Sunday, September 2, 2007

How to Save Money

A friend and I were talking the other day about the sacrifices we made to stay home full time with our children. D was in medical school when we had O and I had been the sole breadwinner. I decided to stay home full time with her anyway because, honestly, the thought of leaving her with someone else almost killed me. I was 33 years old. I chose parenthood. Our parents' generation maybe had kids because that's just what you did, but for me, it was a choice. And I chose to be the one to actually do it.

Of course, we struggled financially. Really struggled. We lived on student loans at first and a ridiculously meager resident salary later. We knew though, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We knew that eventually, D would graduate from medical school and residency and finally, finally make some decent money. There are certainly some items on this list that I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing had we not had that light at the end of the tunnel. But it took us until O was five years old to start making money and in the meantime, we had another child. It was not easy. Not easy.

Here's my advice on how to do it:
  • Do not have cell phones, cable, or magazine subscriptions.
  • Do not buy organic produce or free range meats.
  • Do not make car payments. Drive only old, used cars.
  • Do not hold life insurance policies.
  • Carry only the most basic phone service and the most basic car insurance (only what the state requires).
  • Make no contributions to savings or retirement plans.
  • Buy all your clothes resale or at Target and Walmart.
  • Shop at Walmart (even though it may be against your values).
  • Trade children's clothing in at a local resale shop for store credit to buy more clothes when needed.
  • Use cloth diapers or buy generic.
  • Do not buy kleenex, disposable wipes, paper towels, cotton balls, or q-tips. Use cheap, bulk toilet paper for all of those needs and wash your own washcloths for wipes.
  • Make meal plans and use every single ingredient in your fridge and pantry.
  • Never, ever waste food. Ever. (I was absolutely psychotic about this). If the bananas are going, make banana bread. If you don't have the rest of the ingredients, mix with another fruit or juice and make smoothies, or pour into popsicle molds and freeze for dessert.
  • Do not shop until there's absolutely nothing in your pantry and fridge. You'd be surprised at what you can whip up from nothing. If it's rice and beans for dinner or homemade bread and frozen green beans, that's what it is.
  • Do not buy anything that's not on sale and/or the generic brand. Go to three stores if you have to, but don't waste a lot of gas doing it.
  • Do not buy cleaning supplies. Only buy what you absolutely have to. I'd use water for windows and mirrors, and Bon Ami for everything else. Bon Ami costs about $1.00 a can. I'd buy only Bon Ami and generic dish soap, and splurged on dishwasher soap. Some weeks, I'd hand wash the dishes since I didn't have money for dishwasher detergent.
  • Do not buy anything extra for the house. If you don't truly need it, don't buy it. That goes for clothes too.
  • Do not replace anything that breaks if you don't absolutely have to. Most likely you don't really need it.
  • Whenever you're running short on cash for groceries or gas for the car, hold a garage sale. There's always something you can sell (we did this a ton).
  • Do not ever use credit cards. Ever. If you don't have the cash for it immediately on hand, do not buy it.
  • Do not join a health club, or buy memberships at local zoos, botanical gardens or arboretums.
  • Do not repair anything that breaks on your cars. If you don’t truly need that door handle or that a/c, don’t pay for it.
  • Do not pay for childcare. Ever. Join a babysitting co-op and swap kids for free.
  • Never go out to eat. Cook every meal at home—all three meals of the day.
  • Do not buy anything that’s a convenience food or comes in convenience packaging.
  • Make homemade Christmas cards and gifts. Have your children create gifts for people who will appreciate them. Make homemade thank you cards.
  • Buy bulk whenever possible, but only if it’s truly a savings and only if you think you’ll truly use all of it.
  • When debating between two food items that are both on sale and/or the same price, read the label and pick the one with the highest protein content. It will keep you satisfied longer.
  • Create a list of things you want or even need but can’t afford and ask for these things as gifts. Be as practical as possible. Include on this list grocery store gift certificates, and Target/Walmart gift certificates. Don’t ask for anything for yourself. Make it something for the house or extra stuff for the kids, e.g. clothes, swimming lessons, etc.
  • Don’t pay for haircuts. Cut your husband's and children’s hair yourself and don’t get your haircut---wear ponytails.
It wasn't easy. And I wouldn't recommend it for the faint of heart.

But it was worth every minute!


Jen M. said...

Kristi I loved this list. I want to link to it in a later post. It is so very true. And why not continue to do many of these things? Life is too complicated - I want to simplify!

Pol* said...

Great List! I stumbled onto your blog through another stay-home mom's blog that I found because I am a stay-home mom living frugally too searching for kindred spirits! (sorry for the run-on sentence).
I will be back to see how you do it. I have been home raising my 2 boys with hubby bringing home the bacon for almost 7 years. I went back to work part time after son #1 and found it wasn't worth it emotionally and the financial gains were marginal.... POWER to the full-time moms!