It’s 6am on Friday morning and I sneak out of my bed to avoid waking the passed out three year old, who came up to my room a few hours earlier with complaints of a bad dream, needing water or maybe because the stars weren’t in alignment properly — I only know that he appeared and I was too exhausted to bring him back to his own bed. My day is jam-packed and I need a quiet hour to work on my virtual assistant tasks before I begin the craziness of the day before a week of vacation. My husband is on a 24-hour shift and I am responsible for the final packing up and readying the house for being away (i.e., not leaving food around on the floor to feed the mice I am convinced live somewhere in our old farmhouse). My entire time frame for the day is centering around how I will mow the yard…with all the tag-a-longs following me.
Here is a classic scenario for this subject of saving time vs. saving money. On that day, I was out of time and even though it was a little psychotic of me to care about leaving a nicely trimmed lawn for the neighbors to toss their trash on while we were gone, I was determined that it had to be done. I could have easily called any number of lawn services to come, but if you think I should have, you do not know me at all…
Buying new or hiring out is my last resort. Craigslist, yard sales, thrift stores, Chattanooga Freecycle — I spend a lot of time looking to fulfill a running list of items I am looking for, whether it is play shorts for the upcoming summer months, cute shirts for me, or big items, like a new washer to replace my still-working-but-needs-to-be-restarted-every-second-load-old washing machine. We bought our house over a year ago and just last week I finally found a patio set so we can stop using the camping chairs when we want to sit outside. If someone offers me free clothes or a look through their donate pile of stuff, I usually won’t turn it down.
So, am I a hoarder, a penny pinching miser, or just broke?
None of the above! I regularly go through our things, clothes, garage, cabinets and purge out what we aren’t using. I do not like to have stuff we don’t use laying around, so I am definitely not a hoarder. I am also not a penny pincher or a couponer and I am exceptionally bad at budgeting. Lastly, we are definitely not poor; my husband works long hours at the fire station and has almost always had a second job that he goes to on his off days. I have been working from home for the past year as well, and we don’t pay for any of our children to attend a school or daycare. Yet, I think I just have a personality that wants more for less; I’d rather have a larger, more varied list of ingredients for my weekly menu from a cheaper grocery store that is further away, than to pay more for the convenience of the store down the street. I’d rather have more choices in my shoe collection that may be a little worn and used, than to splurge for one pair that I wear all the time. And I would rather have the cash to spend on vacation than the convenience of someone else mowing my yard…
Because, at the end of the day, my boys and I had finally finished mowing and we were able to take pride in our job accomplished and we were able to enjoy the rest after the exercise.
So, is saving money always equal to wasting time? Not always. If you can find joy and satisfaction in providing for your family, by stretching a dollar to save for future enjoyment, by finding their absolute-very-favorite-shoes-ever for a dollar at a yard sale, I would never call that a waste of time.
Here are some ways I save money in all areas of our household:
Groceries: I shop at Aldi for most of my groceries, head to the neighborhood Walmart for specialty items not found at Aldi, and then Sam’s Club for bulk items, like diapers, meat and dairy. A few years ago, I found out which stores had the best prices on items by using a comparison sheet similar to this. It takes some time, but soon, you won’t constantly have to be looking at your price book to remember what a good deal on butter is; you will just know! I never use coupons, because I almost always buy the store brand. I have had a little success with the Savings Catcher App from Walmart, but I usually only get money back when I buy produce. In the summertime, I also shop at Linda’s Produce (one in East Ridge and one on Hwy. 58) for produce that is considerably cheaper than at the supermarket.
Clothing: Almost all of my boys’ clothes are used; either hand-me-downs from friends or bought used from consignment, thrift stores or yard sales. The best prices are at yard sales, because people really just want to get rid of their old clothes and haven’t put much time into pricing or trying to get stains out. I love this post by Melissa on the blog earlier this week; she says everything you need to know on this topic! I try to dress nicely, but I must confess I hardly buy new clothes for myself. My body is constantly changing from pregnant to nursing to not pregnant so I hate to waste money on trends when I won’t be able the clothes in a few months.
Home Improvement & Car Maintenance: I am blessed with a husband who is willing to undertake almost any home improvement idea and parents who love to come to our house for a project. We haven’t ever had to hire a handyman and, as mentioned before, we do all of our own lawn work. We bought our house with the understanding that we would have to do some improvements, so any time we spend on planning and renovating is actually fun for us. We have started getting our oil changed at the Toyota dealership now, since it’s almost the same price as doing it at home, but my husband does try to fix any lights or sensors at home first.
Holidays & Birthdays: My son had his first “big” birthday party, with friends and a theme, for his fourth birthday. Before that, we just had immediate family over for dinner and cake, and a few presents. I felt that at four years old, he was finally able to enjoy all the fun of a birthday with friends — before that, it was very overwhelming. It was still a relatively inexpensive party, with pizza and cake, and then playing in the yard in mini pools and a slip and slide. But he talks about it still, so I think it never crossed his mind as being a “cheap” party. For holidays, we try to save up gift cards from Swagbucks, our credit card perks, and my husband’s insurance bonuses. We will make out a list of all the gifts we want to buy for family members and then price compare between different retailers. Amazon usually wins out with the free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime. We also don’t try to “compete” with grandparents and relatives for who can buy our kids the best presents. We know that they will probably enjoy a fun present from Grandma more than lame books or socks from us, but they still need what we give them.
Saving money is more of a priority in my life right now. I may find myself changing as the boys get older and wiser about used clothing, but right now, they just want a Superman shirt and are good to go for the day. I am sure I would love to have all my grocery delivered to my front door, but I do take some pride in being able to save a little extra and spend time with my kids grocery shopping. It isn’t always easy, but they are learning to enjoy “helping” me.