Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The New Savings Culture
I have reported before that I spend a few hours each week trolling about on Pinterest reading frugal blog posts. There's always the off chance I might learn something I haven't known before, or relearn something I'd forgotten (just as good as a new trick is a forgotten trick!)...Most blogs tend to stick to the old basics that we've all learned and repeated: stop eating out (as much), stop buying new when used will do as well, stop spending what you haven't earned yet...You get the idea. Sort of a 'Frugality for Dummies' mentality.
However, there is a new savings culture out there and I've noticed it creeping in amongst frugal blogs with a subtle message: Frugality isn't worth it.
How, you might ask, do they justify their position? By trotting out the old and hackneyed methods of savings (stop eating out, stop buying lattes and stop overspending) and hinting that small savings are the least effective way to manage your funds. The new take is this: You should work to earn more because a new and better job will reward you many times over. You should invest instead of save. You should cook from scratch but forget coupons or meal plans. That's too much work for too little return. You should buy top quality as you can afford to pay cash but used is not necessarily the way to go, if it requires repairs or sprucing up. You should skip the work of a vegetable garden but find a good CSA that will deliver organic vegetables and fruits to your door on a weekly basis...
Shall I go on?
In other words, Frugality is a lot of work. There's got to be an easier way.
Here's my take on this whole thing. Frugality is a lot of work. Sometimes we're saving mere pennies it's true, but that is the difference between our budget and theirs apparently. We might have to save pennies because the dollars are accounted for and not stretching quite far enough. There might be better paying jobs out there, or even second jobs available, but we haven't seen them in our area, not even in the larger cities within driving distance. What used to be a whole section devoted merely to job ads in our city paper has dwindled to half a page at best and often not that. It seems prudent, under those circumstances, to stick with the primary job you have and look for other ways to save. (And then it's just possible that some might be like my John. He could make more elsewhere. Miserably. He likes his job and he likes the rural county where he works. I'll take a happy man, thank you.)
It is true that if you are in debt, you must use extra income to get out of debt. And if your income isn't enough to both get you out of debt and pay your bills then you must figure out how to get that added income. When we decided to get out of debt we did not seek out a second job for John. He worked one extra 12 hour shift a pay period when it was available. ONE. Usually in a month's time he had two extra days. That was it. We applied that money towards debt reduction.
We looked for a job for me but it was soon clear that working outside the home was not going to be the most cost effective thing I could do. So I looked inside my home for a job. At that time I was sorting out my grandmother's home after my father's death and culling items routinely from my own home. I sold those items on eBay. I put every penny of the clear earnings (after eBay fees and postage and tithe) right into our debts. Often it was only $100 clear a month but it was dedicated to debt repayment. I cleaned my mom's home twice a month. I was paid a small amount, just above minimum wage for two hours of work and taken out to lunch afterwards. That money was used to extend our grocery funds. That bit of cash pretty much covered that mid pay period lot of milk and bread and fresh produce that is always wanted.
I clipped and used coupons (there was no Aldi grocery in our area at that time), continued to cook every single meal from scratch, planned my foodstuffs so that we seldom had waste. I became queen of the Leftover Makeover menu. I found ways to cut down on expenses and we tried them all. Some worked for us and some didn't. Some required an outlay of money we didn't have at that time, others simply weren't cost effective enough to keep doing. Homemade laundry detergent was inexpensive but didn't dissolve well in our soft water. An alternative for us was to combine sales/coupons/refunds to get detergent that worked with our water for pennies. Some saving methods didn't work with our home life very well like putting a timer on the hot water heater. We had three schedules running in our home at that time and showers or laundry ran accordingly. To offset the necessity of the hot water heater being on 24 hours a day, we made panels that we put in the windows on the sunny side of the house in summer months. It reduced the indoor temperature by 10 degrees and that meant that the AC worked a lot more efficiently at keeping our home at 80F. The savings in summer months was enough to offset the cost of heating hot water for a full year.
The most important thing we did? We continued practicing those things that had proven to be true money savers and to do them consistently, day in and day out. If I saved $1 a day I had stretched our income by $30 at the end of the month. It might not show up as an actual figure in the bank account but it showed in easing the strain we felt in tugging the budget ends closer. Another fallacy you'll hear about savings is that if you can't SEE it you didn't save it. Phooey! How can you believe that something doesn't count simply because you cannot see the additional money in a physical account each month? That's one mistake this New Savings Culture is making in my opinion.
Here's my thinking: my great grandparents and grand parents made it through the Great Depression. Their very stoic approach to life, their hard core frugality and that of their neighbors, got this country back on it's feet. It kept them going. It meant my grandmothers all saved thousands of dollars each, putting away a small amount each month and letting it build up, a proverbial rainy day fund that they never felt the need to draw upon. I can see the results of their ways very well. I'm not convinced this New Savings Culture has all the facts...Or the backbone to carry on when things really get tough. Call me old fashioned. I won't hang my head in shame if you do.