Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where the money flows

I got a comment on my last post asking if I would enlighten my readers on the state of our finances and the methods that we use to cope.

Here's the low down on what it takes to pay the bills on our urban homestead.

Mortgage - $346.81 This includes insurance, property & school taxes, principal, and interest. Rents on comparable properties in my area run over $600. Needless to say it pays to buy less than what you can afford. I can't stress that enough.
For the first half of this year I was paying an extra $100 on the principal. For every hundred I threw on I knocked off $55.00 in interest owed. Even for just the short amount of time the mortgage was shortened by a year.

Electric - as I wrote about in an earlier post we have an ongoing battle with our electric company which boils down to the fact that they charge me more bringing me a kilowatt then the actual cost of the kilowatt. This month for example our bill was $50.15 up from $43.31. Of the $50.15 the first $38.16 was basic service (not including use age), delivery (anyone know what uniform da electric man wears?), delivery adjustment (what is that really?) tariff surcharge, & sales tax. We used 263 kWh this past billing cycle. Up from 220. Electric dehydrator was plugged in almost nonstop in August due to our crappy weather. I haven't used the solar dehydrator DH made us for the most part this Summer.
Also important to note is that the price of a kilowatt rose from $1.32 in 2008 to $1.51 in 2009.
Methods to conserve electricity; use of power strips, CF light bulbs, use of nonelectric appliances such as our ice box or an in closed porch in Winter, or simply don't flip the switch on. Instead our first choice when reaching for a tool is always the nonelectrical version.

Natural Gas - $24. The hot water heater has been set on vacation temp since last Spring which has meant cooler than preferred showers. Cooler Summer this year meant that the water temp coming directly out of the tap was quite cold. Currently the water heater is the only appliance running. However, it has dropped below freezing this past week which means that the house has had indoor temperatures of the high 50's. Have been resisting the urge to turn on the furnace.
Hot water heater is 8 years old so fairly energy efficient. If money was no object I'd change out the heater for a tankless one.
The furnace was installed 9 years ago. It's 85% efficient natural gas. Generally speaking we keep that house @ 60 degrees when the children are home even in January. Now my kids are teenagers who wear layers of clothing including hoodies and thick wool socks. When they were younger I keep the heat on 65.
When it's just me home alone then the thermostat is set back down to the mid fifties.

Our only other monthly debt is a home equity loan that runs $210 a month. I've had it paid off several times & no doubt it will be paid off once again only to be used again.
The last time was in 2000 when my current vechile died. I purchased a base model compact car, standard, no a/c for 7 grand new. Figure a third of the monthly equity loan is a car note.

Insurance is $340 a year which is paid out of our income tax refund. Maintenance runs around $200 a year. Gas is about $30 depending on traveling. MPG is 35 per gallon.
This is our 2nd year being a one car family. Initially it was difficult making the adjustment but the savings have been worth it. The shoe leather express (city sidewalks) makes a stop right in front our our house. I also have a bike with baskets as do my children. There are 2 $ stores and an Aldis within walking distance. DH changed jobs to be more local.

Clothing - other than buying two packages of socks & unders for myself & daughters that about covers it this year. Daughters and I worked @ a clothing swap this past September sponsored by our church were we were able to get over 100 articles of clothing. Many were new and very high end. I am glad not to be back to the time were my children were constantly out growing or wearing out clothing. Also purchased running shoes for DD#2 who runs cross country.

DD#3 scored soccer shin guards from a cousin. Thankfully neither daughter needed new cleats.
All sports uniforms were financed by fundraisers. We are blessed to live in a school district that has a great athletic program. Only one child still participates in music. She receives violin lessons through the school. Violin purchased used 2 years ago.

Huge budgeting tool has been to simply not go to places such as a mall or a mega store. Let's face it you can always find something that you want when your in Walmart.
A need is a need a want is a want.

Food - you'll have to just read through my blog posts as that is what I primarily write about.

Tithing - aim for
$20 a month and give about 20 to 30 hours of our time a month working wherever there is a need in our church. Currently I co-chair a garden, assist with food baskets to members of our congregation who are home bound, usher for funerals when needed, and various deacon duties.

Medical - without going into too much information it lets just say that we spend almost a mortgage payment on medical insurance and prescription meds.
Using a nettie pot has greatly helped not only our bottom line but our health. Usually at least once a year I come down with a sinus infection which quickly turns into a chest cold then leads into bronchitis or pneumonia. My last bout of pneumonia cost me over $80 after an office visit & a trip to the pharmacy. Thank you Dr. Oz for teaching me the way.

Entertainment - if it's free then it's on the on. Besides taking advantage of DVDs &Videos from our public library we attend area concerts, minor league baseball games, collage sports, and events sponsored by our city for youth. We also enjoy just hanging out at church. This weekend daughters are away at a youth retreat though church.

Calling it even it costs us a in the neighborhood of $1280 per month to live for the past 6 mos.
Winter heating will add about another $200 to $300 a month this Winter using natural gas.

Per the 2008 Federal Poverty Guidelines a family of 4 who lives below $21,200 qualifies as poor.

I don't feel poor.
Just broke.

~~ pelenaka ~~

P.S. 10/23/2009 - My bbgf who chased me down here @ the library since I'm san cell has informed me that I forgot to include the cost of our cell phone plan. It's around $80 for 2 phones. One is the house phone with our old land line #. The other is labeled the away phone. That phone is carted around by either DH or the girls when they go out either on errands or hunting. Daughters use it to let us know when they are done with practice or on their way home from an away game. I have timed their commutes from either school or practice fields both on foot & bike. If their late then I can call. Also there's the safety factor when there out.
Plus I didn't want anyone home without a phone. Kinda funny when you think of it as I went years without a phone when I was a young adult.
No text nor email on the plan.
It has been a bit of a learning curve for some of our F&F to remember to call us from either a Verizon cell or after 9. So far no issues with going over our minutes.
I go bum phone service off my Bro when I want to call my Abuela in P.R. or out state peeps who don't have Verizon & are in bed by nine. Also score phone time @ church. That comes in handy when I have to call say the electric company to discuss my recent rate hike.

There was some great questions posted in the comment section by a reader which I thought should be answered in this post.

Does living on your income cause any tension in the home?
For the most part no. There are times however when I would love to have extra for the little things. DD#3 was asked by her soccer coach to participate in an indoor soccer league - cost $75. She has emailed her father and put the word out to church family that she needs babysitting gigs.
I know DH would love to have the extra cash flow to do more local traveling, hunting/camping.

I was also asked about an urban homestead aspiration, ... something that is being saved for to improve the urban homestead?
That would our long drawn out process of installing a wood stove. Seriously I have been collecting items toward this aspiration for over 8 years now. There is the bush kit on clearance bought in 2001 so I can be my own chimney sweep. Then there's the tools like a coal shovel bought @ tag sales last year for a buck.
I'll be blogging about that soon.


  1. I feel your pain about the power bills. I assume that you are battling National Grid and their ridiculous fees. We spent time reducing our energy usage last month.We reduced electricity usage by around 20-25 percent. National Greed raised the delivery fees, so we barely noticed any savings. In the winter, we try to supplement our furnace with wood in a fireplace insert. It really helps out and keeps us from seeing huge spikes in our bill.

    It is interesting to see where your expenditures lie. I am constantly taking notes from others who have mastered frugality, like you! We also live in the city and our mortgage is much cheaper than rent. We chose to purchase a home that we could afford on one salary many years ago and have never really regretted it. I try to avoid going into any store other than a grocery store. Of course there are exceptions...the feed store, the pharmacy, etc...I try to only carry the amount of cash that I will need for those trips.

    I really enjoy following your experiences...Keep Posting!

  2. $1200 a month with two kids still at home is awesome,congratulations on that acheivement.My wife and I watch our money closely(so I thought) and we're still at about $3300 a month just for basic maintance.
    You did a good job with one side of the accounting ledger(expenses),now how about some insight into the other side(income)?
    You mentioned that you are a SAHM.I think that is wonderful.My DW and I both work 2 p/t jobs apiece so one of us can always be with the kids.
    Also,how about sharing your financial struggles and aspirations.For example,does living on your income cause any tension in the home.For an aspiration, how about something that is being saved for to improve the urban homestead.
    Thank you for your blog.I'm inspired by your lifestyle.It gives me something to strive for.


  3. Thank you Grounhog11.
    I'll have to let you about the income aspect of our monthly budget as right now besides paying the house note & a half the equity loan DH gives me $400 for the household budget - food, utilities, & ect. He works retail in a big box store. Yes, we both see the irony in his employment.

    I would have to say our one item that we have been saving for (5+ years in the making), is the wood stove. Will blog soon about this long process.
    As a veteran of the child care shuffle I can totally relate. I use to work nights, then stay up all day with 3 children under the age of 4 until Dad came home from work. If we didn't do the shuffle my paycheck would have gone straight to child care expenses. So glad that portion of my life is over with.
    I'll post the rest of my answer on a the orginal blog post.

  4. Thanks MartianChick.
    I see we battle the same common enemy. Have you seen their latest commerical 3%? It's about lowering our energy consumption by 3% a year. For the environment. For our pocketbooks... LMAO! Freak'n funny huh? We lower our usage & they raise our rate. Danged if you do & danged if you don't.
    Firewood - buying or scrounging? Cost?

  5. This is a great post.. Very informative... I can see that you put a lot of hard work on your every post that's why I think I'd come here more often. Keep it up! By the way, you can also drop by my blogs. They're about Vegetable Gardening and Composting. I'm sure you'd find my blogs helpful too.

  6. Thank you Micah, I try to blog about topics that would be of interest to all of us modern day homesteader.

  7. Where ya been?You haven't posted in while.I have missed your blog posts.I hope all is well with you and yours.


  8. Sorry for the hiatus it wasn't planned. I had wanted to post a few weeks ago but got caught up in the drama of not being able to attach a pic on my post. Apprently all wifi isn't created equal. So lss (long story short) while it is easier to go to my library the better pick is a local colledge.


Thanks, good to know there are other's with this interest