Due to a change in circumstances (that sounds worse than it is really) our income for 2016 will be cut by about two thirds. This is a challenge we had thought would be about five years away, but it's been brought forward due to circumstances totally beyond our control.
Now we could curl up, start moaning and watch our dreams and plans for the future vanish, but instead we've sat down with our spending plan and re-worked it so that we will be OK.
We've made a few cuts to some discretionary spending (clothes, entertainment, holidays, gifts) and lowered the utility budgets (water, gas, electricity, phone, internet) and we'll be just fine. We've lived on very low incomes before, under $300 a week for a long time, then $390 a week for a long time and still managed to pay our bills, eat, dress nicely, have a holiday once a year, give gifts and do all the things we'd normally do. We even managed to pay school fees during that time, so I know we can do this.
Of course the first thing to be cut was the grocery budget. Just like when Disaster Struck it was the first thing I thought to cut because it is the one thing we absolutely control.
Most of you know that I keep a stockpile of groceries, enough of most things to last us six months without shopping.
I do this for a number of reasons:
1. I never pay full price for groceries
2. It is food security for times when money is tight
3.I t makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget (buying on sale, buying in bulk)
4. It saves me money, time and energy.
My grocery budget is $320 a month and because I have my stockpile I can stick to that budget and we don't go hungry, we eat really well (and healthfully - we get plenty of fresh fruit and veg, good meat and poultry, some fish, homemade biscuits, cakes and sweets and no packaged or convenience meals,). I buy ingredients, not ready-made.
Due to the changes we are making to our spending plan for 2016, between now and the end of the year I will be concentrating on building the stockpile to hold a year's worth of food, toiletries and cleaning products (it's currently 3 months of food, 12 months of cleaning supplies and toiletries).
I started the stockpile 21 years ago this month, when Disaster Struck and we had three years of little to no income.
To get that stockpile started I wrote a weekly shopping list. On that list was everything we used in a week. Then I multiplied every item on that list by four to give me a monthly shopping list and took it shopping. I had $200 to spend, it had to buy everything we needed for the month. As I went around I noted down the price of each individual item (this was the start of my price book, not that I knew it then) and then the total.
When I arrived home I had four weeks of groceries - the start of my stockpile - and my cupboards were overflowing. I knew that no matter what, I would be able to provide meals for my family for at least four weeks.
Since then I've slowly built it up, tin by tin, grain by grain, toilet roll by toilet roll, so that now it holds enough food to keep us fed, enough toiletries to keep us clean and sweet smelling and enough cleaning products to keep our home and clothes clean for at least three months.
What do I stockpile?
Mostly basic pantry ingredients: pastas, flours, dried fruits, tinned tomatoes, tomato soup, baked beans, tuna, salmon, pineapple, beetroot, powdered milk, sugar, honey, molasses, nuts, oats, rice, bi carb soda, salt, herbs, spices, and fats - olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, butter.
I also stockpile toiletries: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving cream, soap, bath/shower gel, razors, moisturiser (for me!) and hairspray.
The cleaning stockpile is simple, just a few items: dishwashing detergent, dishwasher powder, laundry soap, washing soda, borax, vinegar, bicarb soda, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil and scourers.
The stockpile is a combination of home grown (i.e. zucchini) or made (i.e. dishcloths) and preserved (i.e. tomatoes) and bought (i.e. pasta sauce).
I've been able to re-work the grocery budget to give me $25 a week to spend. That will be for fresh milk, eggs and whatever fruit and veg we can't grow and maybe a little meat. If there's anything left each week it will go into the slush fund and I can use it to replenish the stockpile.
Between now and the end of the year I'll be using the grocery budget each month to primarily build up the stockpile with non-perishables to see us through 2016 so if you see me at the shops and I have a trolley loaded up with flour and pasta or toothbrushes and toilet paper you'll know why!