Angelicscalliwags Frugal Challenge Update

Our income has dropped considerably over the past year and because of more governmental changes we will no longer be receiving any kind of tax credits come April 2017.  I am not opposed to the changes which state that by the time the youngest child is three the mother should be looking for work and by four should be in employment otherwise they will no longer be eligible for tax credits.  I’m not opposed because I fully understand that our country can not continue to get itself into debt without some serious repercussions, and therefore the government needs to make savings somewhere.  I am just so grateful I was eligible for the time I have been.  Tax credits have allowed me to be at home with my children, which was always my greatest desire.  I count it a privilege and a blessing to have been at home these past thirteen years, and am incredibly grateful.  That said, between now and April 2017 I have some serious learning to do, because on paper our finances will not allow me to stay at home.

Thankfully, I serve a God who is even bigger than the governmental policies and I trust that He will lead our family to live more frugally and to somehow find a way for me to stay out of the workforce and remain at home with my children.  We have been in situations before when on paper outgoings far exceeded incomings, yet each month we got through and had a fabulous standard of life.  It was incredibly faith building and I am looking forward to what God might do in the future.

We have had a few family meetings to throw about some ideas.  It has been decided, for now, that the children will still have the use of the child benefit (a small benefit all parents receive for each of their children regardless of their income or work status) to pay for their one activity, their clothing and savings.  This they will need to earn as I outlined in this post.

Our biggest saving, which we have put into action this week, is to get rid of our once a week date.  Although we only pay our babysitter £10 and we only pop to Sainsburys’ restaurant and spend a little over £10 on curry (for me) and ham and chips (for Gary), cutting this out will save £20 per week.  It’s a big saving and it’s immediate, and let’s face it a weekly date is a luxury.  The older children have all offered to work out ways for us to have stay-at-home dates, without being interrupted.  Other savings will occur when we re-look at phone and broadband needs once our present contract is up next year.  We are also discussing other optional expenses, which again are luxuries (Amazon Prime) to decide if it is still within our budget.

There are areas where we don’t have much wiggle room since they are essential to us.  The first is the car and petrol, the second is our holiday to see Gary’s parents.  We have had to cancel our holiday this autumn due to a shortage of money, but as we went in the spring we weren’t too concerned.  However, we don’t want this to be the situation next year and, for us, this is an essential non negotiable area.  We don’t have any other holidays and we both feel it is important for the children to grow up knowing their cousins (all twenty something of them!) and most of all their lovely Grandparents.  It costs us £1000 just to get there.  We usually stay with Gary’s parents.  We have decided to put away £20 per week and begin to look at ways we can decrease the amount it costs us.

We see two areas which we can and will make considerable changes to.  The first is our food budget, which we will somehow decrease to under £100 a week to feed seven of us and three pets in addition to the chickens.  The second is our homeschool budget.  Homeschool has always been of utmost importance to us all and this was reflected in our school budget which was considerable (about £300 per month, mostly on books).  This will need to be reduced to practically nothing.  We will need to save up approximately £600 per year to cover each older child taking up to two IGCSE’s each per year.  It seems to simply sit one IGCSE exam, it costs almost £100.  We will also still need to find £20 to pay for Conquer Maths, which is working so well I am loath to stop.  We will obviously need basic supplies- paper, ink, pens and the like which we are hoping to keep under £20 per month.  Our total budget for school will be £100 per month for all five children (£60 to cover exams, £20 to cover maths and £20 to cover basic supplies).  Unfortunately this will mean no room for buying curriculum, IGCSE text books or any extras.  We will try to put as much aside as we can for the purpose of the IGCSE’s before the tax credits are removed.  We will also be consciously searching for IGCSE text books in charity shops.  I will keep a note of the subject and the editions needed for each subjects to ensure I buy the most up to date version.

I have been researching schooling options and will be sharing lots of free ways one can learn (thank God for the internet!) and I have been praying about food, as this will be by far the hardest area for me to manage.

Fortunately, for me contentment comes easy.  I love my life.  No, I adore my life and the reasons for this have very little to do with money and everything to do with relationships.  As long as we have money to house us, keep us warm, feed us and pay the bills, I will be a happy bunny!

I will enjoy the challenge of finding cheaper ways to eat and the imagination it will take to school in a fun but free way.  Most of all, though, I will enjoy looking for sneaky ways to beautify our life so no-one actually realises we are on a tight budget.  I have my sewing needles in one hand and my cash envelopes in another!

I hope you’ll all join me in trying to make our lives beautiful and joyful….on a little budget.

23 comments

  1. God’s Word promises provision for our needs. You are creative and resourceful. I am a single mom of 3. I understand budget cuts. I will be praying for wisdom. Blessings!

    1. Thank you so much Elizabeth. I am excited to see what God will do. We’ve been in a similar position before when we lived in Ireland and we were so blessed then.

  2. Mrs Frugal here, happy to be a sounding block and provider of ridiculously tight ideas such as washing freezer bags and what to do with one floppy left over carrot and a slightly mouldy onion. Looking forward to catching up soon.

    1. Lol!! I did the whole foraging about in the fridge for anything which might resemble food last week and we made a gorgeous vegetable and mini pasta stew. Num, num!!

      1. I love the mantra, use it up, wear it out, make do or do without. I also love the creativity that comes with using things up, your pasta sounds yummy. Saturday lunches are my left over lunch, generally soup, maybe quiche, anything which uses up the last bits before shopping. The children are often skeptical, what is lunch called? What exactly is in it? I try to keep my answer vague. A lady at church can sneak anything into cakes and soups and my children love them, so far they have had marrow cake, sour milk cake and beetroot brownies, lentils are even eaten in her soups, even though they all hate them.

  3. We’re in the same position. I’m looking into part time work at the weekend – it is the only solution hubs and I can come up with 😦

  4. We were concerned that I would not be able to stay home last year when Goldilocks ran away. To keep her in a residential placement outside of our home cost as much as my husband made each month until insurance kicked in (5 months) which took our whole savings. Now, it costs us almost as much as our mortgage to provide Goldilocks out of the home placement each month. I cut costs as much as I could by reducing our meat intake to 2 pounds a week and lots of gardening. I spend a fair amount of time searching for scholarships to help with dance and out of the home classes. We also have gotten rid of Netflix, amazon prime and other such luxuries. We already bought almost everything we could used. I started an ebay business selling our belongings that are not in use. All of these things have kept me at home which I am so grateful for. Praying for you as find your way through this transition.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Thank you so much Dawn for sharing your story. I am certain there are many people, in particular homeschoolers, who struggle to make ends meet sometimes. Good for you for working so hard to stay at home. You have inspired me to do the same!

  5. A few random thoughts – we’re super tight for cash this year too, so I switched the kids to allinonehomeschool.com and allinonehighschool.com (both absolutely free and already laid out day by day). So far it has been a big hit with both my children, although I’ve found it hard to let go the reins of planning!

    If you are allowed to have chickens, can you get a milk goat, or a share of a dairy cow on a farm? We’ve saved hundreds this year on milk, cheese, and yoghurt and that’s despite the cost of the goat, the fencing and the shed repairs. We’ve also sold a bunch of eggs and milk and cheese after we put out the word that it was available.

    Dates: Picnic at a park/pond/nature conservancy near you? Back rubs for two while watching a movie? Not as good as eating at a restaurant but it would give you both some time alone.

    I really appreciate your sharing of this aspect of your life, Claire; I love to see how other people are arranging their budgets.

    1. Oh, I’m so pleased your children are enjoying Easy peasy all in one homeschool! I am beginning my little ones on that this year. My older ones now need to work towards their exams but I will be using some Khan academy videos (I’m going to try to show them one per day) because they are free and they are great too. I may use the english and grammer part for my older ones and also their book lists all of which she provides for free. I had no idea how much was out there! I’m very excited, but I know how you feel about letting go of the reins 🙂

  6. I’ve dropped Amazon Prime in the past – it really can be a savings. I love having it, but I order so many more things than I would if I had to pay shipping! I’ve actually been thinking about dropping it again, just so I’m forced to be a little more creative in using what we already have on hand.

    1. I know what you mean! I need to cut down on the Amazon orders. In fact I need to cut out the Amazon orders! But we also watch on Amazon prime which saves us money we would spend on DVDs. We don’t have broadcast television so Amazon Prime is quite handy for us.

  7. Praying for God to continue to bless you and your family. He always blesses us no matter what is happening in our ‘money’ portion of our lives. It seems like you have some great ideas Claire. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen! It’s always lovely to ‘hear’ from you. And yes, we have been in similar positions where the money part of our life doesn’t add up on paper and yet God somehow makes it add up in real life. We serve a great big God 🙂

  8. I am a bit of an evangelist on this topic so I apologise if I have told you about it before, but YNAB (You Need A Budget) has been an incredible tool for me to stretch my limited income beyond what I would have thought possible. Even though I have now found a job, I am unlikely to start work for another month and won’t be paid until a month after I start, which will mean I’ll have been without regular income for six months. There’s no way I’d have managed during this time without my budget tool. It really helps you to see where the money is going and how you can make tiny changes add up into larger sums. The online forum is also one of the most supportive and welcoming communities I’ve ever encountered on the internet! People always have masses of ideas about how to squeeze a bit more out of a budget, and cost-saving approaches to things, without any judgement or meanness.

  9. Claire, we understand. When I quit teaching in public school, our income was reduced by about half, overnight, so I feel what you are feeling. I also know that when we put God first in our tithes and offerings, He stretches that money farther than we could ever imagine. Keep Him first.

    1. Thank you Donna. We do. We learnt when we were in Ireland and living off £200 per week that if God was paid first, He would always take care of the rest. We had true miracles happen over there and I am definitely looking forward to what we have in store for us over the next few years.

  10. I’d opened up this post in a browser I don’t usually read and haven’t read this until now. I’m mulling over a few suggestions, and might send you a note, but you’ve gotten some wonderful ideas already. I’ll be praying for you as you figure out what to do.

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