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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture
Yup, big bills can have a way of sneeeeaking up on you. You’re going along, doing pretty well, and then BANG, there’s a BIG bill in the mail and suddenly, you’re saying, “Uh Oh! Where is the money going to come from for THIS?”
Last year, I learned a big lesson when this happened to me. I resolved to do better this year. Here’s how it all played out. I hope that this is helpful to you, my fellow Frugalites!
What happened last year: lesson learned
As a matter of pride, I would just like to say that I am a Frugalite and consider myself good with money! But here’s where things went wrong last year. You see, it just so happens that my federal income tax is due at the same time of the year as my local municipal taxes. And I’m not talking about a few hundred dollars owing…much more than that.
OK, I’m being flat-out honest: I didn’t have it in the bank! I had to pay these bills, and I did what I had to do. I put one of them on my line of credit and paid it off as quickly as I could. I discussed late payments with my local municipality and found out that the penalty is very small. So, I chose to wait one and a half months until I had that cash set aside. Honestly, it wasn’t terrible, but I thought I could do better this year.
Well, I did know enough that (yes!) April was going to come again this year. Knowing that I began an earnest plan to be better prepared some five months beforehand. I decided that I would try to collect my financial eggs in several smaller baskets over several months. My goal was pretty simple: I wanted to be prepared enough that I would not have to put either of these big bills on my line of credit. I am working very hard to pay that down, as I mentioned in this previous article.
Here are a number of the different strategies I used to collect some extra money on a very tight budget.
I went through basically everything I owned and looked for items that were worth some good cash. I started putting them on our local buy and sell groups months ago. My “hottest” item so far was a pair of new boots that didn’t fit me. I’ve also divided my kefira colony twice and sold the extra live grains. Go here to learn more about how thrifty and healthy kefir is. Go here to know what’s involved in getting started in making your own kefir.
Some of this didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I have a HUGE collection of antique farm stuff that I thought would sell like hotcakes. I was confident that local antique shops would be buying my stuff up on the spot. Sigh. Turns out that items like these have really lost their value lately. I’ll post them in the buy-and-sell groups this week anyhow, but not for the hundreds of dollars that I thought I would earn.
Despite that disappointment, I have still set aside almost $160 from selling odd items. I would estimate that the farm items might bring in another $100 or more.
Many years ago, I had a beeswax candle business. I really enjoyed it. I made large pillars, many beautiful round ones, and I hand-rolled beeswax sheets. I still have a pretty impressive collection of raw beeswax just waiting to be made into something. This is where I saw an opportunity: I have an expensive raw material and very few other expenses. I’m going to make some hand-dipped beeswax tapers and sell them. Friends and family are interested, so I already have some spoken for.
A couple of challenges came up: I need a larger wick than I thought. I have a bee-keeping friend picking that up for me on her next trip to a major supplier. I looked into selling the candles at a local cafe. As they want 40% of the gross sales, that would take a huge chunk out of my profits. For this reason, I’ll sell by word of mouth and local buy-and-sell groups only. My estimated profits on ten pairs of tapers would be around $75, and I have enough wax to make at least 30 pairs. I need to get DIPPING! Each set of ten pairs takes an evening or an afternoon to make, so the time isn’t too difficult to manage. If I’m able to sell 20 of the 30 pairs, I’ll add $150 to my cause and have ten pairs left over for bartering and gifts for friends and family.
STOPPING all credit card spending
Even though I have made paying down my debt a big priority, I still had a bit of wiggle room each month. I would spend it on my credit card, getting a few things like gardening supplies or items for the eco-cabin. When I looked at, REALLY looked at where my money was going, I saw that paying this bill in the middle of the month was really draining me. It was also making the end of the month more difficult.
So, several months ago, I just stopped using my credit card. I didn’t put anything on thinking that I could pay that later. Nope! I didn’t buy anything that would be fun. Nope! I didn’t buy anything that I thought would be useful. Nope! I didn’t buy anything that I didn’t have cash in the bank for. Has this been fun? Ummmm. It has been difficult, I’ll be honest. However, I am on schedule to be able to pay these bills. I’m most pleased to protect the balance on my line of credit. You see, that is my big goal: to have the line of credit completely paid off by mid-October of this year. I know I can do it if I keep my focus.
Getting creative and finding more cash….somehow!
I get paid every two weeks on a Monday. Week in and week out, month in and month out, that is my routine. When I looked ahead to my big bills in April, I saw another opportunity that would help me out: a month with not two, but THREE paydays! This means that I basically have an extra payday in May. As I already know that my municipality only has a tiny penalty for late payment, I am combining these two to get my bill paid. I am planning to use my second payday in May to pay my municipal taxes.
Because I have stopped using my credit card, I am confident that I can pay this bill with that pay cheque and the little bit extra that will be in my bank account due to my fiscal restraint. All of the other earning from selling items etc. can be allocated to pay my federal taxes by the end of April.
One other fortunate happenstance is on my side, too: I am ahead of schedule in paying down my line of credit. I have been working on this since last December. I will be able to allocate one payment that was intended for my line of credit and save it to pay my federal taxes. This is about half of what I owe on my taxes. It means that I am truly close to reaching my goal. This is the result of pretty extreme belt-tightening. I will keep going until October and then loosen things up…a bit!
Successful strategies from other frugalites I know
I have some pretty Frugalite friends, as we tend to flock together. One friend shared her strategy of allowing folks to store cars and boats, and the like on her rural property. Every year, she allocates that money solely to paying her municipal taxes. So far, that creativity, which doesn’t cost her anything, is covering her taxes.
One friend I have asks for a higher tax rate on her paycheques. She calls it a “forced savings plan.” It leads to her getting a solid refund every tax year. Once I have my line of credit paid down, I will likely take her lead on this one.
A penny saved is a penny to pay my bills!
It isn’t always easy to pay big bills these days.
Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty tips offered here? How do you manage to pay your own big bills when they come up? Do you have any tricks for coming up with extra money that you’d like to share?
Please tell us in the comments section.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient. Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!