Thursday, September 4, 2008

Frugal living

I sat down yesterday to add in receipts and do a check up on our spending and bills to make sure we are staying on budget. We have the orthodontic bill this month because the 3rd going into braces this year will be getting them on next week. I just paid $900 last month for my other son's palatal expander. I also had $550 in college textbooks to buy which we did not expect to have to pay. All this is adding up to a huge reduction in our money and has eaten a lot of our emergency fund.

When I was checking our budget and planning out the month of September it wasn't working out. We were going into the negative from what is in our budget account. I kept trying to figure it out and was coming up with what I could return to stores for money, how I could starve the kids, and trying to figure out how to make it work. After a LONG time figuring and praying and a call to my husband at work I realized I had not added in our second paycheck for the month of September. Man, that was a relief! I had almost made it work paying all this month's bills off half of our income.

Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote about how he spends $770 a month to feed his family of 4- that is two small kids. He explained that they spend more because they buy organic foods. If you look at the USDA national food average chart to feed my family under the thrifty plan it would be $1017 a month. I have a 18 YOgirl, 15 YO boy(playing football), 12 YO girl, 10 and 8 YO boys. I did a Quicken graph and have averaged $700a month the last 6 months. I budget $500. Well, yesterday I felt bad that I have been over budget, but today I see that I am still way under the national thrifty average. Another consideration is that I have fed two teenage boys almost every night for four out of the last six months and one of them the other two. On weekends we can have a group of kids here to eat with us. In the summer the smaller kids constantly had friends spend the night or over in the daytime. So, that is why I have not made my budget and am over. It is really hard to figure out how many people you will actually feed until you do it.

What is your thoughts on your grocery budget: are you like Trent that has made the choice to spend more because he has the money and would rather feed his family better quality food? Or you like a lot of the commenters on his post that eat really really cheaply and feel that he cannot write about a frugal life and spend that much on groceries? Does frugal living mean cheap living? Looking at some of the comments people do equate the two. I am somewhere in the middle. On one hand I cannot afford organic produce and expensive dairy products. When you go through a gallon of milk a day and a loaf of bread it is a lot of money to buy. I am trying to cook from staples and bought 25 lbs. of flour and 25 lbs. of bread flour, the bulk yeast at Sams so that I can make up pancakes, biscuits, bread, homemade tortillas, and other stuff. But, I choose to spend more to offer a home that welcomes my kids friends and always offers them food and drink. I want them to come and be able to know them. I feel that being frugal is more about buying the best quality at the best price. Don't overbuy products that have features you don't need. But, also don't buy things that won't last or that do not serve what you need. Sometimes you pay more so you get quality that will be better in the long run. You are investing in that area hoping to reap the rewards in the future.

It means that the money has to be cut from another area to increase the food budget. It all comes down to what choices we make with our money. Unless you are really in financial ruin you have a choice what is more important to you and where you want to put your money. Some people spend more on clothes. Some travel a lot. Some put money into traveling sports teams or dance or music classes. I would love for my kids to be able to take lessons, but we cannot afford it. I have had to trust that God will open the door for opportunities for anything that He wants to use them for in ministering. One example is my 15 year old son. I had him take a year of piano lessons at about age 7. The teacher made many comments about how "busy" he was so I finally felt like I was wasting my money and that we would wait a little while before continuing. He never showed any desire again to take lessons so I did not pursue it. Two years ago we bought him an electric guitar for Christmas. For almost a year it sat and he could not play it. All of a sudden he picked it up, picked out songs, taught himself how to read music and play chords. Within a couple of weeks he was playing songs that he memorized. He was playing around after service at church on one of the guitars and the leader heard him and asked him to play with the youth band. Everyone who has lessons and skills comments on how awesome he is on the guitar. He has a band with some friends. A new guy has a Fender guitar contract and has joined the band. With the contract they get free equipment. He has ordered two new guitars. We are learning more about this deal but it is so awesome to see how God has taken what we could not see and opened doors for him to minister with music. It is a God given talent and desire. We never fostered it, encouraged him by pushing him or in any way have been a part of this. It encourages by giving me another living exaple of how God gives us what we need to do what His plan is for our lives. Although it pushes me to increase our food budget I know this is an area where I am ministering right now and that God will provide what I need.


blessedwith5 said...

We choose to pay more for what goes into our bodies. I love buying organic for my family. I am just starting to use coupons . . . you have impressed me with the money you save!

Until the kitchen is completed though we will be eating quick microwave foods, sandwiches and out to eat.

The plus side - no kitchen to clean!

Tami said...

We buy what's on sale and pair it with coupons. We just don't have the extra money to spend on organic food. I normally don't like the taste of organic either. WE feed a family of 6 on less than $100 a week. I try to use leftovers to make different dishes for another night. So I am way under the national average too.