Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Frugal Living

Good Housekeeping Magazine devoted much of this month's issue to surviving the economy....I was pretty much bored with it. Now, don't get me wrong, it was a timely edition of the mag and I'm certain there are a great many folks out there who needed the information it contained. As a SAHM for the majority of the last 24 years, I'd already lived the money crunch....I could have written some of the articles.

Let's take a look at some of what the mag talked about.....

1. Make relatively painful budget cuts....okay, meal planning and shopping with a grocery list. I used to be a pro at going through the grocery store with a list and a calculator and coupons and although I have to be less painstaking in my shopping trips today, in the early days of parenting, I would shop for a week on less then $50.00. There were countless times that I went back through the store to put back what could be termed as unnecessary to feeding my family for the week just to stay on the budget. I still shop with a list and stick to it (unless I take one of the kids or the hubby with me, then it gets a little bit trickier!)

So what would I have added to this step in the article? Do an inventory of your pantry and your freezer. You may be surprised at what you'll find tucked away in your pantry or forgotten but still edible in your freezer. Last time I did my inventory, I found three bottles of ketchup - two in the pantry and one in the fridge, two bottles of ranch dressing - both opened in the fridge, several boxes of crackers, cheese I'd forgotten in the freezer just for the short list...that's what slacking off and shopping without a list and an updated inventory had gotten me.

Tape the inventory to your fridge and update it throughout the week...I have mine in three columns....1) On hand 2) running out of 3) need to buy now.....this inventory is right next to my weekly menu. Since I gotten back into the habit of shopping wisely, I've saved an average of $200.00 per month.

I'd also add that one should learn to make those restaurant dishes at home.....in the early days, David and I were lucky to go out to eat about 3 times a year. Whenever I had a wonderful taste bud experience, I'd pay special attention to the dish, ask the server questions like "what is this seasoning?" and then go home and experiment with it.

Some of our favorite family meals were the result of this money saving technique....take for example the chicken salad we eat quite often with warm Italian Bread and Honey mustard. Or the two versions of Potato Soup that is a winter staple in our house....or even my version of Chilli's Quesadilla Explosion Salad...or El Potro's Nachos Supreme. (With the exception of the Explosion Salad, it costs way less to make these dishes at home then to take the family out to eat.....and still feel as if we've been treated.)

We also have Mom's Magical Homemade Pizza on Friday nights......This delicious tradition even earned a write up in Hunter's journal in elementary school!

2. Debt.....David and I have been pretty good at keeping down the credit card debt, outstanding loans etc. We operate on as close to a cash only basis as we can. In fact, most of our debt is a direct result of the children and their various needs....for college etc. We renovate this old farmhouse with cash and not credit cards. We drive cars until they literally die of old age. In 26 years of marriage, we've had car loan payments only four times. Although we qualified for tens of thousands of dollars more then the loan on this house, we knew what we could comfortably afford and what we couldn't and didn't let temptation and emotion cause us to buy more house than we needed or could live in and not be "house poor".

3. Shopping at discount stores....I hate shopping at Walmart for various reasons, but I continue to do so for two main ones.....Ovaltine sells at $2.77 vs. Winn Dixie's $4.87; Purina One Lamb and Rice....a 35Lb bag costs about $27.00 at Wally world while Winn Dixie wants a dollar a pound! Every two weeks I have to buy both of those items and I'm not overspending on any product because I dislike the experience. That is the heart of frugal living. I could list many other items where Winn Dixie is outrageously over priced - but I think the point is proven.

I also buy our clothing during great sales....a good sale won't get me out of the house (cuz I hate shopping with a passion unless its for antiques!).....I only go out for the 50% off clearance price kind of sales. We get the name brands doing this AND we save even over the Outlets.

We still get to buy antiques on occasion, but we don't emotion buy in the process....take our dry sink for example. We saw it in our Favorite Store in January of 2005. In February of 2006 it was still in the store so we approached the owner and told him we'd been looking at it for over a year....he replied with the statement "make an offer!". We got it for less then half of the original asking price. While this technique doesn't always work, when it does it is a wonderful feeling...like the old motto "patience is its own reward".

4) I don't buy the name brand cleaning supplies.....I use the 67 cent bottle of ammonia and mix it with water to clean my floors, I buy the 70 cent bottle of vinegar and mix it with water and use it and newspaper to clean the windows....I use baking soda (in the huge box) to freshen my carpets (I apply it using my sifter before I go to bed and vacuum it up in the morning), I use a cap full of bleach to disinfect everything. The only name brand item I buy on a regular basis is the one with the bubbles that scrub so that I don't have to for the bath tub. There are times that I've decided to live it up and buy the "good" stuff (like Pine Sol because I just love that scent), but eventually I end up right back with my staples...the same cleaning products my grandparents used to use.

5) And just one more for the books......we buy our school supplies AFTER school starts and AFTER each teacher has been spoken to about their supply list requirements. Not only do we save money because the rush is past and the supplies are going down in cost, but we eliminate buying stuff that will go unused for the year. It is a little known fact that the teachers all send their individual lists to the office where those lists are COMBINED and then sent out to the parents at the end of the school year or over the summer.....the unaware among us are buying items that THEIR child's teacher doesn't want or need the students to have.

I'm not perfect at this frugal living thing, I splurge every now and then just because....but I will say that I am pretty good at it. I have spent my adult life thinking about every penny we spend, turning off the lights and adjusting the thermostat.....I have friends who have never had to think too much about what they spend who are now having to learn to live frugally.....that Good Housekeeping magazine was written for them.....but I least I got a blog post out of it!


  1. I always feel that way about "budgeting" in magazines... come see how I live! Seriously.

  2. Yep....I hear ya! Thanks for reading and commenting! Lori


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