Well, it’s a tough scene, but this is the scoop. Mr Husband is out of work on disability while we wait for back surgery, and a layoff shimmers on the horizon after that. We’re moving very quickly to a smaller, cheaper house (apartment, really) and have been packing, sorting and donating carloads of stuff. Cash flow sucks. I’m both trying to earn more as a freelancer while trying to move us single-handedly. So it looks like all that fun stuff on the June Food Stamp Challenge of a year and a half ago will come in handy… Just thinking about some of the techniques (if they can be termed as such) that we’ve been using in the past couple of weeks to pinch pennies. Til they scream.
1. Use less dishwasher and laundry soap. Use less shampoo. Shampoo less often.
2. Coupons or sales for everything. Paying full price hurts. Physically. Eat everything out of the freezer. Even the weird sh*t. Grocery budget is about $10 a week at the moment.
3. Use less milk. Add water to the juice. Powdered drink mixes = juice until further notice.
4. Have a calm discussion with son after finding half a banana tossed into the compost bucket. Refrain from killing him. Pat self on back for not killing anyone.
5. Sell books and DVDs so that we can take the boy out for ice cream for his birthday. Since we can’t afford a party or outing other than that, it was what we decided to do. Buying a quart would have been cheaper, but it was literally the only thing we did for his special day, so bite me. Don’t judge.
6. Eat less. I’m not kidding here. Popcorn makes a nice meal.
7. Don’t throw out old coffee. Reheat, save in thermos, or keep in fridge. Make fresh coffee every other day (less coffee, more water). Use tea bags more than twice. No more than one teabag a day.
8. Make sure to take a snack and water on the road for errands. Working our way through the stock of granola bar flavors that everyone hates (strawberries and cream — yuck) (crumbles? no problem — just pretend it’s trail mix).
9. Enjoy old Halloween and Christmas candy because there isn;t any fresh coming in.
10. Collect donation receipts from every place possible when donating, for next year’s taxes.
11. Look at everything with an eye for “how much could I get for that?” Put it on craigslist for sale. Lower price after a week. Lower price again. Put it on Freecycle or donate for receipt.
12. Make people pay what they owe instead of being magnanimous. (Daughters are supposed to pay $25 each toward cell phone bill but have slid a lot in the recent past. No more.)
13. Harvest fruit from neighborhood citrus trees. Make interesting juice combinations.
14. Send in all FSA medical receipts, rebates, refunds, etc. possible.
15. Stop donating cash and stop contributing to son’s 529 and my IRA until cash flow returns to normal.
16. Make a lot of something out of nothing. Example: cooked the tops of the broccoli but saved the stems. Making soup tonight with slightly soured milk and broccoli stems. Sounds disgusting until you whirl it in the blender. Then it’s the same as you’d get out of a can. But better. Because there will be no insects or thumbtacks in it.
17. Bake interesting treats — use shortening instead of butter (crisper texture), lots of walnuts (which we have in abundance for some reason), mixture of chocolate chips of various flavors and sizes. Delicious! Pumpkin pancakes and muffins are next — with walnuts, of course.
18. Buy margarine instead of butter. I know. Kinda gross. Too bad.
19. Think about drinking coffee black. This is where we get a little desperate. Might have to put kids into the poorhouse instead of forego my half and half.
I can’t afford #20, so I’ll stop here. Watch this space for more adventures from the edge of doom!
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward.
Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others.
Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.
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