Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saving Money: Part Two - Ground Rules

To the wise reader who is interested in saving money,

This is part two of my four-part series on saving money in the kitchen.  In the first part I introduced you to some guiding principles, and now I am going to lay out some ground rules.  Remember, I am not an expert or a guru on saving money and simple living - I am just sharing a collection of lessons I have learned with help from all of you!

Saving Money: Part Two - Ground Rules

Rule #1: Don't be paralyzed by information overload or intimated by anybody.  

Dove Street
Sometimes when I read blogs by do-it-yourselfers or watch videos about all-at-homers or read articles by big-money-savers, my mind gets to spinning on ways to save money, I dream up things to make at home, the ideas pile up and crowd out any possible course of action, and I pass out from a headache!  "Spend one dollar a year on your grocery bill!  Spin thread from dandelions and make your own clothes from lettuce leaves!  Use coupons to buy a house for under a hundred dollars!  Make every single thing at home and do not buy anything ever again!"  In truth, to save money at home you just have to pick One Thing that catches your imagination and do it, and you are on your way to the big time!  If you are reading the blog of somebody who is sharing ideas for home-making projects it may seem as though the author "does everything" because everything you read on the blog is about Doing Things.  However, it only appears that way because that is the only aspect of "her" you see!  Nobody out there, least of all myself, does it All.  Nobody knows it All.  Everybody knows what they know, does what they do, and we all work to the best of our abilities, limitations, and constraints, which are unique to each and every family.  Never, ever feel inferior or less-than somebody because they Have it All Together and Do Everything.  Because they don't!  I don't.  And I never will.   Just do what you can, and if you don't like making bread at home that's okay. 

Rule #2: Don't die of overkill.  

Sometimes energetic, industrious, creative people can start a lot of projects (I'm going to bake bread every week, make all our own spice mixes every day, buy only local and organic produce, buy all the canned beans on sale this Friday, make a hundred jars of jelly, sew curtains and hand-knit a rug, plant enough herbs to last us a year even though I've never gardened before) and get overwhelmed by the whole kaboodle.  Then the projects and dreams all go out the window, money and time may be lost to the fire of Life Happening, and motivation goes down the drain in a swirling vortex of disappointment. I learned this the hard way - wasted money because I wanted to cook something homemade and didn't get around to it and ended up buying dinner, rotted produce when I brought home too much to handle at one time, bought the wrong equipment when I jumped the gun on a homemaking project, and over-purchased on a sale item and spent too much money too early in the month.  It happens.  Try to avoid making the mistakes I did and take your time - do research at your leisure, keep a notebook of handy notes and ideas, read up on a subject before diving in, get your husband's approval on a project and don't get upset when he isn't willing to spend the money ("But we'll save so much!" I whined).  You cannot read every home-making book and blog and website and you cannot possibly digest all the information that is out there.  It would be impossible to overemphasize this: There is no hurry - preserve your sanity first, and read about and integrate new ideas and tasks as you have time, funds, and willpower to do so.  

Rule #3: You absolutely need to create a budget.  

Just in case you thought you could escape without this reminder ... Do not even try!  Now we all know that some people mistakenly think that a budget means writing down how much they've spent.  In fact, it is writing down how much you are going to spend, and then when the money in a given category runs out - you stop spending (super-innovative, I know).  I suggest Dave Ramsey and his financial education books or courses for learning how to manage money.  If your husband doesn't want to make a budget, don't nag about it; just budget what you can control (how much you will spend on groceries and clothing).  Without a budget, it is way too easy to overspend on "frugal" projects, or end up with a thousand jars of tomatoes and nothing left to buy apples, but that is really missing the point.

Rule #4: Don't underestimate your budget; know what you spend.

The first place people tend to underestimate their average spending when creating a budget is food!  But this category above all is where the thoughtful woman can wage war on Money Spending - there are thousands of ways to save cash in the kitchen, and starting to implement these ideas is simple.  If you haven't already done so, I challenge you to go over your spending records for a month and total up how much you've spent on food, including restaurants (granted, if it was a major canning month your spending will be higher than normal - but you'll be able to see where that comes in).  It is much easier to galvanize your Money Saving Energies when you actually know what you are spending, and have a goal to work towards.

Rule #5: Generate motivation or track success.

How you interpret this rule is purely up to you.  Maybe just staying out of the red every month or paying off a debt would be enough to track success!  As an example of generating motivation: To help inspire myself to do extra projects that take extra effort that would be easier to pay a few extra bucks for, I put an index card on our refrigerator door and track money I saved Above and Beyond the Call of Duty there.  Not savings like a coupon or something in the grocery store necessarily, but just a few items I chose to follow: if I wash or dry a load without using the coin-operated machines, I save a dollar per cycle and put a check mark in the laundry-saving category.  If I make a batch of soap or toothpaste at home that I normally would have needed to buy, I total up the savings and put it in the household-supply saving category (savings = cost of store-bought product - cost of ingredients for home-made).  If I make a loaf of bread, I add a few dollars to the home-baked goods category.  At the end of the month, I total up all of my A and B the C of D savings and add them to our regular savings deposit.  It's never a huge life-changing amount, but it's enough to see the difference add up.  All the other savings - on grocery bills, garage-saling for dishes, growing herbs - are merely reflected in the fact that our overall budget is smaller than it otherwise would be and we can keep paying for electricity and rent and other goodies like that.

Are you ready for part three, our tornado of ideas?  Get your pen and paper ready!

Readying the pen,

Mrs H

1 comment:

  1. I'm having some trouble commenting on here...I wonder if everyone else is too.

    Can't wait for part III!




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