All Is Not Lost

I can’t tell you the number of times that, in our seemingly never-ending struggle with debt, that I’ve seriously contemplated just giving up.  Just throwing in the towel and saying f-it.  You know it’s bad when you catch yourself fantasizing about it.  About how much easier your life would be without the struggle.  Just declaring bankruptcy, taking the hit on your credit score, and moving on with your life.

Even now, after having written about personal finance for over five years, I still find myself in that place occasionally.  We let our budgeting lapse, and inevitably our spending gets out of whack again.  Something happens, and the emergency fund just doesn’t seem to cover it all.  Or, worse, doesn’t seem to replenish itself as quickly as it should. - I can't believe I work this hard to be this poor.I can try and lay the blame somewhere.  That always helps, right?  If it isn’t my fault, then I can’t be blamed for it.  I can’t be the one that everyone points to as the failure.  I can deflect that attention to someone or something else.  That helps.  Until it doesn’t.

Every single time, it’s really me that deserves the blame.  It wasn’t the boss that refused to give me a raise.  It wasn’t the heater in the car that needed to be fixed.  And it certainly wasn’t the kids that needed to eat.  It was me.  Every.  Single. Time.

I failed to negotiate the raise.  I failed to have enough saved up to make that repair.  I failed to budget properly to make sure that we wouldn’t have to cut corners at the grocery store.  Me.  I did that.

I could just give up.  I could miss having to work harder to be paid appropriately.  I could miss having to pay attention to my budget to save money for car repairs, or to pay for groceries.  I could do that.  Giving up would be so easy.

Until it isn’t.

Stock the Freezer with Frugal Meat Through Hunting

My wife really enjoys eating healthy, and prefers the taste of organic, grass fed meats to the traditional pasture raised and corn finished variety that is far less expensive. My wife usually does the shopping, but last time I went with her she bought a pound of ground buffalo for $9.99, and that was on sale! I absolutely couldn’t believe it! We try and keep our grocery tab under 65-75 dollars per week for the two of us, and she was spending more than 10% of it on one item!

That’s a lot of money, and more of the same in this department would put us in the poor house in no time flat. Thankfully though, we very rarely buy meat from the store. It’s not that we are vegetarians or vegans, but we prefer to get our meat from other sources. The main sources that we use to get meat these days is hunting and fishing. I’ve found that this is a great way to get high quality meat for a great price. Not only that, but you get to be outside all the time while you do it.

I started hunting right out of college with my dad and my uncle, and I went with them because it was what they always did. Hunting didnt seem that abnormal to me at the time, and neither did securing your own food. It was just something we did because we didnt have a lot of money to spend on anything, especially food.

Goes Hunting Gets a freezer full of frugal meat

Now though, I’m hard pressed to find someone that is under the age of 30 that hunts, and I cant figure out why. Every time I go to the store I see people filling up their carts with organic, free range and grass fed meat, and they are paying a pretty penny for it! When I go deer hunting I usually yield about 35 pounds of raw meat, and I pay $20 for my hunting tag, which equates to about $1.75 per pound. This isn’t just some regular old factory farmed meat either, it’s high quality, grass fed, free range organic stuff that people are paying an arm and a leg for. It’s good, frugal meat.

This poundage that I get is all venison as well, it’s before I combine it with a little beef fat for hamburger or before mixing with pork for venison sausage. Typically, when you make sausages or ground venison, you want to add some fat because venison is so lean that it dries out pretty quickly, further increasing your actual yield.

The same can be said for fishing. I know not everyone likes fish that much (and the ones that are more popular like salmon are nowhere to be found where I come from) but you can get a great source of protein with them as well. Your yield isnt as high in terms of poundage, but you still get some great healthy food for cheap. Fishing tags are also a lot cheaper where I come from (about $25 for the season) and can be a great source of food as well.

What if You Dont Hunt or Aren’t Interested?

To this I say that is just fine! To each their own. You don’t need to hunt or fish to enjoy wild game meat. All you have to do is befriend a hunter. Last year, I had quite a few friends express interest in any leftover meat that I had, so I simply purchased an extra tag and harvested an extra animal. Once I was finished processing it, I gave 4 of my friends about 10 lbs each of multiple cuts of venison. They each got some sausages, steaks, roasts and ground venison. Everyone was so thankful they offered to pay me – I couldn’t believe it, I had a great time out there and was happy to do it for free.

The next question I got was how do I cook this – which is also a simple solution. I explained the cuts of meat that each person got, and they went and searched for venison tenderloin recipes or whatever the cut was, and found a great recipe online. Lots of them shared the recipes with me, so it was nice to get some new stuff to try as well.

If you’re looking for one great way to save on food costs, stay healthy and “beat broke”, I encourage you to take up hunting or befriend someone that is a hunter. They can help you save a lot of money while they have fun outdoors!

Readers: Have you ever hunted before? If no, Are you interested? Why or Why not? Do you know any friendly hunters that may share with you?

Original image credit: Hunting Face, by Kristacher, on Flickr

How to Keep Warm without Heating Up Your Bill

Bundle up, America: it’s going to be a cold winter.

The Energy Department expects the price of natural gas to increase a whopping 13 percent over last year’s rates, to the tune of about $679. Homeowners using electricity to warm their abodes can expect a 2 percent increase in heating costs.

If this news isn’t enough to make you shiver, experts predict this winter will be colder than it has been over the last two years. In addition to stockpiling blankets and tea bags, consider these tips to stay warm this winter without overheating your energy bill.

1. Look for Leaks
No matter how high you crank up that thermostat, your house will never be warm enough if your doors and windows aren’t properly sealed. Take the time to test air loss throughout your home and properly seal the areas prone to leakage, including baseboards, attic hatches and electrical outlets. The Department of Energy’s article on detecting air leaks can help you cover all your bases.

2. Ask for a Free Audit
Most energy companies offer free home audits that offer expert-level understanding of where your home is losing heat. If you’re lucky, a few strips of duct tape may be all you need to repair leaky ductwork. It’s probably a good idea to schedule an audit after you make the effort to patch air leaks to determine if you missed anything.

3. Start with the Attic
A well-insulated attic to save you up to 50 percent on your heating bill, so evaluate the insulation levels in your attic and replenish accordingly. Additionally, check the air seal around attic access points as these are often overlooked and can result in significant heat loss. For more information on how to properly insulate your attic, read these tips from the experts at This Old House.

4. Get on a Schedule
If you haven’t purchased a programmable thermostat, this year is definitely the time to invest. You can save up to 10 percent on these devices by purchasing discount gift cards through to Lowe’s or Home Depot. Once you find a device you like, create a schedule you can stick to and remember to adjust it when you leave for extended periods of time.

5. Condense Your Space
By closing windows and doors to unused rooms, it will take less time and ultimately less energy to heat the areas you use most. You can go so far as to place a towel at the base of closed doors to better lock in the heat. Make sure ceiling fans in heated rooms are reversed and on low to better circulate warm air. Don’t forget to open your shades during the day–the sun’s rays will naturally warm up your home.

6. Consider a Space Heater
Space heaters offer supplemental heat without increasing your heating bill. According to Consumer Reports, you can buy top-rated heaters for as little as $40 while keeping your thermostat set to as low as 60 degrees. Safety is paramount, so read up on user and expert reviews before purchasing a unit and place it on ceramic tile instead of carpet or table tops.

7. Bundle Up
Nothing says cozy like a good down comforter, heavy blanket and flannel sheets. When in doubt, keep the thermostat low and stock up on warm bedding and toasty attire. Flannel sheets will do the trick too and you can usually find fun prints that your kiddos will love to sleep with. I personally enjoy a cooler night’s rest bundled under covers. I recommend searching for quality bedding at discount retailers like Homegoods and TJMax. Otherwise, wait until Veteran’s Day for deals at department stores like Macy’s.