Drastic Frugality: When There’s More Month Than Money

by Kelly · 13 comments

in Living Frugally

calendarWhat do you do when there’s more month than money? When the bills are paid, but the checking account is at (or below) zero and there are still more groceries to be bought? Or when your budget was looking good, but then the car needed a new clutch, and things all started to fall apart.

We’ve found ourselves there more than once, so I know from broke as old Yiddish grandmothers might say. Here are some ways we kick into high frugal gear when there’s more month than money, trying to make ends meet and save as much money as possible.

These are not tips on frugality in general, although it could be argued that by following them in the first place, you never would have found yourself in the situation. Nor are these long term money saving ideas on how to lower your bills and increase your savings. These ideas are ways to get to the first of next month with as little damage (to your credit history and your emotional state) as possible.

Make Do

I often take laundry to be dried at the laundry mat, or I buy presliced cheese for my daughter. I do these things because not doing them costs me more in time than doing them costs in money, and I have even less free time than money at the moment. However, you better believe that when money is tight, I hang the laundry and slice the cheese myself, time expense be damned. Forget about taking your taking your work clothes to the dry cleaners- hang them up in the bathroom when you shower. Look for free or demo versions of computer software, read the newspaper online.

Use Less

Do you wash your hair every day? Try every other day. Dilute your liquid laundry soap or use a smaller scoop. Try hanging your clothes to dry, either completely, or by using half the time you usually do on the dryer. The longer you can go without needing to replace something means spending less money every day. If I forget something on my shopping list, there’s no way I’m making another trip to the grocery store, unless the product has to deal with bodily secretions like cat litter or diapers.

Just say no

Don’t be afraid to turn people down. A few school friends asked me to go out to lunch with them the other day. Another month I might have taken that money from the general grocery budget or the eating out budget but I turned them down, as much as I would have liked to have gone, because it wasn’t in my budget. I have a dear friend who I see less often than I would like because neither of our budgets can expand to include the gas for the 80 mile round trip between us. Say no to any plans this month that will require you to spend money, be it an association meeting that requires you to pay a babysitter or a trip downtown that means you’ll have to pay for expensive parking. Now is not the time to be trying to come up with extra money, be mean and stingy!

Find another solution

If it’s really necessary that you go, for a parent teacher meeting for example, try and figure out a solution that means you can go without it costing you extra. Can you swap babysitting with a neighbor? Park further away and walk? Could you reschedule for next month perhaps. Instead of driving to the tram stop, I have now started walking, heavy laptop case and all. I wasn’t using much gas on the five minute drive, but now every little bit saved counts. Instead of paying to print out case studies for class, I’ve now started saving them on my computer and reading them on the screen. I don’t like this method, but it saves €.05 a page!

Cancel left and right

My husband has canceled his company sponsored lunch tickets, adding €70 to his monthly paycheck. I have canceled my kids’ reading classes, which wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve stopped using my cell phone for everything but phone calls to my husband and the nanny. What could you cancel? You may not like the choices, but there might not really be a choice either.

Nutrition, shmutrition

When things are tight, I buy less food. One of the quickest ways to add money back into the budget is by canceling a grocery shopping trip. But that means getting really creative with what we eat. I always make sure that that the kids are eating balanced diets, but mine and my husband’s might consist more of what’s left over than of what’s new.

When I can see that there’s going to be more month than money, I start plundering the pantry and making lists of meals. (Most of those meals end up on Almost Frugal Food, so if you’re interested in making your food budget stretch too, then make sure to take a look!) It’s amazing how creative you can get with a little bit of spice and imagination, and how good popcorn tastes for lunch when eating out is not an option.

I’m not being original with these tips, I know. And some of you might (rightly) point out that these tips would be better if I followed them all the time, instead of just when times are tough. Think about how much money I could save if I never bought presliced cheese at all! 

But my point is this: you can rise to the challenge. You can do things beneath you, that you don’t want to do. You can call for sacrifice in yourselves, and push your families a little bit further. I know I can when I need to, now the trick is learning to push myself when I don’t have to as well.

I hate being financially uncomfortable, I hate having to worry about making ends meet. But for now and for numerous reasons, that is how things are. So, as the Pollyanna Sunshine I am often accused of being, I try to make the best of it, and that is where this list comes in. In fact, it’s at times like these that I realize how much more I need to learn about frugality and managing my money; after all, I’m still only almost frugal!

What do you do when there’s more month than money?


1 Nancy January 21, 2009

We’re having one of those months now. We made such strides this month too with putting a large chunk into our savings account. Things were going great (nice balance left in the checkbook & bills paid) and then daughter’s car needed service, power steering going out. Now there’s hardly anything left in the checkbook until payday on Monday. I should find the positive here and be glad we paid cash for it w/out having to touch savings but can we really not touch savings? My plans for the weekend will change that’s for sure. We’ll suck it up and see if we can’t make it through without dipping into the savings account. Just when I think we’re getting ahead, someone punches me in the gut.

Nancy´s last blog post..There’s an Imposter in my House

2 Nicki at Domestic Cents January 21, 2009

Great post. This happens to us too. I feel like we can either hide away pretending it isn’t happening or we can sit up and do something about it. I go by a lot of the same principles that you do. We eat breakfast for supper, don’t drive anywhere we don’t have to and stretch every little thing.

You’re right, this isn’t much of a long-term solution. I couldn’t live like this every single month, which is exactly why we are getting out of debt. Thanks!

Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Welcome Home, Dinner’s In The Oven

3 Monroe on a Budget January 21, 2009

Found this link on Twitter.

When my husband and I run into those situations, we have a discussion as to which bills need to come out of which paychecks during the next couple of weeks. That helps quite a bit with planning out daily / weekly cash expenses such as groceries.

Then as far as the groceries go, I make a detailed inventory and determine the smallest possible shopping list to leverage what's already in the pantry or freezer. Maybe just milk and eggs will be enough to get the dinner menus working on a particular week. Another time, I may get the most use out of a pound or two of ground beef.

We also greatly limit our trips out of town during those times. Our workplaces and most of the stores we shop at are within five miles of home, so daily needs are not a huge problem.

The noticeable impact is with socialization because all of our immediate family lives out of town — many of our relatives are about an hour's drive away in three different directions. It's real easy to get cabin fever when we aren't around our people. On the other hand … a visit to my parents' home always pays off with a free dinner and sometimes a bag of groceries to take home.

<abbr>Monroe on a Budget´s last blog post..LSJ.com: Michigan jobless phone system under fire</abbr>

4 Sarah H. January 21, 2009

Great post! I think all your tips are very creative and helpful. And it's good you didn't mention anything about charging for things by credit card and then paying later…debt danger!! 🙂

<abbr>Sarah H.´s last blog post..Transform a room in less than 10 seconds</abbr>

5 ursula January 21, 2009

wow! just before reading your blog, i had been checking my bank account and yikes! another month when there's more month than money for this family……i'm not going to the grocery store and we are going to have a few nights of soup dinners, eggs and beans for dinner…….forego the meat maybe?

6 Carol January 21, 2009

Very good post. I'm reminded of my Depression-era mother, who still routinely dilutes her liquid laundry soap after all these years. There is a lot that we can learn from that generation.

7 Craig January 21, 2009

They don't need to be original because they are true and they work. Especially with groceries. A lot of times you can make food last longer, have more leftovers. Also, people tend to have more in cabinets than they need. I'm sure if you go through your dry goods, there are beans, pasta, rice, etc that could be used to last out a week and to save on grocery shopping.

<abbr>Craig´s last blog post..Welcome Our Newest Intern To BudgetPulse</abbr>

8 mama koala January 22, 2009

Great tips. The saying "no" and scouring the pantry have been a couple we've been doing lately. I've also been looking into limiting the cell phone plan, but am having trouble taking that plunge.

<abbr>mama koala´s last blog post..Great Idea–Family Interviews!</abbr>

9 Kristy @ Master Your January 22, 2009

I hate months where they're are more days than money! It stresses me out, so I try to avoid them when possible. But, some things I do, just to add to your list:

– Eat lots of PB&J (bread is cheap!)

– Use only 1/3 of the dryer sheet per load. It does the job just fine.

– Leftover potlucks. Those friends who want to go out, I decline and invite over for games and leftover potluck. One leftover dish required per guest. These are usually pretty funny, too.

I'm sure there are other things I do, but these were the first that sprang to mind. Great post, though!

<abbr>Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..When To Use Your Emergency Fund</abbr>

10 Jennifer Clark January 22, 2009

I think many of us feel your pain, Kelly! We cancel events, outings, & eating out. We raid the pantry and make it all stretch by adding rice or pasta. I don’t toss ANY left overs. If nothing else, it’s remade into something “new” so the fam will eat it! Add enough cheese to something and it’s amazing how fast the kids scarf it down! Aside from rice, beans, and biscuits, we make do with whatever’s here. A blessing about living so far from the city-I generally have about a month’s worth of freezer and pantry items on hand so by the time things get SUPER TIGHT, a paycheck has come in to cover the cost of that week’s necessities. Then we start building things back up! Another thing, I take on a few extra hours at the store to help give us a boost-sometimes the only answer is to bring more $$ into the budget!

Jennifer Clark´s last blog post..Easy Room Decor Ideas-Girly Edition

11 Kelly January 23, 2009

Ugh! We are having one of those months. I think everyone has an expensive month with things like insurance premiums, annual expenses, etc. Ours just happens to be December. Combine that with Christmas, which no matter how I budget for always ends up costing just a little more than I had anticipated, and there you have it…the next month is lean. And I try to account for all my December expenses throughout the year, but I didn’t know the dogs would have worms or that our insurance premium would go up (for no reason I can find). Needless to say, January – typically a tough month for everyone – is now even harder. There was more month than money about two weeks ago. No lie. So we have just been hunkering down and really watching every penny. For us, I find that keeping an eagle eye on our spending is sometimes enough to get us through. It is amazing how much needless spending we do even when we think we are being frugal. A candy bar at the checkout lane which grocery shopping. A cup of coffee with a friend. A dollar here, a dollar there, but those dollars add up. I know that for a lot of people, these little dollar expenses never happen because there are better with their finances than I, but it never ceases to amaze me…just when I think we have cut everything out and are getting by on the bare minimum, there us always someplace to cut a little further!

Kelly´s last blog post..musings…

12 momstheword January 24, 2009

We start cutting things out like you said. No eating out, no unnecessary trips. We only buy what we need, no luxuries. Many years ago my husband was out of work for a year, and we really had to buckle down and get serious about frugality. Cloth napkins, rags instead of papertowels, no pop or chips, no olives…..just what was necessary. I even stopped using stain remover and used “goop” instead.

I admit we have veered away from some of that (like paper napkins) but we are going back on our financial “diet” so I am loving these comments!

momstheword´s last blog post..

13 Saver Queen January 24, 2009

These are all definitely great tips, and like Craig said, it doesn't matter if they're not all original – they are classic and they work. Besides, your message is important: there are always ways we can cut back when we really need to, even though it's hard. When you think about what you really need to get by on to live, it's pretty simple. But there are lots of ways to have fun for free, and sometimes it's actually fun to use creativity to trim back. Loved this post.

<abbr>Saver Queen´s last blog post..Finding in-store coupons</abbr>

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