I don't know about you, but I'm not thrilled that our government handed down a ridiculously large sum to bail out the economy and then some of the companies (*cough*AIG*cough*), spent $500K on a manager's retreat complete with $25K worth of spa treatments. Everyone is hurting from economic hard times right now. As such, I offer you some money-saving tips to help you through these hard times:
* Shop in your pantry. You won't believe the crap that's hiding back there. Last week we made a bean soup from a mix I got as a gift circa 2005 (it was still good, I swear). The recipe called for andouli sausage, but we only had hot dogs. Such is life. It filled the bellies. One day I put nutella and peanut butter on saltine crackers and passed that off as a "sandwich" for the kids' lunches. They loved it and asked what it was! And I've rediscovered baking instead of buying treats. I made the most awesome snickerdoodles last week. But don't take this too far. Don't be Jeff, and keep cayenne pepper for 18 years (and still keep using it). I mean, if all you have is a few sardines and some stale crackers, spend $9.99 on a family meal at KFC. Your kids will thank you, I promise.
* Shop at the thrift store. Eww, you say? Gross, you say? Well, let me tell you something. I have found brand name clothes for just a few dollars at the thrift store, brought them home, washed them up (with my own stringent laundry standards - no cooties here!), and put them in the kids' closets. They usually have no idea the origin of these clothes but are happy to have them. Who cares if it's new? It's like a car - once you drive it off the lot, it depreciates. Same with clothes. You buy them new, get bored with them, buy more new, and what happens to the old clothes? Still good, still stylish, and now less than half price at your friendly neighborhood thrift store. Bargain for me! I actually bought Hannah a Hollister shirt at the ACTUAL Hollister store for her birthday, and she suspiciously asked "is this from the thrift store?" Yeah, my kids have rarely had something "brand name and cool" new from a store. But that doesn't mean they don't wear "brand name and cool". It's just from a different store. Yesterday I bought plastic hangers at the thrift store, 20 for $1. At Fred Meyer, they were 20 for $5.49. Now, I don't know if you agree, but I don't care if my plastic comes from Fred Meyer or the thrift store. They are utilitarian hangers, for crying out loud. And I'm sure they originally came from Fred Meyer in the first place! For those of you local, check out Helping Hands on Both/Ev highway or Alligator Purse in Bothell Landing.
* Find free entertainment! With a family of six, anything we do is expensive. A trip to a fast food restaurant, admission to a museum, swimming at a local pool. Do you know how much six Blizzards at Dairy Queen cost? So, we try to do stuff that's free or cheap. Like geocaching, camping (after the intital expense of the camper, campsites are around $25 a night for hookups), going to the zoo or science center (again, after the initial purchase of a year long membership at basically the same as it cost our family to get in once), going on bike rides, hikes or just having friends over for dinner (make it potluck!). We may not see all the latest movies when they come out, or shop at the mall more than a few times a year, but we do have fun.
* Nix wasteful expenses. This might include premium cable, the latest gaming console, eating out, and (gasp) Starbucks. Now, I must admit, I have failed miserably at the Starbucks thing. I just can't not have it! I'm addicted. I admit it. And sadly, for me, it's not just the coffee, but the pastries, the fact that it usually involves visiting with a friend, the "me time" - it's so many things I'm just not willing to give up. And I often have a kid or two in tow so that really drives up the expense (and makes me cringe when I see their drink or pastry half-eaten in the car the next day!). I actually added up our Starbucks expenses for a month (and it was summer, mind you, so many of those trips included the kids) and it was $90! That's $90 that could be spent on a lot of other things, instead of something that makes you fat. That being said, I still think it's one of my few indulgences and although I've cut back, I don't intend to banish this little luxury entirely. But I could go forever with no cable. It's all about choices.
* Give your kids an allowance and make them responsible for all toys/games outside of birthdays and Christmas, makeup, mall expenditures, movie admission, etc. Basically anything social or indulgent they want to do (including clothing, if they are already set with the basics). Once they have to make their own purchases, it's amazing how much they can do without. This brings me to another topic, however, which is that once your kids learn you are cutting back on expenses, they assume you are "poor". In fact, just this past week Harrison said we are "dirt poor". Now, I don't know about you, but I'm thinking having a $500K roof over your head, nice clothes to wear, good food to eat, and a family who loves you makes you anything but "dirt poor". In this world of indulgences, our kids are growing up not having any idea of what poor really is. Or doing without. Or, worse, having true hardship. And in a way, that's sad. So, don't feel bad about not buying your kid whatever they want, or making them do chores, or earn the money for driver's ed. It's all part of that big, scary thing called "reality".
* Don't forget that there are many others out there far worse off than you. Be grateful for what you have and don't aspire for anything more than the basics - a house to keep you warm, food on your table, a family, friends, clothes to keep you warm. Anything else is gravy. When it comes down to it, ask anyone who's struggled through hardship, or someone who is dying of cancer and you will see that you really have all you need. So, share the wealth and help others. Pick a couple of charities you regularly support (for us it's the Arthritis Foundation and Relay for Life) and support them generously. Get involved in fundraising and doing for others. It takes the focus off your own troubles and what you don't have.
* When you do have a few pennies to rub together, treat yourself, and know you deserve it!
There. That's my public service announcement for the day. And as for the economy and the bailout - here's my advice to those who got themselves in hot water in the first place - don't buy more than you can afford. If you run up debt, expect that you'll eventually get screwed. And if you're a business owner, conduct your business in a prudent manner. Your gross expenditures have now become our problem and we're already just making ends meet. Be responsible for your own actions so they don't become the problems of a whole nation. The End. Stepping off my soap box now.