Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spare and Earn

"Spare and Earn." I learned that phrase many years ago in a book by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Prentiss. In her novel The Little Preacher, she mentions that so-and-so character was now "old enough to spare and earn" and thus help the family. I often ponder how I, a SAHM, can spare and earn in my own family.
For the "earning" part, I try to remember what Sue Jakes says in Heart of the Home: "What do you have in your house?" (from 2 Kings 4:2, the widow who had nothing except a little oil - great story...go read it!) Anyway, "what do you have in your house?" I have many times in the past participated in consignment sales and sold used books.

But the truth is, as a SAHM who is also homeschooling, it's the "sparing" that I am able to focus on. In the last two years, since the birth of K, our #5, I have become very lax about the budget. Shopping without a list and a plan; takeout when life gets busy. But several things have occurred together that have given us a budget wake-up call:

-gas prices through the roof - our family car is a guzzling tank ... but we can't exactly fit into a camry, now, can we?
-food prices on the rise for various reasons
-one teen boy, and another right on his heels; 4 chicken breast halves used to feed our whole family at dinner - those days are gone!
-K (2) eats nearly the same amount of food at dinner as her older sister. No more getting by on just eating off of Mommy and Daddy's plates

So - it's back to more diligent planning, shopping, and cooking for me! This means taking time to read weekly store ads, stocking up on sale items or things at wholesale clubs, and planning ahead so that there is no 5 o'clock crunch on a busy day that sends us running to a drive-thru. We've also tried to cut back on our use of paper products, relying instead on towels and cloth napkins. (not only frugal, but green) Instead of money, now I'm investing time!

It has made me ponder our grandmothers and how hard they worked to feed their families healthy meals during the depression and WWII rationing. We have become so spoiled!

I found this MSN article very interesting. It's about trying to feed a family of four on $100/week. She mentions the USDA chart guidelines for grocery spending per family. Curious, I looked at the chart and here's what I found:

-for our family of 7 at the "moderate" level - $362.80 per week (yikes! can you imagine?); the "low-cost" plan for our family size was $292.50 per week; the "thrifty" plan was $223.00.

I'm assuming that the chart is food only and doesn't include diapers, paper products, cleaning products, and pet supplies. My budget does. With very careful planning, no eating out, and homemade everything, we struggle to keep it under $225. (Don't even get me started on the high cost of fresh produce, meat and dairy - let alone organic!) This has not been easy, but I feel a little less guilty about the times I've gone a little over when I see what the average family spends on just food.

I used to visit the miserlymoms website several years ago ... maybe it's time I pop back in for some frugal encouragement.

How does your family come in under budget?


Mary@notbefore7 said...

SO SO with you here. We have been fortunate in the townhouse to have th efreedom in the budget for splurges on pizza out, etc. But with our new mortgage, electric bill, etc...we are refocusing on meal plans and better use of $$.

I am still confused at the earn and spare?

Keep at it! we will too :)

Cathy said...

Too often don't make it in under budget! I am taking stock and determining to be more diligent and disciplined. I enjoyed the MSN article and several of the linked ones. But I already do many of those things and we are still in constant danger of overspending on groceries! The envelope system does help me - though it is a nusiance. I find that time and energy are a huge issue. Aldi is cheaper on many things, but it is inconvenient and I'll still have to go to another store to get for what they don't have. Add in icky weather of some variety or a fussy toddler and there goes my organized shopping. Meal planning does help me a lot and so does shopping without children (and before 8pm!)whenever possible.
A challenge for us is that I try to avoid starchy fillers (bad carbs) and that means more protein foods in order to feel satisfied. J. is not as casserole-averse as your menfolk, but there is only so much chx spaghetti that a man will eat! I need to figure out how to "spare" more!

emilytant said...

thanks for the encouragement on how much i spend. i don't do a great job planning and feel guilty about it sometimes. nice to see that the average is higher than i would have thought!

Happy Mommy said...

I always love your blog and leave it encouraged in some way. If you're up for it...I've tagged you!

mom24 said...

Holy cow - $225 includes daipers & paper products? We're coming in at $200/week w/o those items and still barely scrounging through. We've had to begin buying expensive specialty items for our allergen free diets (such as Quinoa, millet, amaranth flours, lentil bean pasta, ghee, coconut oil, raw honey, raw goat milk [$6/gallon!!], etc.). I can't even begin to afford organic produce, even thought our dr recommended it for our 2 and 5yo allergies. We also eat a lot more meat (free-range, non-hormone) than many people which is just killing the finances!

There is no such thing as a 99c box of mac n cheese for lunch in our house anymore. No casseroles or deli sandwiches either! Oy!

It's stresses me out, but because of our health issues, I give myself more leaway here than anywhere else in our budget. After all, I almost never buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, toys, or even books for myself anymore.

I've thought about not feeding the kids anymore, but they don't think that's too funny - lol! This area does require a lot of prayer though.... you're doing a good job to sinch down and be a good steward as your family grows!


Jenny said...

1)We've been reading Click Clack Moo in Spanish all summer - I'll have to loan it to you for a laugh.

2) I've been feeding 4 adults and 2 kids at every dinner. I honestly don't know how I get every thing at $100.00 a week except to say "GO ALDI".

3) I've been selling on EBAY like a crazy woman trying to help our family ends get closer to meeting.

4) Kevin MADE me go get new capris last night when my others started showing my underwear as holes developed in the seams. I love my husband.

Wendy said...

Great post! I've been thinking about this same thing. We've had to cut back on some things lately, with all the increases. And, even in the cutting back, it makes me realize we really have an abundance.

Kate said...

I hear you. We are at about $250 a week here. That's with planning and list making. You and I have essentially have the same family so I just wanted to comfort you, that your budget seems to be the same as mine. Just this morning, we left three kids home so we could take the small car on a long distance shopping trip. We stopped at IHOP for breakfast because eating out is RARE for our family and we thought we could get off inexpensively because there were just four of us. 44.00 for breakfast. Yikes!

We're thinking of putting in a late summer garden here. More as a school project than anything else but maybe we'll cut back a bit on groceries.

Margin is another great book. One of my favorites on this topic.