One of the first questions people ask me when they discover that we have se7en kids is “How do you afford it?” Well I am not feeding se7en teenagers yet and by the time I am my little old blog should have made some millions for me!!! Right here right now though I have had to learn several things to save a penny here and there and it can be summed up in one sentence:
Don’t Go Near The Shops…
I seem to have grown up in a culture where shopping is a way of life and when you ask people what they did on the weekend then the answer could equally apply to: “Where did you shop and what did you buy?” How many weekends of my life have been wasted trailing form store to store.
Here is a simple Home Truth: If you are planning to be frugal then don’t go near the shops… Even with a list you end up buying things you don’t really need… I weaned myself from shopping over the years… and now that I have a trail of se7en kids shopping has to be really assessed and planned… Not to say we never shop we do! But when we do we try and make it fun, usually it is someone spending birthday money or anticipating a birthday. Often we don’t buy anything, you really can go to the shops without your kids expecting something… the reward is in the outing getting to look at new things and poke around in stores.
Here you go se7en stores to avoid:
- Toy Stores:
- The Craft Store:
We have a huge craft factory shop nearby, full of craft materials as far the eye can see. I mean redefine craft supplies… Needless to say I used to go their twice a year and stock up… But I haven’t been in two years and I appear to have broken the habit. I made a deal with myself that as long as I still had craft materials in our home I wouldn’t buy any anymore. Well I haven’t needed to buy any since. It is amazing how long a box of crayons last when you know you won’t be buying more. Otherwise amazingly enough you can make your own sidewalk chalks, finger paints, play do… all this at a fraction of the market price – Trust me food coloring is your friend!!!
- The Corner Cafe:
This is the local spot where dash to buy bread, newspaper and milk… we got ourselves a bread machine, our kids learnt to read and we didn’t want the newspaper lying around – we read the news online and with better planning we can by milk for the month at the monthly big shop. That little corner cafe is a money gobbler of note… just a few sweeties at the till, a chocolate or a cool drink and before you know it you are easily spending just a few dollars a day but add that up to a month or worse a year and the mind blows!
- The Fruit and Veg Store:
Surely this one should be a safe bet, but no: inevitably I end up buying more than we can eat because it looks nice! Or grabbing something new to try when we are going to be out all weekend visiting friends and so it doesn’t get eaten. This really kills me to waste food. So we order our vegis and they come in a box once a week and we just eat our way through it… I know we are eating the right amount of fruit and veg because we have to finish everything in the box by the next week to make space for the new goodies.
- The Florist:
Or wherever you buy your flowers from. Flowers make an excellent “I am thinking of you” gift but they are ridiculously priced… Get your kids to make some bead and wire flowers. If you have a local picking spot, we have Chart Farm in Wynberg, where you can pick roses for a much more reasonable price and it’s a fun outing!!!
- The Book Store:
Books have become astronomical so much so that I no longer need to keep out of a bookstore because it’s all out of reach!!! WE do read heaps from the library and that will have to do! I do need to say break that magazine habit. I figured that by buying a magazine a couple of times a month I could actually put the money to better use and reward myself with an actual book that I was wanting to read. There is no point in depriving yourself of every treat because you will just go a bit mad!
- The Super Super Store:
We have a store quite nearby where you can buy just about anything. Everything is packaged to buy bulk and save. We go here once a year, not before christmas or birthdays! You really have to keep your wits about you here because they are full of special deals and before you know it your shopping cart is packed with all sorts of special things you never even knew you needed. Trust me on this I once bought a huge bag of ping pong balls – ummm for what… they had pretty colors and were otherwise pretty useless, actually I stuffed them in the bathroom closet and played a trick on a very nosey relative – who no longer visits – surprise!!! Anyway the point of this store is that you can get some good bargains, for example: washing powder – I buy about a years worth at a time. But you need to go first thing in the morning with your eyes wide open – when everyone is fresh – it is amazing how much more stuff you need when you are tired and hungry. With a list and a plan you can save a lot – without a list you are sunk and may as well sell your house before you go.
When we had just a couple of kids I would go to a huge factory toy store twice a year and stock up on supplies for our “gift drawer” – potential gifts for unsuspecting parties and so on. Turns out that we don’t have that many unsuspecting parties. Turns out the gifts never quite fitted and I always had to buy something to add to it at the last minute. This kind of mish-mash of gifts can end up costing more than one good quality gift. You know when you spend $1. on ten things you can spend $10. on one thing – I know which gift I would rather get! I do still have a gift drawer – I keep bits of stationary and notebooks and generic gifty things like that in it…
Especially now that my kids are older we know our friends and my kids would rather give a present they can make-up for them themselves… We tend to give gifts that give kids something to do or something consumable … NO NICK NACKS they take up space and everyone feels bad about getting rid of something that has lost its appeal but came from a special friend…
I keep a running list of upcoming birthdays and as soon as I have a gift for them I tick them off and forget about it. Often and I mean often we have things around our house that we haven’t used at all that we use as gifts. For example: Postcards we never sent, unused cards lying in a draw, a couple of pages from different writing pads, make some writing paper to make it personal … buy a packet of envelopes and some stamps pop that in a box and you are good to go. A writing kit for a special friend.
So when and how do we shop: The Big One – The Supermarket:
This is really a once a month shop and for a while I shopped on-line and had it delivered BUT they always left a couple of things off the list and I always had to go to the store anyway, which defeated the purpose. So now we plan a bit better and do a big once a month shop. Having a meal plan and an associated shopping list really helps: we know how many packets of pasta we need, how many boxes of Oats and so on. I can also leave large sections out of the supermarket visit – no bread aisle, no cleaning products and no stationary and so on. This list is pretty much unchanging and we can just walk through the store and get what we need and leave! If we desperately need something in between shopping days the father person pops in after work, he is better at not buying “little rewards” than I am… He has bigger ideas!!! and so usually is able to say “another time” and move on.
That’s it – se7en stores I can think of more and most likely so can you! But it is a start along the road to frugal living!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything. This week there is a frugal theme, so go and help yourself to a long list of frugal tips.