11.15.2010

Budgeting Mama – Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts about how my family found its frugal – we’re spending less, saving more, and enjoying it.

Again, these are things that have worked for my family. Some may work for you, others may not. I’m no expert, just learning as I go.

  • Borrow/trade – If I need to use something only occasionally, I don’t buy it. I’ll borrow it from a friend or neighbor. This concept sounds strange to my generation, and more like something my grandmother would have done as a 1950’s housewife, but it really does make sense. Only mow your lawn once a month, in the summer? Borrow a lawnmower from a neighbor. Need a power drill to hang some shelves? See if a friend has one. Some things make sense to buy, and others will just lay around collecting dust. Some communities even band together to purchase large items that will be communal property – this works especially well for yard maintenance items, tools, and some kitchen equipment. If borrowing doesn’t seem so appealing, consider trading something you no longer use for something you want. There’s certainly someone out there who is the exact opposite position you are – someone who has something you need and wants something you have. We’ve used Craigslist to advertise for trades, and some communities have blogs or newspapers you can advertise in.
  • Clothing swaps/Book swaps/Toy swaps – this works well if you have a large network of people you can tap into. Connect with your friends and get them excited about the opportunity to swap goods. Have them invite their friends. If you have about 15 or more people of various sizes/interests, you should have plenty to swap. Find parents to swap kids stuff, readers to swap books, etc. Set some guidelines for the swap – people can take the same number of things they bring. If everyone has taken what they want and there are items left, there can be a “second time around” where people can go through and grab one more item, and someone can volunteer to take the excess to goodwill.
  • Buy used – Some things you have to buy new. That’s just a fact. Some things you can make or modify, but for many others you can get something used that is totally functional. Usually you’ll get an older model, one that’s got some scratches & dings, something that needs some cleaning. But buying used can save an incredible amount of money, keep things out of landfills, and help everyone out. We’ve bought furniture used, clothes, toys, kitchen ware, pretty much anything you can think of. Craigslist is a great option, as are local networks. Resale shops, thrift stores, and consignment stores are great options. Find the stores in your area and check them out.
  • Join FreecycleFreecycle is meant to be primarily an environmental movement, keeping things out of landfills. People post items they’re giving away (no trades or purchases here) and people occasionally post things they are requesting. You go pick the item up, which often means I’m driving farther to pick something up than I would drive to buy it, but it saves money and ensures that things are truly used up before they end up in the trash.
  • Reduce temptation – internet shopping, catalogs,etc. Use Catalog Choice to eliminate catalogs you don’t want to receive. If you can’t help but looking through the catalogs that come to your door, and if you, like me, always find something you “need”, cancel all the catalogs. This site again is primarily an environmental movement. My friend Corey said something that made me laugh, and reinforced the idea behind Catalog Choice:
    I love living in a country where millions of trees a year are cut down, transported, milled, processed, refined, transported, printed, packaged, transported, and delivered to my mail box as junk mail which I promptly throw into the recycling bin.

If the catalogs aren’t in your mailbox tempting you with their shiny new toys, you can’t spend the money.

Before I had the Pie, I shopped online for best prices, or for fun. Now shopping online saves me from having to get her in and out of her car seat, or for making an entire trip for one thing. The problem though, is that it’s way to easy to throw something extra in your cart. I have tried to limit my online shopping more now, and for any shiny pretty things that ended up in my cart by impulse, I try to impose a waiting period on myself. If I really want it 24 or 48 hours later, and I can justify spending the money, I let myself do it. If a day or two later I can see that I was being impulsive, I delete the item from my cart and go about my day.

  • Buy the best you can afford – instead of buying something cheap, using it and then having to replace it because it breaks or wears out, buy the best you can afford of the things you really need. I cook, a lot. I bake bread and make yogurt. I need good kitchen equipment. I use these things every day, and will likely never need to replace them. High quality items usually come with guarantees as well, so if something goes wrong you may be able to get a replacement. It’s very expensive to buy good things, but some of the things I’ve bought will be passed down to my children or grandchildren. I invested in Le Creuset and All-Clad cookware and Wusthof knives.I use them every day and love them. You can often find good deals if you buy sets, but buying a set is an incredible up-front expenditure. I look for individual pieces on sale or at outlets. I buy a piece at a time until I have the pieces I need – which is not necessarily the same as what would come in a set. Consider sheet sets – I don’t use shams, have a king-size bed but use standard pillows. Buying a king size sheet set doesn’t make sense for me, as some of what I’ve bought is useless to me. I buy good sheets, on sale, piece by piece. Same with towels, camera equipment, or any other higher-end item I purchase new. If a set has the items you need and you can afford it, the per-item cost probably makes the purchase worthwhile. Of course if you can find good things used, snatch them up! Go to a thrift store in a wealthier neighborhood, and you can often find higher-end things that people no longer wanted that are perfectly good.

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