Frugal survival mode: How we’re preparing for the lean times

It’s been almost two months since my husband graduated and I quit my job to move closer to family. So far, it’s been pretty easy for us thanks to the generosity of Tony’s family. We’re staying with them while we search for a place to live in our new city. We’re spending very little beyond necessary bills like health insurance and car insurance.

Next month we’ll move again, and our monthly expenses will swell to include rent, utilities, and soon after that, baby. My husband will be working, but our income will shrink to about 1/3 of what it was when we were living in North Carolina. So we’re planning now for how we can minimize our expenses, maximize our earning power, and survive the next year of low income.


We’ve set a budget for rent that’s about $200 lower than what we paid in North Carolina. Unfortunately, our low budget combined with a number of stipulations for our next apartment has made the search pretty tricky. We have a dog, so pets must be welcome. Because we plan to cloth diaper, we’ll need a place with a washer and dryer in unit (or washer/dryer hookups since we own a set). I’d also like to have a small second bedroom for a nursery. We may have to go a little over our budget to find the right place, but housing is one area that I’m willing to spend a little more on. After all, the more comfortable we are at home, the less likely we’ll be to want to spend outside the home.

Earning while we can.

We’ll have about five months from the time we move until baby comes. Our plan is to earn and save as much as we possibly can in that time. I’ll be substitute teaching and earning as much money as possible from freelance work. Tony is looking for a second part-time job, which he’ll likely keep after baby arrives. We’ll have less time and energy once the baby gets here, so we’re doing all we can to earn money while we can.

Cutting non-essential budget items.

It’s amazing how much money you can cut from the budget by cutting out all non-essentials. We learned this lesson when we first moved to North Carolina three years ago. Non-essentials include most entertainment, eating out, cable television, junk food, soda and any extras that get thrown into the cart at Target or the grocery store. If you cut spending down to the bare essentials, you’ll likely be surprised at how much your budget shrinks.

Couponing and drug storing.

Now that I’m going to be a work-at-home mom, I’m giving couponing and drug storing another chance to save money. I’ve had little luck with these methods in the past due to my busy schedule and lack of motivation, but I’ll have more time to figure things out in the five months before I have the baby, and I think I can build a pretty good stockpile in that time.

Saving and investing are on hold for now.

Before we moved, we were saving almost 50% of our income. For the next year, we’ll be lucky if we can make ends meet, so saving and investing will have to go on the back burner until we can increase our income. My hope is that we’ll be able to start saving again with the next year, but for now, we need to focus on downsizing and surviving on a limited income.

Photo by spiderpop

10 thoughts on “Frugal survival mode: How we’re preparing for the lean times

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  2. Kate

    Sounds to me like you have got your heads screwed on properly.

    Planning, planning, planning its all in the planning. :)

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  4. sm

    you guys are doing great… keep this up consistently and you will both have a happy life together with many children and grandchildren! I have one suggestion based on a lifetime of experience. It may seem like saving now should be put on hold. Please consider saving some amount even if it is one percent of your income. It is important from a psychological and behavioral standpoint to continue this habit. If you stop completely it can be very difficult to restart, especially with all the positive changes going on in your lives at this time.
    all the best,

  5. Eli

    “Would like to have a second bedroom for nursery” – non-essential. Basically, a family of 3 can live well in a bigger studio for several years (until baby gets real big) or indefinitely – in a 1 bedroom appartment.

    I’d suggest though to look for at least some sort of a backyard (or front-yard), where you can hang out with your family, grill/cook food, drink a beer or two, etc. That’ll provide a good (cheap) way to relax and relaxation is essential with the baby!

    Don’t sign up for any cable. You can get a decent internet though (essential!) and watch free movies off internet or off the air with antenna.

    I’d say that if there’s any need with a telephone, take vonage or magic jack or skype.
    Use Net10 (or Trackfone) cell phone. Use it as little as possible. If you talk a lot, go with the T-Mobile 1-year contract. Remember, that per each $ on telephone contract, there’s about $.20 in taxes. Cut it as much as possible. Usually, whereever you are, you’re near a land phone which is still cheaper for longer calls, or if you aren’t – you don’t need to talk for longer than a few minutes).

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