Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Spin Cycle- Budget Version

This week's Spin Cycle is all about being thrifty.  How do you stretch a dollar and save a dime?  I used to be quite good at this (it's amazing how you can live on near to nothing when you have to).  Lately, I've been a little remiss with my budgeting.  Sigh.  Ok, let's be honest, lately I've been a little remiss with a lot of things.  2010 might be my "gimme" year.

Anyhow, there are some basic rules I do live by, though.  Mostly pragmatic stuff.  Here they are:

1)  Be honest with yourself.  Know what you are willing to be cheaper about, what you can give up and know when you're telling yourself a lie.  If you know you like ice cream, throw a gallon in the cart on shopping day.  You can have a little each night.  That's far better than getting to the end of the week without a treat and feeling like you "deserve" a treat for being so good.  Then you're apt to take the kids to the Dairy Queen which will cost way more than the 1/2 gallon you skipped at the market.  And if you don't like cheap ice cream, take the plunge and buy the nice kind.  It's your treat, after all.  

The same holds true for your kids.  There are some bargain brands that look and taste the same and some don't.  I'd rather buy the middle priced yogurt at Trader Joe's and know that LG will eat the whole thing, then the cheaper version at the local market where he will eat about 1/2 and not want more.  He doesn't like bargain brand crackers, either.  It doesn't pay to save the 50 cents if it's something no one wants to eat.

2)  Pay attention to what you're doing.  I can't stress this enough.  Don't just buy the cheap dish soap because it's only 99 cents.  Pay attention to how far it goes.  If you use the whole bottle in a week, try the more expensive stuff.  Maybe it will last longer, and be a better value in the end.  I've found this to be true with dish soap, shampoo and regular soap.  

Also pay attention to the effects of your stuff.  I noticed that some bath soaps leave more film on the tub.  Then I end up cleaning the tub a few times a week, forcing me to use more tub cleaner.  Which is a hell of a lot more expensive than just buying the slightly pricier, less filmy bath soap.

3)  Pay attention to the "recommended amount" on the package.  Especially on expensive items like toothpaste or laundry soap.  Most people (read- kids) use way too much.  You're only supposed to use a pea sized amount of tooth paste.  A dime sized amount of shampoo (and use it right- you're supposed to start the lather before it hits your head, it makes it go much further!).  The directions on my front load washer say I'm only supposed to use the HE soap, but the amount for 1 normal load.  The cup that comes on the detergent is 4 loads if you fill it to the top.  I'd be using 4 times the laundry soap if I didn't pay attention to that kind of stuff.

4)  Don't wait until you need something to buy it.  I bought both boys winter jackets for next year just a month or so ago.  Landsend had a huge end of season sale.  I got the two jackets for $30.  Brand new, good quality jackets.  When I got them, I tried them on to make sure they were big on them (hopefully they'll both grow over the summer).  Then I put them away.  For the boys, I have a box for each size.  When they get to that size, I pull out the box.  No worry about forgetting I have something only to buy it again.

I do the same for PB and myself.  If I see a golf shirt on a really good sale on the GAP rack?  I put it away for when PB tells me he has a hole in one of his.  A nice winter sweater on sale at LL Bean in May?  Mine.  If you wait until you need something, it will inevitably be full price and then you either have to suck it up, or buy a bargain brand.  I'd rather buy high quality in the off season, personally.

5)  Sign up for all those silly "clubs".  The Dunkin Donuts Coffee Club, the Starbucks Savers, all that silly stuff.  They often send coupons for either free or seriously discounted stuff.  Then you have a treat for yourself.  Frufru coffee is not in our budget, but if I have a coupon for a free one?  The mocha's on the menu.

6)  Have a back up plan.  We take LG to McDonald's as a huge treat maybe once a month.  But there are definitely nights when we're running around like crazy when it would be really easy to throw a happy meal at him.  Instead, I stock up on Chef Boyardee when it's on sale.  I know, I think it's gross, too.  But PB and LG will eat it happily.  And if I get it for 79 cents a can?  Far cheaper than a trip to the fast food places.  Same goes for PB and I.  Trader Joe's has some pretty decent "ready made" meals for two in their frozen section for less than $5.  $5 is a lot less than we'd pay eating out.

7)  And last, but not least, give freely when you can afford it.  I know times are tough, but somewhere out there they are tougher. It's not enough to just count your blessings.  You can be someone else's blessing. 

And that's about all the advice I can offer.  Head over to see Sprite's Keeper and see how the other folks are living large on less.


VandyJ said...

I like your suggestions, I often scour the clearance racks for clothes for Turbo and I ahve all of his outgrown clothes in the attic for Bruiser. I have only had to fill in in the areas where the clothes were sparse--the kids were born in different seasons. I am also a skilled second hand shopper. In the bigger cities south of us you can find name brand stuff on the cheap at the second hand stores--you just have to look for it.

Jan said...

"It doesn't pay to save the 50 cents if it's something no one wants to eat."

I have to remind Beloved of that fact ALL the time, especially in regards to shopping for The Very Picky Young One.

All very good points!

Sprite's Keeper said...

Amen on #7. I'd rather be generous in my giving and eat a sandwich than waste the money on a restaurant meal. (With the exception of once a month when John and I eat out on Parents Night Out.) I find myself being very thrifty on everything and living in a climate where it's almost always short sleeves, I kind of relish the fact that I don't need to stock up too much on long sleeves, but I watch those sales anyway since Sprite may outgrow the few warmer clothes she has and usually snap up a few when they all go to clearance in April. :-)
You're linked!

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I do the clearance rack thing too. I didn't plan on it, but when Jonathan was about a year old I snapped up a 2T coat for $25 that was normally $60 or something. Then later I found some clothes and threw them all on lay away at K-Mart and there ya' go..he had clothes for at 3. This year I didn't do so well and next paycheck I need to head to K-Mart to see if there are any winter clothes on clearance! Great ideas here!

The Crazy Coxes said...

I love your budgeting tips. I totally agree withyo - that it doesn't matter how cheap it was if no one will eat it or the product doesn't work.

Great ideas!

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

This is good advice. You are always so freaking wise! I always buy fresh fruits and veggies, not really looking at the price because it's healthy and they'll eat it. So it's worth it.

blueviolet said...

I rarely come across tips that are new to me, but you did it. You had really good stuff here. I never realized that some products probably aren't lasting as long because they're too cheap and you use more! You are a smart one! I've been buying dollar store stuff but yep, I do have to use a ton of it!

I find that store yogurt is not as good also. It has to be Dannon or Yoplait for me, and even then, I prefer Yoplait.

only a movie said...

You reminded me of some other stuff I do... i am all about the end of season clearance and putting away for next year. And when my boy was small, I loved the Lands End Closeouts.
Also - I meant to write about laundry and dish soap. One of my summer projects is to make my own.
Great spin, MB.

Dawn said...

I hear you on the end of season shopping - I do that for my kids for the next year. And you make some very good points about how sometimes the 'bargain' brand isn't really a bargain if you have to use more or no one will eat it.

Great tips! I love the angle on putting the (almost) half gallon in the cart rather than dropping a load in the local DQ/Baskin Robbins. Words to live by.

Patty O. said...

I think your advice to pay attention is priceless. It is amazing how much money we can spend without even realizing it if we aren't paying attention.

And I like your advice about being prepared. This month I have been making double portions of dinner to freeze, because I know once summer hits there will be so many nights when I don't feel like cooking. This way, I won't run out to Subway so often.

CaJoh said...

I tend to forget about #4. I should look around for off season clothes more often. I do recall getting a great winter coat for half the price that way.

I tend to buy certain canned goods for those times when I just don't feel like preparing a meal. It's good to just open up a can of tomato soup and eat it, or have breakfast for dinner.