Hello Fellow Parents,
I don’t know about you, but I’m here trying to make the best of my incarceration bonus time at home. During the day, I change into my day pajamas and make the lengthy commute to my day computer. When I am thoroughly sick of my work location, I retrace my steps. I end the day in my reclining office chair with my night pajamas and my tablet. The days are starting to run together. I fear that I will work on a Saturday because I think it is still Friday. Can anyone relate?
I’ve been trying to think of topics that would be helpful to discuss with your kids while so many people are spending extra time at home. The topic today is very basic, but I think it might be time to bring it up again no matter whether your children are in grade school, middle school, high school or young adults.
Wants versus needs is a relevant discussion at any age. It is especially relevant now with the current state of our economy. Parents may need to make choices which will affect their dependent children and young adults. I am writing to help get the conversation started which is the first step in making necessary budget cuts.
It’s painful to disappoint our children, teenagers and even young adults, but while we are going through periods of (hopefully temporary) unemployment, some tough decisions will need to be made. The following list is a good place to start the discussion (only #1 will be discussed in this post):
||Healthy Food & Water
||Eating (or drinking) out, extravagant grocery purchases
||Cell phone with Data Plan
||New, designer clothing
||Personal Care-haircuts, etc.
||Personal care-professional mani/pedi, color treatments
||Car-sometimes (with insurance, gas, repairs)
||Basic Educational Expenses
||Private School Tuition
||Extracurricular and enrichment activities
||Other topics to be discussed in subsequent posts
The basic needs require no discussion as I think we are all familiar with them. It’s worth a family discussion to pull together and figure out where costs can be cut, if necessary. I was a stay at home mom for many years. I offer you my many years of personal experience in extreme cost cutting while still living an abundant life. I have trained my whole life for this!
Grocery shopping is a discretionary expense where we can cut a lot of “fat” from the budget, quite literally! Just for an experiment, take a look at your last couple of grocery receipts, and add up the amount that was spent on beverages. Include pop, coffee, tea, milk, juice, alcohol, bottled water, sugared powdered drink mixes and anything else I may have forgotten. If all those items were stricken from the shopping list, you would still have plain old tap water. Sound exciting? Not exactly, but right now this discussion is about differentiating between wants and needs! Next, add up anything that would be eaten as a snack outside of a regular meal. Include chips, dips, desserts, pastries, snack bars, pudding, sugary yogurts, candy, nuts and anything else you see on your receipt that I didn’t think of. How much would you save if you cut out all of them? Next item under scrutiny is meat. How much was spent on meat? Can you cut out some meat and replace with beans for protein? Can you buy less expensive cuts that are just as good after marinating? How about cereal and other breakfast items? A big container of oatmeal is a much more economical alternative than sugary cereal. Donuts and pastries are not an actual food group. How is this a family discussion, you ask? Well, once you have figured out what areas can be cut out of your food budget, add in a few of your family’s most important luxury items to your next shopping trip. If you keep a bag of apples on hand, no one will go hungry, but they may decide that they were not actually hungry enough to eat an apple! Also important is meal planning, leftover management, and where you shop. You can get a lot more food at Aldi than you can at Whole Foods. Buying generic, at least sometimes, shopping sales and clipping coupons will go a long way as well. Buying a large sized yogurt and adding your own fruit is more economical than buying individual serving sized containers. Since most of us have nowhere to go right now, why pay extra for convenience?
Now that you’ve had a chance to evaluate and cut your grocery budget, now you can look at how much is spent eating out. I recommend downloading your bank statement and credit card statements for the past few months. If you download everything into an Excel format, it will be easy to see how much was spent on restaurant meals, coffee, bars, etc. You might be absolutely stunned when you see the numbers in front of you in black and white. Does your family eat out twice per week, or 8-9 times per month? How much would save if you ate all your meals at home? What if, instead, you splurged once or twice per month with moderately priced meals? Could pizza night out turn into frozen pizza night at home (feel free to splurge on the electricity to bake it) with a movie in your very own, virus -free living room with your delicious hot, almost free popcorn with real, actual butter? How much was spent on coffee, craft beer and wine tastings? How much could be saved if those indulgences turned into occasional treats rather than daily or weekly occurrences? Open the restaurant discussion with your kids. What if they could only choose one or two special meals per month? Where would they choose? There’s no reason that their carryout choice must be the same as yours.
Take this as an opportunity to talk to your kids about money. They’re resilient. It’s not like they don’t already know something is amiss. There is no shame in having to make cuts when necessary. The biggest mistake would be denying that financial sacrifices need to be made and jeopardizing the long-term welfare of your family.
Let me know whether you did this exercise and how much money you found in your budget that could be used on fixed budget items such as rent or mortgage. In addition to freeing up resources in the budget, this activity should also contribute to the health and wellness of your family. Happy hunting!