Monday, January 07, 2008

A Pain in the ...


Seriously, I just need to vent. Vent and complain. So if you're not in the mood for a shallow, whiny, complainy post, then be forewarned, and move along now.

Once AGAIN, our FIXED mortgage has been increased by $100 a month. How??? I knew you'd want to know... our city taxes have jumped sky high, that's how! Actually, the first and second times in 2007, our mortgage company failed to calculate our taxes properly. So they tacked it on to our monthly payment -- how nice of them, dontcha think?

Our home's property value increased $57,650 in a little less than 6 months, putting our CITY taxes at $4906/year! Since we moved into our home 4 years ago, our mortgage has gone up $400 (monthly). Insert choking sound here.

Anyway, we sat down this weekend to crunch numbers, and we both just about CHOKED. We are left with a nice, tidy amount of $200 a month for groceries. A MONTH! I'm sure that many of you are saying to yourselves, "Wow! That's a whole lot of money for groceries! Lucky you!" to which I reply -- "Yeah, but you don't live in the Washington Metropolitan Area only a stone's throw (literally) away from the county that was voted as the most expensive county to live in in all of America."

I know ... you're probably thinking, "so move." Well, it's not that easy. This is where our jobs are. This is where our family lives (most of them). This is where we were born and raised. It's what we know, and it's what we love. We can, of course, sell our home and move out of the city, making a even more of a nightmare of a commute for both of us, but we're not sure that's the wisest thing to do when we figure in not only gas prices, but also property values for re-sale purposes.

We need to cut back. But unfortunately, there really is no place to cut back. Sadly, we like to eat fairly healthy. We eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit, fresh meat, and very little canned vegetables or frozen meals. This makes for an expensive shopping cart! We need low carb, inexpensive meal ideas. Some of you may roll over when I say this, but we don't use coupons. I know many people do, but I am firmly under the belief that by using coupons, we end up purchasing items we may not normally purchase, or you have to buy 2 items to get the coupon savings, where we would normally only purchase one item. Spending more in order to save makes no economic sense to me whatsoever. Yet, I'm finding myself wracking my brain trying to find ways to spend less, but still eat healthy meals.

Here's what I normally like to purchase:

COSTCO: one bag of frozen chicken breasts (for the same cost as the grocery store, I get twice the amount), a package of ground beef (I divide and individually wrap), and some other meat choice, along with my laundry detergent, paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels), and baby wipes. I don't buy expensive toilet paper, either. I get Kirkland brand.

GROCERY STORE: Fresh fruits and vegetables, spaghetti, rice, pasta sauce (what ever is on sale, for economic reasons), cleaning supplies and trash bags, napkins (I don't need that in bulk), personal hygiene products (shampoo, deodorant, soap). I also purchase frozen apple juice (cheaper) and cut it with more than 50% extra water (if not more).

Diapers are killing us at $26 for a case of diapers! What is up with THAT!?! It's not like I choose to place my child in diapers! Thankfully, he doesn't need formula any more.

Yesterday, I spent $199 in groceries at a discount grocery store. That will last us 2 weeks... maybe.

One thing I think we'll be doing in the very near future is taking advantage of rolling our phone, internet, and cable into an all-in-one package. The pastors at our church do that, and are very happy with it. Do any of you do it, and have you been happy with the quality?

So... any other ideas that you might have for cutting corners would be welcome in the comments section. How's that for a whiny-baby post?


Jennifer said...

I feel your pain with the diapers! We put Levi in cloth diapers (more expensive up front but I don't have to pay $26 every few weeks for a new case for 2+ years!).

We have AT&T for phone, internet, and TV (we use DishNetwork through AT&T). We've been really happy with it.

It's hard to cut a grocery bill when you're buying a lot of fresh produce, but I've got some recipes and ideas I'll email to you.

Anonymous said...

Man, I'm choking right along with you. And $200 a month for groceries is NOT a lot of money. I know some people are saying they only spend $35 a week for 4 people which I'm not sure how they do it because that wouldn't even buy us half a week of food around here - and that's being frugal, using coupons, sales, cutting out extras, and all.

I'm praying for you in this situation.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to say - I rarely ever use coupons either, for the same reasons you gave. We have Cox (our local cable) for tv, internet and now phone. For about 7 years, our cell phones have been our home phone, so we cut out that expense. Now we have a land line but our business pays for it now that I work from home. Our internet bill went down by half when we got the combo package.

JMR said...

A) $200 a month for groceries is not a lot!!! We go through about $500 a month on groceries total!!! And thats for our family of 3, not buying a bunch of extra's... just what we need.
B) $400 a month more is absolutely insane!!!! And that is partly why my husband and I are still renting and have not bought anything yet... that way we know what our rent is, atleast for the year that our contract is signed on, and we don't get stuck with something like that. I am absolutely terrfied of buying my own home!!! Eek!!!!
C) We combine all of our stuff into one bill and its insane the savings we have. We use a company called Windstream (only phone company servicing our area) and we have dishnetwork for TV... when we combined it all, we saved over $40 a month alone!!!! Whoa..!!!! Definitely worth checking into.

I am praying for you guys!!! ***hugs*** <3 Jami

Jen said...

I too spend $200 every 2 weeks. I watch my gasoline bill with errands running only 2 days a week. We are on a budget that we talk about every 3 months to make sure we are on the same page with each other. Start taking the spare $1's you get back in change and putting in an envelope under your mattress...before you know it will add up.
Other tips....your doing well with bulk..I do the same thing at Sams' If I think of anything else I will let you know...good luck gets very stressful....have faith and pray.

Susanne said...

Praying for you Gibee! That kind of stuff is always a shocker! Everybody already had some good ideas so I won't belabour them. And it always costs money to move. When it comes right down to it, when you've done all you can, remember to lift it before the Lord. He is Jehovah Jirah, your provider and He wants you to cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. He will give you wisdom as you seek Him! Bless ya, girl!

Barb said...

I used to be a fanatic about using coupons and stopped for the same reason you mentioned - I was buying things I wouldn't normally buy or didn't really need. But there IS a way to use coupons that works.

I clip them and save them. I always make a list before I go grocery shopping which really controls impulse spending. I use the weekly sales fliers from the newspaper as a guideline for the meals I'm going to make that week, taking advantage of specials and sales.

THEN I go through my coupons and only pull the ones for items that were already on my list. That stops me from buying something I don't really need just because I have a coupon for it.

It works for me - I consistently save on my grocery bills.

It might work for you too. If I save $15 with coupons, I walk out of the store feeling like I got $15 worth of free food. :-)

Anonymous said...

Gibee I do not have a blog but I lurk for encouragement on occasion! :) I understand your pain as we are a family of 4 with one income. I would like to encourage you to go to Crystal has taught me many things about cutting back. I would like to say that with shampoo and conditioner and other things I could not be brand dependent. Hopefully this helps. God bless and I will be praying for your grocery budget.
In Christ Allison, NC

tammi said...

$200 is NOT a lot of money for monthly groceries. I don't know many couples who could manage with that, let alone families. Our budget is $375/mo and we've got a 3-yr old and a 6-yr old.

I would agree with what Chelsea Morning's already said, though; you don't have to buy things you wouldn't normally buy just to use a coupon. And if it's a 2-for-1 type deal on non-perishable things, cleaning supplies, paper products, etc., then it still makes more sense to buy more than you may need at the moment because the cost per unit is still less. Buying in bulk and/or on sale is pretty much always smarter and less costly. Have you ever heard of the "Grocery Game"? It's only for US residents (which made me sad!), but I know of several bloggy buddies who use that system and are saving tons of money on their grocery bills.

Mortgages obviously work differently in the US than here in Canada. I'd be choking too if our payments had increased by that much! We've learned the hard way that it is possible to live very frugally without feeling like it. (too much!) It's amazing how many ways there are to cut back even when it doesn't seem like it's possible.

Tammy and Parker said...

Ah. Welcome to my world. So sorry you have to be here too. ;)

On a good month I have a grocery budget of about 400 dollars a month for 8 of us these days. Sometimes a little more....sometimes lots less. Depends on the month.

While that doesn't include the $100.00 a BOX for Parker's Neocate One Plus, it does include his diapers and wipes.

It isn't easy, but it is do-able.

I don't buy frozen-ready to eat stuff. I make meals from scratch.

I buy in bulk. I buy several different types of rice from Costco...brown, rose, etc.

If there is something on a great sale I stock up with enough to last until the next sale. I have a very large pantry from which I can 'shop.'

I used to make all of my bread in my Kitchen Aid. But now I tend to use my bread machine since I can load that and forget it.

I serve soup at least once a week.

If there is any way possible, grow a garden. I can't begin to tell how much that saves us. You can freeze or can stuff for the winter. In my garage right now I have a ton of this year's onions and garlic from my garden stashed away. I have cans of my homemade salsa stashed away. I regularly freeze different pasta sauces.

I know people tend to shy away from freezing and canning home grown produce. But I have organic frozen veggies and fruits in my freezer right now. Perfect for smoothies, etc.

Rethink you coupon philosophy. I haven't paid more than .25 for toothpaste, toothbrushes in years. I usually get the toothbrushes for free. I pay about .60 for every dollar of feminine products, cleaning supplies, etc.

I would suggest checking out They have made a huge difference in my life. I don't think we could even begin to survive grocery wise if it hadn't been for them.

Getting savvy in this department is how we can afford (kinda) Parker. :)

I wrote a few posts on this topic over at Faith Lifts under the frugality and simple living subject line.

Emily Dykstra said...

Oh, GiBee- I'm so frustrated on your behalf. That is a lot of extra money to have to come up with.

I don't have a lot of tips, but I buy frozen veggies at Costco. You can get a BIG bag for about $5 and it tastes really fresh. I also like to get butter there and eggs.

You may want to eat more beans. There's this cookbook called "More with Less" that apparently is REALLY great.

Peace to you.

Sandy said...

Hi GiBee - oh, you are not whining. It's reality - I can't stand spending so much money on groceries. I'm sick of it.
You and I are similar - with our Costco shopping. I buy/divide/freeze/use ALL leftovers. I agree with your coupon concept - been there, done that. I ended up buying too expensive of brands. Anyway, hang in there ... or move out to OR! :)
Happy New Year!

Katie said...

I feel your pain. We live in Fairfax County. We bundled our phone, cable, and internet with Verizon and have really enjoyed the service. We are saving money, although we think it will go up in 2-3 years. I stay away from coupons also, but it may be time to coordinate them with your weekly menu. I have a Dining on a Dime Cookbook I'm willing to part with if you'd like it. Just email me, and I'll drop it in the mail. Goodluck!

Anonymous said...

I do the same thing that Barb does, clip the coupons and look over the ad. See what you need that you have a coupon for. I feel your pain, groceries are getting more expensive...and eat up a lot of budget. In regards to the diapers, if you aren't spending money on them it goes to something else the kids do. Trust me, diapers are cheaper.

Beth/Mom2TwoVikings said...

My thought is to cut in a different area so as to leave more money for groceries...we've turned off our cable, canceled magazine subscriptions, stopped eating out ENTIRELY, cut back our cell phone package (we have no home phone, my cell IS our home phone, DaHubby's is our "luxury"), that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

It is sobering. I got rid of my cell phone. It was liberating and also saves a ton.

I also make lots of soups, stews, and anything that can become several meals. One of our favorite meals is bake potatoes and salad. No meat, but a cheap and easy meal. Chalupas with fat free beans are a hit as well.

The other idea is to make it a game. That makes me feel like I am in control versus the budget controlling me.


My Blessings From Above said...

I second going to Money Saving Mom's site.
Crystal has helped me tremendously! I have learned to shop at CVS using their extra care bucks (ECB) program. We used to shop at Walmart every two weeks for items like cleaners, pet food, health and beauty, first aid,diapers, paper products etc. In the two months that I have been shopping at CVS, we have been in Walmart once and that was only for a package of socks for dh and cat food. I get just about all of the house hold items I need a CVS by rolling my ECB's each week. Last year we spent roughly $2500 at Walmart and that was not counting our actual groceries, my goal this year is to eliminate as much of that as possible. To date at CVS I have purchased over $500 in items and spent less than $10. It has become a challenge for me to see what I can purchase there.
Our goal for this year is to put our grocery budget at $35 per week. I am thinking this is doable if I continue with our CVS savings.
Another suggestion is do you have an Aldi grocery store near you? I buy the bulk of my groceries there. It is a small store and you need to bring or buy your bags, have a quarter to rent the cart (you get it back when you return the cart), but it has been the least expensive place for us to buy groceries. We are a one income family of four. Last year we had a small garden, mostly in containers and that helped quite a bit as well.

Shalee said...

You don't sound whiny at all... just realistic!

I can't help you with the rolled up package since we go without cable, but this winter I've really cut our grocery bill by doing A LOT of soups. If you want some recipes, let me know and I'll try to round some up for you.

I feel your pain woman; I feel your pain. But so does God and he'll take care of every detail as you commit these trials to him.

Stacey said...

I know where you're coming from my friend! It's hard to figure out where to save. We spend about $75 per week for a family of 5. That means everything from diapers, wipes, food, personal items and more. It's crazy!

I do however use coupons because I can save on average $15 a week. I only buy stuff that I will actually use though. I throw all other coupons away so we're not tempted. I also shops adds and price match when I can.

We bundle our phone and internet. We recently switched to satelite TV though and are saving about $50 a month. That might be something to check out.

I'll keep thinking about what else might help. I can promise that I'll be praying for you though!!

Anonymous said...

We rolled our phone, cable, and internet into one and have had no problems with it. It's been fine for us.

I know the pain! Hope things ease up soon.

Sister Honey Bunch/Judi maloney said...

My parents raised our family of 8 children on very little money. My mom said that it was truly the grace of God that got them through each month. She finally quit worrying knowing that she was doing everything in her power (shopping frugally, gardening and canning) and that God would provide. I will say a prayer for your family.

Anonymous said...

We spend about $600 to & 800 a month on food.That does include eating out at times.You may need to rethink that coupon thing and go to a store that doubles them.I have no clue on your bills but mabe its time to downgrade on some services such as cable or satelite,phone service,and whatever extras.Those need to go before food budget.Vonage is a wonderful phone service,for $25 bucks a month I get complete house phone service and it includes long distance.I am sure you know the obvious,turn of lights and heat a bit.Carpool with friends and make an errand day to save on gas.Its fun to do regular boring errands with a friend.Shop at thrift stores for clothes and especially if they have half off days.You really can find some ok clothes for really cheap.I do this for me and the kiddos,hubby is not at all keen on this one.Ask your creditcard company to lower the interest rate and be forceful,they will end up doing it.I also would mabe suggest refinancing your home,yes it sucks but mabe it mabe benneficial,obviously dont take money out on the equity just refinance for a better interest rateor other program in that area.Oh and shop around on the house insurance,mabe you can find a better deal and if you insure cars with them mabe youll get a real sweet deal.Money really sucks and I may look into these suggestions myself to see where we can get more money in our pockets.Gas is killing us so mabe you can get a hybrid or like I said before carpool with a friend.
I have bored you enough,but dont take away from the food area too much go elsewhere in your other expenses.Good luck.
love Shawny

Cristina said...

Some other places I was able to cut costs was cancelling my newspaper subscription and the one magazine we used to get. I cancelled some of the features on our phone like caller ID. We never used to who was calling- do we need to know now? The answer is no.
I would rethink the coupons. Costco takes coupons, so use them for the products that you already buy. Flip through them, you'll be surprised at how you can save a few $ here and there.
Also, fresh veggies are great but unless they are on sale, I buy a lot of frozen veggies and can sometimes get coupons for that.
Also, look at the sales circulars. Sometimes another store (that's not out of your way-gas costs $ too) has the same product that you were going to buy anyway for less.
I know all of this sounds like a mission. But for example, there's a local chain by my husband's office that many times has the coffee we like and other items on sale, so he goes after work and buys those few things there. It's not out of the way and it save a few bucks.
We also cut out fruit juices. Think high sugars...drink water.

Misslisslee said...

We cut way down on meat when our budget is tight - lots of dried beans and rice (which can go in the crockpot), or vegetable soup and cornbread, that kind of thing. Some of the real budget-busters for us are milk (i try to cook with dried milk) and produce. Try to stick to what's in season and on sale for produce and it will help. It might also help to re-think what are luxuries vs. needs -- can you use internet from work or the library, and do you need cable, at least for the short-term? Can you use a discount grocery store like Aldi (great Aldi tips at Good luck!

Cristina said...

Oh my I forgot 2 things where we have just saved bunches of $! Homeowners insurance and car insurance. Shop them around! We got the same house coverage for 1/2the price from a national company not a fly by night. Also, if you are a 2 car family & have no accidents, I mean not even a fender bender, then supposedly $tatefarm (I mispelled on purpose so you won't get random hits from the name) is the way to go. Shop the insurance!
The other thing I did when the kids were small was sell their good clothes at Consignment Shops. It brougth in a few $ here and there and helped me feel like I could do what I wanted with that 'found' money. They grow out of the clothes so fast a lot of it is in good condition.

Becky said...

I am in the same boat there with ya! We spend about $800 per month EASILY for our family of five (three kids: 4 and under) and I only really buy a little fish and chicken. I don't know what you're going to think of this idea but we save tons of money on the red meat we eat by buying venison (yes, Bambi) from my brother-in-law's deer cooler at the end of the hunting season. We store it in an extra freezer in our garage and are set on meat for at least a year at a time. It's less expensive than going to the grocery store and it's healthier because wild venison is much leaner and isn't shot up with tons of hormones and other drugs. You have to be ok with the taste as there is a small amount of flavor difference but you get used to it. And if you use it mixed in with various other ingredients (spaghetti, lasagnia, pot roast, sloppy joes)then the slight taste difference is covered up. I really don't notice the difference at all unless it's steaks or chops. Anyway, there's my tip from the South. Good Luck!

Becky said...

I just realized that my last comment sounded like ALL I buy is fish and chicken but I meant as far as any other meat goes. A lot of our expense is in the effort to eat healthy and so we have tons of fresh produce as well. I'm going to check out those coupon websites the other ladies were talking about. Sounds great. Thanks for "complaining" because it's benefiting many more people. And besides, we're all sitting here nodding, saying "MMmmm-Hmmmm!" because we know exactly what you mean!!! :) God Bless!

Unknown said...

Hi GiBee,
I understand your frustration and can certainly sympathize. I also understand being near family and raising your child where you grew up. I think that moving would not be an option here unless you could downsize in your area and that may not be an option.

You have been given some great advice. I know several things that have worked for us.

We cut out all junk type foods, soda, processed foods like Hamburger Helper...all the convenience beef. In the winter we really have a lot of soup and cornbread or whole grain bread.

Our local grocer is great. I go every week just to check out prices. They do not advertise so it saves the consumer more money since they pass on their savings to us. They will have canned beans many times 4 for one dollar. When this happens I load up by the case. We use beans in a lot of things. Same goes for canned veggies.

We also eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit. It is crazy how expensive this has become. We are going to have a garden this year. I also saw on Martha Stewart a lady that uses the cold frame so she can grow in the winter in Maine...fresh salad greens and veggies. I printed off the information so we can do that next year.

We bundle our phone, internet, and cable through Cox. We also quit subscribing to our newspaper and magazines. Last evening on our date night I caught up on all my favorite magazines at Barnes and Noble.

I make our own protein bars, granola, and snack items for our teens lunches. A great book that has been a huge resource for me is Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy. It has some great recipes in it and savings ideas. Your local library should have it.

I did not mean to post so much. I just wanted to encourage you. We have been there with different circumstances but I know the frustration level and concern.

Jeana said...

I second the recommendation for Money Saving Mom. One thing that jumps out is to cancel cable altogether. And if I didn't have enough for groceries, I would think about canceling the internet too. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Could you downsize your house and save that way?