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Trimming the Monthly Household Budget

  • Published: 2009-03-23 (Revised/Updated 2010-11-13) : Author: John T Jones, Ph.D.
  • Synopsis: Ideas to help cut costs spend less and balance the family budget yet still have a better life.

Main Document

These are tough times. But we old folks have been there before. The first thing I can remember was when I was just under three years old and my brother was born in my parents bedroom where I was sleeping in one of those iron cribs.

A lady in a white dress woke me and the incandescent light bulb in the ceiling blinded me for a second. Then I saw that the bedroom was full of people. The lady in white was Sister Perry (we Mormon types call each other brother and sister). She said, "You've got a new brother." I was not impressed. I was wet and I already had a brother and four sisters.

Sister Perry lifted me out of the bed and walked me over the cold floor to the kitchen. There was a fire but the kitchen was still cool. Sister Perry put a bowl of lukewarm oatmeal in front of me (which I hated) and I thought: I Am Poor!

True enough, that was. My dad's car was on blocks, he had recently been amongst the unemployed and we were living mainly on beans with a little salt pork and my mother's bread. (That still is my favorite dish.) Beans and bread was what we fed the hobos that came to our back door almost daily, passing our neighbors who would or could not feed them. We also had fruit that my mother canned and somehow, on Sunday, we had a roast. My aunt and uncle would sometimes bring milk and eggs. They were in pretty good shape with their cows and chickens.

I remember when Dad got a new job with a little more money and he bought enough bags of flour to line the wall of his bedroom from floor to ceiling. If he got out of work again, he would be able to feed us kids.

Anyway, Dad was frugal, staid out of debt except for the government-guaranteed mortgage on the house, and tried to occasionally dig up a dime so my brother could take me to a movie. I remember one time when we got to the movie the ticket taker wouldn't let me in free as they usually did. We walked the mile back home and I thought my legs were going to fall off, not having been able to rest them after the first mile.

I'm very concerned about the current economic situation. Fuel cost are the driver of the price increases of everything we buy. I don't see how young folks can feed their kids and get them to the baseball game. Here are some ideas to help cut cost and have a better life:

1. Try to Produce Some of the Things You are Now Buying

Yes, you will be a pioneer. Plant a garden to grow vegetables. I have planted eight fruit trees on my city lot. They are inexpensive and put out the fruit I like to eat, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, apples and pears. Some folks make soap. There are many items you can produce if you like that sort of thing.

2. Give Up or Restrict Tobacco, Alcohol, Candy, Magazines, Soft Drinks, Potato Chips and Other Junk Food, etc.

If you cut back on these items you will also cut back on your waistline and medical bills.

3. Reduce the Use of Processed Foods

Make your own salads. Maybe canned fruits and vegetables are cheaper than produce. Processing cost money, so if you can cut cost this way, do it.

4. Eat Out Less

We eat out all the time. That is because I'm the cook around here. Besides, when you are retired, you like to get out a bit. If you can buy a complete meal instead of adding on appetizers and desserts, that may be the way to go. Some fast food joints have healthy selections. Also, now days they have that "cheap board" where you can buy certain items for a dollar or a buck and a half. Anyway, eat out less. Leave the kids at home more often. You need a date anyway.

5. Look for Bargains, Use Coupons, Shop at Thrift Shops, Go to Garage Sales, etc.

Watch out for aisle-end-traps in your grocery store. Use your coupons when the item is on sale. Should I say that again? If an item has been reduced by half and you have a coupon that gives you another half, guess what? You've got a deal. Buy goods by the case if your grocer will allow it. I save a buck a box on my wife's favorite cereal. I buy toilet paper, paper towels (which you should probably eliminate) and other items by the case. The fact of the matter is, I buy too many cases and I have my own little grocery store. I never chase off to the store for a can of corn. Thrift stores often have groceries and canned goods. I try to stay away from dents but I'm fairly sure a dent here or there doesn't matter. The stores have rules so they generally do not put out items that are dangerous.

My grandkids, as many as there are here in Idaho, are great dressers. They always look great. Their stuff comes from thrift stores like Deseret Industries. I like to wear T-shirts, but I won't pay $15.00 for one. I get mine at yard sales. That is were my wife adds to her doll and bear collections and I ad to my car collection. I didn't get things like toy cars when I was a kid. I get them now.

The big department stores are continually selling at bargain prices. Sometimes you get an additional cut if you use the store charge card. I say, stay away from the charge cards. Having said that, I do have one store credit card. If I put an item on it to save a buck, I quickly go home and pay the bill even before any statement comes out. In fact, when I do that, I never get a statement nor do I pay interest. Don't pay interest if you don't have to.

6. Consider an Extra Work-at-Home Job or Part Time Job

I try to make a buck on the Internet. That is about what I make-but I am doing better. My thinking is that inflation is going to eat me alive if I don't plan for the future. Some people make things and sell them at flea markets and such. Many think of it as a hobby and they have fun doing it. Artist do that. I have never tried to sell any of my art. I try to give it away so I can hang another picture on my wall. I notice that more and more folks are having yard sales. After the sales, they can take the kids to a fast-food joint or buy a sack of groceries. There are many more permanent yard sales in our area.

7. Reduce the Number of Charities You are Supporting

I hate to say this but I've had to do it. I cut my list from about fifteen to about three. There are a lot of scams in the charity area, so pick something close to home that you know is on the up-and-up. Local shelters and hospitals are good.

8. Cut Down on Driving

Young people can bike here and there or walk. Tell your kids to start hiking. Combine trips. I walked a mile to high school. How far would your kids have to walk

9. Reduce Attendance at Movies, Fairs, Carnivals, Etc.

The kids will hate me. Well, there is free stuff you can go to. What is in your area

10. Leave the Kids with Grandma When You Go Shopping

I watch kids continually drive their parents nuts during shopping. They are always trying to sneak something into the cart. Make a shopping list before you go shopping, edit it-cutting out what you can do without and stick to the list in the store. My wife says that if you don't take the kids to the store, you have to bring them something home. I say, hand them a can of vegetables.

11. Fix It Up, Make It Do, Do Without

Have you ever heard this? Mormons are always saying it. When I was a kid I use to try to fix my shoes. The souls were always flipping. My grandfather could fix the souls so they would stay stuck for a while but I was never good at it although I always read the directions of the repair kit carefully. I guess such a kit doesn't even exit today. I can't even find a shoemaker in my town. Anyway, the advice is good. Learn how to repair things.

12. Remember, Kids Don't Have to Have Everything

In this day and age, our kids have to have everything. Darn near every kid I know over twelve has a cell phone. There is a big problem in our church. The kids are always texting each other. I had to add that word to my spell checker just now. Texting, I will have nothing to do with it. It goes with my aim to never own a cell phone just as my old boss and Senator John McCain vowed never to have a computer. Your kid doesn't need every DVD, CD and game he or she sees. Don't listen to the crying. My wife says, "Let them cry! It will help them grow up."

Fly Old Glory!

Reference: John T. Jones, Ph.D. (, a retired college professor and business executive, Former writer and editor for an international engineering magazine

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