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.

Investing in our home instead of a wedding venue Sunday, Mar 6 2011 

Friday we attended a wedding that was at a lovely manor house. I checked their website and saw that Friday was less expensive, saving the family $800. Still, it cost $2000 and that’s not uncommon as a venue price.  We can’t pay that much.We’ve got seven more daughters and two sons to marry off, so we’re thinking hard about how to minimize the pain to our wallet. We’ve thought about wedding locations since they are one of the big three expenses along with food and photography. Why not build equity by doing improvements around our home instead of renting wedding spaces?

If for each child we invested even a thousand dollars, we could add a patio, fountain, gazebo and landscaping and still have money for renting a party tent and buying dishes, glasses and table linens. We could clean and paint as needed to make everything nice for the ceremony and the money we spend would be seen around us instead of passed on to a business. For a wedding at home, it helps that we have a beautiful piece of land in a country setting, but even if we didn’t I’d try to find a pretty venue that wasn’t expensive. Maybe a park, flower garden, community center, church or open field.

We could use the church we attend for free, but there’s a problem. The stage/pulpit area is ugly. There again we could spend money and energy on what’s “ours”.  As members we could invest in the facility we use by donating wood paneling and moulding as well as our labor to make the church more beautiful. We could make speaker stands so that instead of being a prominent eyesore the speakers would visually disappear. We could also move the antique church pulpit we use as a hall table from our foyer to the church and bring in large flower arrangements. Several bolts of tulle and lots of twinkle lights might help out with the fellowship hall. I happened to get those bolts of tulle free when I helped at a wedding and the hosts didn’t want to store them. We’ll have to get a creative genius to give us advice and then get to work. Yeah, more work. When you don’t have money, you usually have to invest time and effort to get what you want; but it’s better to pay as you go and have no debt.

Free Clothes, Part 2 Thursday, Feb 4 2010 

I look at my current outfit and realize I spent $1 on the new cashmere blend socks, maybe $12 on the shoes, and about $15 on the bra & panties. Microfiber blazer-zero, courduroys-zero, long sleeved tee #1-zero, longsleeved tee #2-zero. Some days the socks, shoes and undies are also free and my entire outfit cost me under $10. Some items come from clothing exchanges and others are hand me overs. I’m not a jeans and sweatshirt kind of dresser either. I want to look nice and I wear clothes that would exceed some people’s idea of business casual for my career as a stay at home mom.

I dress my whole family in other people’s cast-offs and I’m delighted with it! For one thing I have friends and neighbors with good taste and ample budgets, so it’s not junk. The other reason I’m delighted is that I’m over the pride thing. If there’s a perfectly good item of clothing my neighbor no longer wants, what could prevent me from accepting it? Nothing!

As a large family there’s an assumption that we are open to hand me overs, but I make sure that people are comfortable calling me when they’re cleaning out closets by opening the conversation, offering to share what I have with them. Here’s an example. My first son came after 5 girls. We were delighted and so were our friends who were generous with clothing. By the time he was in first grade I had 6 big black bags of clothing for a small boy and my next  three children were girls. Letting good stuff stagnate in my house bothers me so I gave the six bags to the lady next door who had 2 small boys. My thinking was that if God sent another son, that would be the miracle and I could totally count on Him to sent the clothes too!

Naturally when we had our second son (and 10th child), God sent the clothes by way of the neighbor across the street who after years of infertility had a son 9 months before mine. He was a large boy who grew rapidly and his family is well off. I have not had to buy my son 5 items of clothing in his six years of life. Hand me downs are often lovely or brand new. I’m glad I have a network of neighbors who help meet each other’s needs. We talk and share toys and tools, take meals to the sick or grieving among us, and clothe each other. Yes, I’ve lost my pride about being able to buy everything my family needs. I’ve gained so much more.

We’re Thriving Near the Poverty Line Tuesday, Jan 26 2010 

Welcome!

Ten years ago I wrote a book called “Get More For Your Money”. It was self-published and I remember coming home with cases of books thinking “it will be so embarassing if I die with these books still in my basement!” Fortunately, I sold them all. Unfortunately, I sold them all. Now there’s a financial crisis and masses of people are at last willing to learn how to be frugal. A reprint is in the works.

My family has been living on one income for 26 years. This year it is a low income. My husband works in home construction and had his income cut by a third. But underemployed is better than unemployed!  I like to say we’re “thriving near the poverty line”. The only way we can live well without much money is by spending it only where it counts and getting creative for all our “wants”.

I want to encourage anyone who is finding it hard to make ends meet.  Your clothing budget can be nearly zero. Your food budget can be about $2 per person per day, and I’m not talking white bread and kool-aid! If you cut spending drastically, your dollars are available for housing, utilities, insurance and other essentials. It is hard to be poor. It means you can’t just throw money at a problem and do it the easy way. Every event or need means a little extra thought, planning and work. But being debt free is better than doing things the easy way. For our family being frugal even when we had extra money meant that when our income was cut, we were OK. We just needed to keep doing what we knew….don’t spend money on anything that isn’t a bill.

How do we dress a large family nearly for free? Our church hosts a clothing exchange twice a year. Everyone brings clothing they no longer want. Volunteers sort it by size & gender during the five days of set-up and shop for free. On Saturday we are open to the public who come and take whatever they want, as much as they want. What doesn’t get taken is donated to charity.

If there’s no exchange in your area already, maybe you could host one. A church, garage, or community center would be a good location. You’ll want helpers. It could be a neighborhood, work or church project. You just need space, racks & hangars, tables and signs. You’ll find that people have nice things to donate. We’ve all got clothing that we’ve never worn and it’s great to share it at the exchange.

Next post….food, my favorite place to save money!