Frugal Fridays with Life as Mom is one of my favorite blogs to read and participate in. Some folks have the most awesome ideas that I had never thought of. I've learned alot about ways to save money or "pinch a penny" that are very useful.
Right now, we are re-evaluating everything we spend money on. Christmas gifts, monthly bills, household expenses, retirement accounts, college funds, medical expenses, etc. Basically, we are asking "why do we do what we do" and "do we want to continue". Tough, hard questions and we don't have all the answers yet.
With Christmas, we have set a budget for each child. Now, having 7 children our budget will be higher than most. The children all know the per child budget and are picking out and asking accordingly. Saves us both alot of grief later. And you can't change your mind a week before Christmas...its too late then! There will still be some surprises thrown in because I try to shop and find bargains throughout the year. We are also looking at our gift giving list. Do we give to folks because we really want to, because they expect it, or because thats the way we have always done? I really love the whole process of gift giving, I spend alot of time and thought picking out gifts or making gifts. I know many folks don't share my enthusiasm about the season, but I try not to let it bother me. And hey, I am not a saint, I love to get gifts too! We also, whittled down the Christmas Card list. We are re-evaluating the why's of the expenses.
In the household expenses category, we are currently in the process of re-financing our home. The interest rates are such that it is beneficial to us. We are planning on having it paid off in less than 10 years. We are also looking at the land-line phone, tv service, cell phones, insurance, etc.
Can we eliminate anything, cut down on anything, change deductibles, etc. We are "Dave Ramsey" geeks and pretty much follow his advice. When I find myself slipping into old "well, I deserve it" attitudes I start listening to him on the radio and reread a book or two. That straightens out the gimmes or "I wants" pretty quickly.
Also, for household expenses, we do what we can throughout the day to cut down or cut back on utilities. Turn off lights when you leave the room, hang clothes on the line, we rinse and resuse the same cups all day, etc. Make our own laundry detergent and fabric softener.
Groceries: We eat our leftovers for lunches or CORN night (clean out the refrigerator night). Some women tell me their familes won't eat leftovers, thats just silly and wasteful. We do and quite frankly, some dishes are better the next day! We also, make a menu for the week and try to stick to it. We try to cook and bake from scratch and not rely on convenience foods. They are much more expensive and loaded with unpronouceable additives and preservatives. I look for bargains at the grocery store, shop with coupons, and try to buy all or most of my meat from the managers meat special shelf. I've already bought a huge turkey for Thanksgiving because Butterballs were on sale at Kroger a couple of weeks ago really cheap. I still have one smaller turkey in my freezer from the price slicing sale last Jan. I bought 4 turkeys for $5 each. Lots of meat, low price. Take advantage of what you find at the grocery, its ok to change next weeks menu if you get there and find the price of pork chops has been slashed. Yummy, then pork chops are on the menu or they get bought and stored in the freezer. The one meat I consistantly run out of is ground beef. Its used in so many different dishes and I haven't found it lately in the special section. Then, I just have to get it on sale.
On the medical expenses front, we have met our health ins. deductibles and our yearly, family out of pocket expenses. We can't do a whole lot about the costs, but we are trying to schedule any needed tests or exams before the end of the year since we've met our deductible. It all starts over again on Jan. 1.
My mom and I were talking the other day about the differences between when she got married, when I got married and newlyweds today. She started out with all previously owned furniture and remembers the first piece of furniture she and daddy bought...an oak table. We started out with a new table and chairs and couch...saved up money ahead and paid cash for it. But then we got caught in the "wanting more and not waiting" craze and ended up with lots of credit card debt. Wrong thing to do. It takes years to dig out of that hole. Now, it seems like couples want huge, elaborate weddings and receptions and all new everything. They immediately want what their parents currently have but don't realize it took their parents years to accumulate their goodies. My goodness, have you ever watched the show "Bridezilla", its shocking and sickening how these spoiled Diva's act. (We watched it a couple of times and decided they would have to live out their weirdness without us) The wedding is a ceremony...lets concentrate on the marriage. I have heard men talking at church and saying "just hand over your wallet and credit card and don't question expenses". They laugh about it and then are paying for months and months for the day. We have talked with the kids about their future weddings. I am hoping that Katie can wear her first Mom's dress and Amy can wear mine. We shall see. I want everything nice for all of them but we are not willing to spend thousands and thousands to put on a show.
Like I said, we are looking at everything. We aren't trying to "keep up with the Joneses or Smiths" or anyone else. We want to do what is best for our family and be the best stewards of the money and resources that the Lord has blessed us with. Every family has their own standards and convictions and no two families will be alike. Just be more conscious of your own household!