What it Costs to Live in North Carolina | Monthly Expenses

I’m what people nowadays call a wanderlust-er.  If I meet you for the first time my question to you will more than likely be, “Where are you from?”  I am such a curious person and the idea of living in different places dotted around the world appeals to me like no other.  But since I can’t, I love to look around the Internet and see other people sharing their journey as they trek and live around the globe.  One of the things I’m always curious about is how they afford to live where they do because to me, living in a country such as, Ireland, seems impossible because the cost of living– at least in my mind– is too expensive.

Since I find that learning what the average rent costs for someone living in Canada is, then I figured someone might be interested in learning what it costs to live in the Southeast of the United States. 

 Front Yard during the autumn season.  These trees surround the pond.
Front Yard during the autumn season.  These trees surround the pond.

In fact, the cost-of-living in North Carolina played a huge role in us even moving here.  When Bubba was looking at schools to attend, he had to look at the affordability of the area and if he could find work close by.  Obviously we live here so the Charlotte area met those requirements.  However, what you can afford around here will vary and our rent is not the typical price tag for house rentals.  Usually it costs more; God just laid this rental in our lap and luckily I fought for it and won!  Seriously, if I told you the story, you would say ‘yep…you definitely had someone on your side up there.’  No joke.  But without further adieu.

Our Monthly Expenses

Rent: $875 per/month 

What we get:  3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 story house, on 1 acre of land.  It has a tree lined driveway and a pond in the neighboring land.  (So we get a nice view)  Typical rentals are an average of $1200+

Obviously this is our biggest expense.  We chose to live Southeast of Charlotte to help lower our rental cost while still living in a good neighborhood with plenty of elbow room from neighbors.  However, the trade-off is a rundown school district which most of the state itself is trying to deal with.  This is why we have chosen to homeschool Nathan. 

Electricity: Average $160 (Winter) $240 (Summer) 

The entire house runs off of electricity.

Water: $20 average

Rental Insurance: $14

Internet: $40

Wireless phone: $45

Health Insurance: $170

Transportation: $240 (Gas) avg per gallon $3.35ish

Trash: $25

Groceries: $800

We rarely eat out because it is expensive when you are buying for 5 people each time so I cook the majority of our meals. Groceries are definitely more expensive in the east vs. the west.  Most food is shipped from states such as California so it will cost you a bit more living here.  The cost of a pound of ground hamburger meat is $4.19-$4.48ish at Wal-Mart.  Go to another store and it will cost somewhere over $5 per pound.  Those are just a couple of examples.

We are able to scrape by on one income by making adjustments to our lifestyle and sticking as closely as we can to a budget.  It’s not always easy but we manage!  And trust me, we are really looking forward to Bubba finishing school so we can have a little breathing room once and a while. ; )

If you’re interested to see the cost of living in NYC, then check out this post from Our Freaking Budget.  And if you’re interested in what it costs to live in Germany, then check out this post from Denglish.

Ditching Paper Towels//Living On Less

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You’ve heard the environmental arguments from the holier-than-thou-be-green-team, explain the importance of ditching your use of the paper towel. 

 

I –am not– that fanatical.  My motivation is merely me being a cheapskate. (my husbands words)  Or as I like to assume, a conscientious consumer.  

Although, I’m happy to see my inability to splurge on the aforementioned item also does our planet a little good. 😉 

 

I’m not going to sit and lie to you, and say that we never buy paper products.  We do on occasion.  For instance, back in July, while my niece & nephew stayed with us, I splurged and purchased a $2 package of paper napkins.  I understand that napkins are not paper towels, but it is close enough!

Paper Towels 1

 



I’m also not going to lie to you and say that we gave up our use of paper towels cold turkey.  When it comes to changing ones habits, it has to become a lifestyle change.  Even small ones such as paper towels.  And just like with most habit busting techniques, I winged us off of them. 

On average, we used one roll per week.  I changed that to only using one roll every two weeks, and then eventually only one per month.  Now I don’t purchase them at all. 

 

Now, we use a cheap set of 18 white rags from Wal-Mart for $4.  At least that is how much they cost in my neck of the woods.  We use them for everything, and once the holes begin to form, I toss them out. 

(The picture of the their 9 count dishcloths.  They were out of the 18 count.)

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Because I’m sure you’re curious, I will go ahead and tell you that we have not bought paper towels in 11 months.  It will be ONE YEAR this November. My husband will tell you that he misses them sometimes, but I haven’t really noticed a difference.

 

// I also wash all the rags once a week, along with other whites in the house.  This way it doesn’t feel like the extra laundry is a burden. //  You can get my DIY Laundry Soap here.

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My cost is about $11.  I purchased two packages of the 18 count and one the 9 count in one year.

 

I asked a friend of mine who has the same size family as myself (5), how many rolls per week they use.  Her answer was about 3 rolls.  I would say that is close to $20 per month, right?  Give or take. 

 

Tally that up for a whole year and that would equal $240. 

Visualize the savings:  What could I buy every month for $20? 

New shoes? 

Shirt? 

Makeup? 

Savings?

You see where I’m going with this?

 

It’s just as easy to pull a dishcloth out of a drawer, as it is to pull a sheet off a paper towel roll.   Promise.

 

What ways do you save extra money in your home? 

 

Like this post?  Then check out some of my other posts on budgeting

Healthy Chicken Noodle Casserole

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It wouldn’t be fair of me to not share this recipe with you about making a “healthy”, yet creamy, chicken noodle casserole.  Really, it wouldn’t.  In fact, you can take this recipe and make it even healthier if you chose to do so.  But I’ll get to that in a minute

You see, I prepare this dish with the most basic of ingredients.  Things any regular cook would have sitting in their refrigerator & pantry shelves, making the ease of this dish astonishing.  I know every blogger will tell you this exact thing, however, I am being sincere.

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Eating this dish nearly had me feeling, like I was being unfaithful to the real stuff.
Nearly.
I think I will forego the delicate foreplay of spinning a story to accompany this post, and instead just jump right in here.  If you have a stay-in weekend ahead of you, do yourself a favor and make it. 
Just don’t be surprised if it is completely eaten by the end of the night.

chicken casserole empty bowl-1

Healthy Chicken Noodle Casserole

Ingredients

2 medium carrots (diced, small)
1/2 of one medium onion (diced, small)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
4oz of Fat-Free cream cheese
1 package of egg noodles (16oz)
1 cup of frozen peas
1 large can of chicken, drained and flaked w/fork  (found by the Tuna, usually)
2 3/4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1/2 cup of grated parmesan divided
Salt & Pepper to taste
(To use healthier substitutes, use skim milk instead of whole milk, and use 8oz of wheat noodles instead of 16oz of white) Just know that using skim milk will give a slightly less creamy texture, but it still tastes great.

Method
Boil noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Throw in the diced carrots and onion and cook for about 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender. 
Once the carrots are tender, stir in your flour, and cook for 2 minutes to get the flour taste out.
Then slowly pour in the milk and bring it to a soft boil, stirring constantly until it begins to slightly thicken.  Once it has thickened, slightly, throw in the cream cheese, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and Dijon mustard.  Stir around until it has completely melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now add your peas, chicken, and cooked noodles and stir to combine.
After it has been combined, pour the mix into a baking dish and sprinkle 1/4 cup of remaining parmesan on the top.  Broil until slightly browned and bubbly on top.
Serve warm. 
Like what you see?  Then check out a few of my other recipes, here

Living On Less: College Edition

pic source: Campus Book Rentals

If you read my first Living On Less post, then you know that my husband has returned to college.  I’m also sure that you know college isn’t cheap.

Like most students, we are taking out student loans; however, we try to pay as much as we can out of pocket.  This mainly includes: textbooks and parking.

On the parking side of things, it is expensive and a pain no matter what you do, so my best suggestion is to hitch a ride, but I can offer plenty of advice for textbooks.   
(I SO wish this was an option during my college years.  It would have saved me a ton of money.)

Here’s the tip.  


Rent your textbooks!  If you haven‘t heard of this novel concept, then I’m about to tell you all about it along with the company that we personally use and trust.

How does it work & what company do you use?

First, let me tell you the company name; Campus Book Rentals.  

As for how it works…well…it works just as it sounds! Simply go to campusbookrentals.com, type in the book you need, and then how long you need it.  You pay on a secure server, then they ship it for FREE!  How painless is that?!
Bing, Bam, Boom and your holding a textbook for a fraction of the cost.  Genius, I tell you.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about the parking at the campus bookstore.

….and because I know you’re wondering, here is a list of the other perks that come with renting your textbook.

Save 40-90% off of bookstore prices
FREE Shipping (This includes returning your textbook!)
It’s OK to highlight in the textbooks
Flexible renting periods
A donation is made to Operation Smile with each textbook rented

Here is an example of a book that came from Campus Book Rentals.  It was Bubba’s Pre calculus book.  If we had purchased it from the campus bookstore, it would have cost us $190!  We paid, $49.

As if this weren’t enough, the company offers a Rent Back program for all the old textbooks that the school/other store wouldn’t buy back.

We had to purchase a book and now, if we want to, we can rent it out to other students using Rent Back, which you can find more about, here.

So if you know someone in college, or are returning yourself, then this is my friendly shove to save yourself the money and rent your textbooks.

This is a sponsored post.  All opinions are mine. Thank you for your support as I accept sponsors to help our family.

 

Living On Less

After a grumbling conversation with myself this morning, I finally made the decision to get this post out of my draft box. For whatever reason, I’ve had a hard time finding the words to introduce this series on my blog. In a nutshell, this will be tips on how we save money by making small changes in our lifestyle and by becoming more self sufficient.  
In order to not bore you to death with a long story of how we came to live the way that we do, I figure the short version that can be squeezed into a paragraph or two will be much easier for all of us.  
Short Version:
My husband and I were like many who supported their lifestyle through credit cards and student loans. We have no one to blame but ourselves.  We wanted the champagne life on a Natural Light beer budget.  (For all the non-alcoholic drinkers, Natural Light beer is probably the cheapest beer you can find.)  
We were living check to check and our credit limits were maxed out.  Reality began to set in and we realized we had no wiggle room when it came to our bills.  It was ridiculous, frustrating, and we were feeling trapped.  
Then the bad things began to happen. 
You know that phrase: Saving for a rainy day?  
Well our rainy day poured and we didn’t have the savings.  I was pregnant with twins and lost one of the babies, resulting in a large sum of medical bills.  One month later, my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor which led to many neurologist bills, CT scans, MRI’s, etc. (Since then, he has been diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst)  Wait.  I’m almost finished.  
Bubba broke his knee and I suffered from complications after giving birth leaving us with plenty of hospital bills.
To make things harder on ourselves, we decided that my husband should leave his well paid, handsome yearly bonus, job in exchange to go back to school. And while we were at it, we threw in an expensive move back to our home state of Texas all the way from Utah.
This decision came with financial consequences.  If I thought things were a struggle back when his job was good and I worked, things only became tougher when our family went from three to five in less than two years, and our TWO income household became an ONE income household.
When you add up all of the above, it results in becoming more creative in how we choose to live day by day; saving wherever we can.
If you read everything down to here; I’m proud of you and you deserve a cookie! 
I hope you’ll check in on the Living On Less tab at the top of the page once and awhile to see how to save you or your family a little ching, ching.  It all adds up! Really, it does.

Buying In Bulk | Storage Tips

Let’s hurry to the point.  Buying in bulk for our family is beneficial.  Not only are we on a super duper tight grocery budget, but we are a larger family with a preteen boy who has a healthy appetite.  If you read my meal planning 101 post, then you already know that grocery shopping is typically a bi-weekly ordeal.  However, my husband and I feel that transitioning into buying our groceries only once a month would be a lot easier for us; mainly because we have been splitting our grocery shopping into two days, between three to four stores. 
And shopping for two days at four stores, with three kids (two of which are babies) is EXHAUSTING.  The kids are grumpy by the end of it and usually have to miss out on their naps. 
So, like I said…we are trying to shop monthly.  I don’t know if this will entirely work…this is our first month to try
it, but I have high hopes that it will be a success.
Alright, now that I have that tidbit of information out there for you, I wanted to offer a few tips on how to store your bulk items, and get the most use out of what you purchase.

Four out five of us love eating pineapple, backing me into a corner to purchase it.  Buying canned right now is cheaper, so I make the most of the 6lbs 10 oz can.

  • First, I drain the pineapple and let the juice run into a bowl underneath the colander and set it aside.  (I save the juice to use for our marinades!)  I also save the can to grow my herbs in.
  • In order to make the most out of the little freezer space we have, I bag the pineapple into three quart freezer bags, flatten them, label them, and freeze them by laying them flat.  Once they are frozen, I can move them around as needed.  I also fill one plastic container full and place in the refrigerator.

 

  • Now I take the pineapple juice that I drained earlier and pour it into a gallon freezer bag.  Then I clean a shelf in the freezer, and lay it completely flat to freeze.  Once it is frozen, you can move it around. 

  • I use this same technique for our hamburger meat.  We bought a 9.38lb log of lean beef, divided it up to roughly 1.25lbs per/bag, flatten them, label the packages, then freeze. (And no, we will not use all of this meat in one month.)

  • For our cheese, we cut the block into chunks, wrap them in sandwich bags/plastic wrap, place in a gallon freezer bag. 

We do a lot of other things, too.  I just figured this would be a good starting point on storing the items we purchase in bulk.  I hope you find it helpful!

Meal Planning 101

I figured I would write how I plan our meals.  I know I’ve shared our weekly menu’s before, however, I never documented the process.


If you’re wondering why I choose to share this, the answer is very simple.  


I used to never budget for groceries and I never made a grocery list.  Once my family grew and my budget shrank, I relied on trial and error in order to find what works best for my family through budgeting, making lists, and meal plans.  By sharing my process, I feel like I can help others.


Alright.  On to step one.  The most important thing is to know your budget.  Every budget is different.  Whenever I first set our budget, it was way to low.  We found ourselves out of food days before pay day.  We also spent a lot of time running back and forth to the store for goodies to satisfy a sweet tooth, etc.


Our budget is $200 every two weeks.  (We are a family of five.)  Usually, I can stay a little under, however, we moved to a new state and prices here are a little higher on most of the food staples.  


Now that you have a budget in mind, the next step will be to create a menu.  I make a numbered list for 14 dinners.  I also make a category for breakfast, lunch, and sides.


Here is one of my meal plans.

 Next, I make  the grocery list.  I look to see what I already have in my pantry and then go from there.  I shop at 3 different stores: Sam’s Club, Aldi, and Wal-Mart.  I find that I can buy most of what we need from these three and stay within the budget.


My list usually spills onto two pages.  I also purchase non-food items along with the groceries, which I set aside additional money for.

For additional savings, you may want to price match and use any coupons that match up to your list.  Also, I had roast on my menu.  While I was at the store, pork chops were on sale, so I purchased those instead of the roast which was twice the cost of the chops.  I do this for other items on my list as well.

My total estimate for this shopping trip was $206.82

My ACTUAL total cost for food items only were, $203.23


My NON-FOOD items cost me $57.75
This included a xmas gift, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, and two boxes of diapers.

Two Week Meal Plan

 Two Week Menu                  Click here for my printable grocery list!
Dinners:
Hot dogs w/ corn
Baked chicken breasts with salad & rolls
Pasta w/meat sauce and salad & bread
Ham & cheese on rolls w/roasted veggies
Tacos w/ rice, or taquitos
Chicken fried steak w/mashed potatoes & gravy
Sloppy joes w/tater tots
Pork chops w/green beans & mashed potatoes & rolls
Chicken enchiladas w/ beans
Chicken alfredo pizza w/ bacon
Pancakes w/ eggs & potatoes
Meatloaf, corn & green beans
Pizza w/bread sticks
Chicken fried steak sandwiches w/ gravy
Breakfasts:
Mexican Burrito w/ chorizzo
cereal
eggs
toast
waffles
Lunches:
Chicken salad
Wraps
BLT
Soup & grilled cheese
Sandwiches & chips
Beans & cornbread
Veggie pasta toss
Chicken & Bacon Pizza w/ Alfredo Garlic Sauce

For those of you who do not know, I used to work at Domino’s Pizza, and there was a specialty pizza called the Chicken Bacon Ranch that my husband loved.  Despite the title of this pizza, it is NOT made with Ranch.  It is made with Domino’s  garlic sauce.  Anyway, this is a recipe on their pizza, made my way.


First, you will need to make yourself some chicken.  Flavor how you want to, but this is what I used on mine.

Next, you will need to fry your bacon.

Next, gather your rolled out pizza dough and add your favorite Alfredo Garlic Sauce in a spiral pattern by using a resealable plastic bag that has the tip cut off.  Do not worry about spreading out the sauce, it should spread out on its own while it cooks.

Next, add your toppings: Cheese (I used Mozzarella, Parmesan), Shredded Chicken, & Bacon and then cook at 350-375 degrees until cheese is melted and dough is slightly browned.
Viola! You’re done! Enjoy

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