...because we all have our motley moments!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Economics 101

You could spend hours analyzing news reports on unemployment rates, the cost of a barrel of oil, and the number of foreclosed homes, but you don’t have to be a financial wiz to know times are tough - just look at the price of a gallon of milk. In my former life, I was paid to analyze revenue and expenses, and account for inflation and potential growth for our company, so here is my “expert” and humble opinion. While our country may or may not be facing a recession, there is a big gray economic depression looming over my family.

In these tough times, we are determined to pay what we owe to all of our creditors and live within our means so that I can stay home with our son. Lately, living within our means is really cramping our style, and so I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my grandma and how she survived the great depression. She saved everything; nothing was trash. Bacon grease was saved in an empty coffee can to fry something else. All scraps of food went into a five-gallon bucket on the back porch to feed the chickens. She made her own jelly and canned everything that her garden produced. When she made a cake, it was from scratch, and many of the gifts she gave were handmade embroidered pillowcases or crocheted blankets. Even though she was very young during the depression, she never changed her habits.

I have also been spending a lot of time asking God to help me be a good steward of the money we do have. Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” It is still hard for me to accept what is a need in my life and what is a want, but God has been so generous to us. Here are some ways we have been enjoying his glorious riches on a shoestring budget.

1. Be creative. I decided to make my son’s Halloween costume this year even though I really didn’t know how I was going to do it. He wanted to be a pirate, so I was able to buy 1 yard of felt for $3.00. One yard was more than enough for his hat and patch leaving plenty left over for something else. Grandma would be proud.

2. Reuse. I wanted my son to have a swing. We left his baby swing behind when we moved, and I promised myself he would have a new one here. A local tire store let us have a used bald one for free, so all we had to do was buy the rope.

3. Treat yourself at home. We were lucky enough to find a lime tree in our back yard, so as the limes ripen, I am making some lime shake-ups just like at the fair. I love sweets, so I decided to make my own candy instead of buying it. This weekend I made some caramels to go with some apples, and some fudge.

4. Go green in cleaning. I found a great website today that gives instructions on making your own household cleaners out of cheap and environmentally safe products. These are the things my Grandma used to clean with. Check it out: http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/120/diy

5. Reduce (this one isn’t for the faint of heart). Being the primary toilet paper user in our home, I have decided to limit small jobs to two squares. When I use the soap to wash my hands, I try to use a smaller dab. If I can cut my use in half, I am basically cutting prices in half too.

I hope this will give you some ideas for living it up at home, and if you visit my home, you might want to bring extra toilet paper.


Bryssy said...

Great post, Pam!

I am also trying to be a frugal Home Economist. I am always looking for ways to save a penny.

Teresa and Rachel got me into couponing. I have been saving a lot with those, although it does take some time.

I love to can (I just did Pumpkin Butter) and almost always do homemade gifts! Anyone who has a fruit tree can count on me to take any extra. Ginger has guavas that are almost ripe and I'll be making guava jelly from that.

Last Christmas I made a cranberry themed gift baskets for our family members. I made homemade cranberry/chocolate biscotti and cranberry jam with bread in a jar for a New Years Brunch. They also got a gift certificate for a 1 free rental at Blockbuster. It cost about $5 a basket and everyone really loved them. I love book sales (great gifts for kids) and often like to make something, like a personalized t-shirt. I also see nothing wrong with re-gifting.

I shop flea markets and garage sales frequently. I have gotten many deals this way (especially on furniture). I have learned to recover chairs with fabric from curtains (ask me about the Eleanor Roosevelt chair) and all kinds of stuff like that. I find a ton of toys and books (some nice and some not so much) at the flea market. Our Step 2 roller coaster and slides came from the flea market. Plastic is easy to sanitize. Plus, when the toys break, I pitch them and don't feel bad.

For Halloween, I just pull out the dress-up box. It's full of costumes and clothes items that I pick up at second hand stores, flea markets, and garage sales. Last year, THE Princess was a Southern Belle for the Little Kidz Fall Fest, a bride at school, and Cinderella when we went trick-or-treating. I highly recommend a dress-up box. (I also keep a couple of older big curtain panels in it - they can be made into almost anything!!

We also pay an extra 1/12 on our mortgage payment every month toward the principal. It's not a lot, but it will turn our 30 year mortgage into a 19 year mortgage. I sure will feel wealthy then!!

Great post, Pam. I can't wait to hear more frugal ideas.

Pam said...

Wow - great ideas. I especially like the one about the mortgage. I looked at your blog last week, and was inspired to buy the pumpkin. I don't have a food processor, so mine doesn't look as pretty as yours did, but it still tastes great. Have a great Monday!

Donna said...

Pam, you had me laughing out loud over your t.p. invitation! Too funny!

I learned that you can also cut your soap usage in half (or more) by using the foaming handsoap dispensers. I got a cheap one with the soap in it (probably storebrand) and when it runs out, all you do is put about 1/3 liquid soap (I buy the antibacterial kind in a large container...not the white, creamy kind, but the translucent type) and fill the rest of the way with water. Mix it up and voila! Homemade foaming soap. The kids do better with the foaming soap anyway, since it rinses off completely. They sell fancy dispensers in home catalogs (I think I saw one in Pampered Chef's catalog), but the storebrand kind work too.

I also love getting hand-me-downs for my kids. We don't need to dress our kids in the latest (EXPENSIVE!) fashions...they're cute no matter what!

And you already know about Once A Month Cooking...budget friendly AND a time-saver! Our meals work out to an average of $5-6 to feed the whole family. That's cheap!

I'm trying to turn off the A/C unit here as soon as the outside temp. falls to about 82. When it's breezy, it's so lovely to have the windows open!

These are the cheap years of raising kids, when most family fun activities are free (taking walks, going to the park, the library, etc.), they don't care what brand clothing they wear, and they don't need pricey sports equipment, technology, or cars. The most valuable thing our preschoolers require of us right now is our time and attention. I've got plenty of that. My goal is to find frugal fun with my kids every day...they have no idea we're saving money when we choose to walk, rather than drive! They just think it's fun!