Budget Redux

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Lately, we’ve been trying to stretch our budget down to the penny. I mean, this isn’t anything different from what we have been doing, but it seems with the addition of Duchess, the rise in gas costs, the lack of awesome grocery deals like years past, and DH being on a mission to lose weight and eat healthier, that budget is screaming.  We also found out that our rent will be increasing yet again starting in the fall, so we have to keep that in mind. So, it’s definitely time for a Budget Rennovation.

With all the the wonderful computer-based and online resources for creating a budget, this should be easy right? Well, yes and no. When it comes to our budget, I found that using those resources just don’t work for us. I don’t know why, they’re all great ways to keep track of what’s going where. I really liked the way mint.com was set up, but in the end that didn’t even help. When it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, I take out a pen and paper and just go at it. I think the fact that I have to sit there and hurt my hand getting everything on paper helps to sink in that each penny is important. I’m a glutton for punishment I guess.

Anyway, I list all necessary expenses first: rent, gas money, electric, savings, tithing, and the phone bills. Then come the secondary bills: any credit card/medical/school bills, cable, etc. Then I list the “accordian” bills: money needed for my drill weekends and the grocery money for the month. I call these “accordian” bills because they can be increased or decreased depending on how the budget goes for the month. If we end up getting a check for 10 bucks somewhere, that can increase the grocery bill, but if a small dilemma pops up and we need an extra 50 bucks, I can take that out of the grocery bill or the money I use for meals down at the base.

Then I look at the assets. We only have DH’s paycheck and my small drill check I get every month to cover all of our bills. See? A very tight budget. If you notice, I don’t have any place in the budget to cover buying shoes, clothes, school supplies, etc. Because I coupon, most of that money has been coming from the leftover grocery budget per month, but that is starting to dwindle. Duchess is full into solids and eats like a grown man sometimes, so we are stretching meals even more. The meals I used to make just for the 2 extra days of leftovers, are now meals that are just enough for one night. This is where most of our issue is with the budget.

From all of the extra expenses we are going to have and the already high ones we do have, we came to the conclusion that we need to have 390 dollars more per month. This would be a great cushion for us; we can save more aggressively, be able to offset any(more) rising in grocery bills, and keep the kids in clothing that fit. Now, the question is: where are we supposed to get this money from?

I’m a stay at home mom, mostly by choice, so my first idea was to go back to work. The upside is that it would give us another steady paycheck to place into the budget. The downside is that daycare is so expensive, that whatever check I do get, it would all go straight to the daycare center, bringing us back to square one. The only solution would be for me to work overnights someplace that’s open 24 hours. This isn’t the best of ideas, especially since our neighborhood isn’t the best, so being robbed at 3am wherever I’m working would NOT sit well with me. Also, I’d be beyond tired everyday. There would be no way to get 8 hours and take care of both kids while DH works. And oh yeah, I’d never get to see my husband. And….probably not much time for blogging, which would kill me.

Next idea would be to monetize my blogging. I’ve been doing some extra blogging at other blogs, and doing a few reviews right here on 4 Hats and Frugal, but some readers, ahem, expressed that they did not like me doing the paid reviews. So….yeah. Don’t know where to go on that one. I love that you all come and read my blog, and I don’t want to lose you because I’m trying to make an income on here. But, we really do need the income. It’s a definite Catch-22.

Another idea was to have DH start back up his music production business. He has most of the equipment already and we have the room for him to do recordings with artists. If we can make it a real weekend business, it could diminish that 390 dollar gap. The only problem with that is gettting the bookings, wondering if people will cancel or not, and putting in another 300 dollars, at least, for DH to upgrade some of his equipment. Like a real business, we’ll have to spend money to make money.

Lastly, we can always turn to the want ads, and places like our church bulletin and craigslist for odd jobs and side hustles. I think I would like this the most, but it might be difficult to make sure we reach that 390 every month. Some months may be lean with odd jobs and some may be bustling. Also, I’d have to think of the childcare issue again. If it’s something I can do at home (like word processing) or with the Duchess hanging in a sling while I get it done (like cleaning or babysitting), I would love it. If not, then I probably wouldn’t be able to do it. We still view it as an option though.

So, now I turn to you: do you have any ideas on how we can make a bit of extra cash, with all the restrictions listed above? Do you do any odd jobs to increase your cash flow? Anyone ever worked an overnight job? Any ideas would be appreciated!

About Amiyrah

My name is Amiyrah and I'm an an African American fashion & lifestyle blogger based in Ohio.

Plan Your Year Now!


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  1. 8.4.11
    Jenny said:

    You’re already babysiting two of your kids so why not ask neighbors if they need to watch theirs every day for couple of hours. In a month I’m sure it will add up.

    another suggestion is since you love running around for grocery deals offer the same service to others and see if you can keep part of the profits. If you’re already in the store does it matter if you buy 1 bottle of shampoo or 3?

  2. 8.4.11
    egregg said:

    First off, I know I’m a reader who expressed concern about the paid advertising on here and let me just say this in regards to it. No one can fault you for wanting to provide for your family and if that is how you can then do it. Your family’s needs come first. As a stay at home mom myself who is constantly looking for ways to increase our income I can certainly appreciate you taking the risk of losing readers to provide for your family.

    I run my own pet sitting business as a side job. The kids can come with me so no childcare to worry about. Well at first you have to get someone to watch them so you can become familiar with the animal and know its safe to bring the kids. Before business expenses I make about $5000 a year. After expenses its about $100. But expenses consist of a part of our household bills(mortgage, utilities, internet, home owners ass. fees, etc., home improvements, gas for car) since I have a home office and I use the car for business. So that $5000 doesn’t get taxed and I lower the amount of my husband’s pay checks that go towards those bills.

  3. 8.4.11

    Couldn’t you sell that music equipment, or the business (meaning contacts and other stuff plus equipment) instead of sinking more time and money into it?

  4. 8.4.11
    Alex M said:

    I was realizing this week how it used to be vegetables were cheaper than meat. But since we eat mostly chicken, it’s come to be that fresh produce is more expensive. So I struggle to find ways to stretch that.

    The bottom line is that it costs much more to eat a healthy, fiber-based low fat diet than if you were to shop with coupons.

    If you take on a second job, I would only do it if there was an intrinsic pay-off too. My hubby gives Spinning class for a local health club chain. Right now, it’s one class a week (20 bucks) but in the fall it’s three (60 bucks). But he gets a membership for free and he loves spinning and cycling. So there is no drudge about it.

    You can’t be a slave to $$$ and expect not to suffer so I hope you find a good work-around!

  5. 8.4.11
    Amiyrah said:


    great ideas! the babysitting thing is a bit saturated where I am, and I hate to say this, but the kids around this area really aren’t that nice. A bit bratty. I don’t know if I could handle watching them, and even so, having them influencing my kids to boot. BUT, the personal shopping idea is great! I do have family members and friends that might want help with that because of their busy schedules, so that’s a wonderful idea. Thanks!

  6. 8.4.11
    Amiyrah said:


    you totally singled yourself out lol! It wasn’t just you that said it. Actually, you were the “nicest” of the ones that expressed their opinions. Thanks for support though, and for telling me how you feel.


    Yes, we could sell the equipment; I actually bought that up to him. But, it would only bide us about 3 months of a cushion and then we’d need to find another means to bring in the money. We wouldn’t sell contacts or anything like that; I hate when companies sell my information so we would not do that to anyone we’ve done business with here. Plus, music production is something that my husband enjoys, and gets something out of every time he does it, so if we could make that work, it would be like working but not feel like it’s work. You know what I mean?

  7. 8.4.11
    Amiyrah said:


    that’s what I am mostly paying attention to when looking for a job. Stocking shelves at target or shoprite overnight, working at the quik chek up the street, etc. I’m looking for places that I already go to, where there may be a discount I can add to my couponing savings. Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to be in something that will make me miserable, which will effect my mood at home. So, this is becoming a bit of a challenge for us.

  8. 8.4.11
    Kathy said:

    Didn’t you post in the past that you used to model? Is that a possibility on a part time basis?

  9. 8.4.11
    Lucky said:

    Have you been checking Craigslist for writing opportunities? I’ve seen a few there. You can also search part time jobs and work at home jobs. Also, I saw this on moneysaving mom: http://moneysavingmom.com/2011/08/swapping-benefits-your-pocketbook-and-community.html.

    Could you work part time at a day care? Then you would get a discount of DD’s care.

    Hang in there.

  10. 8.4.11
    slugmama said:

    I wouldn’t sell the dj equipment. That’s a short term solution to a long term problem.

    The only 2 things I can think at the moment that you could do with the kids tagging along are 1–a dog walking or dog clean-up service(you know, scooping poo out of people’s yards).Added benefit of dog walking is some exercise for you and getting some energy out of the kids and tiring them out.lol
    2–Mystery shopping. Even if you can only find shopping assignments where you get reimbursed for what you buy, or the food you eat at a restaurant and not the additional check payment, if you take grocery store type shops, you can buy food you need during the shop and get them for free!

    Also try doing the beer/liquor rebates. Since you are in NJ, you can do these rebates without having to buy the booze! I mean the ones where you buy the booze and then have to buy $xx in some grocery items and you get $xx back as a rebate. Not having to actually buy the booze, it’s like getting paid to buy the grocery items. I know they are tightening up on those booze rebates but they are still out there and you are lucky to live where you do and not next door in PA where we have to buy the alcohol. 😉

    As for monetizing the blog and getting paid to do reviews….go for it! It’s your blog and if that’s what you need to do, don’t worry about who doesn’t like it. You have to do what works for you. It wouldn’t keep me from reading ya! 😎

  11. 8.4.11
    egregg said:

    have you considered cutting back your other bills? cutting cable was the first thing we did when we needed more money. Our cell phone plan is almos as basic as it gets ( phone calls and texts only.)

    After all the nonessentials were cut we had to cut our tithing. Not something I wanted to do but I prayed a lot about it and decided that I was doing it because I had to and have all intentions of starting again when we are able. I now donate my time because I can’t donate my money.

  12. 8.5.11
    sbvs4you said:


    I picked up a few hours on the weekend at a small shop by me. We are open on saturdays from 9-6 and sundays from 11-5. DH stays at home with the kids and I work, I do this every other weekend. It brings us some extra cash and I get to get out and talk to people. Hope this helps, I know you do a lot already!


  13. 8.5.11
    Jessie said:

    Hi, My sis-in-law babysits in her home while staying home with her kids. It doesn’t pay real well, but it’s not a huge effort to expand what you are already doing with your own kids. If you are concerned about unpleasant kids, try looking only for babies, and if there are lots of others who offer the same service, you could offer to take your kids to the people’s home rather than watch their kids at yours.

    The best place to start is with people you know – have any friends or contacts from church whose kids are in day care? Anyone whose school-age kids are in aftercare? Know any preganant women who will have to go back to work? Any friends who use a weekend babysitter? See if they’d like to switch their kids to you.

  14. 8.5.11

    Well, if you want a GOOD child to watch after, knowing it comes from a good home, awesome parents…well I guess hubby and I better get cracking LOL

    I’ve been toying with the idea too of doing the personal grocery shopping business for people. A lot of my friends DREAD it, and I LOVE it, so why not make it a win win?

  15. 8.6.11
    Amiyrah said:


    yup, used to do it and we talked about that. Most of the big jobs are during the week, but I wouldn’t mind going back to it. Like acting though, I’d have to go to casting calls and all that, which are during the week. But we’re not voting that out! Thanks for the reminder.

    I just started do this! I’ve found some great ones in our area and so far, this is the front runner without me having to do an overnight job. The part time at a day care is another great idea! I’ll have to look into that one too. Since Duchess will be in day care once she turns 3, that might give us a built-in place for her to be once I start teaching.

  16. 8.6.11
    Amiyrah said:

    Yeah, I mentioned that to DH and he just about sh!t a brick. Us selling the equipment would help for maybe 2 months and he would be miserable without it. Mystery shopping and beer/liquor rebates are both wonderful ideas that I didn’t think about! Thanks for the support on the monetizing, and thanks for saying that you would still read. That warmed my heart 🙂

  17. 8.6.11
    Amiyrah said:

    yes, we have and cable has already been cut back. Plus cutting it all together really wouldn’t make as much of a difference as you think. I still have to work to bring in what we want as a cushion. Cell phone plans are down to as low as we can make as well. I blog from my phone, and DH’s family is far away, so we use our phones for so many things. We already don’t have a house phone to save some money, so that’s a moot point.
    With tithing, we had already been giving less or none at all and we actually prayed about it and felt that we needed to be contributing as the Lord asks. That’s actually one of the biggest increases in our new budget and it’s not something we want to stop doing again. If I have to find the money for it somewhere, I will.

  18. 8.6.11
    Amiyrah said:


    Hi! So good to hear from you :). I love your idea; I hadn’t thought about it, but there are a big amount of bakeries in our area that are really busy on the weekends. I’m going to look around to see if they might have a position for someone to bake early in the morning. Plus, you know I love to bake! That would be a total win-win. Thanks for that thought!

    Ooh, starting with babies is a great idea. I do know a few people from family, friends and church that might need help with that. And going to their place would be even better since most of them work odd hours. Another great idea!

    Yes! Hurry up and make that baby! And now thanks to Jessie, I have the awesome idea of coming to your house so you don’t have to drive all over the place to drop off and pick up your bambino! The personal grocery shopper is such a good idea too. Maybe we can make a business out of it together!

  19. 8.6.11
    debemac said:

    To cut phone costs to the bone, I have a magic jack which plugs into the computer and just use my cell phone which is grandfathered in for prepaid minutes. I spend $60 a year for the cell phone and $45 for the magic jack. Also, your blog is awesome, I think you are quite talented and should be paid for the time you spend on your blog and savings tips. Add the ads, I will keep reading. In this economy you should be able to make an honest living with your “God-given talent”.

  20. 8.6.11
    Shaunie said:

    I know how hard times are now. I am in medical school and my parents are stretched to the max trying to help me out.
    I was so happy to see that you listed tithing as a “necessary expense”. Sometimes it can be very easy to cut back on tithe or cut it out all together, but I strongly believe that the 10% is nothing compared to what He so graciously gives us.
    Your family is in my prayers and I know you will find a way.
    Thank you for all that you do.
    And girl, if you gotta monetize this thing then that’s just the way its gon be!!

  21. 8.8.11
    Amiyrah said:


    Congrats on going to medical school! I’m a law school drop out, sort of lol, so anyone who has the endurance to keep going in medicine or law always has me as a cheerleader! Thanks for the kind words and understanding my view on tithing. I know that’s a bit of a sore subject in the frugal and finance world, so i was a little leery to mention it in the budget(and that we will be doing it every week). Please keep me posted on how school is going! I’d love to know how this progress for you.

  22. 8.8.11
    Amiyrah said:


    The phone thing seems to be a hot topic in all of this. On that part, we are bare bones as much as we can. I’m mostly trying to find extra income to bring in, since we have cut down the budget to as low as we can. On the monetizing of the blog, I see that a good amount of my readers seem to not mind, but I’m going to try to keep that as low on the list as possible, or at least find a way that it won’t interrupt our interaction on here. Thank you for compliment on my “talent” as you call it lol. I just love to share with you all, and hear what you have to say about things in life, frugal or not. Thanks for your support :).

  23. 8.9.11
    Precious said:

    Hi Amiyrah,

    I have to agree with the ideas set forth here. -As far as making money off your blog, go for it. It is your blog and others should understand your situation. I personally don’t put ads on my blog because, at the moment, I don’t need the extra money. But, believe me when I say, I would monetize my blog in a heartbeat, if I needed extra money. I never say never. With this country’s economy very close to depression, and getting more so every day, there may be a time when I will have to bring in some extra money. If and when that happens, I will do whatever it takes for DH and I to make it. After all, we are retired and have lost tons of money back in 2008 in the stock market and we are seeing it again. Not only that but prices, as you noted, are skyrocketing and there seems to be no end in sight on that.

    When my children were very young and I was a stay at home, I made extra money babysitting for substitute teachers’ children. There was always someone getting a call to go in and sub. I was amenable to last minute notice and made a bit of money each week.

    I also did every rebate that I could get my hands on. They were far and few between back then, but I made good use of every one that fit into my family’s eating plan.

    Have you thought about writing and selling an E-book? That would be easy for you with your good English skills and knowing how to stretch a dollar until it screams for mercy.

    Right now, DH and I am are cutting back everything that we can so so that we can continue to use as little as possible of our retirement funds. We are pretty frugal but there is always some expense that we can cut back further.

    I wish you and your family the best of luck on your quest. You can do it and I will be ‘cheerleading for you’.

  24. 8.9.11
    Amiyrah said:


    thank you, thank you, thank you for your comment! I know that you’ve been through this, probably a few times, so i was hoping for some input from you. I see a good amount of readers suggesting the babysitting idea, and I think taking to the the next level of babysitting substitute teacher’s kids would be even better. Since I’m in the PTA, I could get the word out on that during one of our meetings!

    Also, thanks to you also for the comment on monetizing the blog. Now that so many readers are being so supportive about it, its making think twice about it. I’m excited to take on new ventures with the support of you all, but will make sure it’s something we would actually talk about or use, as people attaining a frugal lifestyle. Thanks for being a cheerleader 🙂

  25. 8.11.11

    I told DH that you said to hurry up and make a baby! LOL. I have no job come Sept, but I have options to go to another base, but it’s 50 extra miles, one way, so I’m iffy. I’m still putting in for jobs, so I know I will go back to work, just a matter of when. And I will need someone I can trust to watch my ‘bambino’. I told him about you coming to our house with your kiddos and he’s like ‘Oh, so then the house would HAVE to be clean everyday’ so he’s all for it. And it would work out b/c then my bambino and yours will be ‘socializing’ with one another…win win!

    But if all else fails, we can still do our grocery shopping business. I tried to get my sister to give me a list so I can do it for her then go from there, like how to charge, etc. we’ll have to use our own coupons, so we have to factor that into the cost. But my brother in law was like ‘I’ll just pay the $19 home delivery for ACME’ or wherever it is they shop. Ugh. LOL.

    Oh and about monetizing your blog? GO FOR IT! (and teach me how lol).

  26. 8.19.11
    Jenny said:

    just something else that came to mind – currently many stores run back-to-school campaign. So why not create ready to use backpacks with bunch of supplies and sell them at low price to those who can’t afford to do deals themselves? you can get most supplies for free after rebates (like from Staples) and maybe offer packages with 50% off from store prices to get interested parties. Just an idea.

  27. 8.20.11
    Amiyrah said:

    Jenny, that is an awesome idea! I’ve seen great deals on bookbags and I’ve already started a school supply stockpile to pass on to Sonny’s teacher. Maybe I can utilize those two things and make a little cash by listing them on craigslist and taking pictures of what they get. Thanks so much!

  28. 8.21.11
    Anonymous said:

    You might find taking on a caregiver role as a great way to make your own hours / make enough, from what I have read, your personality suits it, and being in the military, obviously you can pass the background checks / physical etc. Think group homes / aid, shopper for, cook for the elderly, even get your foster parent licence and simply take what is called “respite” placements, when other foster parents need a vacation, you take the kids for the week–this way you are giving back to the community and able to help your family at the same time–Kellie