What we do to save money when money is really tight
Having enough money is not easy
Tony and I have been working from home as freelance web designers and writers since February 2008. We do not have our own house or place, or car (we use my dad's car), and, together with my two sons, are living at my parents.
Jobs are scarce and we decided to start our own little business in February 2008. It hasn't been easy, and still isn't.
We have had one or two good months earlier in this year, 2010, and prior to that, last year, it looked like things were slowly improving. Now it's really bad again, like in the first year, and we are not able to make all the little payments we should be making, like paying rent to my father, paying back a friend who recently helped us out so that we could pay other little accounts like my children's art fees and our monthly payment to our lawyer as we are slowly paying off the cost of Tony's divorce that our lawyer handled - it's taking forever!
We always make sure to at least pay our telephone and Internet access account, as, without it, we cannot work at what we do. We also make sure to pay our website host, as it is not only our websites hosted with him, but also those of most of the websites we have designed for local clients.
Our work portfolio is not yet large enough to put our prices up much, and we haven't been at it for all that long yet. People seem happier to hire somebody who has been in business for 10 years instead of less than 3 years, even if our prices, portfolio and client testimonials are excellent.
What do we do to save money, when we are struggling to get by between gaining new clients, waiting for that next Google Adsense cheque, or waiting for the end of the month for the children's maintenance I get from their father?
Petrol for the car
The car may well be my dad's car, but of course if we are using it we are the ones that put petrol in it. Petrol is one of our biggest expenses.
Even though the boys go to their father on about 6 week nights per month (and he takes them to school the next day), we take and fetch the boys the rest of the time. The school is a 22 minutes' drive away, and this uses a lot of petrol. We are not moving the boys to a closer school, as they are doing very well where they are, and have always been there (they are now 11 and 12)
We have gotten quite good at working out how far we can travel in the car when that annoying little orange light comes on, on the dashboard, indicating that the petrol tank is nearly empty. If it comes on just as we leave home for school, the petrol will get us and the car to school, but not all the way home again. We need to put petrol in on the way home.
When we put petrol in, especially after the orange light has come on, we work out how far that petrol will take us. If it seems we may run out of petrol before we have money for more, we do a lot of free wheeling!
We do not totally switch the engine off as that is very dangerous because the steering wheel may lock around a corner, and when the engine is switched off the brakes do not work very well either. What we do is at least reduce the revs, by putting the car gears into neutral.
How much small change do you have lying around the house or in your car or purse? It adds up, and in our household, gets put into a container or something on the shelf, or, in the car, into an empty plastic pill bottle (with a lid). We even sometimes take the time to seperate the smaller coppers from the bigger coppers and place them in two seperate containers or pill bottles.
From time to time, after having just gotten back into the car after a brief stop at the shops for a few items, we may empty the coins in the wallet into the pill bottle or bottles.
When we do leave a few coins in the wallet, what we do in the shop when paying for something, is get rid of a few of those coins, instead of breaking into a new note, for example, if the amount at the till is R56.40, and we have no smaller note than a R100 note, we will give the R100 note, a R5 silver coin, and then R1.40 in coppers. We get a R50 note back from the cashier, instead of more small change.
When we are sometimes in a hurry, or there are too many people in the queue at the cashier, and we then don't take the time to try and get a note in the change instead of coins, we add the change to our pill bottles in the car.
Sometimes, when there are no coins in the wallet as we are about to get out the car to go to the shop, we will add a few from the pill bottles. We'd rather spend those little coins than have them lying around the car or house, adding up.
We still need to train ourselves to do this more regularly than only when money is really tight, as that would mean little bits of those coins that would otherwise just be lying around the house get used more regularly.
Limiting snacks and fizzy drinks
When there is enough money for buying snacks and fizzy drinks (which we enjoy) when out and about, it's so easy to just pop into a shop quickly and get something to eat and drink.
This can really add up in a month!
When money is really tight, we make sure to have at least a light snack just before leaving the house, using what is in the house already, which might be something as simple and cheap as a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee. This way we help stop cravings we may have while we are away from home for a while.
Regards weekend sweets for the children, we can buy bigger packets of sweets, that work out cheaper, and divide the contents into smaller packets at home.
Friday junk day for the kids
I ensure that my children take healthy lunches to school, from Monday to Thursday, but come Friday, I usually supply them with chips, a chocolate, and a sweet or two. When Tony and I collect the children from school after midday on a Friday, we usually have a tasty snack like an iced doughnut waiting for them in the car, a fizzy drink, and a sweet or chocolate.
Sometimes if we manage the morning's treats, but are unable to supply the afternoon treats, we supply peanut butter and syrup sandwiches instead (syrup is not allowed Monday to Thursday), and... there are no complaints!
What we need to train ourselves to do
All of the above methods help us save some money when money is tight. We need to use these methods more often even when money is not tight. I don't mean every day, as everybody needs treats from time to time, but we need to learn not to wait until the last minute, when finances are already bad! Perhaps if we use the methods at least every second or third day...
The savings are small, but, over time, they can really help.