When you have money, you save money Saturday, Mar 12 2011 

I’ve never been so happy to spend money on something I didn’t need yet.

In late August, I called my natural gas company to get their advice on locking in the winter’s fuel price. I had no idea whether to choose a rate lock, a pre-pay or a budget plan.

I learned that if I topped off my tank  in August, the price would be $2.74 a gallon. If I pre-paid my winter’s fuel I’d pay $3.09 a gallon, the sign-up fee would be waived and there would be no delivery fees all winter. Or I could do a rate lock where I’d pay a fee for the lock (about $100) and a delivery fee each time they came out plus the cost would be $3.19 a gallon. A budget plan would spread the cost over the entire year, not just the heating season.

So many choices! I talked it over with the nice gas company rep. Since I had money in the bank, I decided to spend now to save money. I pinch pennies all the time to have them pile up to dollars. Having done that, I got to make my dollars save us hundreds more over the winter. Now that gas prices are soaring I’m even more thankful that I could spend money to save money. If I didn’t have any money it would spiral the other way. You don’t have money in reserve, so you choose to let go of the least amount possible today. You choose the greater cost per gallon and a payment that comes later. If you don’t have the money when it comes due, you pay late fees. There is an upward spiral and a downward one. If I say no to lots of little expenses like a new DVD, fast food and clothes, I can get on the upward spiral.

All it took was about 10 minutes on the phone to save over $300. There’s a benefit of being a stay at home mom! You can be the family’s financial gate keeper. Your input into the family is felt in many ways and finances IS one of them.

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Frugality- what is it really? Wednesday, Mar 3 2010 

Frugality often evokes images of deprivation. I think that if it’s done right it should evoke images of security. It’s not being miserly; it’s making good use of resources. It’s not doing without; it’s having enough that you can be generous. It’s not saying “no” to everything: it’s making sure you can say “yes” to the important things and that you have the money to make it happen.

If I buy ice cream at half price, I can buy twice as much and have friends over for sundaes.

If I don’t have debt, I can donate to the needy.

If my bills and taxes are all paid in full, I can sleep at night.

Frugality means security to me. Everything we own is paid for except for the mortgage. We live on less than we make. While that does mean saying no to some wants, it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. It does mean our fun has to be cheap or free.

This is the snowiest winter in DC history. There’s lots of free fun in making snowmen, sledding and having the neighbor kids over. We have a fun tradition in our neighborhood. There’s an annual summer picnic which we go to, but we’re the hosts of the “every seven years blizzard party”. We’ve had 3 of them now, and they happen to occur every seven years. We call all the neighbors or send the kids out all bundled up carrying invitations. Everyone brings whatever they can put together and we have a pot luck dinner.  When we first moved out to the country it would be 2 to 3 days before a plow would show up, so we were truly snowed in. Now the road crew gets to us in one day but we still have the party. I spread towels all over the foyer floor for all the boots and people trudge over and follow the path we shoveled down the driveway.

More cheap winter fun is decorating a gingerbread house. Our gingerbread was free because the daughter who works at the bakeshop brought us their unneeded house parts after Christmas. You could buy kits on clearance at an import shop or “mart” (Wal Mart, K Mart, Target) after the season too. It wouldn’t be cheap to make gingerbread or icing, but if you get it on clearance and add candy you bought after halloween when it was 79 cents for a huge bag it’s pretty cheap fun. Graham crackers make good little houses too. Necessity may be the mother of invention but laziness leads to some pretty good inventions too! We’ve discovered that you can use hot glue to put your house together!  Do this for the kids so they don’t burn their fingers. It’s faster, easier, cheaper and stronger than icing. Since the house goes up faster, we get to the fun part faster….the candy!

More cheap fun at home is a movie. Taking our family to a theater would cost a week’s grocery money. Movie night and popcorn costs under $5 if you use the library, Redbox or a movie you already have. Sign up at Redbox for free movies the first Monday of every month. Keep a VCR machine around and you can get loads of movies at yard sales nearly free. That brings up the topic of staying just behind the technology curve which is a blog for another day.

Read aloud. It’s not just for bedtime stories, and it’s not just for little kids. We’re currently reading throught the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Wonderful fun for everybody in the family.

If the power goes out and you’re forced into playing board games or telling stories, you remember how much fun it is. You can do it even if the power is working!

Keep your money, you need it for a bunch of un-fun stuff. Play and talk and laugh. Really be with the people in your lives. That’s real treasure.