How do I survive?

Modern Life SurvivalistModern Life Survivalist Saturated Fat Truther ✭✭

I'm a small business owner (Amazon/eBay/etsy/website selling goods my wife makes at home) and I seem to pull in just enough to cover my
business expenses/inventory investments ($200-$1000/month),
food $1000-1500/month, supplements ($100-$200/month),
some eating out (Chipotle $20 once or twice/week),
car expenses (need lots of repairs on my '98 Ford)/gas ($500/month)
insurance ($350 health for family, $130 life)
and now interest accrued from credit card debt ($350/month)
-$300/month rent that I haven't been paying until recently

A lot of times produce (especially sweet potatoes/avocados) is wasted money, because they are often of bad quality that tastes bad to me.

I have to get a special butter from the Alps ($6.50/bar online- Fond O' Foods), because even local butters ($5.50/bar) taste funny to me and make me feel bad.

I also spend money on water a lot, because I haven't gotten a good water filter (planning on getting $250 Berkey), and I use spring water even to boil my food, because I don't trust the water due to leeching copper into the water from acidic water in old pipes. These preferences are due to symptoms, not due to obsession. I actually feel sick if I boil my veggies in our tap water. If it didn't make me sick, I wouldn't waste the time and money to buy those huge deer park jugs.

Is there a way I can get any of this down? Is there a way to lower the amount of calories I require, or manage the amount my family eats? I definitely don't like to limit our intake, any of us, especially the baby and breastfeeding mom. I just eat whatever I feel like, and honestly it adds up to like 3500 cal/day sometimes, and I never gain weight. Most of the calories are fat, and I'm fairly low carb.

Really could use some pointers here. Not really doing great with budgeting. I just kind of barely keep track of it, and my credit cards usually run up between $3500/$4000/month. Seems like too much to me. Kind of unrealistic considering our income which is unsteady and about that. Even in the good Christmas season, the Amazon biz only pulled in $3500 this year in a month, which was a windfall for me, but not even close to what I'm used to.

Comments

  • I'd suggest looking for ways to up your income. There's only so much you can cut. If you already have a product selling on Amazon/ebay, it's really just a matter of generating more leads from other sources. Open an etsy shop, craigslist, fb marketplace, etc. Depending on your product, margins, and lifetime value of your customer, try fb ads and bing ads (it's easier and cheaper than google adwords) with retargeting, Or maybe list your product on wholesale directories and start wholesaling. Or reach out to the influencers in your niche. The point is to meet your potential customers wherever they are and bring them into your world.

  • SkeletorSkeletor The Conqueror Worm ✭✭✭
    edited February 4

    I have a family of six and made the transition to self-employment about 6 months ago, so I have a few tips. Take them with a grain of salt though, MLS, because I'm not quite as sensitive as you are to a lot of things.

    --I don't have a "real" cellphone with a contract. I use an iPod Touch to manage a lot of my communication needs, but it requires WiFi. Still, it's basically an iPhone without a contract as long as I have the Internet. For emergencies or necessary calls, I keep a cheap (~$10) Tracfone in my car. It's a tiny brick that calls and texts, and I just throw minutes on it every 60-90 days. I never use them all up. We do have a landline at home because our local provider made the price easy on us, but I could get by without it.

    --I don't know how much advice I could give you about food due to your sensitivities, but like Jason, I do a lot of poultry. I pick up organic/free range chicken from local stores and roast it up at home. Ground chicken or turkey that's antibiotic and hormone free is also a cheap source of protein for me and the family. Cooked up with some white rice (dirt cheap) and frozen veggies (also cheap) makes for a good meal. When it comes to produce, I tend to buy frozen stuff in bulk, or else I shop around for whatever is on sale. I'm not above eating potatoes if the price is right, and I tend to stick to the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen list, so not everything I eat is organic. Organic is nice, but it can be a drain on the wallet, and it isn't necessarily better.

    This will sound like sacrilege to many here, however I eat conventional eggs. Yup, the big, white Grade-A things you probably grew up on, that cost next to nothing at the grocery store. I walked in to Wal-Mart the other day to do my grocery shopping and came away with a crate of 60 whole eggs. Know how much it cost me? Less than $2! Now, it's true that there are serious issues with the way conventional farms are run and that these eggs are less nutritious than fully pastured ones. This having been said, conventional eggs are still very nutritious and many studies have shown health benefits to eating them (most studies showing the benefits of eggs don't spring for the primo kind). The hen tends to absorb most of the bad stuff, thus sparing the eggs of any serious ills. If you're trying to lower food costs and can tolerate them without an issue, conventional eggs are a must, in my opinion.

    I do eat grass-fed beef on the regular, but I'd say 80% of the time it's ground beef. Around here, at Wal-Mart or other stores, a pound of ground, pastured beef is between $5-$7. Cheaper if you get lucky and swing by when it's all approaching its sell-by date (buy in bulk and freeze if that's the case!). Sardines and smoked oysters in olive oil are other cheap sources of protein for me.

    My kids tolerate dairy, so we do quality yogurt or kefir for breakfast. Dark chocolate is a common snack, as is tinned seafood. Nuts are eaten sometimes, and I keep a lot of fruit in the house like apples and bananas. For daily veggies, I try and get them to eat small salads, avocado, baby carrots, simple things like that. It doesn't always work, lol. Whatever I give them, I tend to doctor it up with some quality fat to up the caloric density and help them absorb anything fat soluble. Rice noodle "spaghetti", or spaghetti made with zucchini noodles is a hit, and it's pretty cheap. A good meal as long as you don't have an issue with nightshades.

    +1 on the beans and legumes, if you can tolerate them. I can't stand them, personally, but if you like them and the price is right, why not?

    The water where I'm at isn't great. I hate the taste and we've had widely publicized issues with mold toxins in our local supply due to fungal blooms in the Great Lakes, so I do buy quite a lot of reverse-osmosed bottled water. Getting a good filter would be cheaper in the long-run, though. If you can afford it, definitely do that.

    --What do you do for entertainment? If you're spending a lot of money on subscription services like Hulu, Netflix, etc, then it may be worth looking at which are most worthwhile and which ones you could live without. Personally, I have a few subscriptions I really enjoy, but if things got tight I already know what order I'd axe them in. Make use of your local libraries if possible. If there's a movie or book you want to read, check the library first; around here, they often have brand new DVDs and Blu-rays of even obscure films available very quickly, and you can borrow brand new books and ebooks from them without paying a cent. I love my local library and we use it a ton. Another thing my family and I do-- we have memberships to our local zoo and science center. They cost us like $70-$100 up-front, but we use them year-round and really get our money's worth. It can make a great bi-weekly adventure for the whole family, and it supports a local cause!

    --I've cut down a lot on supplements, too. I take D3 and K2 in normal doses once every few days, and Natural Calm for my magnesium needs, but little else. If you're working hard to eat a nutrient dense diet, then that's probably good enough. Spending as much as $200 a month on supplements probably isn't worth it, man! Not if you're eating really well. Some will disagree, but in many cases I think that supplements are unnecessary. Unless you've got some verified deficiency, that is.

    --If you have such problems with the butter, get rid of it. Seriously. That's a lot of money for butter, and even by BP standards butter isn't a staple. Find another healthy fat that agrees with you more. Avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, tallow, ghee, whatever-- it can all probably be had for less than the price of your butter.

    --This one will be unpopular, however I drive a new car. Everyone and their mother will tell you it's a money sink, and it definitely costs a lot more than some used clunker, however the nice thing about it is that it's got a 10 year warranty, and I don't have to take it in for repairs, ever. And if I do, well, it's covered by the warranty. For a family of your size, I reckon you could likely drive a new, decent little car for less than the $500 a month you're spending now, and you'd have peace of mind knowing it's a new machine. I know that this flies in the face of conventional financial wisdom, but it's huge for me.

    --It's difficult, but try not to lean so much on the credit cards. That interest can be a killer. If possible, pay them down and use more cash. I have some credit card debt as well, but I've learned (after wrecking my credit lol) to keep them at less than 50% utilization, because otherwise the interest is devastating.

    --If you're less active, you can get away with fewer calories. I'm not going to advocate undereating, however if you're currently a gym rat, you may consider doing more of the less intense, slow movements (more walking) than the explosive fat-burning kind that are going to require more caloric fuel.

    --I, too, am a Chipotle addict haha. I eat there once or twice a week myself. It's fairly healthy and it's so damn convenient. But it is kind of expensive, depending on what you get. If you're going to go that route, try and fill up on the extras that don't cost anything (more rice, cheese, salsa, lettuce, beans, etc) so that your dollar will stretch further and you won't be hungry later.

    --Fasting. Fasting is your friend. I wouldn't recommend your wife do this, but if you can work in the occasional water fast or intermittent fast on a lazy day, your pocketbook will thank you for it.

    --Make more money. Yeah, it's easier said than done, I know. And if it were that easy, you'd probably be doing it already. But if there's a good side-hustle you can rummage up, or else some way to improve your current business, you should pursue it.

    I take it yours is a family of 3, MLS? Does your wife also have sensitivities to a lot of foods? If not, then there are probably many ways that you guys could cut corners sensibly and still eat a nutritious Paleo/BP/Whole food diet. My family of 6 can get by pretty comfortably on less than $1000 on food. Some months we had to hack it with just $400 or $500, and I've known a lot of people who've had even less in a month. A whole food diet doesn't have to be expensive. I think that if you can hack down your food bill by making some sensible changes to your menu, sort out your car situation and reduce the number of supplements you're on, you'll be well on your way to having some breathing room.

  • SkeletorSkeletor The Conqueror Worm ✭✭✭

    Also, just kinda curious: what does your wife make to sell?

  • RekaReka ✭✭✭
    edited February 6

    @Skeletor said:
    Also, just kinda curious: what does your wife make to sell?

    I'm also curious about that.

    And Skeletor, congratulations to your transition! Are you now writing full time?

    This thread is very useful, although I can't help much because living in Europe is different in a lot of ways, but I like reading the good advices.

  • I can sympathize with the low income / high sensitivities!!

    Do you live in an area where you can garden at all? Even an outdoor patio where you can set up some container gardening and grow some of your own food? My food bill for my family of 3 is sitting at about 500 - 600 a month in the winter, and far less in the summer when I grow my own veg. I also raise my own chickens (eggs - not meat birds)

    Do you have some friends that you can go in on bulk purchases with? Say, approach a few people about buying a side of beef and splitting it, or a case of butter?

    Any local farmers that you can maybe barter goods with? Some people are still up for those kind of deals....

    Any way to consolidate your credit card debt? If it is possible to get a bank loan to get rid of the higher interest credit cards and get a more manageable monthly payment? Just don't take out more than you need (if you are like me that never ends well....lol)
    And pretty much what Jason said - I don't have television - just netflix and I barely watch that. More for documentaries and for my daughter to watch.

    ...it's always the little things that add up!!

    Good luck! Whenever I am down/anxious I remind myself of a super cheesy quote "I have made it through 100 percent of my worst days" or something like that.

  • SkeletorSkeletor The Conqueror Worm ✭✭✭

    @Reka said:

    And Skeletor, congratulations to your transition! Are you now writing full time?

    Thanks! Yeah, I made the leap last August after months of hesitation. So far it's worked out well.

  • Modern Life SurvivalistModern Life Survivalist Saturated Fat Truther ✭✭

    @Skeletor said:
    Also, just kinda curious: what does your wife make to sell?

    Thanks for your long reply! I'm about to read it all. To answer your question here: It's kind of niche. Not sure if I'm ready to give up our secret to mega-cash. I'll consult with her.

  • This thread makes me happy. We are a family of 6, about ready to be 7. Crazy, I know. This last little one was not planned, but it happened and we are excited. I got a new job recently that is paying more, so that helps, but we are still pretty tight every month. The tips and suggestions here are very helpful, so thank you!

  • Modern Life SurvivalistModern Life Survivalist Saturated Fat Truther ✭✭
    edited April 26

    I just started using this program, based on Tytus' recommendation. YNAB (You Need a Budget). I did it right around the time of tax returns (which Greg will be able to capitalize even more on—Congratulations!), and it seems that magic money has started appearing and helping me pay off bills.

    I committed to not using credit cards and starting to pay the whole $15k+ debt down. It's already working. Read ALL of their material and start paying with REAL money. I highly highly recommend it.

  • Maybe scale up your online business. If you can make that much a month, you can double or triple it by creating more online properties. I know it's easier said than done but if you figured out how to make that much, you should be able to replicate it a few more times, no?

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