A household budget can be divided into expenses that are consistent and those that vary. There is some silly-sounding saying about changing the things that you can, and leaving everything else alone, which is not so silly, when it comes to managing finances, I do not think. Every month, you have certain payments in predictable amounts…mortgage or rent, car, phones, utilities, insurance of various kinds, hopefully. Presumably, these were researched well originally and selected because they constituted the best deal, leaving no real room for savings now. Where you can make gains, now and each month, is with the items in flux. And, with implementing some standard spending practices.
Here are some of my favorites:
1. Do not keep more than three dollars and forty-seven cents in your wallet. (Always have a nice wallet, though, something swank, purchased on sale.) If you have only three dollars and forty-seven cents in your wallet, you will not spend it, because it is not enough to buy anything. If you do feel the lurch to buy something, you will have to use your debit card (never the credit card; this is left at home in your sock drawer). Using the debit card is more of a process…take it out, swipe it, punch in the numbers, sign the screen, say “OK”…and people think twice about more of a process. At some point, they might change their mind, because there is time to do that. And, it feels funny to swipe a card for something that costs three dollars and forty-seven cents, so you might just forego the thing. You save money in the long-term when you save small amounts, regularly. We all know that.
2. If you are given gift certificates, put them all in one place and designate them for certain future purchases. We saved Grandma’s holiday presents from December until July, and used them for back-to-school clothes. Thank you, Grandma.
3. Shop different stores for different items. Target beats most mainstream supermarkets on shampoo, but not on dog food. And Princess Twyla loves her Iams. Minichunks.
4. Buy generics or store brands when the quality is the same. Paper clips, legal pads, sandwich bags. One plate scrubber is not going to be far superior to another. In fact, buy these things at a “99 cent” store. And scissors. They have really great scissors.
5. Every now and then, sell something. With growing kids, this is easy. Use the money to buy them something they might like.
6. Learn to sew straight lines. Buy a machine. My mom bought one, a Singer with its own console, when we kept giving her seams to repair. She wound up becoming a master seamstress, but she was genetically disposed, having a dressmaker for a father. That is not necessary. You can stick to tears and hems, even curtains and tablecloths.
7. Paint. When you want to redecorate, find a color that you like and paint a wall, or two. Move around your furniture. It will feel new. And, now that you sew, you can make pillows.
8. Make presents and cards, when you can get away with it. Last year, we made brownies for the teachers and put them in nifty containers. The teachers loved the effort, and we got to eat the extras. One of the teachers didn’t get as many brownies as the others.
9. When fruit starts to look not like fruit, cut it up, put it in a plastic zipper bag, and freeze it. Use it for smoothies later on.
10. Do your own nails, fingers and toes. If you have daughters who like to do this, make it an event, with snacks. If you have boys who do not like to do this, just do the snack part.
11. Make sure your kids, whichever gender, know what you do to save money. They will learn about problem-solving and creativity, and will appreciate the value of things and the work it takes to have them.
12. Be a thoughtful splurger. Spend on the important things, which you can do if you’ve done your own toenails. Celebrate accomplishments, rites of passage. Or buy something fabulous because it’s Thursday. Or because you love your kids to Neptune. Or yourself, for that matter.