Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Getting By Without Buying

The comments we have gotten have stimulated a lot of thoughts about how homemakers used to "make it" and yet devote themselves to the home, while their husbands sought employment.

If you are new at home and feeling confused about making ends meet, you will be surprised at what you do not have to buy, erstwhile making life at home quite beautiful. Eventually when you can afford it, you may want to spend more money, but while you are trying to limit your spending, here are some ideas.

The things that are most pressing, financially are the rent or house payments, utilities, and car expenses and food. There are ways to reduce the cost of all of these.

Find a creative real estate agent who really is an enthusiastic possibility thinker, and ask them to turn your rent money into house payments. By the time you have paid rent for many years, you could have been using that money to make house payments and build up equity, which is a great investment. When you pay rent, you are pouring money into someone else's investment, and you cannot re-sell and get your money back. People who own houses will be much more secure than people who rent.

Fuel is another problem. Natural gas was supposed to be so great and so inexpensive that every American could have it. What we are finding out is that it is costing sometimes more than $200.00 a month for heat and the other things that require propane. You can use less of this if you will use space-heaters, which are small enough to move from room to room, and sometimes cost less than $50.00 at discount department stores like Wal-Mart and ShopCo. If you have no choice but to use this fuel, find ways on the web of making it more efficient. Some people claim that although they pay a big price for it, they are still shivering and not satisfied with the results.

If you go back to the old fashioned way of shutting off lights and turning off radios, computers and other machinery, you can cut back quite a bit on the electric bill. When we were young, we were shown the meter on the outside of the house and told that every time we left a light on, the meter would run, and add up more money that we would have to pay.

Car expenses can be a big drain on the homemaker's budget. If you are really hurting, you can reduce the expenses by sharing a car. In marriage, two can live as cheaply as one, if they do not insist on having two of everything. Instead of cutting back on the amount of expense to run a car, couples sometimes just think they have to bring in extra income. You can actually have money in savings if you cut down on your vehicles. The combined cost of registration and fuel and repairs (flat tires, engine problems, etc), can really be as high as house payments. I am not suggesting that everyone give up their second car, but only if you are really going under and cannot find a way of paying it and feel you will have to go back to work in order to get it. Most full time homemakers eventually do have vehicles, so do not worry that you will never have one.

If you are really under stress financially, it makes sense to sell of things that you are not using. Also, you can give up the newspaper delivery, which can cost sometimes over $100.00 a year. Who needs all that bad news, anyway? Some of it is not even fit to read. There are many alternative newspapers that cost much less, and no one ever went without information just because they didn't get a newspaper. Word of mouth is actually faster than the news these days, anyway.

Magazine subscriptions can be limited only to those that are really helpful to you, and for the new homemakers, I would suggest a good homemaking magazine that really cares about helping women cut down on expenses and prospers. I have saved favorite magazines from days that I had a subscription, and over the years, have enjoyed recycling them. Each month I get out that month's two or three magazines from my collection, and put them out on the coffee table. It is enormously entertaining to see them again, and after a year, they seem like new.

Food is another expense that is overwhelming, so let me give you a good tip here that will help you tremendously: Shop the outer perimeters of the grocery store where the fresh things are, and fix the highest quality food you can.

Live food, or food as close to its natural form as possible, is much more beneficial to your body than processed foods. Processed foods are foods that have been altered by putting them through a process and adding things to them. Live food will give you the optimism and sense of well-being that you need to balance your body and your mind and function well at home. Yes, a bunch of grapes can be high priced, but it is a lot cheaper than being sick. If you feel you just have to make a pie, buy fresh apples for it.

If you cannot always get fresh brocoli, your next best choice is frozen. Sometimes the frozen is even better than the fresh, as it is frozen when it is fresh, and the fresh produce does sit in the store a few days. However, in general, it is better to eat the produce than to eat out of cans. The food inside of cans and packages is dead, and the produce is still live. Choose the firmest and nicest smelling fruit you can find. If it makes your mouth water when you get near it, it is probably pretty good.

Produce combined with dried grocery items such as rice and beans and whole grains, makes very good meals. Buying fresh may seem expensive, but if you eat fresh, you will find you don't have cravings for the expensive junk foods that are available. People complain about the cost of fresh produce, and that salad items are so high, but think nothing of paying five dollars for a bag of chips, which does not have the life-giving nutrients they need.

Someone asked me about vitamins and all I have to say about it is this: Be careful that you don't substitute vitamins for good eating. In order to sell some nutritional products, advertisers will often say that the apples and pears and brocoli and carrots in the grocery store are inferior and you would have to eat 20 pounds a day to get the vitamins your really need. People then buy the vitamins and then avoid the fresh food, buying instead the chips and the pop. Pop is hard on the kidneys and chips and snacks will stuff up your body and make you tired and lethargic. It is still better to eat the fresh produce, even it if it comes from the grocery store. And fresh is better than frozen; frozen better than dried; dried better than canned.

Type in "frugal homemaking" and find ways to avoid shelling out money. If you can possibly live without it and not perish, then do so. When ever I have to pull in tightly and not spend, I find great inspiration thinking of the pioneer women, and my own mother, who didn't have all the niceties of life, and yet lived beautifully, from their own resourcefulness. Though they were poor, they left behind wonderful creative hand work such as doilies and quilts. They knew what was beautiful and would not spend money on anything that was not worthwhile. .

Buying pretty things is a lot of fun, and ordering them is great, but if you want to cut down on expenses, try sending a package of things you don't want, to a friend, and getting the friend to send a package to you. It is a lot of fun and gives you something to look forward to when you might formerly have used shopping as entertainment.

We don't need a lot of clothing if we are staying home. I have one pair of boots to wear outside, and a pair of shoes for indoors, and another pair for church and going out in public if I need them. I have two skirts for winter and two jackets, with two blouses. I have several summer cotton dresses that I sewed myself, and something made of sturdy fabric for working outside. I do not have closet space for many clothes, so I wear them out and then get new ones.

Lots of people recommend going to yard sales. They are a lot of fun and get you out of the house. Children love them, because sometimes there are things for 25c and under a dollar, even a dime. Most yard sales now have a box of things for free, and just before they are going to pack up everything and close, they may give away some things. While you may not want to hang on to the items forever, you can get some things that will tide you over temporarily. Besides that, the shabby look is considered quite upscale these days, so you need not feel inferior about having some of the more worn items. Even worn curtains, when washed and ironed, are quite charming. Sheets are often sold because the owners got tired of them and upscaled their collection. You can dye old sheets and have a lot of fun using them to make things for your home, even without sewing.

No one starts out "on top" and most people have stories to tell of how things were when they were just beginning to establish their home. If we all started out with new things, we wouldn't have stories to tell.

You don't have to buy all those expensive cleaners, or even cough syrups. Recipes for these can be found online, by typing in "homemade (whatever)" and it is actually very satisfying to make a few things. They aren't as caustic as comercial things and don't wear out the clothes as fast.

Even in your tightest stage, financially, you will be glad you invested in retirement funds and other investments. Find one that you only have to put a little bit in --say 25 to 50 dollars a month, and go from there. It will be worth the sacrifice.

Practice not spending. When you see something, think of ways you could substitute. I've been to the grocery stoe and when I saw the price on something, I would think, "Hmmm...I think I could find a way to make my own crackers this week. (yes, there are cracker recipes)." Those crackers become a family favorite that you are "known" for, years later.

You are probably wondering just how much work this all is and who has time for such things, but when you take into consideration how much time it takes to go to work and come back home, you will see it is actually less effort than going to work, and is more fulfilling.

Lastly, there is the old fashioned way of bringing in more money with what you have. I just recently heard that you could make $50.00 for a bucket of pine cones that were not opened, if you cared to do the work. This is excellent activity for children, and can teach them a lot. Some companies buy these so that they can plant tree farms, or send them to other places that order them. If your husband is under a lot of stress, and you still want to make money, choose something that would interfere the least with your home life. In other words, not pet sitting or day care or typing for other people. Do things that do not interrupt the routine of the home; something almost unnoticeable.

Depression era quote:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.

Remember that although everything is only a dollar at the dollar store, if you don't spend it, you can have it, and a dollar saved, is a dollar earned.

The husband has to cooperate, too. He cannot go on buying all the "toys" he wants and he will have to do his share to cut down on expenses, whether it be finding work closer to home, taking homemade lunches, and not buying the latest cool shirt or jacket on the market. Our purpose in life is not spending and living it up, but to work together for the ultimate good.

There are lots of blogs out there with great ideas that you can tap into, and lots of great sites.


Anonymous said...

< Magazine subscriptions can be limited only to those that are really helpful to you >

Have you seen magazines today that you would recommend subscribing to?

Anonymous said...

This post is something I need to hear! I struggle with overspending. Mostly on clothes and salons.

Have you ever heard the saying, “What you did to get your man is what you need to do to keep him"?

Personally, I don’t like it when my finger and toes aren't done. I cannot do them near as well as professionals. I can't wax my eyebrows as good as they can either. For a manicure/pedicure/eyebrow wax + tip you are looking at $50 minimum.

As far as clothes I worry that he will grow tired of seeing me in the same 3 or 4 outfits day after day. Shoes I'm a tad more flexible, I have only I few I wear in winter. I've not had good luck with thrift stores, most stuff is way out of style, has holes, or stained.

I’m torn between wanting to keep my appearance up and wanting to save.

I really liked the post you had that suggested plan to keep clothes you buy for 7 years. I know my mother bought a wool coat for $200 and had it for 20 years!!! That is $10 a year, plus about $10 in dry cleaning a season. Not too bad. That is really good advice.

Lydia said...

When a husband knows his wife means well for him by watching the money that he earns, carefully, he usually can tolerate seeing her in the same clothes. These wear out and are replaced more often, so it is not like she would be wearing the same blouse all their married life.

Jenn said...

Wow, great post.
I had learned all of these things the hard and long way! LOL This is great information, and all in one post! I'm going to tuck it away to share with those just starting out. :)


Lydia said...

As far as commercial publicatons go, I never subscribe anymore. Instead, when I am in the grocery store, I look through some of them and hand pick one if I like what is inside. Usually ina 12 month subscription, you will find there are mostly fillers and some issues that do not suit you. When you hand pick the issue, you may find yourself skipping some of the months, because you might not like the contents. I usually enjoy a spring issue and maybe one other--it depends on what is in it. I only buy a magazine if it is worth saving. These days they cost as much as a book.
Miss Catherine on the Zanga site has a publication that you can subscribe to that deals only in homemaking and family life. I enjoy Romantic Homes once in awhile but I look through it first and determine if it is the quality I want. I also like some of the Reiman publications like Taste of Home. That company has 5 or 6 different publications, one of them being Birds and Blooms, and another Backyard Living. Some of the decorating magazines such as Cottage Ideas or others, have a recipe or a craft in them, as well.

Anonymous said...

one thing concerns me on this post. I read it most everywhere, that everyone should own rather than rent. We just moved (due to my husband's job) a year ago and had to sell our old house, we made a little profit on it, to make more we would have had to make major expensive repairs which we did not have the time/money for. Now, in our new area, to buy a house would absolutely mean my taking a job.....home prices here are absolutely out of reach. We have a wonderful apartment, reasonably priced, and with actually many more amenities which help with housekeeping. Should I go to work just to say that we are homeowners? And hope that it will pay dividends in the far future?

Lydia said...

As I said, just find a helpful and sympathetic realtor who wants your business bad enough to turn the rent money into house payments. If rent is reasonable and you can't get into a house, you may have to put it off until a better opportunity that is fitting for you, comes about. Even with things being tight, and with debt, owning is a far better investment. It is not worth it to go to work to get it though, if it means you will neglect your family.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon.,
It sounds perhaps as if you are more concerned about your appearance than your husband might be? Have you asked his opinion? Personally, if I spent as you are suggesting on all of those things I would have to go out to work - those are not things we can afford. Sometimes, in order to stay home, one must cut out such things for the good of the family in general. My husband still loves me in spite of not having new clothes, or the latest hairstyle or painted toes or fingers. I believe in having a nice appearance, but those are things that are worldly in nature if you really think about it. Do you really "need" those things or is it that you "want" them? 1 Peter 3:3 "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes."

God bless, L

Anonymous said...

This is a great post as usual!!! I love this site, truly it is such an encouragement. Buying a home is so important, I would give up everything... new cloths, hair cuts, furniture, anything, BUT going to work outside the home, to achieve, because in the end it will give you freedom.... and there are always bargains to be found, yes a Realtor is so, so, important, get one you like and be LOYAL, do not change from one to another, that is the only way they will work very hard for you..they need to trust you as well as for you to trust them, it is highly unfair for an agent to work for months searching and showing properties and then for a client to go off and write an offer with another agent, be patient, if you are serious that agent will do their best... and you will find that undermarket home.
As far as magazines, I do the same and have old ones that I bring out they are a joy. I also go to the Library and check out the magazines there....