Spending Money to Save Money

I can’t resist reading all the “how to save money at Christmas” articles online during the holidays. Frugal gifts, inexpensive meals and treats, DIY decorations–all the suggestions are interesting. Keeping things simple seem to be the overall theme.

But I’d like to suggest that spending less and taking a minimal approach during the Christmas season isn’t always the best long range strategy. Instead of saving money during the holidays, I often spend more than I usually do. Way more, actually. I’m flinging money around at a madcap pace.

Me on a recent spending spree

As a new housewife, I was happy to find butter and chocolate chips on sale and appreciate my one-time bargain. It meant that my holiday baking would be cheaper.  But then one year it clicked that I should take advantage of all these bargains. Instead of buying just the butter I need for the week plus an extra few pounds for my Christmas baking, I should buy enough butter to store it in the freezer so I won’t have to buy any for months. And as for chocolate chips, why not buy enough to last most of the year while they’re almost half the price? It was a light bulb moment for my dimly lit self. It’s not as if those bags of powdered sugar are going to spoil (ever). Things like sour cream and cream cheese won’t last forever, but they’ll be good until the expiration date, assuming I have enough refrigerator space to store them.

I also like to buy gift cards at local businesses that offer a bonus. One restaurant last year included a free meal with a gift card purchase. Well, as long as I’ll eat there next year anyway, why not pay for it now and get an extra meal? And those online companies that give you a bonus when you load a gift card? You can load one for yourself to use throughout the year.

I haven’t always been able to take advantage of the holiday sales, especially at first. It took me a year or two to modify my spending patterns. In spite of how you may feel during your intentional shopping spree, you’re not actually spending more. You’d be buying groceries for January and beyond anyway, so you’re just spending money earlier AND at lower prices than you would after the new year.

And then comes January. The little extra planning and shopping in December gives me a head start on simplifying my life for the rest of the year. And if there’s anything I can do to avoid having to leave my cozy home in January, I’m happy to do it.

Things that Make the Housewife Thankful, 1930s

This is an actual list from the early 1900s of some of the inventions that readers of Today’s Magazine, a magazine dedicated to housewives, made them the most thankful.

Baby’s own bathtub— a miniature bathtub that was much more manageable for frequent bathing and saved mothers from having to haul water to the full-sized household bathtub.

Dustpan with a long handle--to avoid frequent bending and to reduce back strain from daily (or more!) sweeping.

New stove trimming, made of scratch/crack/scuff-proof enamel–It was easier to clean than the sooty iron stoves that needed periodic blacking and didn’t rub off and stain clothes, pots, and pans.

Hot water heater— (You don’t say!)  In addition to the obvious advantage of instant hot water, the article pointed out that a constant supply of hot water could be maintained during the summer with no excess of heat, a double win in days without central air conditioning.

Dustproof Clothesline reel–I think we can all agree on the advantages of a clothesline reel that repels dust. It so revolutionized the clothesline reel industry that following generations have never been subjected to the embarrassment of a dusty clothesline.

Vegetable pot–I believe this is an enamel pot with a smaller strainer pot that fits inside. No more draining a kettle of piping hot vegetables with steamed faces and scalded hands.

Are you grateful for any of these?  I think most of us take even the hot water heater for granted these days and never give a thought to the other, more “minor” inventions. But at one time, these were like the Instant Pots and the robotic vacuums of their day. Our lives are so abundant that we can’t even see many of the ways we’re blessed.

From Laurie and me, we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Keeping Life Balanced (or at least trying to!)

Hello folks!

Laurie and I have had some discussions lately and both felt that we need to prioritize some projects we have going on. Because of that, we will not be adding any new posts for the next few weeks. Never fear, however, we will return on Nov 5 with more housewife-y stories and inspiration!

 

…too busy to blog!

There have been several times recently when I’ve felt I didn’t have time to write any blog posts. It feels a little ridiculous to find a comfortable seat  and wax eloquent about anything, knowing all the work that badly need to be done this fall.

So instead of a philosophical ramble, here’s just a sampling of my week on the housewife side of my life, beyond all the usual housework, cooking, laundry, etc.:

Gardening work. We had the slightest touch of a frost, not even enough to kill the basil, but I feel justified in cleaning out the garden and calling it quits for another year. There comes a point every fall in which all my gardening enthusiasm has disappeared and I struggle to be grateful for the produce that is still flourishing.  I’m salvaging all the little bits of produce here and there–a handful of broccoli, a meal’s worth of okra, one cucumber, two jalapenos.

We harvested our ONE apple tree this week….. Oh. My. All the apples we could want and more. We’ll have plenty to share. This doesn’t count the bushel or so of windfalls we’ve been collecting and eating for the last 6 weeks. Before I do anything with the apples, though, I have to pickle my beet crop.

Mending clothes.  It’s not that my husband is especially hard on his work clothes, but in the course of a shift, he occasionally loses a button or a seam splits. His supply of good uniforms had dwindled to the point that I was washing the same few over and over. I finally finished mending the last piece so he now has more than a week’s worth of uniforms. Whew. As you’d expect, it was faster to mend them than it was to keep up on the laundry this summer, but…

Drying herbs. I realize I should have been working on this project all summer but the job never feels urgent until fall is imminent. I’m drying lemon balm, mint, and lemongrass for tea, plus sage and basil.

Bullet journaling. My planner for the last 10 years has been a spiral notebook, with each page divided into 6 sections, one for each weekday with an extra space for miscellaneous notes. Adequate, but cramped and uninspiring. I’d heard about bullet journaling for years but only recently understood the concept. The flexibility fits my style better than any planner I’ve ever found. I just need to remember this is about organization, and design is secondary. (But on second thought, it’s the designing that will keep me motivated to continue staying organized…)

4 o’clocks blossoms and seeds

Saving seeds. This year I’m saving seeds from my okra, amaranth, muskmelon, tomato, and three varieties of heirloom beans. I’m also harvesting flower seeds, like zinnias, cosmos, 4 o’clocks, balsam, sunflower, and marigold. The initial seed cost is usually slightly more through a mail order heirloom seed company than buying hybrids locally but saving my seeds means my gardening costs decrease every year. But beyond that, it’s just plain nice to have seeds on hand. Since I’m woeful at estimating seed quantities, I make endless rounds to the store every spring, picking up “just one more” seed packet to finish a row.

So there you have it. I’m looking forward to hibernating on some lazy January days.