Thursday, January 16, 2014

Our first electricity bill with new Time-of-Use service

For those who have been waiting for an update on my most recent electric bill with our new Time-Of-Use service:

Our bill for the month of December is $87.70! That is $19.50 lower than our last bill! My goal was to get our bill under $100.

This is a big deal to us because #1 - it is winter. AND #2 our bill for last December was $158.44! That is a difference of $70.74!

Some changes we've made with our electricity use along with our new Time-Of-Use service:

1. We turn off our hot water heater when it is not in use. We actually started doing this half-way through the month, so I'm curious how much lower our bill will be next month now that we are much more persistent with it.

2. I started unplugging our washer and dryer when not in use. I unplug just about everything else that isn't in use either, except for the oven.

3. We work around our off-peak rate. We take showers either early in the morning or after 8pm. We do our laundry the same way or on the weekends. The dishwasher runs early in the morning or after 8pm as well.

4. We switched to CFL lightbulbs.

5. Although we have used our oil furnace a few times in the morning (sometimes we get lazy to stoke the fire in the middle of the night) our woodstove has been our primary source of heat. I have also used our woodstove to cook several times!

6. We rarely use our dryer. I hang dry our clothes, except for towels.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Pantry Pancakes

Being on a strict $100/week grocery budget oftentimes calls for creativity to make the meals stretch. I think a lot of people automatically assume that when we put "budget" and "food" together it means we're sacrificing on taste, health and all those wonderful qualities we think we're missing. Not true. We aren't eating like pauper's over here, I can assure you that! We have three meals per day (snacks and dessert too!) that are both wholesome and delicious.

These pantry pancakes are perfect for keeping an easy breakfast or breakfast-for-dinner on hand. I like to make a big batch and freeze ours.

So, what exactly are Pantry Pancakes? Well, you throw together a bunch of ingredients that are in your pantry, fridge or freezer and add them to your favorite basic, pancake recipe. I really like this one.

Here's an example of ingredients I used in our last batch of Pantry Pancakes:

After rummaging through my cupboards and freezer I found frozen blueberries from the summer, oats, local rye flour, flaxseeds and wheat germ. I'm not the best at giving exact measurements when it comes to whim-recipes. I spend so much time in the kitchen I just eyeball it! If it's a little to thin, add more flour. If it's too thick, add some liquid. Speaking of, I also had some almond milk in the fridge for my batter.

I freeze our pancakes in between sheets of parchment paper. You'll definitely want to use something, even wax paper, to prevent your pancakes from sticking together.

It's fun and easy to get creative while on a budget. If you have a drop of creativity in your bones, you can stretch your food budget. If not, well, I'm here to help you, my friend! We're here to help each other navigate all the ways to our ultimate goal - a debt-free life! At some point, yes, you can open up your food budget. We will, for sure! For now, it's $100/week for our family, period.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Facing Unexpected Medical Expenses (without freaking out!)

Yup, that was the total amount denied by my dental insurance and the total amount I now owe out-of-pocket. Since I am just beginning our baby steps to getting out of debt and saving money, I don't yet have an account for these unexpected medical expenses. Instead of freaking out, this is what I did:

1. I called my dentist office just to verify the balance and that it indeed was denied by our insurance. Yes, and yes.

2. I asked if I could make a payment arrangement. I explained our situation and we quickly agreed on a doable amount. My next cleaning is in September, so I set a goal to have the balance paid off by then. We decided that I will pay $25 per week, and the balance will be paid off no later than August 8, 2014.

My organizational bug prompted me to create a template listing the week #, date, payment made and remaining balance. I used a report folder to hold both the bill and template

I've, of course, decided to add this to the list of debts I plan to snowball through. Yes, it is one more debt added to the list, but using the snowball method I should have this paid off much sooner than August! Therefore, I will not freak out.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: 
for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8