Sunday, December 19, 2004

Home Economics and Life Lessons

I think we all have a pretty basic idea of what it takes to manage money correctly. If we fail to do so, we will get slapped up the side of the head by reality sooner rather than later.

So, once in a while we need a refresher on handling money wisely. Here's some tips:

1. Jimmy Carter was right. If you're cold, put on a sweater. I have a programmable thermostat on my furnace. Most of the time, I have the heat set at 69 degrees. But since I've been working from home the past two years, I sometimes give in to the temptation to go punch it up a few degrees when I get chilled. Duh. Why was I surprised to find that my gas bill went up from $41 last month to $101 this month? Yeah, we've had some cooler days. But it's my own dang fault that I upped the gas use. I would have been more comfortable and saved some money if I'd followed Jimmy's advice to put on a sweater. Socks help too, and I have scores of socks. Pretty cheap warmth if you ask me.

2. Cook at home. Fast food has little going for it. It's fast. You get full. You get fat. And your car gets full of litter. Buy groceries and use them. It would not be hard to spend $10 a day on fast food. Spend that at a grocery store and you can eat well for three or four days. You'll eat better, be healthier and your house will smell good because you cooked.

3. Shop well. I've been without my grocery store (well, it's not really mine, it's just the one closest to my house) for months. So I've really cut down on my shopping trips because it's 4 miles to the next store. Good news! My local store reopened under different ownership on Friday! I had to go check it out. Apparently thousands of my closest friends also had the same need. I got the last parking place on the last row of the lot. Inside, it was elbow to elbow. I started having a panic attack when I was trapped in the meat department with no room to move any direction. Somehow, things loosened up enough for us to get out of the gridlock, but I learned a lesson: shop at off-peak times, once the new-store rush is over. On opening day, they handed out maps of the store. Now I can plot my purchases ahead of time and not spend a lot of time browsing.

4. Shop around the perimeter and ignore the center of the store. You'll find fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and meats around the perimeter of almost every store in the country. Junk food and non-grocery items are found in the aisles in the center of the store. Know your store layout and plan your shopping trip to take advantage of whole foods and avoid the body clutter.

5. Use what you have. My pantry is well stocked. So is my freezer. The plan is to use what I have before I go shopping again. I have plenty of frozen slices of turkey and ham stored since Thanksgiving. I can thaw a packet at a time to make soup or add to a casserole.

6. Make do. Growing up, I had to learn to be self-sufficient and make do with little. When I turned 12, I got a used sewing machine for Christmas. From then on, I had to make all of my clothes and my mom's. That carried me well past college. I also taught myself to knit when I was 10, and I've made a bunch of afghans which are great for keeping warm. Self reliance can also include growing a veggie garden and using the produce. Seeds cost next to nothing.

7. Turn off the lights. And the TV. Especially if you've gone to another room. I hate to admit that I have 4 televisions in my house. Too often I catch myself wandering to another room, turning on the tube and settling in for a while. The problem? I forgot to shut off the TV in the room I just left. Duh.

Well, life's changed a bit since I got that first sewing machine, but there are still plenty of ways to keep from wasting money.

My goal this year is to keep this motto in mind: "Live within your means and within your seams."

1 comment:

Erudite Redneck said...

I plan to be a kindred cookin'-at-home, returning-to-gardening spirit in 2005. I cannot tell you how much fa(s)t food I've eaten lately, and I've had enough. Now that I've got a little untapped time, I plan to use it to cook some and to eat better. And I'm definitely gonna get my gardenin' groove back!