Money, Money, Money

(Visit my little giveaway.)

Money has been a sort of looming thing in our house lately. Our income is a lot less than it was about six months ago. As a result, we’re gradually having to go more and more into the next month to pay the current month’s bills.

(I refuse to be too upset about it though. We are both working at decent jobs, and while we are definitely feeling stuck, there are people who would love to be stuck like we are. I spent too many years as a single mother in deep poverty to whine about our current situation.)

$3000 freedom just isn’t working. We’re too far behind to start saving. Whenever there is extra money, it keeps getting used up for other things. I did manage to save about $500 from writing and selling books, but I had to use it this week to pay the enrollment fee to Goddard College and buy my ticket (!!!) to Vermont. (I’m so going to post about this later. I’m sooo excited!)

This week Kevin and I have been wracking our brains for a way to balance our finances again. And even more than that.

We are about $10,000 in debt, including some medical bills and our car.

Could we pay that off, plus save enough for a comfortable move in July 2011?

There is this tiny little glimmer of hope in me that says maybe, just maybe, we could get our acts together and actually be able to buy a house at some point. An external homestead.

February is housekeeping month, but how fun is it to see how that just blends right into finances?

We’re hammering together a plan. Our goals are these:

  • Earn enough extra money in the month of February to pay for February’s bills totally out of February’s money (this includes March rent, since we probably can’t earn $1200 all on the first of March. But April’s rent then becomes an expense for March, so it evens out.)
  • Get our outgo organized so that we have enough income in March (and subsequent months) to pay all the bills without seeping over to the next month. We’ve been trying to live the exact same way with about $1000 a month less, so clearly this is going to mean some serious cuts.
  • Have about $1200 extra each month. This is $20,000 over eighteen months (approximately), which is enough to get us out of debt, plus save $10,000 for our move. This won’t be easy. Remember, we’re $1000 down from our monthly income six months ago. So we’ll have to, starting in March, not only cut our outgo, but also increase our income.

No problem, right?

I’m such an optimist.

There are lots of ways we could lower our outgo. We could move. If we went to a three bedroom house, instead of four, we could probably save $300 a month. Maybe more. But for various reasons, including that we plan to move in 18 months anyway, we’ve decided to look at other options first.

We can definitely lower our power bill by keeping the heaters (our house is heated by four in-the-wall electric space heaters) and by making sure all doors and windows are adequately covered or sealed. We can also start hanging clothes instead of using the dryer. Using power strips and turning them off when we aren’t watching TV or using the computer will help as well.

Our original goal for the year was to spend $400 a month on food, instead of at least $800 (closer to $1000, if I’m being totally honest. A lot of this is from both Kevin and I eating work meals at restaurants four or five times a week, plus other meals out during the week.) We’ve probably gotten it down to about $600 a month. In the process of working on food and our bill, and examining food in relation to self-care, we’ve realized that price can’t be the highest consideration (see…see how The Plan all dovetails into itself?)  But I think we can do better than $600 a month, simply by cutting down even more on eating out.

We spend a little more than $200 a month for four cell phones. I almost never think about this, because it makes me a little ill. We can save $200 a month by getting rid of the phones. We can save maybe $150 by using track phones instead. Plus, we can then encourage the big kids to earn money to buy their minutes which is a positive.

We pay $225 a month to Freedom Debt with the idea that they will save our money for us and then negotiate a lower payment to pay off each debt in turn. We could stop this. We haven’t actually decided to do that. At the time we signed up, we were so overwhelmed that it seemed like a great idea simply because we had to stop paying the monthly debt obligations. Now I’m feeling like we could do better by taking charge of our debt repayment again.

So that’s the outgo.

But what about the income?

I’ve already talked about how we plan to open an Etsy shop. I’m super, super excited about this. It’s just shaping up so beautifully. I’m working on making some things to help encourage the internal homestead (wait ’til you see the little sewing kits I made up. OMG. Too cute.) and we’re working on a philosophy for the whole family business. Very cool. We hope to have things set by the end of February.

The easiest way for my family to have extra income is for me to write. I can earn the whole $1200 per month extra by writing 20 content articles a week. The ideal would be that Etsy and our regular jobs can keep us up to date on our regular bills. Then we can use the writing income to pay off our debts as soon as possible, then start saving that money.

In order for me to write that much, since I already work nearly full-time, it will actually have to become a family business. Because Kevin and the kids will have to start doing some of the work they’re used to me doing. (Okay, a little self-disclosure here. Kevin is a better housekeeper than me. By a lot. But he’s still used to me making a regular effort.)

So $3000 Freedom is dead. I’m done trying to work my way out of my 9-5 job. If I’m supposed to work from home full-time before we move, then I trust Spirit will work it out for me.

What rises from it’s ashes?

I don’t know what to  call it.

The internal homestead fund? The external homestead fund?

Maybe just plain freedom. Oh oh! Or Unstuck.

Regardless, I’ll be keeping track in the page that was for $3000 Freedom of our progress.

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