Have your bills recently increased and you’re wondering how you’re going to make ends meet? Though it’s good to be working our way OUT of debt, sometimes life happens and we end up getting more into debt or our bills increase for some other reasons (such as sending your little one to preschool or dance class).
In the past year since moving from Arizona to North Carolina, our bills have increased significantly. Our mortgage has more than doubled, our utility bills are higher thanks to said mortgage, and we’ve added full-time daycare for our girls to the mix now that I’m back to working full-time. Between those three things, it’s safe to say our bills have increased well over $2,000 per month.
Today, I wanted to share what you can do when your bills increase, whether it’s by $100 per month or thousands per month, like us.
Our bills didn’t jump $2000 the first month we where here. Time to get a little real, but our mortgage in Arizona was just over $900 a month. In North Carolina, we rented an apartment when we first moved here. I was shocked at rental prices when I first started looking back in May 2014. We knew we needed a three-bedroom because our girls each woke up so much during the night at that point. In certain areas of Charlotte, three-bedroom apartments were easily $1800 and up. I couldn’t believe how expensive it was to rent an apartment! My husband was quitting his job to move here and I was making $1800 per month freelancing. We ended up renting an apartment for $1300, and I was extremely nervous for this $400 price jump.
How We Prepared for Our $400/Month Increase in Bills
John and I have always been savers, and quite frankly this is part of the reason we were able to move across the country without him having a job lined up. We also sold our house in Arizona for a profit, so I knew we would be OK for a little while with the increase in bills and John not working. However, neither John nor I wanted to go into savings or our house money, but it was nice to know that it was an option.
I realize not everyone can sell a house and make a profit, but everyone can save! Our bills went up because we wanted a lifestyle change (ie moving to a new state), not because they had to (like an unexpected medical expense). Having money in your savings account gives you freedom to make lifestyle changes and it also protects you in the event of an emergency. Save. No matter where you live or what you do, find a way to save money.
I would like to add, too, that we never had to go into our “house money” for this move to happen. Between the cost of moving, purchasing John a used truck in cash for work, buying him tools for work, putting down deposits on our apartment, and taking a huge loss in income for a month, we only spent what we had saved up by ourselves. If you want to make a change, start saving!
Four months later, our bills increased yet again. This time, we moved from our $1300 per month apartment to our $1600 per month rental house. Our utility bills also increased by about $200 per month because the house was much bigger than the apartment. My freelance income was right around $1500, and John had started his own business and was doing well. We were hustling, and the hard work was paying off.
It was right around this time (two weeks after moving in) that we decided we wanted to put our girls in PT daycare. Luckily, we found an amazing daycare by our house where the girls could go just three hours per day three days per week. This gave me designated time to focus on work and it gave them learning and play time with kids their ages. It was $340 every four weeks, so you can add that amount to how much our bills have been increasing.
How We Handled Another $840/Month Increase in Bills
Again, this was another lifestyle update. Had John and I not been working hard the last part of 2014 and growing our businesses, we would not have moved to a more expensive rental. If you work for yourself and you know your work is good, charge higher prices and seek out higher paying jobs. In January, I started landing personal finance writing gigs after having my blog for four months. I started out with lower paying jobs just like we all have to do and slowly increased my rate. If you read my income reports, you’ll notice the amount of money I made nearly doubled in the beginning to middle half of this year. Sometimes, increasing your bills because of something you want really makes you hustle hard!
A tip for those you working for yourself: If you know your work is good, don’t be afraid to charge higher prices. John has always been really good at this. He knows his time is valuable, he knows he puts in 110% at his job, and he knows he goes above and beyond to meet his customer’s needs. He’s never late, he communicates with the customer throughout the entire project, he’s friendly and his work is outstanding. While he does charge different prices depending on the job, he never low balls himself, ever. For me and my freelancing career, this is something I’m getting better at. Especially since I now work FT, I view my time as even more valuable.
And, as my regular readers know, I got a full-time job in July (so did John) so our girls started daycare full-time. We also bought a house last month, meaning we have another massive increase in our bills. However, we also have a big jump in our income.
How to Handle Large Increases in Bills
For starters, only make lifestyle changes if you can truly afford it. Other than when we first moved here, John and I have never put ourselves in a situation where we haven’t been able to save money. So that’s the first tip: If you want to upgrade your life, upgrade your finances first.
I know some of you may be thinking that all of these increases were our choice and that we haven’t faced an emergency during any of this. That’s definitely true, but even when we have a miscellaneous expense pop up (such as having a baby, taking your sick kid to the ER, having to pay for car tags and registration, etc), we’re always OK because we save. Living below your means is essential to handling unexpected expenses. So again, if you want more money to spend on entertainment, if you want a bigger house or if you want your kids involved in more activities, increase your income.
I am all about side hustles, as most of you know. I love blogging and freelancing in addition to working full-time. Writing is one of my passions, so I don’t really look at this as work. John does handyman work on the side in addition to his full-time job. He tries to do one job each month, earning him an additional $500-$1000. If we need more money one month because of Christmas or some other expense, we both hustle hard to make more.
If you want to start a blog, check out my tutorial here. Blogging is the key to freelance writing. It showcases your portfolio and allows you to meet and network with other freelancers and bloggers.
However, even if you don’t want a side job, you can still increase your income. Perhaps look for another job in your field or ask your current boss for a raise. Employment rates are decreasing (they’re currently at 5.1 percent), meaning employers have to start competing for workers. How do employers compete? By offering more money. Work hard at your job, ask to take on more responsibilities, go above and beyond your normal duties, and then ask for a raise with confidence. If your job won’t give you one, perhaps it’s time to start looking around for more lucrative opportunities.
Don’t let money prevent you from living the life you want, but instead let it empower you. Decide what it is you want out of life and work hard to get there. If you want to retire early, for example, that means working extremely hard now and living well below your means. If you want to put your kids in sports or dance class, that might mean decreasing your grocery bill by $200 a month. Or it might mean temporarily picking up a part-time job. Always look for ways to cut expenses so you can spend more on the things you want, and at the same time, always look for ways to increase your income so you give yourself more freedom and choices in your life.
Have your bills increased recently? What do you do when that happens?