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Paycheck Chronicles

Ten Ways To Contribute Without a Job

Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season is kicking off, and plenty of military spouses are quitting their jobs to move.  Sometimes, it is hard to find a job at your new duty station, and money can get tight if you're used to living on two incomes.  While I can't help you find a job, I can suggest some ways that staying home can help stretch your money a little (or a lot) further.

Meal Plan

Food is typically the second or largest monthly expense, and meal planning is the best way to lower your food expenses.  If you're not working, you have time to make thoughtful meal plans based around low-cost ingredients, what's on sale, or what's getting old in the pantry or freezer.  Once you've made your meal plan, make a grocery list.  Then stick to the grocery list.  Just be sure to put one or two treats on there - you won't feel so deprived if there is something you love in the basket.

Consign Your Old Clothes

Find the best consignment store in the area, and take the clothes you don't wear any more.  They will reject some (or all) of your stuff.  Then go to the next best consignment store, and then the next best, until you're sure no one will want the remaining items.

Since you have the time, be sure to iron everything before you take it in. You'll increase the chances that your items will be accepted, and that they will sell.

Track Your Money Relentlessly

Not watching your money is a sure-fire way to spend more than you intend.  Balance your checkbook a couple of times a month.  Read every single credit card bill and bank statement.  Dispute things that seem wrong.  Figure out the best way to pay off your bills to pay the least amount of interest.

Find The Best Deal and Negotiate

If you're not working, you have time to really shop for the best deal on everything you need.  Whether it's new socks, a lawn mower, or a new car, use your time to research, comparison shop, and negotiate your way to the best possible price.  Find coupons, use rebate sites, and wait for sales.

Make Staying at Home More Fun

When you're cutting your entertainment budget, staying home needs to be fun.  A clean house is a lot more inviting, and some tasty snacks can help you resist the urge to hit up the local pub. A nicely planned dinner at home can be a lot nicer than going out, and cheaper, too.

Organize Your Errands

Without a time crunch, you can eliminate extra trips around town by actually planning your errands.  You can save a significant amount of gas by combining trips.  Depending on your area, you might have time to walk or ride your bike to the grocery store, library, post office, or other shops.

If you are able to drop your driving miles significantly, you may be able to save money on your auto insurance. Keep an eye on your mileage and check your policy or with your agent.

Grow Your Own

If you have any space at all, even just a sunny balcony, you can do some gardening.  It can cost some money to get started, but there are plenty of online suggestions for keeping the cost low.  Even a window box full of spinach or arugula will pay off over the growing season.  Tomatoes can be grown upside down, and zucchini are very hard to mess up.

Shop Secondhand

If you're not in a hurry, you can take advantage of all the options for purchasing things second hand, including thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales, Facebook groups, and Craiglist.  Don't forget to negotiate!  You can buy everything from clothes to furniture to kitchenware used, or new but not from a store.

Go One Car

Depending on your particular situation, your family may be able to get buy with just one car.  If you're accustomed to having two cars, you might be amazed by how much money you can save on registration, gas, insurance and maintenance.

Make More From Scratch

Preparing food from scratch can be a serious money-saver, depending on the particular item.  You'll have to experiment to figure out what items actually save you money.  For example, I know that I can't make a lasagna for the cost of a Stouffer's frozen lasagna, but homemade iced tea costs me less than 10% of store bought.

It can be frustrating if you want to work but can't due to location, child-care or the lack of jobs. However, there are plenty of ways you can contribute to your family without an actual job. You might even find that you save more by staying home that you earned when you were working.

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