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Day 12 Frugal Living Challenge: Frugal Children

March 1, 2012

“The families that follow the principles of frugal living realize the benefits of the lifestyle — it saves money, it’s often the better choice for the environment, and it allows us to focus on people rather than things.”  -Andrea, Frugally Sustainable

That is the truth!

it doesn't have to be expensive to be entertaining

We don’t watch TV a great deal, but when we do and I see the ads that push not just what they are selling on my kid, but the idea that she might not be valued socially without it makes me want to turn off the TV and puke. It is hard to explain the intricacies of society, marketing and ethics to a five year old. But we have managed to help her understand that just because someone – anyone- tells her she ‘needs to have’ something, doesn’t mean she actually needs it. That is for her alone (with mommy and daddy’s help now, of course) to decide. We love technology- I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about that- and we will purchase new tech items ONLY if it eliminates the need for multiple other objects and makes us more efficient. For example, I held out on an iPhone for a loooong time just to be sure that it was really something I needed, not because everyone around me had one.

On the Frugally Sustainable Day 12 post Andrea gives us a few pointers to remember while teaching our children about living frugally. She gives examples and discusses each point a little more in depth to give you a better idea on how to keep focused.

  1. Lead by example
  2. Teach your children money management
  3. Turn off the TV, computer and radio
  4. Set limits on gadgets and electronic game usage
  5. Have fun together!
  6. Spend time with like-minded others

Daily Goal: Raising frugal children can be a counter-cultural experience, but the rewards are great! List out and share with us the benefits that you’ve seen evidenced in your children. What are your tips for raising children to value frugality?

Me: Our little one knows already to try to reuse something if possible- she sees it as a creative challenge. If it can’t be reused, she heads to the recycle bins. YAY!!

She always ( I mean ALWAYS) asks me if we ‘have a coupon for that?’. That’s a pretty good thing, except it can get a little weird at awkward moments.

Munchkin has a piggy bank- and puts all her money in it. She knows that saving a little at a time will earn her big rewards in the end.

A Brief Delay

February 27, 2012

I haven’t given up on the challenge! We had a health issue in our home to deal with, and everything is pretty much back to normal. I’ll pick up where I left off in a day or two. Thanks!

Day 11 Frugal Living Challenge: Going ‘Car-lite’

February 23, 2012

Yes. This means what you think it might mean.

Sell a car.

Walk.

Ride a bike.

For the eleventh day of the Frugal Living Challenge, Andrea of Frugally Sustainable entreats us to think about alternatives to driving our cars. Everywhere. She has an informative interview with Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.

Andrea: In your opinion, how has our (American) love-affair with cars shaped our culture?
Tammy: I used to see cars in this way: they symbolized freedom and wealth. And that view was shaped by very sexy advertising messages. Advertising and consumer culture has created an illusion that everyone “needs” a car. However, in my experience owning a car saddled me with debt, constrained my life choices and hampered my health.”

That is so true! This is a huge challenge – to break away from our reliance on just one means of transportation. The interview continues to address questions like:

  • How do we get started?
  • What are the benefits?
  • How do you do this with kids?
  • How do you do this in the suburbs?
  • How can you do this with little to no public transportation?
  • How does going with one, smaller car set you on a course to financial freedom?

Daily Goal: Plan a time in the near future to do a tiny experiment: Keep your car parked in the garage and try going to your local grocery store through an alternative method (i.e. on foot, by bike, or by bus). Foot, bike or bus not an option? Plan a trip into town and coordinate a carpool with a friend or neighbor. Side note: If you take your bike,  it has a rack, a carrier, or a basket so you can bring your purchases home.

Me: We have made small trips on foot or on bike before to test this out, and I can answer some of these questions as well from my own personal experience. If you live in the city, you are set for almost immediate success- congratulations! If you live in the suburbs, well, not so much. All is not lost, it can be done in the ‘burbs, just on a smaller scale.

We live in the ‘burbs. We can make small trips to the drug store, to get hair cuts, donuts (when we feel extravagant), or even to the doctor. We are lucky to have a small shopping center about 3/4 of a mile from our home with sidewalks (it wasn’t always WITH sidewalks!) But that’s about it. We are still dependant on two cars. My husband commutes 45 minutes in the morning and an hour or more in the evening. The up-side is that both our cars are paid for, but the fuel costs are horrific. And no, we do not have monster trucks or other giant SUV’s just because we live in Texas.

Can you do this with kids? Maybe. We have a little girl who just turned five.  When we would try this with our daughter a couple of years ago, we put her in a chariot on the back of my bike and I pulled her. Now that she is bigger, she can ride her own bike. That presents its own different challenges. Part of our trek is on a very busy street, and although there are sidewalks, most drivers in this area are NOT used to pedestrians. So until she is a little bigger, we aren’t 100% comfortable having her ride her own bike on those errands. Walking makes it a little slower, but we feel a little safer. Safety is always our primary concern with our daughter.

We see the benefits of extra exercise and less fuel dependence when we make these on-foot errands. It’s different- and very liberating. The downside is that there is little public transportation near us. Having children makes it more challenging and the frequency of these car-lite trips is sporadic. It’s good, but in the ‘burbs, we have a loooooong way to go.

 

Day 10 Frugal Living Challenge: Stop Spending Money Trying to Impress Others

February 22, 2012

At the beginning of her post on this day of the Challenge, Andrea shares a quote that I had to share as a Facebook status because of it’s truth:

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”  ~Will Smith

Amen to that! I think the reason we as individuals continue to do this is because there is an innate quality that has persisted in our society to continually raise our social status. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it can be so detrimental when we do it for all the wrong reasons. Example: Saving or spending money for a better/ more reliable car = good. Saving or spending  money to buy a more expensive car because your neighbor or family member just bought one = bad. The key here is doing what is right for you, not for anyone else. You have to understand PERCEPTION. There is no REAL pressure for you to buy anything. It’s all in our heads.

It is no understatement that it is the unseen qualities of a person that impress us. Andrea gives us a great list of thoughts to help us realign our minds (and pocketbooks) with what is at the heart of what impresses others the most:

  1. Give freely of your time and energy
  2. Prioritize family
  3. Discover and develop your gifts
  4. Put off consumerism
  5. Speak encouraging words
  6. Find time to listen to others
  7. Be inspiring!

Daily Goal: Write down ways in which you can stop spending money trying to impress others.

Me: A few years ago we were stuck firmly in that trap! When we were getting married we thought we had to do just what everyone else was doing (so it seemed). So we wound up with a huge house in the ‘burbs. Not a smart choice on our part. We would do better closer in to the city, in a much smaller house for our little family of three. But for the next few years, we are here, and there are some things we do WITHOUT trying to keep up with the Jones’.

  1. We don’t need to buy new, big stuff for entertainment. One night recently we had the best time (with the TV off), trying to see who could throw a cat toy over a ceiling fan blade. And it was a homemade cat toy at that. Tons of laughs, no cost, and no competing.
  2. We repurpose clothing. If there is something that can be reworked for longer wear, I make it. There are some things I can’t do, or don’t have the patience to do- like make new bras.  There is a national department store who recently started slashing their prices by at least 40% near us, so if there is something I need new, I start there on the seriously marked down racks. Brand names are not important to us.
  3. I make homemade gifts. This is usually for adults because they more easily understand the effort that went into it. Kids are constantly marketed to for the newest, biggest toy and typically don’t see the value in homemade. I was getting close to being crazy Aunt Clara from A Christmas Story for a couple of years. Remember the pink bunny suit? Yeah, I got a couple of looks like that.
  4. We try to control our impulse spending. Not to beat that topic to death, but when we started to seriously control our impulse purchases, do some research first on what works best for US, and wait before we buy, we started saving money.

Day 9 Frugal Living Challenge: The 30 Day List

February 21, 2012

It’s all about self-control, people.

Today’s topic continues with controlling the impulse buy. When you are presented with something you know is an impulse buy (something that is not absolutely necessary), stop what you are doing and write the idem on a “30 Day List”. If you still have the desire for it after 30 days, you are golden. This is how Andrea of Frugally Sustainable suggests using the 30 Day List:

  1. Anytime you feel the urge to spend on anything other than necessities (i.e. excess clothing, another pair of shoes, the newest techno gadget, or a new car) force yourself to stop. I mean…even if you’re in the middle of the store, already holding the item in your hand, put it back on the shelf and leave the store immediately.
  2. On the other hand, if you are shopping online and you feel the urge to spend, close the laptop, take a deep breath, drink some water, and then go take a walk outside.
  3. When you return home from the store or your walk, use My 30-Day List and write down the name of the item you want to purchase, the price of the item, and the date you placed the item on the list.
  4. Print your 30-day list and post it somewhere in plain view… beside the family calendar, on the door of the refrigerator, or on a bulletin board in your office.
  5. Now, for the next 30 days, you will need to consider whole-heartedly whether or not you really want to spend the money on purchasing the item. But no matter what, don’t buy it until after the 30 day time period. It’s also important that you use this time to also research free alternatives for the item on the list.
  6. If, at the end of the 30 days, the desire to purchase the item is still there, then by all means purchase it. But here’s another rule, when you go to buy the item, you must use cash.

Daily Goal: Begin today using the 30-day list for non-essential purchases.

Me: I think this is awesome! It seems to be working for me- when I spilled my guts about discussed my impulsiveness with crafting, this is just the thing I need to use to 1. not waste money, 2. keep excess clutter from ever crossing our threshold, and 3. practice some self-control.  So now that I’m more than interested in making  things like salves, balms and soap, all the supplies that I need beyond what I already have in the house go on the 30 Day list. I want to make sure its something that I really want to do. Right now it makes sense- the homemade products are far better for you and cost less in the long run, and I’ve practiced a few recipes with what I have on hand and it was great. So I think it’s a good idea to move forward. Hopefully it will still feel the same way in 21 days!

Day 8 Frugal Living Challenge: Controlling Impulse Spending

February 19, 2012

A few years ago I would have bought whatever I wanted at the moment if I had the money in my pocket. Or worse, I would have pulled out the credit card if I really wanted it…

Fast forward to today, and that is a totally different picture. It’s not that I don’t see things and not want them sometimes, but my ability to control myself has strengthened so that I can examine if it is something I truly need, if I can afford it, and if it will enhance our family’s life in some way. Something I recently had to come to grips with was my addiction to crafting. While many awesome and useful things came out of that, there were some wasteful things as well- and that is hard for me to admit because I can’t stand waste. So I have limited myself to visiting the craft store once a month. If I can make it a whole month without going, I earn my own private bragging rights that I went a whole month without. It doesn’t earn me an extra trip. If I don’t already have the supplies for a new project I want already in my craft closet, oh well!

In the eighth post of the Frugal Living Challenge, Andrea gives us several suggestions on how to break free of impulse spending. These include:

  • Refuse: just say no, man!
  • Avoid the mall, big box stores, and other shopping centers
  • Stick to your list
  • Reduce your time in front of the television
  • Be aware of Internet marketing
  • Limit magazine reading
  • Monitor your urges

Daily Goal: Determine your strategy for controlling impulse spending.

Me: I suppose I did this a bit at the beginning with my craft spending. Every other area of my life is easy to control as far as impulse spending- groceries, clothing, and stuff in general is easy to monitor. I really have to watch the crafting. For example, right now I really want to invest in some supplies for making my own salves, conditioners and deodorant. When I say ‘invest’ I mean like $25. It’s not a bank breaker, but it is money nonetheless. I know the math breakdown in the end spells out a substantial savings over time and the quantity produced will be greater than what I could coupon for in the store- not to mention the advantage of using healthier products with reusable packaging. BUT, it borders on the whole crafting thing, so I am making myself wait. I know our home will not run out of any necessities while I am in the process of controlling the urge. I have a list of all the items I need to make these products and have added up the cost of each to be sure I have a realistic figure.  I am making myself wait one month before making the purchase. If I still see the value in a month, I give myself permission to make the investment. I know it sounds really weird. But it is so easy to purchase one more thing… because I’ve been a good girl…because it is used in all these other things that I want to make… it is a good price… See the slippery slope of impulse craft spending and all the justifications that can be used? Yeah, I should have probably joined some sort of Crafter’s AA. Pinterest for me is like an alcoholic in Spec’s. My mantra is that crafting works for me, I don’t work for crafting.

Day 7 Frugal Living Challenge: Clutter Free Living

February 18, 2012

If there is anything in this challenge that I would say we all can ‘do without’, it would be clutter!

It is the bane of my existence, causing me to waste time and energy, and ultimately a massive source of frustration. On this day of the Frugal Living Challenge, Andrea presents us with a great interview with Courtney Carver of Be More with Less. They address issues like getting started, what being clutter-free as to do with being frugal, dealing with ‘invisible clutter’ like email, the benefits of living without clutter and preventing it.

Daily Goal: Create a plan for de-cluttering.

Me: I’ve been purging my house for almost two years now. Our clutter started within the first year of moving in. It didn’t seem so bad at first- we went from an apartment to a four bedroom home and it felt so empty. So things filling the house felt like a good thing. We were grateful for the furniture that was offered to us by my mother. But then it transitioned into the things she was purging from her home… knick knacks, small collections of this and that… and it was all stuff that I grew up with, that felt comfortable and normal to have in my home. Slowly we realized that our home was not the place for 90% of it. We didn’t or couldn’t use it or it was just not something we cared to have out and look at. So I packed it up in boxes. And there it all sat for a few years, just taking up usable space. I wanted to have a room available for guests to come and actually enjoy staying in, not just getting the job done with an available bed… so I started to reexamine all of this stuff. (Not that we actually have guests, mind you. That is a whole other topic about having too much house to live in.)

It has been a slow, ongoing project that has been gaining traction for the last few months. I’ve been going through everything, from those knick knacks to paper (oh God, paper! I found stuff from the early ’90’s when my husband was in college!) to kitchen utensils. Always with the question of  ‘do I really need this?’. I have problem areas, like this evolving pile of stuff that is in a corner of our office. It’s where all the soon to be purged items go- for Craigslist, FreeCycle or for DIY projects. At least we use the office as an office now- for a few years it was really just an over-sized junk closet, making a bad impression on any folks who came through our front door. Ugh. It was so embarrassing. Thankfully it’s not like that anymore (well okay, except for the Purge Pile). I guess when that pile in the corner of the office is gone, my job is done and it will all be about maintenance. That day will come this year- that is my goal.