Saturday, August 30, 2014

When ends don't meet.

Do you guys feel like I have fallen off the face of the earth?  I didn't mean to disappear, but between a preventative medical procedure and my sons graduation party, last weekend was a blur.  But here I am once again to submit, for your reading pleasure(I hope), my thoughts.

I've noticed gas prices coming down a bit over the last few weeks, while that's a nice little break, I'm amazed that I put a gallon of gas in my car equivalent in price to a gallon of milk.  Gone are the days of .99 gas( Sigh). That was nice.  Gone also are the days of $1.99 milk, .99 lb ground beef, 4/$1 canned veggies, or .99 for 5 lbs of sugar.  What's so sad is those prices weren't that long ago.  Incomes have not kept up with the rising prices of food and energy, and while our government likes to point to IPods being cheaper; you can't eat IPods.  They don't heat or cool your house.  So what do you do when the ends don't meet?  When all of the sudden you are looking at your budget and the money doesn't stretch to cover all you owe?  You are faced with either not paying a bill or not feeding your family.  I wrote a series a while back on Black Belt Frugality.  You can begin reading it here.  While the Black Belt Frugality series has some good tips, it takes a while to can veggies or plant a garden.  If you are needing an emergency solution, gardening, and canning isn't the answer short term.  I do believe those things are a solution in the long term so consider learning these skills.  Even in a small space, any amount is a start.

No I'm talking about right now what do I do? " The paycheck wasn't what I thought it would be", "the car broke down and it will cost WHAT?", or my favorite "what do you mean I forgot to record that check?".  That last one gets me more often than not.

We all have expenses; both fixed and flexible.  Fixed expenses are things like your Rent or Mortgage, a car payment, a credit card payment, a student loan.  Maybe a cable or phone bill if it's the same each month.  Flexible expenses are things that can be adjusted such as a grocery, electric, gasoline, or water bill.  Some fixed expenses can be somewhat flexible in that if it's not necessary for your survival, it can be placed on the back burner. Some flexible expenses are more fixed than others in that you have to have gas for your car to go to work.  Dave Ramsey says that above all else you have to secure food, shelter, and transportation.  That's very true.  Dave Ramsey does not say cokes, chips, ice cream etc are necessary for survival.  The grocery bill is the quickest way to cut back.  Look at your list (what you don't have a list SHOCK).  Cut out anything extra or anything you can make yourself.  Meat needs to become a condiment at this point.  Make casseroles, soups, stews, etc.  Double up on the veggies in your casseroles etc and cut back on the meat.  Tea or water to drink, and milk for the kids that need it.  Muffins, Biscuits, oatmeal are easy cheap filling breakfasts.  Dried beans are now your friend; as is rice and potatoes.  Here is a good reference article by Miss Maggie of Hillbilly housewife regarding an emergency meal plan complete with how tos.  I love to just read thru it.  The prices are higher now than at the time this article was written, but the menus and how tos are still relevant.  There is also one for $70.  Many of the items she lists you will most likely have on hand.  Focus on just eating what you already have on hand and only fill in what you have to have. 

Contrary to what people say now days, telephone, internet,  and a cable bill are not necessary for survival.  An exception to that is if a phone is necessary for work or other such emergency.  If that is the case, use a bare bones plan.  Internet service is offered at the library if you have a library card.  Granted you have to go by there and it's only for a couple of hours, but in a pinch it's doable. Include the trip in your regular errands to save on gas.  My point is that unless it's an emergency, cancel these services until you get ahead.  It is terribly inconvenient, especially if you have little ones, but it is short term.

People tend to have a kind of ostrich with his head in the sand when it comes to some bills.  If I ignore it they will go away.  They don't.  I know.  In all honesty, companies are more likely to help out if you keep lines of communication open.  Call them the minute you know your circumstance.  Know when you call how much you can pay at that time.  Prioritize your bills, and like Dave Ramsey says, if you get to the last of your bills and there is no more money left, they have to wait.  If possible pay something.  But don't let them pressure you to pay more than you have.  Power companies will work with you in some situations.  They also have services to help you if you qualify.  Look into budget billing.  While not ideal in all situations, budget billing gives you the same bill each month.  No surprises so easier to plan each month.  Our power bill can fluctuate by hundreds during extreme heat or cold.  It helped us immensely having budget billing for a while.  Some banks will allow you to only pay the interest for that month. The drawback is that you pay more interest over all and miss a payment, but it gets you thru. 

I realize non of these ideas are ideal.  They aren't fun either.  Not by a long shot.  But this isn't an ideal situation either.  This is a drastic time.  Just remember.  This is also temporary.  Just until things get caught up.  I speak of that which I know.  I have lived through times like these myself.  I have used, at one time or another, all of these tips.  These times come for everyone.  When you are thru this one, make sure you make a plan for the next one. With a plan you can run thru the next one easy peasy.  And, guys, there will be a next one.


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