It seems that everyone is cutting back. More and more people are falling upon hard times. The cost of living keeps rising, people are losing their jobs, getting laid off, having their pay or hours reduced and it seems many people just can't get a break. Even our home has felt the crunch. We recently had our gas cut off. As a single mom raising two teenagers alone, sometimes my paycheck just doesn't go that far. We are moving to a cheaper place in a couple of weeks (to ease our financial burden a bit) so I did not get it turned back on. At this point I really can't anyway.
It was a silly bookkeeping error on my part. Instead of paying the gas company, I accidentally double paid the utilities company. I am making small payments to repay the bill. In the meantime, we have no hot water and can not use our stove/oven. So, it was time for a family meeting. We discussed our situation and came up with a couple of solutions.
To solve the cooking issue, we picked up an electric two burner unit for about $30. Also, when things were better for us financially, I had gotten us all gym memberships. This was several months ago, but it costs about $2 a day and it is a great place for the kids to go. They love it. However, my son came up with a brilliant idea. We hit the gym every day, work out and take a shower. Hot water problem solved!
So, what can you do when hard times hit your home?
Call a family meeting. Difficult financial times affect everyone in the family. Don't think that kids don't worry about money. They do. The best thing you can do is be honest. Don't try to hide the situation from them, that will only lead them to worry more, act out and become stressed. Then, as a family, you can come up with a plan, or at least let them know that there is a plan in place. If you can involve them in any way, you should. In times like these, kids greatly benefit from the team mentality of everyone in the family working together to make things better.
Do away with cable TV. You would be surprised at how much you don't miss it. We certainly were surprised. But not having a television made us actually talk to each other. We have gotten so much closer since this happened. It has been amazing. We watch movies on DVD. Blockbuster and Netflix have pretty good programs that are really economical if you rent several movies a month. We are members of ChristianCinema.com and get our movies there because they have a great selection of family friendly movies. Their membership plan is fantastic and affordable so it works for us.
Instead of watching television, you can read. Sometimes we all choose the same book, read it and then discuss it. Sometimes we each read a different book and then tell each other about what we are reading. Games are also great. We play games like Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly and others. We picked up our games from freecycle.org and at at thrift stores.
Do away with the internet. We had to cut back. We go to the library for internet – and pick up a book while we are there. When I need to get online for my writing, I take my laptop and go to a local business that has free WiFi. Within about a mile radius of our home, we have a Panera, McDonald's, 2 Starbucks and a Staples. Panera and Staples have free WiFi while McDonald's and Starbucks charge a small fee for internet access. There are internet cafes that have computers and internet. You just have to look for them.
Find a better calling option for your phone. Research several companies until you find one that works for you. Some companies charge by the call, some charge a flat rate with unlimited long distance. Since we have family all over the map, decided to go with Boost Mobile. They have unlimited calling, text and internet for $50 a month. The phones are fairly cheap (mine was $100, a camera phone with all the bells and whistles). It is a great deal for a home phone and family cells.
Cook your meals at home. Cook meals at home as a family instead of eating out or purchasing more expensive (and less healthy) food options. When I am cooking dinner, we all wind up in the kitchen, listening to music and talking. It is a great family time for us. We all enjoy it. The simple act of gathering in the kitchen, talking and enjoying each other's company has brought us all so much closer!
Freecycle! Freecycle.org is a website that promotes â€œfreecyclingâ€ unwanted items instead of throwing them away. You can go to their website and locate your community. Join that freecycle group and get started. When someone has something that they no longer want, they will post it to the site. If you would like to get it, you simply contact them and ask for it. If they select you, you will get it. I furnished my entire home through Freecycle. It is amazing.
Hang your clothes to dry. Instead of putting your clothes in the dryer, hang them out to dry. If you find that they are too stiff or scratchy, a quick tumble in the dryer (about 10 or 15 minutes) with a dryer sheet will soften them right up.
There are many things that your family can do to cut back. Work together to find creative solutions and make sure that you give the kids a voice. Involve them, ask for their opinion, and they just might surprise you with their answers. The most important thing is to involve everyone and work together as a family.
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15. She is also the author of the ebook, “Diet is a Dirty Word.”
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