If a lurker faints at her budget...

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2003
If a lurker faints at her budget...
9
Wed, 07-30-2003 - 1:18pm
should she worry?

How do you get back to frugal living without spending hours clipping coupons and making everything homemade? DH and I both grew up in VERY frugal households, so it's not like we don't know how to cut corners--we just don't seem to have the time.

My husband and I work about 55 hours a week each (some weeks more, some less, it can't be planned) and take care of his elderly home-bound mother. In the fall, the time crunch will only get worse as our daughter will have to be shuttled to and from school (no bus service) and we're expecting a new baby. Even now, there doesn't seem to be much time for anything to be planned: I feel like if we could just plan ahead a little, we could save more money. I'm basically forced to stay home a couple days this week so I found the time to make sure all our accounts are balanced and even figure out where the money is going, so I have an idea of where money could be sqeezed from the budget.

There is one additional, guilty, problem. Since DH and I grew up in pretty poor (in the material way) homes, when we know we can cover a "want" we don't really agonize over buying it. We end up buying lots of little things on impulse. I didn't think we were impulse buyers until I looked at where the money's been going. We're setting a REALLY bad example to DD (and future sib) and now I feel really guilty. Fortunately, our time problems don't let us get to the mall often (maybe once a season), but we end up piddling little amounts here and there at discount stores.

So how do you handle not having time and really bad willpower?

Thanks for your advice!

Avatar for mquin73
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 07-30-2003 - 1:29pm
Do you know about Flylady? Alot of people think that she is just for getting your home organized, but I believe that she also helps with time management. Flylady has a friend that helps out with menu planning as well and their favorite kitchen item is the crockpot.

Here's flylady's website if you don't know about her: www.flylady.net

I'm really no help! Sorry!

Michelle


signature 2008

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 07-30-2003 - 2:24pm
Sounds like you have the same problems we have from time to time. I can give you some easy ways to cut -

If both of you are working, it sounds like your convenience items come from take out and dining out. Cut those drastically. One easy way is to spend a little extra at the grocery store buying pre-prepared foods, like pizza, etc. that can be cooked quickly thereby avoiding going out to eat or getting take-out.

Also, try and organize all your errands/shopping into one evening or weekend morning. Get up early on Saturday, do your grocery shopping, dry cleaning, etc, etc. then get home and stay home. Avoid going out to eat and avoid going shopping. We often put a 3 month stop to spending, we say absolutely nothing for the house, for ourselves, etc. the only exception to the rule is anything that needs to be maintained (furnace filters, etc.).

Hope those ideas help, you'll get a ton from others on the board! De-lurk more often!

Mrs.Geo

Avatar for sarahfran
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 07-30-2003 - 4:08pm
Oh, I can completely sympathize!! You're doing well to anticipate problems before the birth of your second child--DH and I didn't realize our financial difficulties until our second was nearly a year old. By then we had accrued massive credit card debt (mostly from lots of $30 purchases from Amazon, Target, and Home Depot, I think) and were way behind with paying bills simply because we had NO time to keep up with anything!

There are different definitions of frugal. I could probably save a lot more money if I shopped better, hitting stores based on sales, keeping accurate inventory of my pantry, clipping coupons, etc., line dried my clothing, and only cooked from scratch. I'd save even more if I cut down all the trees in my yard and grew my own wheat instead of grass, used the cut-down trees as fuel for heat and light throughout the winter, and kept goats for milk. But it ain't gonna happen with two kids, three jobs, and one car!

Things that work for us to keep us frugal in spite of our schedules: be absolutely scrupulous in paying bills and balancing the checkbook--I do it online from work. No one at work seems to care, and it makes sure it gets done on time. Everything else can slide (who really cares if the laundry gets folded anyway?), but the bills have to be paid. On time. Every month. DH and I cut out all luxuries from our budget--no cable, no cell phones, no magazine subscriptions, no Internet service from home, and when our second car died, we didn't replace it. We didn't think it could be done, but when faced with reality, we found that it CAN be done (even if it isn't fun or easy--but our priorities changed when we realized that our finances were a mess). We use an envelope system for regular purchases--grocery and household items. We withdraw the budgeted amount biweekly in cash and keep it in an envelope and use that to pay for all the purchases in the next two weeks. If that money is gone, we don't buy anything else in those categories. For us, this money also covers ANY sort of food, so ordering pizza or stopping for carry-out food isn't nearly so tempting if we know the money will run out. Staying away from stores is a great way to avoid spending money, so rather than worry about saving every penny that we can by going to the stores where things are the cheapest, we make one store run--hitting Wal Mart for household stuff, Sam's for most of our groceries, and a regular grocery store for anything we can't get at those first two places. We buy in bulk to avoid shopping trips since it always seems that every time we go into a store, we come out with things we hadn't intended to buy. That doesn't happen if we just don't go into the store to begin with! When DH realized how many impulse purchases we were making, we got good about not buying things unless we really, truly needed them. We plan ahead by making up biweekly menus and then shopping from those menus. You could spend some time coming up with a repertoire of menus that you know you like and that are easy and quick to make, then draw from these set menus when you need to go shopping, rather than sitting down every two weeks and starting the menu process over. We also keep around some frozen conveniece foods bought as cheaply as possible and we dig into them when we're exhausted and there is no other food in the house.

What keeps us motivated (and gets us motivated again when we start to fall off the wagon, which is inevitable) is knowing that there is an end in sight. In about three years, our daycare costs will go WAY down, our credit cards will be paid off, and my student loans will be paid off (I think; maybe another couple of years on those). At that point, we'll suddenly be in such good shape financially that we won't know what happened to us! We'll be able to go on vacation, go out for dinner, save for retirement and college, get a second car--all those things that we'd love to do and can't right now because we were stupid in the past. Thinking about big long-term rewards keeps us from giving in to the smaller immediate rewards that tempt us every day.

Good luck!

Sarah

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Thu, 07-31-2003 - 9:16am
I have to agree 110% with this suggestion. I went to flylady to help me get my house unser control and it has snowballed from there. I am now spending less than I ever have bc I am more or less (sometimes less than more) organized. Give it a look and see if it could work for you.

Amy

Amy, mom to Em(5) and Casey(2)
Avatar for cl_lfbennett
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Fri, 08-01-2003 - 2:39pm
LOL... I like your heading. It rings true to so many of us. :)

I don't think you need to cook from scratch or cut coupons to be better about your food budget. That is, unless you're super frugal already and need to cut MORE out of your budget. But it sounds like you are going to make a first attempt at it?

Do you eat out or order in a lot? If so, remember that even if you do buy convenience foods at the grocery store, it's still much cheaper than paying for a restaurant meal. Like if you buy those ready-made chicken breasts, slice them and put over noodles and a jar of pasta sauce, it's faster than you could get your purse, drive to a restaurant and wait for THEM to make it. Plus you'll save money. Obviously, it'd be even cheaper to cook the chicken yourself but ya gotta start somewhere.

My DH cuts coupons and we sometimes use them, but I wouldn't think we really save more than a few dollars a month with them. So if you are short on time it's not worth it.

Your time IS valuable, too. When both you and DH work a long week and have other family responsibilities, don't beat yourself up for not making your own pizza from scratch (get a Boboli crust and add your own toppings!) or doing all the other things that you hear of people doing.

Also, remember that being frugal isn't all about money. Sometimes store bought is just fine, but note the ingredients of what you're buying. Most of the frugal things people do are also much healthier and better for the environment. Your kids are better off having a cheese sandwich with a handful of grapes for lunch than eating a McD hamburger and french fries. It's cheaper, healthier and less trash involved.

Hope you find some great ideas and inspiration here!

Leslie

Leslie
cl-lfbennett @ Frugal Living

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-28-2003
Fri, 08-01-2003 - 4:30pm
Lurker and occasional poster here and your post struck a note with me. I too came from a "we can't afford that" home growing up and so did DH. I am more guilty of impluse spending than he is but I have gotten a lot better. I find that the 30-45 min. (more if I'm brain dead) that it takes to write down a menu and shopping list makes it so much easier! When you go shopping try doing it alone! DH's weakness is the grocery store! I can stick to a list if I'm not starving!

And someone mentioned this already but I totally agree: it's still cheaper to buy convenience items in the grocery store than to order out. I buy the expensive frozen pizzas and find they are as good as delivery and still cheaper. I buy convenience packaged foods and still come out better than going to restaurants.

I used to think that to be "frugal" meant depriving yourself and making everything from scratch. Not so! And I figure my time is valuable and if convenience foods help me feel less stressed, then I am less likely to go make an impulse purchase just to make myself feel better! I got in a lot of trouble by doing that in the past. I would slave over homecooked meals every night and wear old and outdated clothes to save money, but then I would get so fed up with feeling like I never had anything nice i would go and make a major purchase (like a new stereo) or a lot of little ones (like makeup, infomercial stuff, or jewelry) to make up for it.

I'm still not as frugal as I could/should be but we're living "within our means" anyway and it's working. There is lots of good advise on this board. Good luck!

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-30-2003
Fri, 08-01-2003 - 5:32pm
Thanks for the advice. Eating out does mess up our budget big-time. So does buying "make from scratch" ingredients that never get made. As much as I hate the idea of convenience foods, I'll just have to read the labels to find the healthier versions and buy them instead. You're right--a ready-made bag of chicken breasts is cheaper than a family run to Wendy's.

And for Flylady, this is so embarrassing, I'm a failed flylady. I tried it three different times, and it's not like I was half-hearted about it either, but it just wasn't flexible to allow for my family. Fortunately, cleaning isn't a huge drain because inbound mil is able to do simple tasks such as the sweeping, dusting, etc.

Again--thank you all, to know that there are others who have btdt and lived calms my nerves.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-15-2003
Fri, 08-01-2003 - 10:53pm
ITA on all of the above posts. Here is an additional suggestions regarding the food budget. We used to eat out a LOT because at the end of the day I do not feel like cooking and slaving over the stove and then cleaning it all up.

First of all, once a month cooking has been really helpful to me. I have never gone all out with this stuff, but rather cook up a really big batch of something with some base ingredient about once a week. The clean up is not bad at all and the cleanup through the week ends up being minimal. Tonight it was beef roasts. I have a big roaster oven that sits on my counter and was working from home today, so I put 4 big roasts in it on slow-cook. I filled it about 1/4 way up the sides and sprinkled with 4 packages dry onion soup mix. After they were cooked and cooled, I sliced them and put them in baking dishes, skimmed the fat off the broth and poured it over the beef slices. The parts that did not slice well, or that fell apart I shredded. This I used with the rest of the broth for beef vegetable soup, or mixed with barbecue sauce for barbecue beef sandwiches, and can be used with brown gravy and instant mashed potatoes for beef manhattans. The slices in broth are simply frozen and reheated. All of this for one evenings cooking, and I will get tons of meals, and I did not slave over it. The only real time I spent was slicing the roast beef and defatting the broth. I have found these to be wonderful time and money savers when I get home from work next week and really don't feel like cooking.

Next week I am planning Meatloaf and meatballs and meat patties all made from the same basic meat mixture to be served as meatloaf, meatballs in brown gravy, meatballs in spaghetti, Meat patties in cream of mushroom soup over noodles, etc.

The next week will be chicken night--cooked ahead chicken breasts, maybe roast 3 chickens for casseroles, etc..you get the idea.

What makes all of this work is that I DON'T cook from scratch each night, I do not have the time or the energy. Also, all of these meals are already mostly assembled and ready to go from the freezer. I may be cooking a lot of roast beef dishes, but I will be eating them over the course of the mext month and already have a supply of meatballs, chicken dishes, roast beef dishes, casseroles, etc... in the freezer, so we have a good variety.

Also, we shop at dollar general when we are in the "shopping" mood. I can feel like I have really splurged and only spent $30 instead of $300.

Good luck!

Torya

Avatar for cl_lfbennett
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Sun, 08-03-2003 - 7:51pm
I've given up on two rounds of Flylady, too. Although, I have kept in mind the major message of it, which is to take small steps. Instead of feeling like "Ugh, I need to clean the whole house." I try to *at least* give it 15 minutes a day. I literally set the timer and say "Ok.. dining room for 15 minutes". Sometimes the time goes off and I'm not done, so I keep going. Sometimes it goes off and I'm like, whew! I'm done! LOL

I seem to find enough time to check my email and message boards each day, so why can't I find the time to do a load of dishes? Haha!

Leslie

Leslie
cl-lfbennett @ Frugal Living