Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Spending or Saving: Part 6 (My Top Three Habits)

Happy Tuesday dearies!  Thanks for stopping by.

This post is part of a series that explores the ideas, tensions, and practices surrounding money, income, and our approach to thinking about and managing this part of life.

You can find the other posts here.

No, the photo doesn't have anything to do with what's written - I am just hoping that you'll enjoy and join in the winter scene that is my little place on this earth, the country road that runs right past our home.

As promised, we're gonna get into some practical stuff today.
You've been so generous about reading along and joining in the big picture elements of what I've called financial literacy.  My definition of that term is here.

Near as I can tell, I've got three posts in the works on habits to cultivate.

Some of these are saving habits - ways to conserve the black on the spreadsheet.
Spending habits of course make the same contributions.  The less you spend the more you've saved.
And, really, by the time I get to the end of the list, I wonder if they aren't a little bit of each.

Although these are not particularly in any order based on research or reading, I'm going to try and post the habits that have had the most significant impact on our current financial circumstance. Maybe they're the freshest in my frail memory.  Alternately, I've heard from so many of you who wish to live this agrarian dream, so in response to "how did you do it?",  by ordering these habits I am suggesting merit.

Numero Uno-
Become a committed, YouTubing, stacks of how to books from the library, DIYer.
There are four things we've hired help for in the last three years.

A plumber ran the waste lines for all the new bathroom fixtures in this old farm house.

A young man set up his carpentry shop in our barn and assisted with whatever we needed on an hourly wage basis, sometimes demolition, sometimes framing, a handful of finish carpentry projects, and some floor refinishing.  All of these things we are now more than capable of doing on our own, but he had tools.  We didn't.  We traded use of his tools for use of our barn.  When Weekend Farmer Husband was up to his eyeballs in 24 different projects I could hire this young man (with WFH's blessing) to build a set of bookcases, closet inserts, what have you.

We now have all the tools.  Sometimes we get less done because we're doing too much, and I remember with an odd fondness just writing a check, and J.J. would install whatever I asked in a much shorter time frame than we currently do.  No complaints.  Just a weird nostalgia.

We hired electricians to finish the hook up for our solar panel inverters right before inspections. Weekend Farmer Husband did all the figuring, hung the panels, ran all the lines, but the trade certified electricians were on site for inspections having just completed the hook up.

Most recently, we paid for two guys to help with the huge job of pouring a concrete floor in one of our outbuildings.  Although we could have done it, and WFH wanted to do it, we determined we didn't have enough margin in other areas of life together and hired it out.  You betcha bottom dollah we paid close attention...Won't be long 'til that fine farmer of mine is a DIYer at pouring concrete.

Otherwise, with help from friends and family, we've done every shred of demolition, renovation, rebuilding, and farm work ourselves.

You don't have to be "handy" to be a DIYer.
You need basic tools and plenty of extra time.
I'm not sure you heard me - plenty of extra time!
Our general rule of thumb as seasoned do it yourselfers with lots of tools, is to allow three times as much time as the "expert" recommends the first time through.
The learning curve is always the steepest the first time you try.

Examples of other kinds of DIY projects you can take on:
Haircuts, auto repair (oil changes and brake work being the top two), all manner of home repair and improvement including painting, flooring, plumbing, and even basic electrical tasks like wiring switches or outlets, basic carpentry ( raised garden planters, dining benches, cold frames,deck or porch repair, and even chicken coops).

Be Creative.
I'm not glue gun, scissors, sewing machine, get my craft on creative.
And although I enjoy the occasional craft, I'm talking about a way of thinking and approaching financial and practical issues.

If you're scared to death of doing your own brake work and becoming an automobile DIYer has you reaching for the brown bag, maybe you could trade time or services.  Perhaps your neighbor could use help with book keeping come tax season and he/she would love to monkey around with your brake fluid levels in exchange.  What skills or resources do you have that you can barter with or exchange for another's area of expertise?

Being creative includes how you use space.  Most of us are likely familiar with the idea of stockpiling - purchasing multiples of consumable goods when they're offered at the best price, and storing them from future use.  Let's say Yellow Cling Peaches are a screaming deal at the market but you're holding back because you can't  figure out where you're gonna put 24 cans.  Look at space in a new way.  Can they go under a bed?  Is there a tiny corner of your coat closet that could make room for a tower of yellow? It's your house and you steward its space.  Think outside the kitchen cupboards!

Creativity means looking at items beyond their labels.  I'll talk about this again later, but for example, if you want the most bang for your buck for home furnishing fabric, look at tablecloths.  They're not just for surfaces anymore.  They can transform into pillow covers, dust ruffles, in my case curtains, and I've even seen them made into floor cloths in Pinterest. (Yup, that's next on my list)

Freeing our minds to reconsider paradigms, to shake off our habits of "that's just what we do", a marketing label, or a particular set of instructions has allowed us to spend our dollars and time on acquiring tools and skills rather than paying to have something done, or having to use something in a manner prescribed by someone other than us.

Slow down.  Stay home.
My personal goal for this habit is to seek opportunities to be home for five consecutive days.
It's random.
But, it's almost unattainable.
Which is why I sometimes wonder if it's truly a random number, or some subliminal wisdom that corresponds with the difficulty of actually accomplishing this.

When we stay home we consume less.
Less fuel for sure, but also less energy that could be used toward menu planning and a prepared pantry rather than take out, fewer snacks for the road, the travel bag doesn't need constant restocking with hand santizer, and in my case, the Starbucks drive through has become a fuzzy and distant memory.

When we stay home we are more likely to resourcefully use the tools and consumable items that are already at our disposal or on the shelves.

If you have trouble being creative as I suggested, stay home.  You've heard the phrase "necessity is the mother of invention" right?  It's true. Certainly I've invented recipes, activities, comfort measures, and all manner of home redecoranging projects because I've slowed down enough to tap into what's right before my eyes.

Co curricular activities for families with school age children can be enriching, bonding, and downright fun.
They are almost always costly.Consider how many activities fit your family goals, and consider backing out of one or two, even if just for a short while.

Not only will you not spend on fuel (again), and the possible quick meals grabbed on the fly, but you'll not spend on the fees for instruction and or equipment that often accompanies co curricular activity.
You may discover that you had "extra" stuff in your schedule that clearly can be permanently off your plate, or conversely, you'll discover it's significant value to your family, and will resume committing time, financial and other resources to its pursuit with confidence.,

There you have it.  Our toe just in the waters of practicality.
What are your top tips?
Let's talk about it...


  1. I definitely agree with the stay at home tip.
    One of my top tips is to do what you can yourself but if it's completely out of your comfort zone hire someone or barter for it. I try to learn new skills all of the time. YouTube videos and library books are my go to resources, too.
    Great tips here and I look forward to more.

    1. Any wisdom on actually staying home, oh great wise mother of teens?
      It's makin' me learn all kinds of new patience - not the kids - the schedule!
      Learning to do what you can yourself is a surprising and rewarding journey.
      Do you find that you surprise yourself by thinking first, "Oh we can do that!" even if you've never done it before? We sure do - mostly good results, sometimes things get worse before they get better...

    2. Limiting the activities the kids are involved in to just one or two per week. My son plays basketball once a week with a homescool group and takes art class. I chose not to participate in our homeschool coop because it would take more time out of the house and it wasn't in line with my curriculum choices.
      I love realizing we can actually do something ourselves. And yes at times they get a lot worse before they get better. Lol

    3. Sounds like we're very much on the same page, Ruth.
      Even so , I still can't attain my goal of five days home with any sort of frequency.
      I don't have any angst for not achieving it...I keep out there,a little like a holy grail of home educating, mothering, home keeping, frugal practices.
      Always worth striving for.

  2. Laura, you speak to my heart! There is so much pressure in this world to go and do, but I have always loved to stay home. Luckily, my teenager shares my hermit tendencies.

    1. oooo, Shannon, delighted you came back!
      Love it when kindred spirits come visiting. :-)
      I was a professional gal for 21 years before coming home full time.
      My desire, from the beginning, was to be home but it was not to be.
      I have decades of reprogramming to do.
      But, I delight in being home.
      I have yet to experience any sense of, "I just have to get out of here for a while."
      Yes, I too love to stay home.
      And, I consider it a beautiful privilege and one of the greatest ways Weekend Farmer Husband has shifted his whole world around in order to serve his wife and family well.
      ({*snort* "hermit tendencies"...;-)})