Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fail

Well, I can record another "fail" in my book of frugality.   We were out of town this weekend and like usual I left a much needed item at home and had to make a trip to the store.  I should have been smart and gone to Walgreens but instead Target sounded like a much better stop.  I couldn't resist the children's clothing section and of course found some adorable dresses for my monkeys.  On my way out of the store the guilt started settling in.  Hadn't I just promised myself no more clothes for the girls?  Between what I bought last year on clearance and stuff I bought over the last month or so, the girls are set for the entire summer!  (Not to mention both of them can still wear a lot of their stuff from last year.)  So, when we got home today, I dug through their Easter basket goodies and pulled out multiple knicky-knack junk items to return...the dresses will take their place.  See, I can find clever ways to justify my spending :)  Isn't that being frugal?

On another note, I wanted to share a recipe for an easy pancake mix.  We have pancake night in our house several times a month, and I have not bought a boxed mix in over three years.   It is super simple and they taste delicious.  I always double the recipe so we get lots of extras that I can freeze and have on hand for quick breakfasts during the week.  

Wheat Pancake Mix

3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1T. baking powder (or less if you like them flatter)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 c. of milk (I often need a bit more)
2 T oil (I use organic canola)

Combine dry ingredients.  Measure out the milk and whisk in egg and oil.  Pour into dry ingredients and mix together.  Add more milk if necessary.  Cook on a griddle or skillet as you would any other pancake mix.  

I will often mix several batches of the dry ingredients and store in ziplock baggies in the fridge.  

Enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Strategies

In my search for resources on how to cut costs, I came across the book America's Cheapest Family by the Economides (yes, that is their real name).  I picked it up at Barnes and Noble and anxiously began reading the chapter on saving on your groceries.  Their main suggestions were to shop once a month, plan a menu for each week, clip coupons (buy 2 or 3 Sunday papers if desired), and comparison shop (they go to several stores in one day to get the best prices).  Ok, so I have already begun menu planning for the WEEK (couldn't imagine planning ahead for the month).  I don't have the room in my freezer to store a months worth of milk, bread, meat, cheeses and whatever else would spoil mid-month.  I don't get the Sunday paper, nor am I going to pay $1.75 for one when I won't find many coupons in it ( if anyone knows a good source for organic coupons, let me know!)  Plus, coupon hunting and searching through adds to double up on savings to get things for nearly free requires too much of my time (talk about a headache!).  And speaking of time and headaches, I value  my time too much to spend several hours running here there and everywhere to save a few cents on a handful of items.

As I read on in their book, they gave other suggestions for saving money on cars, housing, vacations, shopping for clothes and getting out of debt.  I appreciate what they are able to do, but I felt like a lot of their suggestions just don't fit our lifestyle. Hmmm....maybe I'm not cut out for this "frugal" thing.

Then I began thinking...what exactly does frugal mean?  When you hear about families who switch to the frugal side, there almost always seems to be an extreme cut in cost and crazy measures taken to save a few pennies. So I turned to Webster and his definition is: careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to: using money or supplies in a very careful way.  This is exactly what I am setting out to do.  There is nothing in the definition which suggests becoming a crazy penny pincher.

In the end, I returned the book and vowed to ask myself, "Do I really need this?" before purchasing.  I have put a post-it on my credit card to remind myself to check my "cart" before checking out.  So far, I have only been to the grocery once a week, and I haven't been to Target since the first of the month!  I needed a few things last night for a craft, so I send the husband.  He was in and out in a flash and only came home with what I needed.  I would have stopped in five other departments just to check things out and would have probably come home with double the bags.  This a new strategy to also get out of doing the shopping...haha!  "If you go to the grocery, I won't be tempted to spend more!"  He isn't buying it :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reality of Our Times

In my fourth grade classroom, we have an economics system where students get paid each week with classroom money and part of their pay goes towards "rent" for their desks.  Once they have saved $200, they can purchase their desk and no longer have to pay rent.  They also have the option to purchase someone else's desk so they are now getting a paycheck plus the rent money from someone else.  Sounds easy to do, but also within our system each child gets two opportunities in the year to bring in goods to sell.  This could be candy, trinkets they have lying around the house or some other treat they might find or make.  It has been interesting to see who spends their money and who saves it.  We are nearing the end of the year quickly and thus far only three of my students have purchased their desks! I have watched these students over the months blow all of their money on a sale day...and mostly on junk.  I thought for sure most of my class would be proud desk owners by now, but no such luck.  I began to wonder if this has any correlation with how their parents handle their money?  I can only guess that it is.  I know now more than ever that I do not want to pass bad spending habits on to my own children, and the way they see me swipe my credit card time and time again (and often want to swipe it for me and sign their name), I may have already planted a seed for spending.  There are too many young people these days who do not value the worth of a dollar and feel they are entitled to anything and everything because their parents give them anything and everything.  I don't want my children to be one of those people; I know how to say "no" and my girls accept "no," for the most part  : ).  I just need to learn to say "no" to myself and accept it!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Discoveries

One of my big projects this weekend was cleaning out my kitchen cabinets.  We are having our cabinets refaced (I know, a not-so-thrifty project) and the installation begins next Monday; everything has to be removed.  As I dug deeper into the nooks, crannies and corners, I found things I haven't used in years and clearly hadn't missed.  I started a box for things to keep and things to throw in a garage sale.  Big D also ended up taking out a huge bag filled with trash once the clean-out was complete.  I have more in my garage sale/trash pile than I did the stuff I wanted to keep!  Here's where my discovery was made: For over a year now, I have been begging my husband to put our house on the market.  We are getting cramped, running out of storage space, and I have been feeling like the walls are closing in on us. And if there is ever a third monkey...we'd be a pressure cooker!  He refuses to budge; he "likes our little house."  So my compromise was, "Fine, I'll agree to stay here but only if I can do whatever I need to do to this house to increase storage and make it look the way I want." He was fine with that (hence the new cabinets :) )  But, after cleaning out the kitchen and seeing how much "junk" I really do have lying around, I realized that maybe there is enough room in our tiny house.  I began to look around in other areas and came to the conclusion that if I just get rid of the unnecessary excess, there will be room for what truly matters.  We need more space for the kids' toys...no, just a good cleaning out!  I need more room in my closet and the girls' closets...nope, just too many clothes that don't (or rarely) get worn.  As I begin to reorganize my house, I am beginning to see more space.  And I am beginning to feel ashamed that I have allowed myself to spend frivolously on things that really don't matter and for wanting more just for the sake of having more.  There aren't very many places for us to escape one-another here in our home, but I'm starting to like that. I see that my kids are happy and comfortable here (Big Monkey cries when I mention moving) as this is the only home either of them has known.  Yes, we are tight, but one day they will be gone and I will be wondering why the house is so big.  I am reminded of Doug Sone's lyrics to an old country song: "Love grows best in little houses, with few walls to separate."  There might just be enough room for a third monkey one day afterall.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Mission Begins

For the past six years, or maybe longer, my husband has been getting on me about my spending habits.  We live in a modest but nice house, have plenty in our savings, no debt (other than a car and house payment), and good jobs.  Why shouldn't I be able to spend money??  In order to make him happy, I will occasionally break apart my credit card statement and detail where all my money goes and then try to minimize my spending in certain areas...Target and the grocery top the list every month!  My attempt may last a month or so, but then I find myself right back at square one.  (Big Monkey really needs this adorable outfit...this is the last I buy for her for the season!)  HAHA.....um.....yea..... Several weeks later I'm in Gymboree eyeing their latest collection and just have to have few things. And of course Little Monkey needs something new too! Forget the fact that I have huge tubs of hand-me-downs from big sis.  I almost cringe walking into the house after I've been out "running errands." The conversation always goes like this:
      Big D: More clothes for the girls??  Do they really need them?
      Me: Well, yea.  We are moving into a different season and she does grow!
      Big D: I get that, but you also have stuff in that bag for Little Monkey.  Doesn't she 
                  already have a bunch of stuff from Big Monkey?
      Me: Uh, yes, but, uh, some of the sizes for the season aren't matching up.  She is a little
              bigger than her sister at this age, you know. Besides, she needs new stuff sometimes
              too
      Big D: Whatever.

Never fails.  But I have this obsession over little girls' clothes!  I love for my girls to look sharp, maybe because I have a hard time styling myself these days.  

Then there's the grocery shopping.  After an hour long trip, I come home and as we are unloading the bags I hear, "Don't we already have three boxes of this?" "Why do we need this?"  "You spent what on all this?"  I admit, I am bad about writing down what we need and making a detailed list so when I go up and down the isles I just throw things in the cart "just in case."  I make a once a month trip to Whole Foods to stock up and then once a week trips to Giant Eagle.  Our monthly grocery bill is out of control!  Another part of the "problem" is that I buy mostly organic foods.  Those who know me know I am a health nut, mostly when it comes to what my kids eat. That is something I will not compromise on, however.  As a matter of fact I have made my husband promise that if anything were to happen to me, he would continue to feed our girls organic food.  

Then it happened...I was checking my email and on Yahoo's homepage, there was a news story about a family of four who functioned on $35,000 a year and had money left over to put into savings.  Their monthly grocery spending was $350!  I could easily spend that on one trip to Whole Foods!  While I don't think I could ever get my spending down that low on an organic diet, I was motivated to see how close I could get.  I decided to only buy produce, lunch meat, milk and eggs from the grocery store for at least two weeks and maybe push it to three. (Could I maybe even get to four?)  I was going to plan meals from what I already had stashed in my freezer and pantry.  I took inventory of what I had stocked, posted the list on my pantry door and began planning my first week of meals.  I was successful at the grocery and only bought what was on my list.  After placing an online Gymboree order, I planned next weeks meals again only using what I have on hand.  (What? They had the entire store 30% and I had a coupon! I never said I found frugal yet!) 

So, come with me on this journey as I document my attempts at finding a more frugal lifestyle. (And maybe some other journeys as well.)