Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Comprehensive Guide to Being Poor

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So, I thought I would take a minute and update you all on how the whole "being poor" thing is going.

Honestly? Not that bad. Don't get me wrong, if someone pops up with an offer for me to never be poor again, I'll take it, no noble misgivings about it.

Now that I've had a taste of both, being poor is not as fun as being rich. Oh no. It's stressful and not very convenient. But it has been a learning experience.

I'm sure some of you remember that I am now forced to live without Tivo and with no satellite television. The first few days of this were a little rough. Big Kid had difficulty adjusting to the inability to pause live tv or to summons whatever show struck his fancy with the push of one button. I went through a couple of days of withdrawal from my Discovery ID true crime channel and missed several Oprahs before I realized that I was now responsible for catching them on time. But miraculously, like the true survivors that we are, we have pulled through, practically unscathed.

Big Kid now enjoys shows like Mister Rogers and Reading Rainbow. I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable these shows are to listen to than Higglytown Heroes or the Doodlebops. We still have Nickelodeon, so we get our daily doses of Spongebob and Icarly, so really, it's almost like nothing's changed. I just watch more A&E now.

We've even decided that satellite and tivo most likely won't be added back into our monthly expenditures. A commenter here once said that her family does without cable so that they can afford lavish vacations every couple of years. Would I rather have 80 extra channels of crap, or money towards a trip to Paris?

Using that same mindset, we canceled all of the extras on our cell phones and switched to a plan with a lot less minutes. We have to be a little more conscious of how long we chat on the phone and we can't text (I never wanted to anyway), but for the savings involved, those are minor inconveniences. We switched to Vonage for our home phone and so far, so good on that front.

Just checking all of our monthly expenses and cutting out all of the extras, saved us over $250 a month. Sure, $30 here and $40 there doesn't seem like a lot, but eventually it is! I'm amazed by how painless these cuts have been too, I'm annoyed I didn't realize I could live without it all before.

For entertainment, we have splurged on the $11 per month Blockbuster netflix-like movie account. We make sure that we watch the movie the day it comes in and we try to drop it off at the store so we get the next one faster. During transit time, we've been stopping by Wal-mart and renting Redbox movies. Do you all know about this miraculous movie vending machine? It's freaking awesome. There's A TON (that's a link, by the way) of discount codes, we haven't had to pay for a movie yet (but they are only $1 per night) and we're good about getting them back on time (so far).

For books, I'm totally on board with www.paperbackswap.com I still have a couple of books to read, but I'm definitely going to do this. You just have to pay shipping on whatever books you send out to others. By the way, if any of you has a copy of Middlesex or Peony in Love lying around, I'll trade you something for it. Email me, I'm dying to read both of those.

Interestingly enough, I think we are eating better than ever now that we're broke. We're forced to plan meals, and eat, or otherwise use, our leftovers. I believe I told you all about Angel Food Ministries(there seems to be a problem with their site right now). Well, we picked up our food and were amazed by what we got for $65! We got a ton of food and it all looks great! It's not just for poor people either, they are able to provide the discount since the food is ordered in advance, and in bulk. So if you have one in your area, you should check it out! If you don't have one in your area, check for SHARE Food Network. I think it is very similar. It is a wonderful service and has helped us out tremendously this month. We're having steak, potatoes and homemade bread tonight...not so shabby for poor people!

We've made other minor changes, too. I've been making my own baby wipes...and this is fine. I've been doing something similar for home cleaning wipes and that works too. I'm embarrassed that I've paid other people to wet paper towels for me for so long. We've also made an effort to not use paper towels unless completely necessary. We have a drawer full of dishcloths, cloth napkins, and wash cloths and we keep the paper towels in a pain-in-the-butt spot to access, so we actually take a moment to realize that a cloth would work just as well and reach for one of those instead. I've also cut all of the fabric softener sheets in half (took one second, works just as well), use the BARE minimum of laundry and dish detergent (noticed no difference) and wash almost everything on LIGHT or COLD (again, no difference.)

I've been getting our produce at the weekend flea market/farmer's market which is right down the street. It's cheap AND it hasn't traveled 1400 miles before landing in my kitchen. We've also practically cut Coke and beer out of the budget entirely. I drink Crystal Light's Raspberry Tea, Raspberry Ice, or pink lemonade like it's going out of style. It's cheap and way better for me than Coke (but I still LOVE me some Coke. Always will.)

We just make a real effort to use less. Luckily, being cheap is also known as being green these days. Not only are we saving money, we're using less and making less of an impact on the environment. I've even washed out some Ziploc bags and reused them. There, I admitted it. Ain't no shame. I'm even seriously considering making my only laundry detergent.

I'm also going to try to be one of those crazy coupon people when it comes to buying household items and toiletries. I thought THIS was a very insightful article on the cycle of coupons and sales. I used to pay to do The Grocery Game which helps you match up coupons to sales, and I'm pretty sure this is the same theory (but free). Hotcouponworld.com also has a ton of useful coupon information.

I love to bargain shop and have always enjoyed spending time on sites like slickdeals.net or fatwallet.com. The trick is not to buy all of the good deals that you don't need. It's fun to score a cheap bargain high. I dragged the whole family to Staples twice this week so that we could stock up on their one cent deals. We were all astonished and giddy when the total was $.04, even the cashier was beaming. So we got a lifetime supply of pencils for $.16 total. Yay us! Good, cheap, productive fun.

The scariest part of this whole unemployment thing has been having to cancel our health insurance. Someone pointed me towards Needymeds.com when I was worried about how I was going to pay for my prescription. I was apprehensive about this and certain it would be a whole big hassle, but I just filled out the application, had my doctor sign it, and received 90 days worth of free medicine in my mailbox a few weeks later. What a godsend!

Luckily, thanks to my awesome, well connected cousin Jules (also the provider of my fake ID, many moons ago), Mr. Ashley might be getting a job with benefits. We should know by the end of the week, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Things look really good though, they're saying it's just a matter of red tape. Hopefully that will be the beginning of the end of our Adventure in Uncertainty.

I'm also pretty sure that I'll get an awesome writing gig any minute now and I'll be so rich that we'll look back on this post and laugh...and I probably still won't have satellite, or pay for the luxury of pre-moistened toilettes, because I'd rather use that money to stay in a castle or tour some pyramids or rent a yacht for the Ashley's Closet Cruise.

43 comments:

Jacqueline said...

I have a copy of MiddleSex I haven't even opened... I ended up listening to it instead. You're welcome to it if you want it! My email is jacqueline.terbrack@gmail.com

Lipstick said...

So glad that needymeds.com worked out well for you!!! It has been a godsend for so many of my patients at work!

Chris said...

Because I love cats, because I think I would love a closet cruise, and because I hung on every word of this post, I am leaving a comment. While I don't consider myself poor, I always feel like I'm blowing money on stupid stuff. I printed out your advice, and I'm gonna see how I can cut corners. However, Tivo will need to be spared. I can't live without. Thanks!

Cake said...

Good for you! And thanks for the links :) I started reading the BHB coupon thread a few months ago and can't believe how much $$ I've saved at CVS and Rite Aid alone - the only "big" stores close by.

I used to make my own wipes with DS, but could never find a good round container to store them in and got sick of unrolling and folding them.

Ashley said...

Cake, I put them on a plastic shoebox. I just lay the half a roll down in there, pour the solution over them, put the top on and shake it all about, and then remove the cardboard and pull them through the inside. It's super easy.

Jacqueline, I am emailing you in one moment! Awesome!

Yay for Chris for leaving a comment and securing her cruise ticket, and yay for lipstick for pointing me in the direction of needymeds! ;-)

Slacker Mama said...

Damn. I was going to offer up my Middlesex copy in order to gain your favor and secure a spot on the cruise.

Now I'll have to go with Plan B: come up with witty comments on a regular basis instead.

Muffy Willowbrook said...

Excellent Ashley! I am going to follow your lead - you've inspired me!

V. proud of you and your thriftiness.

Bad Mommy said...

Ashley I'm so glad you aren't going to be living in a cardbox box on the street. You win Wife of the Year award, seriously.

Lauren said...

Wow! You make it sound easy. Really hope Mr. Ashley gets that job. I hate when things are tight around our house. My stomach is in knots the entire time, just thinking of all the emergencies that could happen.

i*love*my*pharmacist said...

Here is a wonderful site that will help you match up grocery store sales with coupons in your local Sunday paper http://www.couponmom.com/ It is FREE and really easy to use! I'm not big into using coupons, but this really helps me not miss out on great deals.

Buttercup said...

I am so proud of you. Homemade wipes and BREAD! Incredible...seriously! Very cool that you shared all your links. Makes that much easier for me to follow!

Me said...

I love the Tropical Punch flavor Crystal Light.

I drink that stuff instead of juice.

Melodie said...

I always try to have the mindset that I am poor and can't spend any money. That way, even when I have money, I don't spend it.

I'd love to be able to cut my expenses by making my own wipes and such, but I'm honestly just too lazy for that.

And I could NEVER cut out Coke! I don't drink coffee or tea, so Coke is my only form of caffeine in the morning. I am saving my cans, though, and planning to take them all to a recycling place that'll pay me for them, so at least that's something.

I am glad that you are saving up for our cruise, though. I'm looking forward to it.

jennyandcompany said...

hotcouponworld is freaking awesome. isn't it so addicting trying to find more ways to save a little money? it does add up.

i'm still waiting for you to switch little kid to cloth diapers.

Christa said...

Okay, you are now my inspiration Ashley! I have bookmarked all the sites you mentioned and will be investigating tonight. I am so ready to stop being broke!

Mitch said...

Am I so lazy that I don't see a recipe for the homemade wipes and cleaners? I really need those and will be searching diligently to find them. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Love the redbox coupon codes! How does it work? I went to their site, do you type it in at the machine? Thanks! Candace

ElleBee said...

Thank you SO much for posting all of these links. We're trying to be more frugal as well, and I'm always looking for new ideas. Good luck in your quest and I'll keep my fingers crossed for Mr. Ashley. BTW, Aldi's a great place to do grocery shopping on a budget, as well!

Laundry Detergent said...

Ever tried soap nuts as a laundry detergent? They grow on trees over in India & Nepal, and have been used for centuries as a natural laundry detergent & all-purpose cleaner. They are also cheaper per load than your conventional laundry detergents.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you.

Mom Taxi Julie said...

I do a bunch of those things you listed. Paperbackswap, grocery game (only message boards use grocerymom.com for lists). Wish we had the angel food thing here. I fell off my coupon wagon, eventually maybe I'll get back on it!

christie said...

Just found your blog and I LOVE it!

txchic said...

I absolutely love your outlook on things. You're one that dives on in and finds solutions instead of throwing up your arms!! You have a lot of great advice which I will be putting to use, too. I hope and pray for you and yours that Mr. A gets that job soon!!

AR said...

oh how you have just inspired me!!!!

Migraine Mom said...

We went through a rough spot right after #2 was born...hubby lost his job two weeks before she was born and with it went our health insurance. Scariest time of our lives but I honestly believe we are stronger now because of it. I still use some of the tips I found out then even though we aren't hurting anymore...I found that I really didn't need the "things" I thought I did. It has put us in an even better financial position now because I am frugal...not cheap, but frugal! Hang in there and can I sign up for the cruise too??

Impoverished Preppy said...

Wow! I'm impressed. Good work on the eating local thingy - we're trying to do the same. We don't do soda either, and the health benefits are NUMEROUS, so hopefully even when Mr. Ashley gets his fab job or you get that writing gig you so justly deserve, you'll continue to leave soda off the list. Isn't it funny how many things you can learn to live comfortably without, even things that you once considered necessity? We'll be in for some big changes when we get to Vermont and I hope I can adapt as well as you have.

Dowlan said...

ashley, it is so interesting watching one of my girl crushes go through such a parallel experience. the only difference being that we never actually made it to rich.

isnt it amazing how easy it really is when you take the time to do it? and doesnt it make you feel so silly that you didnt do it all along?

dont forget to start cleaning with vinegar and water once you start running out of cleaning supplies. somewhere on my blog are the directions for refilling the Swiffer. (i think it's a post called Tip). If you have one.

we gave up our Tivo about six months ago and that is actually the one thing i really miss. but mainly because i have discovered that my girls are starting to treat each other like the siblings on the stupid fucking disney channel and i really miss the kindness of Jojo and Charlie and Lola

Kate said...

Being poor is like being an addict - shameful to admit but once you do a million other people around you come out to say they too are....poor. I was just bitching about the state of the economy this morning - sad when 2 parents work and both get paid pretty well but are still struggling. Thanks for all the tips, I'll definitely be checking them out too - I even tried googling on how to make my own cleaners for home. I'm just not quite ready to give up my DV-R box yet though! :D

Lynda Kay said...

Great links Ashley, thanks for sharing 'em..i'm so proud of you! You might even have to take off that part of your header that says your no housewife or supermom... I mean, bread? Home made wipes? The BOTTOM of the LAUNDRY SORTER?!

You.Go.Girl!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm so impressed! Seriously, I'm gonna print this out and go through them and see what I can do. We are and always will be poor (that's what I get for marrying a farmer). I get bored of it sometimes, and pretend I'm not, and then regret it. But, maybe if I can borrow some of these things, I would have more money to pretend I'm not poor with.

I'm truly impressed!

Irish said...

Good job Ashley! I'm proud of you for taking great money saving steps. I'm not working this summer & we've been on an absolute "don't spend the money unless we have to".

I just called Angelfood Ministries, I've been meaning to do it before. I'll try them out next month.

Hugs!!
-Mary

Renee said...

Great tips and links! I can't really call us poor, but every dollar is spoken for these days, so things are certainly tighter than they have been in years, and every dollar I can save in one area is needed in another area. Balancing the budget each month is like a juggling exercise. I've been making cuts in our budget for about a year now in preparation for dh's job change, which finally happened in May. It helped that I had already implemented a bunch of cost-saving measures before the income fell by 20% (ouch)....we are still able to pay the basic bills and eat, so that's a blessing. But the unexpected expenses worry me - they have to go on credit because there is no extra income anymore. And I hate evil credit!

I'm also doing the Angel Food box (just placed my first order for the July box) and I joined an organic produce co-op last week - I'll get fresh, organic produce every other Wednesday and it's cheaper than the non-organic grocery store prices. Yay! (And I don't have to spend $20 in gas to get there - the pick-up place is about 3 miles from my house - woo hoo!)

Finding cheap entertainment has been fun - we've found the dollar movies on Wednesdays, dollar bowling on Tuesdays and Thursdays (it's a homeschool discount at our local bowling alley - we are heading there in a few minutes, in fact!), a free indoor playground at a local church, Red Box movies (or just going back through our extensive collection of DVDs and VHS movies and watching them all again....), free concerts and festivals, free Family Night at the Children's Museum downtown...there are so many fun options if you're looking for them. I think we're having more fun these days (with less money) than we were a year ago this time.

- The Renee

Rebecca said...

www.fishingfordeals.com is an awesome site!

Also, I know a bunch of women that make their own laundry detergent and they love it. They say they don't need fabric softener anymore either.

One idea for your store: Could you list the prices of books that you are desperate for? That way instead of buying your love, we could just send you the money to buy you a book? I've bought your love twice, by the way, and haven't received any in a LONG time!! :(

Ashley said...

Rebecca, did you get the Chris Farley day of love? I was trying to send out love each Friday, but I did miss last week. I'll have to double up this week. ;-)

Renee said...

I was thinking about this post the whole time I was out. (We tried to go bowling but the place was full of kids from some summer camp daycare place, so we went to Chuck E Cheese, which was also filled with kids from some summer camp daycare place. OMG, I forgot why so many people hate Chuck E Cheese. There is a night and day difference between having the place to yourself on a Tuesday morning in October, to what I endured today. It was hellish. I will not go back until the fall. This I swear.) Anyway, I kept thinking about all this shit I need to be doing to save more money, and how that lady in the article about coupons gets so much stuff for free and can feed her family for $10 a week, and then I was thinking about all of the CVS Extra Care $$ I have wasted and how much stuff I could've bought with them (I never save my receipts...I throw away money!!) and I swear I almost had a panic attack. This is getting a little overwhelming. There is so much more I could be doing....but then I think "Damn, pinching pennies is becoming a full-time job. Maybe I should just go back to work." And then I think...naaaaaah. I don't like that idea either. I am going to have to find a happy medium. (I'm not good at that, btw.) I feel stress.

-The Renee

Anonymous said...

The Farley day of love almost got me fired. I was laughing so hard my coworkers had to know I wasn't working!! Loved it!!!

---Jenn in MN

Anonymous said...

What happened? Why are you all "suddenly " poor, did I miss something?

Ashley said...

Mr. Ashley lost his job, creating sudden and unexpected poorness.

Renee said...

Yes, I'm still obsessing over this stuff. You should see the lists I've made today. Lol. I saw that one person said she was too lazy to make her own baby wipes - I went and checked my stash of wipes and see that I still have about 3 packages, so I don't need to make any right now either. But I decided to cut those in half like you suggested we do with our dryer sheets. Unless I'm cleaning up a huge poopy mess, it's usually just a small swipe with a wipe anyway, so I think 1/2 a wipe will suffice in most cases. I cut my dryer sheets and baby wipes tonight. I'm on my way! :)

-The Renee

mom&teacher said...

I think my family leads a pretty comfortable life but I love to save as much money as possible. I found out there is one of those angel food places about 35 miles down the road where my MIL lives. I may have to try it. I hate going to the grocery store and spending mega money! I also think I may work on the coupon thingy. I would love to be able to come home and tell my hubby how much i saved that i will be turning around and spending on myself for a change....lol!

Jeri said...

I'm sorry I am late responding, I've been gone for a month, no vacation so don't get jealous. Tho I don't like going to Walmart, I do go once in awhile and stock up on their brand of crystal lite. It comes in both the tub and individual tube packages, and they have a zillion more different flavors than crystal lite has, and better yet, it is way cheap! It is cheap enough that when I go there and buy, I buy tons of it so I don't have to go back soon. Try it.

Mom on the Run said...

I know I am so late to the party on this, but go to the library and check out all three of The Tightwad Gazette books (or sometimes all three will be in one volume) by Amy Dacyczyn. I am much older than you are and this is not the first time all these "money saving tips" have been out there, but it was all before the internet.

She has a great attitude and really changed how I thought about things. DOTR lost his job when the youngest of my four kids was six weeks old and we've never looked back. We paid off our mortgage a year ago.

Good luck.

Jennifer said...

Using coupon codes is a great way to save money. I like to recommend KindCoupons for more coupon codes.