Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Practical Matters -- It's Not Just the Big Things

(I'm getting ready to let my old website expire.  We started it nearly 15 years ago to earn money for a family trip to Hawaii to attend Cali's college graduation.  Before the neighbor dies, I plan to save a few articles from it and post them here.)

Ande and Ty slurping up a spilled orange julius.  Waste not.  Want not.

Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. An estimated 2000 people died that day as the voluminous ash, cinders, and gasses escaped the volcano. Normal city life—a chained dog, a baker’s oven with loaves baking, a woman rocking in her chair, children running—were all stopped. It was like a sordid game of freeze-tag where the people and their activities were literally stopped in their tracks by the heavy ash.

However, history shows that the citizens of Pompeii were doomed even before the volcano blew. Lead pipes carried water throughout the Roman Empire and Pompeii, by current standards, had an elaborate plumbing system. Today we know that lead contaminates in drinking and bathing water can adversely affect almost every organ and system in our bodies causing mental illness, stunting, blood disorders, and eventual death.

This scenario can be similar to our spending habits. It’s not just the big things that can put our budgets in a state of emergency, but small, routine, daily habits as well. N. Eldon Tanner said: “I have discovered that there is no way that you can ever earn more than you can spend. I am convinced that it is not the amount of money an individual earns that brings peace of mind as much as it is having control of his money. Money can be an obedient servant but a harsh taskmaster. Those who structure their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances. They are in bondage.” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, 81.)

Setting and keeping a budget helps us control our financial resources. One effective and basic budget formula is “10-10-80”. Mary Hunt, of Debt-Proof Living, said, “Give away 10 percent of your income (to defeat greed), save the same amount for the future (to eliminate fear), and live on 80 percent (one whale of a challenge).”

Ten percent of your income is easy to compute. A quick slide of the decimal point and you know the amount to give to charity and to save for your future. Living on eighty percent takes more computing and practice, and in some ways, creative maneuvering. There are at least three ways to make your eighty percent go farther:

Buy it cheaper.

  • Shop sales. Watch for seasonal sales and stock up. This is especially simple when buying groceries and clothing. Baking items are on sale in November/December when baking is heavy and money is short—be prepared to take advantage of the sales during this time. And, of course, buying clothes near the end of the season when the store is making way for new merchandise is always cheaper, too. But, you can also watch for “moving” sales (when stores sale their merchandise cheap so they don’t have to move it to a new location), promotional sales, or grand opening sales. Make it a habit when you’re clothes shopping to peruse the sale racks. I have one friend who always checks the prom dress sale racks whenever she is out. She has picked several dresses up and then sold them to us very inexpensively.
  • Comparison shop. With the internet, comparison shopping is easier and cheaper than ever before. Some stores, such as Wal-Mart will match competitors’ prices making it possible for you to save time and money when shopping. 
  • Buy used. Again, the internet has opened this field wide with on-line auctions, overstock and half-priced sites. Don’t forget garage sales, consignment shops and want ads, too. 
  • Change brands. Many products are manufactured at the same plant but packaged differently for the various brands or companies. Don’t pay for a name, pay for a product. Be flexible and willing to try various brands.

Make it last longer.
  • Maintenance. Take care of the items you have whether appliances, vehicles, equipment, clothing, furniture, or even food. Replace gaskets, change the oil, store yard equipment (mowers, rakes, etc) out of the weather, mend and iron clothing, and preventing spoilage or mold are all maintenance procedures.
  • Waste not. Learn the mantra “Waste not, want not” and then mentally teach yourself that wasting is painful. You’ll be amazed how many people you can feed on what you used to throw away! 
  • Use and reuse things. First it was a shirt, next it is a rag to dust with. First it was a ham dinner with all of the trimmings; next it is diced small and added to scrambled eggs for breakfast. 
  • Worry less about fads and popular trends. A few years ago the going trend was to wear several layers of clothing at once. It was not abnormal to see a young person wearing five different shirts at once. It didn’t take long to figure out who had contrived that fad: the clothing companies along with some help from the laundry detergent companies. Fads are business strategies to get consumers to consume more. Be sensible and don’t buy into fads.

Use it less.

  • Walk, ride a bike, use public transportation, coordinate rides, or ride in a car pool. These are almost considered novel ideas today, but they were expected and necessary not long ago. Determine how many cars your family really needs and get rid of the extras—it will save on insurance, gas, and payments.
  • Drink water instead of soda. Eat junk foods less and healthy foods more; they cost less both in medical/dental bills as well as in the grocery bill!
  • Use cold water more and hot water less when washing clothes.
  • Trying using less laundry detergent, fabric softener, chocolate chips—everything. If you cut back too far (your kids complain about one chip per cookie) increase it back to the amount that is acceptable to you and your family. Don’t be afraid to cut back to save money.
  • Replace expensive habits with less expensive ones. (Satellite TV too expensive? Replace it with trips to the library for books, movies, and audio tapes). 
  • Modify hobbies that consume finances to hobbies that produce finances. (Instead of paying for a round of golf, consider giving golf lessons. Instead of racing cars, consider fixing cars.)

Remember, it is not the amount of money we earn that brings peace of mind as much as it is having control of that money.  Watching our spending on the little things can help us prepare for the big things in our lives.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I've been quietly reading your blog for I don't know how many years. I've enjoyed immensely your posts and have learned much about what it takes to raise a good family and how to be a better wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, among many other things. Before your blog ends I want to thank you for being such an inspiring example and teacher. Linda C.