cars, you're kind of committing to some significant expenses.  Which is fine, there are lots of people on this forum who have committed to long working careers to support their current lifestyle expenses, for various reasons. 

Alternately, if you really want to support a large family AND retire early, you probably need to find a way to increase your income.

grantmeaname

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 09:05:12 AM »
In the battle between a lower income, early retirement, and more kids, it seems like one of those factors will have to lose out, and maybe after enduring some face-punches you would still say "yes, we're willing to give up an earlier retirement".  But I think you should still be open to the experiment.
Seconded. The point isn't that we're going to judge your having kids as a moral failing based on our non-mustachian values about families, the environment, or anything else. The point is you're making a trade off, voluntarily raising your expenses by having more kids. If that's not worth it to you, relative to retiring earlier, then don't do it. If it's worth it to you, great! Keep on having kids, recognizing what you're exchanging for them.

If your spending decision is a shiny new red 2013 F-250 super duty crew cab, we'd administer some really righteous face-punches, because nobody sane values a nice car more than 6 months of their life. Kids are a really important spending decision, and a sane person could rather have a kid than time in retirement (unlike a really bitchin' big truck), but having more kids is still a spending decision.

arebelspy

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2012, 09:18:13 AM »
Sky, sol, and grant posted my exact thoughts as well.

If you choose those things as important, you may be trading ER for them. That's fine, but you may not be able to have your cake (5+ kids, one parent staying home, other parent working low income job, multiple cars, etc.) and eat it too (early retirement).

My only advice to add is that you should step back and think and discuss your life choices with your significant other.  Do it tomorrow (after letting these posts sink in, rather than in an immediate reactionary way), and then again in a week, a month, a year, and continually evaluate what will be best for you and your family.
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scantee

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2012, 09:18:47 AM »
I agree with Sol that you need to increase your income if you want to have a large family and retire early. Some ideas for increasing your income:

1. You said that your husband does not have an advanced education. Do you have an advanced education? Would your household income be higher if you were working and he was staying home?

2. If you are not willing to work, are you willing to do side jobs that allow you to stay at home? Since you are already a caregiver, consider caring for another child in your home.

3. You're in a rural location. Do you have acreage? If you do, grow your own food, raise chickens, beekeep, as a way to save money on your food expenses.

Option number one is probably the biggest money-maker if you are indeed able to make more money than your husband. Options two and three will bring in less but you will require the least modification to your lifestyle. If I was in your situation, I think I would set a target, say $10k a year, of extra earned income that I would direct all of to savings.

You're on track to pay off your house, which is fantastic. If you can find some other small ways to earn more/spend less, you'll be able to save a nice chunk of money in a few years time. Enough to retire early? I don't know but you'll at least have a nice cushion in case of job loss or some other catastrophe.


crunchy_mama

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2012, 09:28:01 AM »
re: moving closer:
We prefer to be rural, for many reasons, one of which is we are near his parents.  They help us and we help them and as they get older it will be more needed.  Also, we would need less for gas but pay more in electricity rates, water and sewage.  Besides the fact that we prefer not to have close neighbors and are more able to work on things to move toward self-sufficiency where we live and a nearly non-existent crime rate here. 

re: groceries:
We could go cheaper and I have been this year but that has made things more sparse- my avg for the year will be right at $400.  We have to eat gluten free/soy free and limited dairy.  A lot of cheaper budgets I see rely on using lots of wheat.  Like using pasta or oats, both gf options are at least 2x as expensive as the wheat.  We've been using more rice and potatoes this year to stretch things and keep things safe.  Dh hunts, we are raising rabbits (although we just lost 2 to the heat wave), we have an orchard we started a few years ago but it isn't producing anything much yet.  We've started raising bees this year and hope to get honey next year.  We have a small garden we hope to expand, you get the picture, we are working on it.  I do pay somewhat more for local chicken but knowing how even organic commercial chicken is raised I won't eat it.  The other meat we eat local and grassfed but I buy by half/quarter and it ends up actually cheaper than the grocery store.  So, I'm trying to err on the high side, although I hope that we are able to keep it cheaper, especially as some of our projects start to have more payback. 

re: clothes:
I expect it to increase as well,as it is that is more than we have spent or will spend for the year.  Dh generally spends nothing.  Well, he bought a cheap tie this year.  I've bought a few skirts and shirts at Goodwill for pregnancy and have maybe spent $50- 90% of which was money from Christmas.  The kids get by on handmedowns and gifts usually.  I've bought dd a few shirts from Goodwill but nothing else is needed for anyone for the year.


re: gas - I do like the idea of some biking but we don't live in an area set up for biking, there are no bike lanes anywhere and dh goes to work early, meaning he is in the dark in the am.  I've looked some into hypermiling but haven't been able to get much improvement myself.  I'll have to have him check into that more with his car.


re: car repairs- dh generally does all our repairs, he has replaced the computer on our van($600 for the part alone) this year as well as some part for the transmission($450 part alone), plus some other odds and ends.  The only thing he has paid to have done was a muffler repair and it was $30.  Otherwise we've had right at $1200 already for this year, generally I had budgetted less for repairs but it seems this year has been a terrible one and I want to prepare for the worst.

re: electricity/phone- We only have one option for each of those.  I could cut $20 off of my phone bill but I also pay for unlimited long distance as everyone except my in-laws are long distance and that is one of those things to keep me sane.  Electricity- we are continually working on that one.  We live in the midwest, we have 100+ in the summer w/ crazy high humidity and get super cold in the winter as well.  We have our thermostat up to 83 during the day and 80 at night for summer and I use different methods to forgo using it all I can- I just turned it on 2 weeks ago during our heat wave and turned it back off last night when the temp finally dropped.  During the winter we bundle up and keep temps low, iirc I had it at 64 during the day and 62 at night.  I ration showers and other usage, only use cold water for the washer, hang dry clothes.  My husband is looking into installing solar water/space heater next year and were hoping to get a good drop there.  I keep pushing for a wood heater but my husband had one growing up and is not a fan of all the work involved, besides the fact that it would take us 10+ yrs before we would even break even on costs.  So, we are trying to focus on those things that gives us the fastest roi.

It is a give and take with our choices.  We can and have been living tighter this year due to saving up to pay off the house but we'd like some breathing room and be able to enjoy some little luxuries now as well, although we aren't budgetting a whole lot of luxuries in there.  Our gas budget is enough for dh to drive to and from work and for 1 tank for my van- covering weekly trips to church, weekly scout/girls meeting and going to our homeschool co-op every other week.  It is hard to find that balance of how to far to cut back without any lose of enjoyment.  I think that living off of $18000 per year without any gov't assistance is hardly living it up though.

re: discussing choices- It is non-optional for us baring emergency for me to work(as to our priorities as to how babies are raised ie dh doesn't make breastmilk and I don't use bottles and homeschooling) or to purposely limit our family size, without good reason.  Wanting an easier life doesn't qualify.  He has made a good amount of money more in the past but this year it has taken a nosedive.  We hope that things increase again but we are preparing for the worst.  As it is he works at about the highest paid employer in our area for someone without a degree and generally has made much, much more than I would with my Bachelor's Degree in Social Work.  I've considered taking in another child or two and almost started hunting for someone interested but I don't know if that is a good idea while adding a new baby and since we live rurally it makes it harder as we aren't close to any employment.  It has certainly been on my mind though.

scantee

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2012, 09:42:30 AM »
If you are interested in increasing your HH income while keeping your family structure the same your husband needs to get another job. That will likely be painful for your family-more money spent on gas, car repairs, less time spent with him-but it seems like one of the only workable solutions.

It sounds like you're not interested in changing your lifestyle which I think is totally fine as long as you're making your life choices intentionally. Early retirement might not be an option for you in the next five to ten years but it seems like it is a lower priority than other things (staying rural, a big family, etc). Maybe your financial goals should be shifted away from early retirement to something else like enough of an emergency fund that you could live for a year or two with no earned income.

grantmeaname

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2012, 09:59:33 AM »
Again, if you're savings rate won't be over 50% at the end of this year when the house is paid off, where in your budget are you missing over $1600?

A lot of cheaper budgets I see rely on using lots of wheat.  Like using pasta or oats, both gf options are at least 2x as expensive as the wheat.
Buy one of these. Make pasta out of it (2 cups flour+2 eggs=6-8 servings). To take a typical example, any of the products priced at 25#/$65, you're paying $.30 of eggs and $1.40 worth of flour for all the pasta in the meal. That's almost as cheap as dry white pasta even with the expensive flour constraint, especially in absolute instead of relative terms.

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re: clothes:
I think he mentioned it as an example of a small expense, not as an example of wastefulness or excess in your budget.

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re: gas - I do like the idea of some biking but we don't live in an area set up for biking, there are no bike lanes anywhere and dh goes to work early, meaning he is in the dark in the am.  I've looked some into hypermiling but haven't been able to get much improvement myself.  I'll have to have him check into that more with his car...
Our gas budget is enough for dh to drive to and from work and for 1 tank for my van- covering weekly trips to church, weekly scout/girls meeting and going to our homeschool co-op every other week.
He probably lives to far to use a bicycle to get to work consistently. I was suggesting a motorcycle, because they're lighter and much more fuel-efficient than a car while still moving a single person, which is all his Civic needs to do most of the time.
Your gas bill still seems really high. Maybe if you tracked all of your miles and fillups for a month you could examine why and find how to save. Even if he only gets 30 mpg now, that means that the truck that never gets used and the van are together consuming more than $140 of gas each month.

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re: car repairs
If you already insource and it still costs $100 a month, that's probably as low as it'll go. Sorry to hear about your bad luck with the timing of the beginning of the year's repairs.

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re: electricity/phone- We only have one option for each of those.
You probably have more than one option for the phone, at the very least. Did you examine the landline section of IP Daley's guide, or just assume it was irrelevant and ignore it?

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We can and have been living tighter this year due to saving up to pay off the house but we'd like some breathing room and be able to enjoy some little luxuries now as well, although we aren't budgetting a whole lot of luxuries in there.    It is hard to find that balance of how to far to cut back without any lose of enjoyment.  I think that living off of $18000 per year without any gov't assistance is hardly living it up though.
I think that most of the posters would agree that your expenses are already impressively low. But if you want to have more kids on $3167 a month, you'll be living at the federal poverty line in just a couple of years. You either have to stop insisting that your expenses can't go any lower and look into some of these tips, find a way to make more money, stop having kids, or give up on early retirement -- especially given that, guessing from your age, you likely have about a dozen fertile years left!

Daley

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2012, 10:21:34 AM »
re: electricity/phone- We only have one option for each of those.  I could cut $20 off of my phone bill but I also pay for unlimited long distance as everyone except my in-laws are long distance and that is one of those things to keep me sane.

You might be surprised on your phone front. Depending on the quality, speed and robustness of your internet connection, you might be able to shave a few bucks off yet without losing your lifelines to the outside world. Currently, VOIPo is running 24 months of service for roughly $7.71 a month after taxes and regulatory fees if you pay up front, and they cap their "unlimited" service out at 5,000 minutes (or 83 hours and 20 minutes) per month with a cost of only 1.9 per minute above that point. They also have really cheap offers for adding on service time on occasion as well, though it's no great loss if they don't. Even if it only saves you $20 a month, the ROI for the two years of service bought up front would only be a bit over nine months, and we all know how important every $10 decision can be.

Also, depending on your current internet speed and the cost of the slower tiers, there may be room to save even more yet.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 10:25:56 AM by I.P. Daley »

crunchy_mama

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2012, 10:43:52 AM »
re: internet/phone - I was trying to reply but kept getting replies at the same time.  There is only 1 tier for our dsl but I cannot remember the speed right now.  I'll have my husband look at the guide.  We've tried VOIP a few times in the past without much luck(horrible echo, hard time hearing etc).  And even if we can get cheaper on phone,  it looks like it would be hard to still get the internet at the same time.  But that is not my area of expertise so I'll have him read it.  Perhaps next year when we have a few extra dollars to pay up front we can pursue that again, although I'm nervous with our past experiences.

re: gas- It seems often we have something else come up, or at least as of late.  This month ds had a boy scout campout 1 hr away and we will have day camp for a week at the end of the month(which is 4 days).  Last month I had to go pick up our years worth of chickens which is 2 hrs one way and my husband ended up making the same trip to get the part for my van- as it wasn't available locally and he had already spent nearly a week trying to pinpoint exactly the part that needed replace and was anxious to get it done).  The month before my husband had a 2 hr trip one way to go pick up our bees.  Living rurally usually things are not close around.  I can easily fill up twice in a month as well, especially during the school year w/ scouts, homeschool co-op and church.  I was making an extra trip for story time but it was too much in our schedule.  We attended co-op a lot less often this past spring due in large part to trying to save on gas.  I generally always have my husband run errands while he is already in town as well. 

re: pasta - I use Trader Joes currently which is $2 pd, white pasta is about 50c a pound on sale here, the flour at $65/25# is $2.60 a pound.  I've looked into some recipes as of late but I haven't tried it yet as I didn't have extra money in the grocery budget for the supplies.  I hope that I'll be able to save some doing that but the real savings seem to be if I can grind my own.  It looks like I'll be able to get it down to about $1 pd for homemade for the recipe I looked at, I'm hoping next month to have those on my bulk order list.

I have been looking into tips as I said we are continually working on lowering our expenses, to get them to the level they are at.  As I said we have lots in the works to decrease our food but a lot of that is not an immediate pay-off. I've worked a lot on electricity as well.  Last week he worked on the return air vents to be able to try and pull some air from the basement, although it hasn't helped as much as we hoped.  Hopefully the husband can look at some of the hypermiling as well and have better luck than me.  He campaigned for a motorcycle a few years back but they make me nervous and when we were figuring costs and the amount of time it would be usable I wasn't for sure if it was the best roi, compared to a cheap and fuel efficient car that can be used nearly all the time.  But perhaps my math wasn't accurate.

I don't think it is feasible to retire super early, although I hope that it will be earlier than most.  I've been looking at the numbers on MMM's latest post and trying to do the math to see where we are at but I'm still not sure.  It looks like to me we can be right at 50% but not anymore unless work picks up or other changes occur.  I'm thrilled to look at any tips and see if they fit in our life but I'm also looking for others that have made similar decisions.  I've spent more time than I should researching various cost cutting things as it is, especially this year.  Although, we've lived pretty frugally for awhile, however looking back I wish we would have cut even more earlier.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2012, 10:46:23 AM by crunchy_mama »

arebelspy

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2012, 11:08:14 AM »
Can you do some extra work from home for income, or do the kids take 100% of your time?

My wife does some editing work online from home, around an hour a day, probably a little less actually, and pulls in about 100/week for it.  Not anywhere close enough to live on, but a nice little boost.
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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2012, 11:16:29 AM »
I have to admit, overall, you're really not doing too shabby with telecomm as is, and I'm equally nervous about call quality given your past experiences as well. Fortunately, if you choose to give it another go, VOIPo has a 30 day money back guarantee and you can also wait to port your existing number after you establish service. Handy for cases like this.

As for DSL, look into dry loop service if the VoIP option does work for you. If you can't get it to work, you can't get it to work. You're already on the frugal end as is for what you're getting, no shame in the current budget... especially if you're extremely limited on options and service quality.

James

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2012, 04:47:02 PM »
Based on what you are saying, sounds like you have a good handle on things and will continue to make good progress financially.  I'm glad you are here offering advice and I hope to learn from you in many areas.  I'd like to become more self sufficient and your activities are inspiring that way.  I don't see your income standing in the way of long term success on the road to FI, we each have roads of different lengths and curves based on what we are given and what choices we make.

crunchy_mama

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2012, 05:24:12 AM »
arebelspy- I do have some free time during the day but it is highly variable with kids, and especially so with a new baby coming.  To be honest I'm torn on what would be the best for all of us.  Before my husband could generally work overtime as much as he wanted so it never made any sense for me to work as he earns so much more, but this isn't the case now.  I just have to decide if it is worth it.

I.P. Daley- thanks for the thoughts.  As I said I'll have my husband read and see what he thinks.  I was just looking at our phone company's site and I cannot even find where they offer just internet.  As it is the price has went up a bit but we have price guarantee for life.  It seems we got lucky, last year I noticed the price was $20 less for new subscribers so I called and got signed up for the reduced rate.

James- Thanks for your kind words.  I feel we do have a lot of room to grow.  I hope we can continue to become more self-sufficient in the food department and even if I cannot reduce costs I can keep them the same with a growing family and increasing quality.  Lots of variables though and patience on a lot of those things.  We are still supposed to get chickens this year for eggs and eventually I'd like to raise some for meat.  I'd like to raise a hog as well but dh isn't so agreeable :)  We have plans for a small root cellar as well.  We've talked often about raising goats also for meat and milk but we have to fix the fence and build some kind of shelter, which even with doing it ourselves cost some money in material.  So, it is also a constant back and forth on deciding how much projects we want to do and how much we want to save.

I am hoping to continue to reduce our electricity as well.  As it is now I've done about all the free and cheap things I can but we are looking at other options long term as we can afford to invest.  As I said my husband as plans for a diy solar space/water heater for next year, that is our single biggest user behind the ac/heat.  I'd like to put up some retractable awning on the east side of the house to help block the sun, I have some thermal shades but I think if I could block it before it comes in we would be even better.  I would like to upgrade the frig to a smaller and even more efficient model, it is Energy Star but not the lowest.  I would like to switch to gas for cooking.  Long term I'd like an outside woodstove but as I said my husband isn't keen and it is a large outlay with a long roi. 

On the gas our best options with our situation seem to be if my husband can adopt some gas saving techniques for his drive.  Perhaps when the van dies we will find something to get better mileage but it averages around 20-22 if I really work at it and 18 if I'm lazy or in a hurry.  To accommodate more people it reduces our options for higher mileage.  We don't drive a ton as it is, this summer I've had several weeks where me and the kids have stayed home the entire week except for Saturday.  But as I said we've had other little trips in there as well.  Going to watch fireworks, visiting my mom (45 min away), picking up chickens, picking up bees, Cub Scout camp, etc.  We don't do excessive trips but everything is a good distance away and it adds up fast.  As it is I feel guilty sometimes that we don't do a bit more with the kids.

arebelspy

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2012, 10:47:11 AM »
arebelspy- I do have some free time during the day but it is highly variable with kids, and especially so with a new baby coming.  To be honest I'm torn on what would be the best for all of us.  Before my husband could generally work overtime as much as he wanted so it never made any sense for me to work as he earns so much more, but this isn't the case now.  I just have to decide if it is worth it.

Yeah, I figured as much.  That's why I mentioned what I did - if you can squeeze out 45 minutes at any point in the day (naptime or after they go to bed, or at some point during playtime) you can earn an extra 100/week or so which may help.  If your husband can do better than that, that's great, but why not have him do so in ADDITION to you doing so?

If your goal really is FI with all those kids, you'll need to make some compromises somewhere.. one place may be you spending a little time at home earning some money.
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Arbor33

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2012, 11:06:39 AM »
In regards to small scale pig farming, this guy has a pretty awesome blog that's about 7 years strong. He shares tons of information. http://sugarmtnfarm.com/home/

On the topic of electricity and natural gas, is your state deregulated? I think there's about 30 states that are right now but I'm not 100% on that number. The company I work for offers a guaranteed savings plan that offers x% savings vs. the incumbent provider in a few states and then a fixed rate in other states that's typically a fair bit lower. We currently operate in about 8 states as well as D.C. If your state is deregulated, you'll have options on who you choose to supply your utilities. It might be something worth looking into.

twinge

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2012, 02:05:30 PM »
It's not my current situation, but during our phase of being in grad school while having a child, I found the nice thing about living a low-expense/low-income life was that small amounts of additional income made a big difference.

Are any of your children old enough to start participating in an educational/income producing activity? I'm thinking along the lines of selling seedlings, small vegetable/fruit stand (or pig farming as others have suggested) etc. Maybe not a big income maker, but it could add a buffer, potentially grow, and be a fun homeschooling project.

Also, would tutoring be an option for you since you're already homeschooling? That was my standby extra income in my student days and I found it unexpectedly lucrative (though I wasn't living in a rural area, so that might not work for you).  Or are there any part-time telecommuting options with your MSW like doing some case management documentation work?


catalana

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2012, 02:16:57 PM »
I am hoping to continue to reduce our electricity as well.  As it is now I've done about all the free and cheap things I can but we are looking at other options long term as we can afford to invest.  As I said my husband as plans for a diy solar space/water heater for next year, that is our single biggest user behind the ac/heat.  I'd like to put up some retractable awning on the east side of the house to help block the sun, I have some thermal shades but I think if I could block it before it comes in we would be even better.  I would like to upgrade the frig to a smaller and even more efficient model, it is Energy Star but not the lowest.  I would like to switch to gas for cooking.  Long term I'd like an outside woodstove but as I said my husband isn't keen and it is a large outlay with a long roi. 
Is your house properly insulated?  I was surprised to see that you are heating overnight in winter.  I am in northern UK where we will get low 30s fahrenheit regularly during winter, but I never run the heating overnight.  Yes, we need it during the day otherwise hands don't work properly, but at night it is time for a thick feather duvet and a blanket.

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2012, 08:39:28 PM »
I would wait until after you have the baby before looking to take on another child.  But definitely consider it.  With 4 kids, you are probably an "expert" by now, and many families would appreciate that.

When I return to work (my new little one is 3 days old now), my care provider will be a dear friend who just had her 4th child.  She's awesome with children.  But personally going through the "start up" phase of recovering from childbirth and initiating breastfeeding, there's no way I could do that with other people's kids around.

crunchy_mama

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Re: Any others here w/ lower income and a family
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2012, 01:40:25 AM »
arebelspy- It is something to consider for sure.  We both need to crunch some numbers and focus on our goals and priorities.

Arbor33- I just checked and no, we are not deregulated for electricity and partial choice for gas.  As it is here if you want gas you run lines (or have them run) and then buy a tank.  Thanks for the link about pigfarming, I'll be saving that for my husband :)  I have to wear him down a bit more on that idea.

twinge- my oldest is only not quite 8 yrs old.  I've thought about developing some things for the local farmer's market but I haven't been organized enough to make it happen, it seems most of my energy goes towards organizing my own house and new things are added on slowly.  I do very much like the idea of growing such things and I agree as well about it being a great learning experience as well.  So, I appreciate the thought and hope that it is one that we will be able to implement.  I'm an organizer and not an idea person so much, so it takes me a while with new ideas!

catalana- We have the best insulation locally available which is spray foam.  My husband has checked the attic as well and sealed where needed around pipes and vents and such.  I don't know anyone here who turns off their heat at night, however just because it is on doesn't mean it is continually running, I'd venture to guess often it don't run much and sometimes not at all.  This winter I did keep at least 2 covers on the bed and slept in a sweater.  Our electricity bill is lower than anyone I know in our area(and often significantly lower), who also are all electric.  Mine is lower than my mom's and they use gas for heating. 

mm1970- I think you are right about waiting.  Our entire schedule will have to be rearranged again and that is always challenging, besides the fact that you never know w/ birth and nursing and sleeping how you will feel.  Generally I've had good and easy recovery but there are lots of variables.  I'm also starting to school my dd5 this year as well, whereas before we've just done little stuff, so that will be a bit of an adjustment adding her in. 

Interestingly enough my husband came home today and he believes they are getting ready to start some new big project at work.   They have been talking about it for a few months but it appears to be actually coming to fruition.  The market for what their company, and specifically his location, makes took a nosedive last year(although previously they've always been the most profitable and productive).  The gov't made new regulations and they misjudged the market.  So, they are having to reduce but also retool nearly everything to go in the direction of the market.  It is supposed to be a 2yr 10 million project.  That seems to bode very well for job security, at least for the moment.  Starting August OT is supposed to ramp up big time, first there will be extra work to build up stock for the shut-down for retooling and then extra work on top of production for the retooling, which generally means a lot of work for my husband as he does mechanical/electrical and programming work, often which has to be done when production is not happening. 

Anyway, we were discussing this evening what to do when/if such a thing occurs.  We have projects we want done- ie solar hot water, cellar, a roof over the carport, fencing, it goes on and on.  He is of the mind that we continue on our current budget and of any extra that comes in save half of it and then use the other half for projects.  I told him I wanted to make a list and prioritize and not just spend half just because we can.  Again we need to crunch the numbers.