Evaluate Your SpendingFor most of us, we’re living on a fixed income where we know what to expect with each paycheck each month, and if that’s the case with you, you’ll find it much easier to strategically develop a budget plan for your family.

If you are an entrepreneur or working in a job where your income fluctuates, you can still develop a budget but you’ll need to make sure it accommodates any possible decrease in income each month.  

1. Write Everything Down

The first step in developing a budget is to take stock of your fiscal situation. Assess exactly where you are in your financial life, taking inventory of all expenses on a month-to-month basis.  

The more you create a detailed overview of your spending and overall costs, the easier it will be to identify areas where you can cut spending and save more money.

Writing your expenditures down often sheds a lot of light on areas in your financial life that could be ‘tweaked’, and that extra bit of money each month will go a long way.

Take Action

Write down all of your bills. Go line by line through your bank statements and credit card accounts for the past 12 months.  

2. Categorize Your Expenses

After writing down all of your expenses, you can now sort them into categories.

For example, your spreadsheet could include “Housing” such as your mortgage or rent payment, as well as “Food” and “Utilities”.

Then, include “Personal” including gifts and of course, “Education” that may include daycare, summer camp, and school supplies.  

After I found out I was pregnant with my oldest child, I created a budget plan for my family based on Dave Ramsay’s Monthly Cash Flow Plan. I still use an updated version of that spreadsheet today.

For my readers, I have created a Sample Family Budget Plan that you can use to start your budget plan. Go to “File”, click “Make a copy…” and you have your own editable spreadsheet.

Take Action

After assigning all of your expenses to a category, compare your spending to Dave’s recommended percentages. Are there any categories that are significantly higher than the recommendations? That category might be the first place to look for reductions.

3. Include The Family

A budget helps your entire family focus on common goals. If you have one, be sure to talk with your spouse or significant other about their goals, concerns, and stressors.

Depending on their ages and maturity levels, it can also be helpful to include your kids.

One of the easiest ways to get younger kids (roughly ages 4-10) involved is by giving them their own small amount of pocket money each week. Anytime my kids ask for something that isn’t in my budget, I ask if they have any of their pocket money.

Not only will this help them learn how to budget, but you’ll teach them a very valuable lesson about responsibility. They understand what I mean when it is the end of the month and I don’t have enough cash to eat out anymore until next month.

If you have older children (10+), they can get allowances for their own clothes and other expenses that they need to start learning to manage.

Take Action

Share your budget with you spouse and kids so that you are all on the same page as a family. Adjusting to a new budget can be a tough habit to learn.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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Reduce Your Lighting Electricity ExpensesIf you leave (1) 60W incandescent light bulb on 24/7 for 30 days, you would spend over $5 on just that one light bulb (assuming the US average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour).

If you live in Hawaii where electricity costs 28 cents per kilowatt hour, you would spend $12 per month on just that one light bulb.

Now if your kids are like mine, they sometimes have trouble remembering to turn off the lights, so you might be paying for way more electricity than you actually need.

Here are my 3 tips to pay for only as much electricity as necessary for your lighting needs:

1. Remind your kids to turn off the lights.

This is the cheap option, but the least automatic. We make a game out of it and encourage our 2-year-old to move his step stool around the house and turn the lights off. We did the same with our 8 and 5-year-old when they were little. They are both pretty good at remembering, but it is by no means 100% automatic.

Take Action

Create reminders to turn off the lights. Set a reminder on your phone to check the lights before you leave for the day, or create some picture reminders for your kids’ morning routine.

2. Turn off the lights automatically.

If you or your kids have trouble remembering to turn off the lights, there are a couple of inexpensive automatic lighting control devices you can use to help you: a digital timer switch or a motion sensor.

With a digital timer switch, instead of flipping a switch, you choose a button for how long you want the lights to be on. The button choices are typically 5 minutes to 4 hours. The switch turns off the lights at the end of the time frame. You may still use more electricity than you need though if you regularly hit the 4-hour button and only go into the room for a few minutes.

With a sensor, instead of flipping a switch, the sensor looks for a change in heat. Occupancy sensors turn on when the sensor sees the heat from your body. Vacancy sensors turn off when your body heat is no longer seen. Both types have buttons for you to control the lights manually.

Most digital timer switches and motion sensors cost less than $20. If you or a friend can install them safely, there won’t be any additional installation cost. If you are not familiar with changing out switches, consult a local electrician. Electricians cost $50-$100 per hour.

Take Action

Make a list of the light switches that you regularly forget to turn off. Discuss with your family what type of control might help you reduce the amount of lighting left on when not needed.

3. Replace your light bulbs.

If you are at home often during the week and you actually use your lighting significantly, consider using energy saving light bulbs.

Energy Saving light bulbs include halogen, compact fluorescent, and LED. One of the main complaints about using these is the amount of light they put out (or don’t).

An incandescent light bulb provides 800 lumens (a measure of light). When you look for new light bulbs, make sure to look at the lumen output and not just what the manufacturer says is a 60W equivalent. I typically pick a 75W equivalent in order to get at least 800 lumens.

Another complaint is the color of the light. Look for a yellower or warmer white bulb to match incandescents better.

Take Action

Make a list of the light fixtures you use the most and replace those light bulbs first. Go to your local hardware store and see if you can find any LED light bulbs discounted by incentives from your local electrical utility company.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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Samaritan Ministries ReviewAre you curious what sharing a large need, such as brain cancer, looks like as an uninsured member of a health care sharing ministry? If you don’t already know what a health care sharing ministry is, you can read the Samaritan Ministries FAQs. Since it is not insurance, we generally deal with our healthcare providers as cash pay or self pay. This is our Samaritan Ministries review of our experiences (so far) sharing my husband’s brain cancer medical bills.

My husband has been self-employed since 2013.

Health CareIt was difficult finding good health insurance options for him, especially since the ACA was passed. Before that, he had a decent individual plan with a $1000 deductible for around $150 per month. A plan with similar benefits now costs more than $600.

As an electrical engineer, I make just enough too much for us not to qualify for any ACA tax credits. I work for a small business, so insuring him through my work is expensive.

Sometime in the summer of 2015, I saw an advertisement for a healthcare sharing ministry. I was intrigued by this “non-insurance” alternative concept to traditional insurance. Researching further, I found that there were 4-5 organizations that had been around long enough to qualify for the ACA exemption.

As I researched, I kept coming back to an organization called CMF Curo, which is a Catholic member organization of Samaritan Ministries. Since we are Catholic, I felt the extra layer of protection CMF Curo offered was worth the slightly additional cost. By joining CMF Curo, you are effectively joining both CMF Curo and Samaritan Ministries.

Needs are administered by Samaritan Ministries, so whichever organization you join, your experiences will be similar ours. My family joined CMF Curo and Samaritan Ministries on December 1, 2015.

Sharing Our Need With Samaritan Ministries

My husband was diagnosed 7 months ago today with Glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.  You can read more about our journey on My Husband’s Glioblastoma page.

Samaritan Ministries has been with us ever step of the way. I called them after his first CT scan that came back clean. I called while we were in the hospital and they said there weren’t going to be any problems covering his hospital stay and brain surgery. The next week, I called again to ask if they would cover chemo drugs (they do, even though most drugs are not).

How Much Does Brain Cancer Cost Without Insurance?

To date we have submitted 40 bills representing approximately $200,000. We have negotiated, on average, 35% discounts on those bills. So far we have received and cashed 277 checks from other Samaritan Ministries members. Almost everyone of those 277 families included a card or note of encouragement and prayer.

GBM Need Status 12-20-16

This does not include his chemo drugs (name brand Temodar), as our pharmacist got us approved for free chemo through the manufacturer’s patient assistance program (estimated $12,000 per month value). Thank you, Merck!

This does not include his Novocure Optune device, which is also being covered in full by the manufacturer’s patient assistance program ($21,000 per month list value). Thank you, Novocure!

The only other medical expenses we have not shared with Samaritan Ministries are a few prescriptions. He takes antibiotics every weekend to prevent opportunistic infections and he takes an anti-seizure medicine as a preventative measure due to the tumor’s location. Together these are less than $30 per month by using the discounts available with our Sams Club membership.

My Samaritan Ministries Review

  • Product: Samaritan Ministries
  • Website URL: SamaritanMinistries.org/
    • If you decide to join based on this review, please note Kraston and Amanda Colby of Oklahoma as your referral. We will receive a small one-time referral fee.
  • Price: $180 – $495 per month depending on family size.
  • Owner: Samaritan Ministries International
  • My Rating: 4.9 out of 5
  • Target Audience: Christians interested in an alternative to traditional health insurance.

Reasons Why You Should Join Samaritan Ministries

If you are young and healthy, with zero health problems, this is almost a no-brainer situation. You never know what medical issue may come along next year or even next month, so take advantage of joining now. It is likely cheaper than your insurance.

If you have some health issues, but the are well-controlled for the past year, you may not be considered to have a pre-existing condition. Do call and verify before you sign up.

Samaritan Ministries is a reasonably pleasant way to handle medical issues. Depending on how much they deal with uninsured patients, it may require a little bit more conversation with your medical providers.

Reasons Why You Might Not Be Interested in Joining Samaritan Ministries

If you don’t meet all of the membership requirements, unfortunately you would not be allowed to join.

If you have many expensive preexisting conditions, you will need to do the math for your situation. Expenses for preexisting conditions are shared via a Special Prayer Needs list and some members may donate to help with those needs which are not normally publishable. There are many people with preexisting conditions who still find Samaritan Ministries to be more affordable than the exorbitant deductibles of the Bronze level plans.

Target Audience

BibleMost Christians will qualify for membership. The following are the first 7 membership requirements from the guidelines (see the guidelines for full requirements):

  1. Be a professing Christian according to Biblical principles.
  2. Be in agreement with the member statement of faith. Also See this CMF Curo letter for comments on the Catholic interpretation of the Samaritan Ministries statement of faith.
  3. Attend a Christian church regularly (at least three out of four weeks per month that your health or weather permits).
  4. Believe that you are to bear one another’s burdens as taught in the Bible.
  5. Agree to: not abuse any legal or prescribed substance, abstain totally from illegal drugs and recreational use of marijuana, and abstain from tobacco use (a rare celebratory cigar or pipe, e.g. at the birth of a baby, is an allowed
    exception).
  6. Choose option one or two regarding the use of alcohol.
    1. Option 1. Abstain totally from all beverages containing alcohol (wine used for communion only is an approved exception).
    2. Option 2. Limit consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts so as to never drink to drunkenness.
  7. Abstain from any sexual activity outside of traditional Biblical marriage as designed by God between one man and one woman.

Support

I have contacted Samaritan Ministries via both phone and email. They have always been prompt and helpful. Whenever I have called them to start a need, they have always ended the call with a prayer, which has been very reassuring.

Price

The current cost for my three or more person family is $495 for Samaritan Ministries (click to check the current cost for your family size) plus $84 for our CMF Curo membership.

Conclusion

We feel blessed beyond belief to have joined when we did. Cancer is not a pleasant addition to our family, but Samaritan Ministries has relieved a great deal of stress from our situation.

If you decide to join based on this review, please note Kraston and Amanda Colby of Oklahoma as your referral. We will receive a small one-time referral fee.

Thank you and have a blessed day.

Amanda is the founder of Survival With Kids. She is the mother of 4 kids (two boys and two girls). She became a brain cancer widow in April of 2017 at the age of 32. She writes about surviving and preparing for unexpected events.

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