Squeezing your budget (when it’s already begging for mercy)

Last updated 10/22/2019 |

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Otherwise known as "How Mama is paying for an unexpected car repair."

Yep, my car was just in the shop for a $1,000 AC system replacement. Lest you think that I could have skipped this repair, know that it was 112 here recently and the kids and I find it inhumane to travel without AC.

I have a month until the credit card bill is due, so I'm really putting the squeeze on our budget. I want to find, earn, or scrounge as much as possible so I don't have to dip into our emergency fund.

Here’s what I've done so far:

Bought diapers with Amazon credit earned through online surveys
(learn about my 4 favorite survey companies)
Sold Little Peanut’s outgrown baby stuff to a consignment store $27
Redeemed all of my MySurvey points $100
Recycled cans, bottles, plastic $31
Sold an unwanted gift card $19
Made pizza for Friday Movie Night instead of getting take-n-bake $15
Made a menu plan (using Plan It, Don't Panic) based on what’s in the pantry/garden and skipped the grocery store $75
Cashed in all my Swagbucks (what are Swagbucks?) $35
Total to date $337

Not bad for the first week--but there's a long way to go. And I'll have a mutiny if I don't go to the grocery store for a month.

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Hi, I’m Pam! I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey, and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here, and please check out the resources in my Natural Living Shop!


  1. JJ on November 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I found a company that I get paid to set up direct accounts and I receive residual income. Great for stay at home moms and families that need a little help.

  2. CTY on November 13, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Our local newspaper will print free adds in the Bargain Basement section (free if item for sale is under $25 & just $1 for items $26 to $99. The number of letters is limited-but its free. They will even let you print the form from the internet or use a photo copy form. The ads can even list multiple items. Once I found a barely used double stroller out for garbage. I took it home and freshened it up, placed an ad & sold it for $40 (the price of a this model new was over $150). My total time cleaning, writing the ad & showing to the first couple was less than 30 min. If the item has great value & you price it right, it sells to the first person who arrives.
    This one takes a lot of discipline. I use a 0% finance credit option. For appliances Home Depot & Lowes (no cash advance fees) & even found a bank card to pay an emergency veterinary bill (don’t ask) with no interest & no fees. Just gotta make sure you pay the minimum due & pay in full by end of promotion. These cards have given me the breathing room of paying over 2 months instead of one.

  3. Angela@mamarosemary.com on August 15, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Good job squeezing that budget! I am planning a garage sale next week to give us a bit more cash. Thanks for sharing all the great ways you have found to save/make/find some money on Natural Living Monday.

  4. Becky Elmuccio (@craftygrdenmama) on August 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Great tips! I need to check out MySurvey and get SwagBucks going.

  5. momma-lana on August 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Our budget is actually in a ledger and the budget categories are added to each month. I add to the categories whether they have been spent or not because there may be a larger expenditure come up. When I do need to come up with money I do what I call skimming the budget and just go through and skim off extra funds from bloated categories or even decide that we will not buy clothes until the next month. I can get my hands on several hundred dollars this way most of the time.

  6. Neighbor Chick on August 7, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    You’ve probably already done this…but what about loose change around the house? We recently came up with over $500 in loose change. I’m not joking. We collect it in a big bowl, but there are other hiding places, too…the junk drawers, around the dryer, in the cars, bottoms of purses etc. Have a lovely day!

  7. Jill on August 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I definitely do the same kind of things – when doing my regular shopping I put everything on my credit card so that I can get points which i then redeem for gift cards! Also, selling unwanted things right away is just a great way to make sure you don’t get cluttered up!

  8. Alison P. on August 5, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    There are always hard choices but you seem to be making a big squeeze quickly! Congrats on the progress and good luck with the coming weeks. I am sure you can do it!!

  9. Anna@stuffedveggies on August 5, 2013 at 3:50 am

    During Lent, we cut meat & dairy. We see a roughly 30% drop in the grocery bill.

  10. Kristi on August 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Do you have a lot of books? You can also trying selling those on Half.com or amazon.com.

    • Pam Farley on August 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      The hard part will be getting me to part with the books! Will have to give that some serious thought…

    • Kristi on August 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      True, that is the hard part. Another suggestion would be to sign up for marketing research firms in town. I’ve had good luck with Elliot Benson in Sacramento. http://www.elliottbenson.com
      Typically they pay 75.00 to 200.00 depending on the project.

  11. The Creative Gardener on August 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Ok, I am really interested in the Plan It, Don’t Panic — Is this a book or an online system? With our son’s special diet needs, meal planning and shopping frugally is a MUST, and it is exhausting!

    • Pam Farley on August 2, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      It’s an ebook and is only $4.99! It covers special diets, has instructions, meal plans and printable planning pages. It’s worth every penny!

  12. Gerb on August 2, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey? Allen and I started doing his budget plan about 6 years ago and it has done wonders for us! We used to donate plasma for a last-minute budget squeezer. Another favorite thing is to go through the house and find things to sell online (craigslist or other online classifieds are AWESOME!).

    • Pam Farley on August 2, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      We did Dave Ramsey to demolish our credit card debt, but haven’t done anything further. Need to revisit that, after I’m done re-reading Your Money Or Your Life.

      I bet I could poke around and find more stuff to sell–good idea!

  13. Victoria on August 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

    My car is in the shop with $1900 due. Both of our cars need new tires, both of our registrations are due this month, and Steve’s car is in desperate need of brakes. Never mind Alexandra’s school tuition and the speech she needs for $120 a week. 🙁 Looks like we’ll put speech off until Sept. Just one of those months.

    • Pam Farley on August 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Yuck! I hope this budget squeeze is a rarity for both of us.

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Hi, I'm Pam!

I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here! Learn more about me.