Taking up the “We’re Broke” challenge

I’m sorry I have been away from here for so very long.  We had a health crisis in our (extended) family and had to travel to Chicago and I’ve only just recovered enough from that trip to write again.  We all went together as a family and we drove.  Mike’s Dad pulled through, but is in very poor health and has not gone home from the hospital.

So, how did I afford to take another long car trip to an expensive destination, I’ll bet you’re wondering.  Well, this second trip was an emergency and we will be paying for our hotels out of our emergency fund.  I’m trying to absorb all the other costs, but as of right now, I have had to put a trip to the drugstore on credit to pay out of savings.  August is a long month, with five weekends, which is a drag for folks like us who are paid monthly.  So it was going to be a challenge to buy all that gas and all that food with one month’s salary and with this, it’s darn near impossible.  I realized about a week ago that we would only have $300 to carry us through two weeks for our gas and groceries and whatever else we needed to buy (I’ve subtracted all the remaining bills from that total).  Normally, that would be my grocery budget alone for that period of time.

And suddenly, saving money becomes fun.  I guess it’s because this is a temporary situation with a definite end date in sight, but I’m actually enjoying the challenge of menu planning and such while trying to keep our food costs as low as possible.  I am such an accountant!  Unlike the last time I came to a point like this with our money, I had some meat in the freezer because I had purchased in bulk on sale without having a specific plan in mind for what I was going to do with it.  And now that is what’s keeping me from serving rice and beans every night.  Since letting go of my just-in-time inventory philosophy I’ve found that my cupboards are far from bare and actually have ingredients that could be thrown together into (cheap) meals now that I need it.  And we’re not doing badly.  We had hamburgers a few nights ago and will have pecan chicken tonight.  I plan to make homemade mac and cheese from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe/index.html and I’m eventually going to try to make Vietnamese noodle salad with caramelized pork chops, which if it comes out well will make me really, really happy.  I’ve also been baking my own cookies again.  I keep panicking when I think of something we’re about to run out of and how it’s going to bust my budget, and then I think, oh, I can probably get through another week with what we have.  So yes, there is going to be a lot of shopping going on on August 31.  And my birthday is right around the corner and no one can buy me a gift before then (not that that really matters) and I can’t buy supplies to make my cake or anything like that (I think I’ll get over it).

And once we get paid again, I’ve found a new and (to me) exciting way to save on stuff I have to buy anyway.  Amazon has started a service called Subscribe and Save in which you can buy necessary items like razor blades and over-the-counter drugs from them.  Their prices ARE lower than store prices for these items, I have checked in multiple stores.  And if you know you’ll use them regularly and can plan in advance, you can sign up to have Amazon send it to you, with free shipping, at a 15% discount relative to their already-low price.  You can choose the frequency of shipping, once a month being the most frequent and it says you can end your subscription at any time and of course they just charge you when your product ships.  I tried it this past month with just one item, but starting next month, I’m getting all our regularly-used OTC meds and razor blades added to my order.  I’m expecting to save at least $20 per month on these necessaries, and to me that is really exciting, as is not having to make a trip to the drug store to purchase them.

And speaking of saving money on OTC drugs, if you live the the Charleston, SC area and sometimes find yourself at or near MUSC, their Rutledge Tower Pharmacy sells some OTC drugs at an amazingly low price.  Their selection is kind of limited so right now I’m just using them for infant acetaminophen and ibuprofen and gas drops.  They also have the children’s formulation of the pain killers.  But seriously, they are selling that stuff for, with sales tax, $2.00 per bottle.  Yes, it’s the same size bottle you would otherwise buy in the store for $8.00.  So if you’re in the area and you use those things, it is worth running over there and standing in line.

I am always looking for ways to make our health-care costs less abusive, so if you know any cool ways to save without just avoiding getting care, I’d love to hear them.  Oh, and Amazon so did not solicit my plug, I just am that excited about their service and wasn’t sure how heavily they were promoting it.  And if you would, please keep Mike and his family in your prayers, as they are having a really, really hard time right now.  Thank you so much!

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