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Time to panic? Not yet...

We barely make the bills most months anymore due to healthcare costs that are not really negotiable. We don't have cable or fancy cell phone packages and a $30mo mid tier DSL connection with a local only landline which is about $2month due to a combo discount. Our only "luxury" is Netflix for $10mo. My cell is $40mo for 1200 minutes, with unlimited txt, web and data. (if you sign up use code BLsOVqIL and get 60 bonus minutes) I own an older car thats paid off and is in good running condition but it gets terrible mpg around town of about 12mpg and seems to use an obscene amount of gas coming back up the hill from the city an hour away where I go once a month for shopping since I save $200-$300mo in groceries that way.

I have 2 special needs kids, 10 and about to turn 5 girls and the whole family is gluten/dairy free (2 celiacs and 1 gluten intolerant and 2 are allergic to dairy although I still sneak it) which really messes with the budget since a loaf of gluten free bread is $5-6 and you get about 6 sandwiches out of it (which for us means a loaf a day if we have sandwiches for lunch and toast with breakfast. Rice/Soy/Almond milk is expensive and runs about $6 gallon when compared to milk. I cut costs where I can and bake most of our stuff but gluten free flours are expensive too so I try buying in 25lb bags which really cuts the cost per pound.

I usually budget $50 a month for household stuff, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, foil, wax paper, detergent, all the stuff that doesn't come from predictable bills. Thats not a whole lot of money as it is when shampoo runs $15mo and a bar of soap is $5, did I mention we all need different soaps? Yep, we all have sensitive skin, I can only tolerate 1 brand and its real soap or else I get itchy, another one can only use the J&J Buddies soaps or she gets rashy and the other child needs baby soap. So all told that another $10 a month, so were already at $30 just for bathroom stuff! Don't even get me started on toilet paper, thats been obscene! 1 person is allergic to bleached TP so thats $15 a month right there and then another $10 getting the cheap Scott 1000 rolls for the other 2 when its on sale. Were now at $5 over budget and haven't even gotten other stuff like kitchen or laundry!

So, I figured I can't be the only person in this position, in fact  I know I'm not. So I thought I could share what we have started doing to cost costs.

Bathroom:
Soap, cut the bars in 1/4 slices and only use 1 slice at a time, it lasts a lot longer since a lot is not being lost due to "melting" from shower spray and what not running off and down the drain. I'm also going to learn how to make soap myself, with luck I'll come up with something we can all use:)

This week in my couponing I got a free bottle of Softsoap Bodybutter body wash for free, ok I got 4 bottles for free and tried one this morning, the smell wasn't bad (I hate perfumey stuff) and it didn't leave me itchy. My oldest wants to try it tonight, so we'll see. If I can stock up on this stuff it would help cut the bathing bill. (we've used it for a few days now on 2 of us with no problems)

We normally use shampoo for 2 people who have curly hair, you don't treat it right and its a frizzy mess! Thats $5 each for shampoo and conditioner. This month while shopping I noticed the Suave Sleek has been reformulated and it now gluten free and is only $3 bottle so that saves $4, its been working just fine. Person #3 has dry straight hair and does fine with the Suave Professional Humectant which is $2 a bottle . Coupons come up from time to time and I will get a stockpile going to cut costs.

This week I was able to stock up on 12 packs of Cottonelle Toilet paper and got 12 packs, it should last 3-5 months. The person with the bleached TP allergy is going to learn about family cloth. I cloth diapered my girls so no squick factor to get over with washing for me which brings me to my next cost cutter. While stocking up on the TP I was rolling register rewards (RR) between the TP and Colgate Total Toothpaste and ended up getting 13, 4oz tubes of toothpaste free even though they were on sale 2/$6 between $1 off coupons and $4 RR that were rolling for a few days and when they stopped I still rolled them back and forth with the $3 RR earned from the toilet paper so it was .50 cents a tube. All told I spent $17.50 if I remember right and at least $3 of that was candy for fillers.

Laundry:
We use Tide Free and Downy Free normally (got that pesky sensitive skin, everything else makes us itchy!). We've been using home made detergent the past 3 months or so and its ok but I'd like something a bit stronger. Over the weekend I made up the recipe the Duggars use and ended up making 10 gallons for about $2. I've tried it on a several loads of lightly dirty clothes and its been fine. I have a friend testing it on her boys (4 boys, 9yo, 5yo twins, 3yo) clothes and I know the 1st load came out fine, said she was going to try it on a load of muddy clothes next. I'll wash more in the next day or two to see how it goes. I even made my own version of Downy using a recipe I found online. It stinks in the bottle but the smell is fine when it comes out of the washer. Clothes seem fine too and nice and soft.

Food:
To help cut the food budget I found out the local Salvation Army gives away fresh produce 4 days a week in the morning. The local Albertsons grocery store donates all the fresh produce, deli, dairy, bakery and floral that is close to expiring but is still fine to use if you plan to use it in the next couple days. I walk out of there with about $30-$60 in fresh produce 2-3 days a week and its stuff we usually can't afford. We can usually count on a large tub of melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew), mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, potatoes, salsa veggies, herbs like basil (we got 4 today and those are $3 each!) cilantro, parsley and sage, oranges, banana's, apples and my favorite salad mixes! I love the baby greens which are about $6 each, we get 3-4 a week and I grill up some chicken and make chef salads for lunch on warm days. Today they had so much I walked out with probably $100 in produce, I got my mom a bunch of collard greens and cabbage (going to make us some spring rolls with the napa cabbage I kept). I usually get enough that I can easily split the food between us and 2 other families. You usually walk out with 2-3 bags full of groceries and once in a while I even find gluten free bread at the bread table. I'm thinking we will start biking the 6 mile round trip to save on gas and get exercise. I have a sweet bicycle thats got duel side baskets under the baby seat that perfectly hold a Trader Joes bag and I can attach a 3rd above those and of course the obligatory front basket. Until 3 months ago we didn't have a car so we rode bikes every where, I've gotten a bit lazy but today I found out my income is being cut 8% starting in July which is a lot when your barely making it as it is. I won't be able to afford the gas money back and forth and this uses 6-12 gallons of gas a month depending on how often we go. I just realized that doing the math, biking it is!



The kitchen:
Trash bag: We already use grocery bags in the bathroom and bedrooms in a holder designed for them. We spend about $7 a month on kitchen trash bags. I really do not want to have to wash out the trash can every day from not using bags so I am going to get washable trash bags that I can just hose out then throw in the wash.

Oil sprayer: I was spending $3-6  a month on things like Pam, now I just refill the oil mister I got on Amazon for about $10 and its just pennies to refill with the oil of my choice.

Towels: I use cloth hand towels, the only time I use paper is if I fried something and I need to drain the oil off the food. I very rarely fry so a roll lasts for months. For napkins I just use washcloths, if I ever run into cloth napkins in good condition at the thrift store I'll probably grab some but the $5 for 20 thick washcloths at walmart work just fine and work way better then paper napkins.

Dishwasher: I have an obscene amount of Cascade that I got for cheap at a discount store months ago but when I run out I will probably make my own using recipes I've seen online that seem to work well as long as you use ascorbic acid in the rinse.

Whole house:
Replaced all the regular light bulbs with CFL bulbs. Cost was about $10 to replace all the lights and it dropped the electric bill an average of $6 mo.

Put thermal blackout curtain liners in all the windows which lowered the house temp in the summer 10 degrees right off the bat. Not sure of the impact on keeping the house warmer in the winter as I haven't compared the bills. Truth be told I put in the curtians not to save money but for our mental health. I have 2 kids who wake up as soon as the sun starts peaking out and I do not like getting up at 5am. If we don't get enough sleep, 10-11 hours a night for everyone or its not pretty around here. It ended up costing around $200 I think for the liners for all the windows but my sanity was worth it. I need to remember to put one in the kitchen for this summer as a lot of heat comes though that window in the summer.

Extras:
Karate classes, my 10 year old takes karate 5 days a week, I can't really afford it so I bartered with the teacher. I work pulling weeds at his ranch a couple hours a week to cover half the cost of lessons. My younger one has been begging to take lessons and I have been telling her when she turns 5 which is in 2 weeks. With that 8% cut thats not going to happen, need to see if he's willing to have me come out 2 days a week to work at the ranch. We homeschool and I'm hoping they get accepted into a local charter school in the fall that will cover 1/2 the cost of classes for us as well as give me $1,600 for each kid to be used on homeschooling, I have awesome materials picked out that no way can I afford but with the school I can. Anyway, I only spend about 2 hours a week pulling weeds and truth be told, I enjoy it. Its very peaceful out there and the kids entertain themselves playing with bugs and stuff. Its the only time I don't have to deal with bickering kids. We will also start biking to class, I knew it was close but I didn't realize it was THAT close. I eat up about 2 gallons of gas a month going back and forth and when gas is $4.45gal it adds up.
All I can say is WAY TO GO DAD! I made my kids watch it and told them the same would happen if they tried the same crap. I can totally see my older one doing that.


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It may be EXPIRED, yes they do expire as the plastic weakens from the heat in the car and normal aging. I just got a shock that the car seat I've been using is expired! Turns out the thing was already 2+ years old when I bought it at the store so please be sure that not only are they installed and fitted correctly but that they are not expired!

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So I was getting in my car when I was confronted by an angry woman today wanting to know why I had her husbands plates on my car and basically accused me of stealing them or not registering the car when I bought it. Took me to minute to understand what the hell she was raving about. Ended up having to show her my registration paperwork with MY NAME and the license plate number on it. She didn't know they would just transfer the plates to my name. She calmed down after that but dam, guy next car over wanted to call the police to settle it she was so upset. Really lady, your husband sold the car to the mechanic for $200 when he didn't want to pay for repairs, mechanic turned around and sold the car to me for $200 and I paid for the repairs (I LOVE my car!). Ergo, plates came with the car and now belong to ME according to the DMV..

They only issue new plates upon request or when the previous owner had vanity plates.  So always be sure you know what the hell your talking about before madly confronting a stranger in a parking lot.

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Rest in Peace Steve

You were an amazing man and changed our society in how we function and relate to others. I wish you peace and happiness where ever your soul finds itself.

http://news.yahoo.com/steve-jobs-dies--apple-chief-created-personal-computer--ipad--ipod--iphone.html

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I will never ever buy jam again.

Yesterday I got 4 baskets of raspberries for free. Today I made Jam with them for the first time and canned it which was another 1st. OMG, this is the best jam I have EVER tasted and it was so easy! Can't wait to get my hands on some more berries! I only had enough to make 3 full little pint jars and I bet it will go fast!
My beautiful garden loaded with tomatoes:( I had to dig 1/3 of them up today and transplant them into containers and I pray they survive. They were my biggest plants too! Its been maybe 4 months since they pumped the septic tank and it should be at least a year before they need to do it again (system failed and the tank keeps filling up with water) today I noticed the toilet was gurgling bad so I go out the back and to smell for sewage and OMG, I was assaulted by it when I opened the door. Its bubbled up out of the ground and has a created a little river out of my backyard:( Hoping my plants survive:(

We have TV channels!:D

We haven't had any channels since everything went digital and the maps said we would be lucky to get 1 channel. The $1 store had digital antennas so I figured why not? It found 6! 3 are in english, never thought I would be so excited to get CBS, Fox and I don't remember what the other was, some local channel. Bummed we can't pick up PBS though:( Still, nice to have something other then netflix to watch on occasion:)

oyyy.... off to deal with children with the stomach flu...

How to get free stuff on Amazon

I love Amazon, I save a lot of money using them, especially on items like Subscribe and Save on Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free Oats, its almost half what I would pay in the store. My next shipment was set to be shipped Aug 2 with delivery the 9th. This morning I got an email telling me my order has shipped and my account charged. I dam near had a heart attack because I have all of .57 cents in the bank until tomorrow when my direct deposit goes in. The shipment was sent 3 days early! I called up Amazon and explained the problem and that as a result I now have a $27 overdraft fee. They admitted they messed up and refunded it which means my bank will reverse the charge and I get the shipment for free. Is this the 1st time Amazon has messed up a Sub and Save item? Nope!

I also got 16lbs of Millet flour free a few months ago when they messed up and sent a double shipment and charged me double for it. It should have been 4 2lb bags and they sent 8 2lb bags and charged me for all of it. They ended up refunding that too.

So while they do mess up the customer service is great and it saves me a lot of hassle in buying things. Tomorrow I will order Source Naturals Melatonin which is about half the cost of buying it at the nearest health food store an hour away:)