by Jill Cooper
Whenever my daughter Tawra talks about how to live frugally, she can always count on one type of feedback — from people who say, “You donâ€™t understand what itâ€™s like. You have young children and not teenagers. Teenagers cost more!” Most of the advice and tips that Tawra shares come from me. I have raised two teenagers on a very minimal income. My main goal in raising my children was to teach them to become responsible and productive adults. By the time they hit their teen years, they were contributing to the household income, not depleting it.
I have never understood why people always say “wait until you have teenagers”. I waited and the huge cost that I had heard about never materialized.
My house payment was the same when I had babies as it was when I had teenagers. If the house payment changes, itâ€™s not because of the age of the children but because we want a house that we think is better than the one we already have.
In all my years living frugally, I have found that some things are worth buying new. Even though I often recommend shopping at garage sales and thrift stores, there are times when you don’t really save anything buying an item used or cutting back on something. I have tried to figure out how to save money using cloth napkins instead of paper ones, but I just haven’t been able to justify the effort when paper napkins are so inexpensive.
If the effort to make a less expensive item useful exceeds the value of the savings, it is not worth buying something used. I have put together a list of some of the things that I buy new and some of the things I try not to buy new.
Things I will buy brand new or name brand (I usually try to make sure it’s on sale):
by Jill Cooper
We live in a society of extremes. People seem to be extremely in debt, extremely overweight and extremely disorganized. people everywhere are trying to come up with new and better solutions to solve these problems but not many of their ideas are working.
It’s because they are focusing on the wrong problem. For example, if your child comes to you and says “I have a drug problem.” You don’t sit them down and say, “Well let’s work on a way to get your grades up and then we’ll work on your drug problem.” How foolish that would be. The real problem is not the grades but the drugs. You take care of the drugs and the chances are pretty good that the grades will come up.
For some of us, instead of focusing on getting out of debt or losing weight, we need to first give more serious thought to becoming organized. Does that sound crazy, almost laughable? Before you start laughing too hard, look at these examples and see if you can relate.
It’s that time of year when all that “free” money starts rolling in. I’m talking about the bonus money, you know — the fun money (otherwise known as our tax refund)! That is the way so many of us think of a tax refund and five minutes after we spend this year’s refund we are already thinking about what we are going to do with next years money.
Many of us look at it almost as if we have won the lottery. We are going to do so much with it and it seems to have such amazing powers. I mean a $1000 tax return can buy a car, furniture, big screen TV, or a family vacation all in one fell swoop. There is almost nothing it can’t do; no problem it can’t solve. It’s our mad money, our fun money.
You can save money on gifts by shopping wisely and presenting them nicely. Here’s a perfect example: One time I found my mother in law’s favorite bath gel on clearance for $1.00 instead of the $8.00 it normally costs. I bought all they had left and then, for several holidays, I made nice gift baskets with new items from the dollar store, yard sales and the thrift store. She would never have known that the $30 value only cost me $5-$7 for each one! Of course, we put the money we would have spent toward paying off our credit cards instead of just spending it.
Listen to what they like, then keep your eye out for good deals at clearance aisles, thrift stores and yard sales. If someone collects something small, make up a nice little gift with several of those small things. Here’s a good example: My daughter collected penguins last year. We collected several over a few months and then made a nice box filled with penguins for her. She never knew and wouldn’t have cared that the cost was only a couple of dollars. It made a huge impression because it was something she liked.
Remember when shopping for gifts, it’s not so much how much you spend but how you present it. If you think about it, when you pay more for something at the store, what you’re often paying for is just the presentation.
Keep your thermostat at 78-82 in the summer and 60-65 in the winter. For most people, this is the other way around. If you currently keep it much lower than this, try changing it over a couple months so you can get used to it.
Move down to the coolest part or up to the warmest part of the house. In the summer move all your beds and/or the TV down to the basement. In the winter your upstairs room maybe the warmest so move up there. Don’t move everything twice a year. We have a bi-level house and immediately after moving in, we realized that even though a bi-level has bedrooms on both floors, it works better for us to live during the day all on one floor. We moved all of the sleeping arrangements downstairs, even though it meant that we used the downstairs family room for our bedroom.
In the summer, open windows in the opposite corners of the house to “draw” the air through first thing in the morning. Then close them later before the heat of the day hits.
Use fans instead of central air or even air conditioners. We don’t turn on the air conditioner unless it is more than 80Â° F (27Â° C)
There are times when it’s tempting to lie, steal or break one of the other 10 Commandments to get a good deal but, in living frugally, we all need to stick to being honest. This is not always easy to do, but I want to give some examples that may help you stay honest. Here are some common tactics that some people use that are unethical and sometimes illegal:
Stealing “Free” Merchandise - This one really irked me! We needed some labels for the business. UPS gives their customers free unlimited labels as needed for packing when shipping with UPS. We purchased labels from a lady on Ebay. When we received them, they arrived from the UPS shipping center. The lady told us that was her “other office”! What she did is take our money and then call UPS as if she were me and have them send me “free” labels. The gaul! I confronted her and reported it to UPS. I should have known it was a “too good to be true” deal! Incidentally, this particular lady had made tens of thousands of dollars on Ebay sales of UPS “free” labels. This is not only dishonorable, but illegal.
You need some pens because you are running short so you take a handful from a store that is giving them out. This is stealing. If you take one, that’s fine. Unless they tell you to take them all, it is tacky to take a large number of them. They’re offering them simply as a courtesy.
Leslie from Rhode Island asks: Where do we begin to catch up on debt when we are behind three months on every day living such as mortgage, car payments, and utilities and IRS payments?
Jill: It is hard to give specific answers to your question without knowing more details about all of your finances. Here are some general suggestions about a couple of things that you mentioned. Some of these ideas may seem drastic, but if you are three months behind on everything including the IRS then you need to take a very honest and serious look at your spending habits.
In order to catch up on past due bills, you not only have to live within your income, you have to live below your income. It may be painful, but you have to figure out how to live below your income at least long enough to pay the past due bills and then to keep current on all of your bills.
If you can’t keep up with your mortgage, then no matter how much you love your home you may have to sell it for something less expensive. The same goes for your cars. You could try to get by with one car. That may not be as impossible as it sounds. My son and his wife both work and often only have one car. She found she could switch to evening hours at her job for a while until they could get another car. One spouse may have to take the other to work for a while. This may not be convenient, but declaring bankruptcy isn’t really handy either. Besides, if you declared bankruptcy and still spent more than your income, you’d end up with the same problem all over again. You could also sell you cars and get less expensive/used cars with smaller payments.
by Jill Cooper
We Americans are proud of our freedom and our opposition to tyranny and slavery, but because of lack of self discipline, most of us are not free at all. We are enslaved by our emotions and our debt. Most of us would never consider agreeing to become indentured servants and yet, by our own lack of self discipline, many of us have sold ourselves into slavery. Have you ever thought about the fact that indentured servants usually had to work 7 years for their freedom and people who claim bankruptcy have black marks on their credit for 7 years?
By now all those well meaning New Year’s resolutions have flown out the window, but don’t despair: all is not completely lost. Here are a few money saving tips and ideas that will get you back on track, save you money and will actually work.
You say “But I don’t know where to begin.” Just begin. Don’t over-think it. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that you have to stop spending more then you earn.
Deborah From Ohio writes: Yes, our budget and debt are completely out of control, but I need some suggestions for a manageable way to open, record, and keep bills in place. My husband and I are both ADHD, so complex or time-consuming is not a good option.
Also, we have private music students in our home every day, so posted on the fridge calendar is not a good plan, either. It has been suggested to me to add a financial tab to the Household Planner, but we leave that available to babysitters and our kids, and that doesn’t really help much with the logistics of the thing. A system has to be out of sight for visitors and clients, sustainable for rather flighty personalities, and certainly EFFECTIVE!
Can you help? This is an area that has always eluded me, but 10 years of marriage, 5 kids, a home studio and a mortgage later, I am just beyond overwhelmed. Please, oh, please, tell me there’s a way!
Jill Responds: Some of the suggestions I am going to give you may take time to accomplish and others you can maybe do right away.