Thursday, 10 September 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Treat it Like A Job

This is my sixth "Thrifty Thursday" post. I want to stay motivated as I work on our family budget--part of that motivation is sharing what I am doing. It can be discouraging to read frugal blogs and see how people feed their families on so little money--I feel like I am trying hard and yet I don't see those results. I am sensitive to the fact that many people are frugal out of necessity and don't have the option to "not succeed" in their attempts. The last thing I want to be is patronizing. Nonetheless, I feel like we are bleeding money around here and there are some expensive things we need to save for. I know there are people who want to reduce their spending but do not know where to start..so I am writing these posts for them and myself :) I hope you are inspired and if you can add any ideas of your own I hope you will comment below :)

As a stay-at-home mom, I've often wondered if going back to (paid) work might benefit our family financially, or if I would simply be spinning my wheels to pay a sitter and end up with someone else raising my kids for little financial gain. In my situation I wouldn't earn a great deal more than I would be paying out, once you include the price of fuel for the 45 km (one way) trip to town. Over the years, many of my mom-friends and I have discussed the topic and I thought that I would share something that I said a few years ago. Before I do, I also want to add that every family is different and some need the extra bucks badly enough that, yes, both parents do work. Some families are single working parents, and some parents work and put their children in daycare because that is how they choose to raise their kids. I am not here to judge anyone or say any one method is better than another. I just want to toss around some frugal ideas.

In a conversation a few years ago I said "While my kids are little like this, I don't think of it as how much I can earn but instead I am working on how much I can save".

And I feel like, especially during the lean years where we bought our first house and money was tight when J was a baby, I tried to treat frugality like it was a part-time job. Because I was at home and had some time, I shopped kijiji for second-hand baby items (only for things that did not come to us for free, which most things did). I had my first garden and became hooked on growing our food. But most importantly, I developed the attitude that if half an hour, an hour, two hours a week of my time could save us $30, $50, $100, then it was like I had earned us that money without leaving home or getting a sitter. I want to be clear though: sitting on the internet online shopping is NOT going to save you money unless you only shop for necessary things. Justifying more purchases because they were second hand or on sale or free shipping is a slippery slope. But finding deals on gifts that you would have to buy anyways, waiting to buy something you need until the deal you want turns up, and taking the time to compare prices is something that can be done whether you are employed or not. Treat it like a little part time job that Saves rather than Earns.

An example of this is years ago I went through all of our statements while the baby was asleep. I realized that we had life insurance on our camper payment while also paying for life insurance through a broker. I took the time to inquire about cancelling the policy on the camper, discovered that if I did so over $2000 could be put towards paying off the camper. In the long run, making a simple phone call and following through on the paper work (all while my baby slept!) saved us thousands of dollars on the camper and interest over the period of the loan. During that same time I found that Husband was paying a $20/month fee for his debit card so that he could use any ATM without additional fees! By then we had switched to using the credit card for all purchases so we could collect the Air Miles and he hadn't used his debit card in months. So he was throwing away $20/month in unnecessary fees. Once I cancelled that I put the extra $20/month onto other payments that we were paying interest on. We hadn't noticed the money missing before and just a bit of work on my part redirected that money to paying off debt rather than paying a bank. When we used to have different payments, as soon as one thing was payed off I increased the payment on another by that amount--saving us interest and never allowing us to get used to having that extra money to spend. Within a couple years our only payment was our mortgage and camper.

It is time for me to go through all of our statements again and see where we are leaking money. Recently I caught a fee on our credit card--Sirius Satellite Radio was charging Husband an extra $40 every 3 months for a radio he doesn't even have activated. Although I don't think they are going to reimburse us at least we have put an end to them charging an extra $160/year for a service we aren't using. I feel like if I can save us dollars and cents by actively being frugal and treating money saved like money earned I am contributing to our household income in a tiny way. Husband never has work done on his truck without calling around for quotes and comparing prices. Even this small action has saved thousands over the years. Instead of blindly spending we are trying to get a good look at where our money goes and when the price isn't right we try to wait until the right deal comes along.

I had good luck selling the bit of baby stuff we bought. Most everything came to us from friends, but I did buy a swing and cloth diapers (found them online, a girl was given so many at a diaper shower that she sold a bunch of unused diapers at used prices. Score!). Once I was done with them, I kept the ads up on kijiji until items like that sold, and I delivered them only when I was already planning a trip to town. Sometimes selling things online is a nuisance (generally I have had poor luck and find it very frustrating) but in the instance where the items are in good condition and worth enough money, I try to keep at it and treat it like it's a job. The items that were given to us have been passed on to others for free or saved for my brother and his wife who are now expecting a baby (whoo hoo!!). We always pass on free baby stuff to friends or donate it, but I do try to get some money back out of the things we spent money on.

Once my kids are both in school full-time I may return to work a few days a week and contribute more to our household income. In the event of a crisis I may have to go to work. For now our situation allows me to be home with our kids and try to monitor where money is going. As long as we can afford it this arrangement is working for us. Can you share any ideas where I might save more/earn a few extra dollars from home? I am open to suggestions :)



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