August 20, 2012

Money Saving Rules

BS01178_1 I thought that it was time for a money saving post.  Lately I’ve been really paying attention to the older people in my life and how they interact with the world around them.  In particular many of the lessons that I’ve been picking up have to do with money and being thrifty.  Older generations have experienced high and low points in our economy and have learned a thing or two about how to ride those waves.  I hope you’ll find the list below helpful in your household, and if you see tips that I’ve missed, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section so that all might benefit.

1.  Waste Not, Want Not—In my opinion, this is the most important rule in saving money.  I can tell you story after story of having observed this rule in action—from my grandfather building their house with reused materials from old job sites to cooking with older women who saved vegetable peels to later make stock. 

I find that I’m much worse about being wasteful when I have a lot going on—busy days, traveling, times of illness.  For me the goal is to be mindful of waste and to realize that it is a choice.  It isn’t just a choice that exists in the moment of throwing something away, though.  It begins when we make a purchase.  I choose to buy a big bag or jar of something instead of individually wrapped purchases because of the trash aspect.  I decide whether or not to purchase a larger amount of food at the grocery store based on whether or not I really think we will eat the leftovers. 

How does reducing waste help with your budget?  The answer is many, many ways.  Look at any area of your budget where you are struggling and make a point to be conscientious this week about what you use in that category.  If for example, your utility bill is high, watch how often you leave something electrical running when not in use, how much water you run when showering, etc.  If your grocery budget is a little on the high side, pay attention to how often you throw food away and what you are throwing away.  Make an effort to work on those areas first and then move on to another part of your budget.

2.  A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned—I remember cleaning out my room as a young child with my mother.  I was sweeping up and almost threw away a penny.  She said, “Granddaddy Clyde would have said that every penny you save you also earn”.  My granddaddy was a self made man who worked for the money he made in his life, and had he been alive at the time, she knew he would have told me to not squander what I have—whether it is a penny or a dollar. 

Couponers know this rule, and we live it each time we choose to use a coupon for a product that we are purchasing.  It is always amazing to me when I offer a coupon to someone in the aisle and they refuse it.  Really?  You don’t want to save 50cts even when I’m spoon feeding it to you?  Would you walk by two quarters on the ground and not pick them up? 

You can apply this to almost every area of purchase.  When we have a purchase planned, we’ll often take a little time to check prices at a few stores, look for coupons or sales, and ask for discounts.  This usually doesn’t take very long, and we have saved anywhere from just a few cents to hundreds of dollars by taking a minute to do so. 

3.  Look at the big picture—This is an area where I see older adults really shine.  Purchase quality that will last.  Think about your long term goals.  Consider how your life will be different in another 5 or 10 years. 

By thinking about your purchases, you are going to be more inclined to buy quality items that will last ten times longer than cheaper ones.  My dad talks about having shoes older than I am almost ever week, and he’s right.  When you buy good shoes that can be repaired and shined instead of needing to be thrown away when they tear apart, you have made an investment. 

When considering your long term goals, think about money.  Would I rather have a (fill in the blank) now or would I rather invest the money and have more financial security later? A lifetime of those decisions adds up.

Think ahead.  My grandmother, who was a real estate agent, encouraged us when we were looking for our home to watch for homes with 2 or more full baths and 3 or more bedrooms.  She said that even if we decided to move sooner than we thought, the resale value would be higher than if we bought a smaller house that just fit the two of us.  While we don’t have a grand estate by any means, we have a comfortable home that has fit our family nicely.  Other friends I know didn’t have the same advice and have either had to move or expand their homes when they had children. 

4.  Repair instead of purchase new--I have a friend whose family lives in one of the nicest neighborhoods in our town.  The kitchen while quite nice is a bit of a blast from the past.  The stove was probably purchased with the house, but I’ve eaten many a delicious meal at their table.  Her mom had an argument with a repair man a few years ago because he said that he couldn’t fix their washing machine because parts are no longer made and she would have to buy a new one.  With a little research, she found the parts and hired a different repairman to do the work—she showed him! 

This rule is a take off of rule number three because most of the items that can be repaired were ones that were made well in the first place.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case with products made today.  A few years ago, I watched the You Tube video called The Story of Stuff  that beautifully illustrated the why behind products not being made as well.  Do a little research, check Consumer Reports and other reviews, and ask friends what they think of products. 

Finding people who know how to make repairs is becoming more and more difficult, but it is worth the effort.  I find that word of mouth is the best way to make those connections.  My cousin first told me about the cobbler down the street, and I have referred countless people to him. 

5.  Share—You could replace the word share with barter, swap, or loan if you prefer, but I like the word share because it brings with it a sense of community.  Hubby has some power tools that he was given as gifts and hand me downs, and a few weekends ago he was outside making some cuts with the saw.  The college guys across the street came over and said that they had been working for a few hours to make some cuts with a hand saw and asked for his help.  He cut their work time dramatically and it only took him a minute or so to help them. 

When I came home to write this post, my neighbor was outside picking up crabapples off of the ground.  He said that his aunt had been making crabapple jelly and told me to hold on a moment.  I ran into the house and grabbed a pint of the applesauce I recently made, and we both smiled when we made the exchange. 

By getting to know your neighbors, participating in your house of worship, being friendly towards others, it makes your life richer.  Now don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that you get to know someone with the underlying motive to get something out of them—that’s not what friendship or community is about.  It is about working together and giving a darn about your fellow man.  It is about helping someone else out or sharing your abundance with someone else who might enjoy it or need it.  And if you ask me, our world could use a little more of that these days.

I hope you’ll find these tips helpful.  I’m sure there are many more that could be included, and think of this as a good starting place.  Happy Saving!