Archive for Frugality
Most people set goals and keep them… for about two weeks. Then they get derailed or overwhelmed and fall back into their old patterns, even moving themselves forward.
I routinely set and meet goals in multiple areas of my life, and I always follow the same steps to do so. In 2013, many people watched as I reached a couple of goals that were so big, many didn’t think I’d get there. I had to listen to a lot of naysayers try to rain on my parade. In response I prayed, put my head down and worked that much harder. In the end I built a second income and even got a $10,000 bonus.
This year, my goals have gotten bigger. I have set goals personal goals for my income and weight. In addition, my children have set their goals, and we have financial planning goals as a family and home. It’s time to push and stretch myself to the next level.
Sometimes you need real, serious change, and that doesn’t happen by forgetting your goals. Whether you need to lose weight, get in shape, fix your finances, advance your career or anything else, you take the same five steps to reach your goal.
Pick a Goal that Scares You
No, really. If your goal isn’t so big that it scares you at least a little, it isn’t a challenge. If it isn’t a challenge, you’re not likely to follow through with working towards your goal, because you feel like it’s so easy you could do it quickly… when you finally make up your mind to do it. It’s a psychological trick, but an important one to get you over the hump of getting started. However, most people don’t set big, hairy, scary goals, so they never take that first step. Setting a big goal is one of the best ways to get started on the right foot.
A goal needs to be long-term, measurable and require discipline or a skill. Doing a one-time event isn’t a goal. Saving up the money to afford that one-time event is a goal. Going on vacation in May isn’t a goal; saving $1000 before you leave for your vacation in May is a goal.
A family sets a goal of putting $15,000 back for a new van. That sounds like a LOT of money to get together all at once. That’s kinda a scary amount to imagine in your hands. It’s also enough to purchase what they need without debt, which they want to avoid. Their current vehicle should hold out for another year, to give them time to meet that goal.
Or someone who sets an income goal that is 100% more than the average monthly income in their area while moving to being debt-free with the extra income. Big? Yes. Possible? Yes. But still scary. Sometimes, financial freedom is the scariest thing.
Set the Date
Now that you know where you’re headed, how fast do you need to get there? At what point do you need to reach your goal? Write down the date.
Open-ended goals with no date give you no motivation to get started. You should always set a goal with a specific end date, and something tangible that can be measured or tracked.
The family buying the van knows that their current vehicle will hold out for another year, if not more. They set the deadline for their $15,000 as Friday, December 26, 2014. The husband gets paid every Friday. This gives them 52 weeks.
Do the Math
When you set a large goal and pick a date, the best thing you can do is to break it down into small bites. Bites that are small enough that they look doable. Bites that you think you can accomplish. Depending on your goal, you will want to choose weekly or monthly bites.
If your goal is to pay off $20,000 of debt by December 31st, it sounds huge and freaky. It sounds impossible! But if I tell you in order to pay off $20,000, the first step you need to take by January 15th is to raise your current income, reduce your expenses, sell items or a combination that equals $833 so you can send that money into the credit card company by January 16th. That smaller amount sounds much more doable, even if it is a stretch for your family budget, than the $20,000 goal you’re staring at.
Our family buying the van has 52 weeks in which to raise that $15,000. That means that they need to set aside a minimum of $288.50 a week. That’s $15,000 divided by 52. Telling someone to set aside $289 a week (or $577 if they get paid every other week) looks easier than telling them to set aside $1250 a month or $15,000 a year.
These small bites are key to meeting your goal. Knowing the small bites and assigning dates to them will be the meat of what gets you to where you want to do. And this is the step that most people skip, and that is half of why they don’t meet their goals.
For most financial goals, I like to break them down by pay-period. That way, you must see that line item on your budget every time you get paid.
In Your Face
The other half of why people don’t meet the goals is that they don’t keep them in their face. Literally.
If you have a goal, write it down and put it somewhere where you see it every.single.day. My first three months of goals for 2014 are written in dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror. My bites for January are posted right beside my computer monitor. And they are also on the dashboard of my car. They are constantly in my face, constantly in front of me. Why? To keep me motivated and in action.
The family buying the van puts a chart on the fridge where the whole family can see their progress. Every time they stick back more money, they have their two girls update the chart. And every time something comes up that is not within budget, they can refer to the chart and their goals to evaluate which is more important, or what could be arranged to be able to do both.
Keep a Check
At the end of each bite, you have to re-access your goal and where you are. So at the end of each week, pay period or each month, evaluate how you’re doing. Chart your progress or otherwise get it on paper so you can see where you are. As you get closer to your goal, that visual reminder will become more and more motivating.
Figure out if you need to do something different or step up your game. If you didn’t meet your bite, was it a lack of time, focus or something else? What can you do to fix it?
I’ve found that with some goals that seem scary, once you break it down, you actually realize it isn’t big and scary. It’s doable. A couple of months of being on track shows you that you can move it up and accomplish it early.
The family buying the van looks at their budget weekly to make sure they’re where they need to be. They also work to tuck back extra money, even if it’s just change, towards their goal, to get them there quicker, or cushion them for times where they can’t meet their weekly goal.
Set your goals, reach and stretch, grow and learn. Keep it bite-sized and keep it in your face to get there. In the end, you’ll grow in confidence and grit as you find that you really can do things you never thought possible!
What are my goals for the year?
Yes. $20,000 a month in income with It Works by December 31, 2014. It’s a big goal and it scares me! By God’s grace, I’ll get there. I’ve set the goal, broken it down into monthly bites, laid out what I need to do to get there, week by week, and I’m going to eat this elephant, one bite at a time.
Grit, determination and LOTS of prayer. I’ll get there!
Happy New Year!
Photo credit: New+Year+Resolutions+Clock by husin-sani on Flickr
How do you know when something is a really good deal versus just a marginally good deal? When you do find a good deal, how do you know how much to buy? You keep a price book.
I first learned about the concept of a price book in The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. A price book is simply where you keep notes about brands and how much you pay per pound or per ounce for items you purchase at least semi-regularly. These notes will help you plan large purchases at the lowest prices to help further decrease the food bill.
I purchase a simple, pocket-sized notebook and give one page per item. I don’t track seasonal produce, just items that are used year-round, such as spices, staples, baking supplies, nuts, packaged items and the like. Then I pull out my receipts and note down what I have paid per pound or per ounce for each item, along with the brand, the store at which it was purchased and the date.
From there, any time I see a sale advertised or go to the store and find an unadvertised sale, I note any good prices in the book. After a while, you’ll start to see that sales happen in cycles. It will allow you to always know when you’ve got a good price and buy enough to get you through until the next sale.
Last week’s post on Backwards Menu Planning generated a number of questions about the non-traditional grocery store locations for purchasing food that I mentioned. So this week, we’ll look at unconventional sources for food.
I mentioned using a salvage last week. A salvage is a discount grocery store that sells things with damaged packaging, close to being out of date or items where the store has purchased too much stock. For example, I’ve been able to find 50 pound bags of sucanat for 69 cents a pound there- a massive savings. Packages of Bob’s Red Mill GF Steel-cut Oats for $2.70 each, because the label was slightly damaged. Quarts of plain, whole milk, grass-fed yogurt for $1.80-2.25. Frozen, organic fruits and veggies for $0.90-1.80 a bag. Jars of organic sunnut butter for 99 cents apiece.
To locate a local salvage, you’ve got a few options. There are a couple of online lists here and here. Look in your local phone book under both ‘grocery stores,’ ‘discount grocery stores’ and ‘salvage.’ Locally, we have three discount chains- Dickie’s, Amazing Savings and Grocery Outlet.
It is very important when you go into a salvage that you know which expiration dates to pay attention to and which to ignore. We’ll post on that next week.
It’s also important to know what to purchase organic and what is ok for conventional. The Grocery Outlet doesn’t carry much in the way of organics, but I know that there are things I can purchase there at a major price cut without problem. For example, they recently had cubed, conventional butternut squash what was frozen for 59 cents a pound. I can’t get a whole butternut squash for that low, and most of the work has already been done for me! I know that winter squash is 28 in the dirty dozen list, and because we don’t eat it often, I go ahead and purchase conventional since organic is over double the price of conventional here.
If you’d like a little help knowing what is safe to purchase conventional and what you should purchase organic, check out the dirty dozen list linked above as well as our Good, Better, Best series and our Friday Food Fights. If you have specific foods you’re wondering about, please leave a comment and I’ll gladly research it and write a post on it.
It’s also important to know the prices in your area. I’ve seen items at the salvage that were priced too high compared to a health food store or the conventional grocery store. Just because it’s there doesn’t guarantee it’s a good deal. Be especially careful if it is an organic item that a salvage that doesn’t normally carry organics. I’ve seen things for double the price, but I’ve also found some very good deals, such as large bags of frozen, American-grown, organic broccoli for 99 cents a bag. We don’t eat frozen veggies as a rule, but they’re nice to have on hand for times where you run out of fresh and can’t run to the store.
Salvages don’t have consistent stock, as a general rule. You need to know that in many cases, you might see something there only once a year, and other items might be available regularly. Once they sell out, the deal is gone and will be replaced with something else. Those 50-pound bags of sucanat I mentioned above I’ve only had happen twice. in the five-and-a-half years I’ve been visiting the salvage. But some brand of natural yogurt is almost always available.
Where do you purchase groceries outside of the Farmer’s Market and local grocery stores?
Opt out. It’s the best way to stop supporting companies and industries that produce products that pollute us- fill our food with untested chemicals, pollute our soil with pesticides, sell meats tainted with superbugs, fill canned food and personal care products with endocrine disruptors, fill the landfills with cheap plastics that break shortly after purchase, and fill people with hormones and medications that wind up in the water supply. The best form of protest is to not support these companies with your dollars. Or if you must purchase from them, minimize what you must buy. Buy local, support artisans and home-based businesses, use natural health care providers, use personal care products you could eat, make your own cleaners, support ethical food companies and the like. When you do purchase commercial products, purchase them from reputable deals and choose ethical companies to support.
The journey to not putting money into the pockets of people and companies who don’t support your chosen lifestyle begins with frugality. Frugality combined with a positive attitude is a gateway to self-reliance and opting out of the current food and business structures as you discover the freedom that exists in not being tied to big ag, big business or damaging food and products that cost you your money and your health.
The Gateway Drug: Frugality
Our long journey to opting out of big business, becoming minimalists, being prepared and reclaiming health began as one simple idea- frugality. And it began long before we ever thought about the problems with the consumer culture. It started out so we could save money to pay off our debt. When we first married thirteen years ago this week, that debt was my car, a small amount of college expenses such as textbooks on a credit card and a college loan of a few thousand dollars. What did that look like? Couponing, making our own products, buying in bulk when on sale- all to save money. At the time, I didn’t think about self-reliance or opting out of supporting big ag or big business. I was just looking to stretch the budget as far as possible so we could pay off my student loans quickly. We had agreed that we wouldn’t start a family until the debt was gone, as we would be living on a single income once I had a baby. I wanted to start a family, so that gave me great motivation to get moving, and move fast.
When I had to purchase something, I only purchased on sale. If I could make something instead, I’d do that. When I’d make my own cleaners or laundry detergent, I wasn’t thinking about keeping money out of the hands of chemical companies and pollution producers or keeping chemicals out of my body- I was thinking about how much more money I’d be able to send in on my student loan that month. Getting out of debt was a major motivation, and the side effect was that I wasn’t feeding the consumer culture and the big businesses that don’t work in my best interest. I just didn’t realize it at the time. To tell the truth, at the time I didn’t see anything wrong with chemicals, processed products or the like. I just wanted to save money.
When I went to the farmer’s market, it never crossed my mind that the farmer I was buying from would get more profit selling directly to me than he would selling to a middle-man. I didn’t even think about the additives placed into canned, diced tomatoes at the store. I just knew when I bought a whole case of tomatoes and canned them myself, it saved me money, the flavor was amazing and the quality of the product was much better. I never made the connection until later. Read More→
I wanted to take some time to address the issue of cost as that is the main comment or concern people have made about the series. The second most comment I have received, about being overwhelmed, we’ll discuss in my next post.
When you look at the benefits of using a Pickl-It, I firmly believe that the benefits outweigh the cost AND you will far more than save the amount you invested in the vessels. As someone who is concerned about both time in the kitchen and the budget, I believe that the Pickl-It is a great kitchen investment. When I pick kitchen equipment, I look for items that will save money in the long-run. I have invested in other equipment such as a dehydrator, pressure canner, roaster, food processor, blender, quality knives, crock-pot and similar equipment to make my job faster and easier and save me money. The Pickl-It is no different.
I totally get tight budgets. Since 2008 we’ve been through two long stretches of unemployment, including right now. So I am writing this from a perspective of cost versus time, benefit versus risk and cost in time and money. If you enjoy fermentation and do it regularly, this will save you time and money in the long-run even if you aren’t trying to heal your gut. If you want to ferment but haven’t been able to do it successfully, this might be what you need to meet your goal.
The Pickl-It is a high quality piece of equipment that will last a lifetime. It’s made out of heavy glass and it isn’t easily breakable. Should you ever shatter a piece, Pickl-It will replace it for a low cost. Should you ever damage an airlock or other piece, they will replace it for a low cost. Should you ever tear a grommet, they’ll mail you a new one for free. You just have to call them to arrange it. They back their products so you won’t have to completely replace the entire unit should an accident occur.
Last week we talked about not seeing eye to eye with your husband and how you can best respond via a loving attitude as his wife. Treating your husband as another child will not win you any friends within your marriage and it won’t win you the ‘food war,’ either. It is, however, a good way to wind up with your kids and your husband ganged up against your cooking.
Let’s talk about some other strategies you can employ with both your husband and your kids while still maintaining a loving attitude.
Make Quality Food Convenient
I noticed early on with my husband that he would go for what is convenient over his taste preference unless he had a particular craving. To that end, I worked hard to make sure quality food was always convenient, fresh, ready to eat and always within eyesight.
At the time, we lived in a house where the pantry and the kitchen were separated by a hallway. I found that often the junk could be out of sight, out of mind if I made the quality foods convenient and eye-level in the fridge and the chips in a cabinet in the pantry. Having snacks like raw cheese cubes, cooked bacon, nut butter cups or peppermint patties and veggies with homemade dip or pate in the fridge at eye level was a help, as was keeping raw milk or homemade eggnog in the fridge, always ready. A fruit bowl on the counter and the snacks in the pantry behind a cabinet door.
Then, any time someone walked into the kitchen looking peckish, I’d immediately direct them to the location of the homemade goodies. Never direct them to the junk unless they specifically ask for an item. Read More→
This is a nice Christmas present. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning!
Many people have asked me to post pics once my first Green PolkaDot Box order arrived, so they would know the company was really shipping products before they paid for their memberships. Here’s the pics as you requested.
I received two boxes, both in good shape.
I enjoy giving hand-made gifts for holidays. This recipe is useful, looks pretty, smells good and doesn’t break the bank. It’s a good ‘little something’ gift. It’s a snap to make. This recipe makes a pint, but you can use smaller mason jars or decorative, wide-mouth jars if you wish to give smaller amounts.
I’m not the type that thinks gifts must be themed for the holiday it’s being given in. For example, not every food-based gift at Christmas will be peppermint. You can make a peppermint scrub, but since the oil is yellow you would need to add red food coloring to make it look right. I don’t want to put food coloring on my skin, so I stick to scents that will match the yellow color. That’s why I choose citrus for gift giving.
I enjoy using this scrub at home. I use it on my feet and elbows. It’s great for when your hands are beat up from gardening or crafting. And because I snuck in some epsom salts, you can also get a magnesium boost in addition to softening your skin. Read More→
I recently received a reader question about my grocery budget. I receive variations on this question on a regular basis.
How much do you spend a month on groceries? How do you afford such expensive food?
She went on to discuss price of grass-fed meat and organic produce.
I will be the first to admit that quality, nutrient-dense food is expensive. If you want quality, you are going to pay for it. But there are ways to economize. I afford high quality food three ways: Read More→