Payson Cousin's Moneysaving Tips

OK, America.  We all know that the economy is in the toilet and that our plutocratic society has mud on its face.  I don't want to get into politics;  I'm trying to keep my soapbox-jumping under control.  You know what a struggle it is for me to control my soapbox.

Here's what I know.  My parents and my grandparents knew how to pinch a penny when it was needed, and so do I.  I stayed home with my kids for 10 years and living on one income had its challenges.  I don't think my thrifty skills are enough to make living through the Great Depression painless.  Still, maybe you'll find some useful tips in here.

FOOD:
  1. Break out your slow-cooker, America!  You remember, you got one for a wedding gift?  Stop bringing home fast food.  Just for kicks and giggles, do a little search on a recipe for slow-cooker lasagna.  I  assemble it the night before and refrigerate, and then plug in my trusty CrockPot in the morning before I leave for work.  (I add the water in the morning, FYI.)  I come home to a hot, tasty dinner and I didn't have to face the take-out counter.  Try it for soup, stew, whatever:  there are tons of good slow-cooker recipes out there.
  2. Pop your own popcorn for your movie nights or a cheap snack anytime.  Try sprinkling some parmesan cheese and smoked paprika on your popcorn!   Don't cheat and buy a bag of kettle corn (whoever heard of sweet popcorn, anyway???) and don't use the microwave kind. Remember how to pop corn using a big pan and little bit of oil? You probably even have an air popper next to the crockpot. Dust that off, too. And trust me: real melted butter is much better for you than that mysterious butter-like stuff in the microwave popcorn.
  3. Quit drinking soda. At least make it a treat, instead of your daily fluid intake.
  4. Wean yourself from convenience foods.  Eating more fresh food is not only less expensive, it will help keep your medical bills lower. ;-)   Cook from scratch.  Come on, team, you can do it!!!  You can make your own yogurt for very little money and flavor it however you choose.  Make your own bread.  Once you can make your own bread, you can make your own pizza, too.  How much do you spend on a delivered pizza?  My own homemade pizza costs me about $3 for an extra-large, and I never deliver the wrong one.   ***And before you start giving me that "I don't have time to cook" business, let me tell you:  it doesn't take that much more time!***  The total amount of hands-on time to make a pizza is about 25 minutes.  You spend almost that much just listening to Domino's specials before someone answers the phone.  Add in the time it takes you to get a consensus from the family about what kind of toppings to get.  The part that takes time in a homemade pizza is the rising, which happens whatever I'm doing.  It takes planning, not time.
  5. It's time to face it America.  We are a nation of conspicuous consumers.  I challenge you (shoot, I challenge ME) to look into your grocery cart next time and look hard.  What's in there?  Do we need the flavored coffee creamer, the toaster pastries, the single-serving size of whatever, the instant coffee and instant soup and brand-name everything?  Get your courage by the hand and put two things back.  You won't miss them later, I'm sure.   Be a sport now, and put them all the way BACK, not just stuffed in the rack with the National Enquirer by the checkout stand.  Spend a little money on some reusable containers, buy things in larger quantities and save the cost of the individual packaging.  There are times when choosing a certain brand or a convenience size has its merit, but for everyday face-stuffing, we can do better.
  6. I don't know if you know this.  I didn't know it for many years.  You can have meatless meals and not miss the steak.  It is possible.
LAUNDRY:
  1. Learn how to mend clothes. Do you remember the saying, "A stitch in time saves nine."? Better yet if you can learn how to alter clothes or even make them! Seriously, though. Mending your own clothes instead of having it done for you or giving the clothing away will save you mucho denero.
  2. Wash your clothes in cold water. You won't be able to tell the difference, except in your electric or gas bill. I only use hot if the clothes are stinky.  If your washer has a "spin only" feature, spin your washed clothes one more time. That will cut your drying time significantly.
LIFE:
  1. Look into the mirror and ask yourself a very difficult question: "How many channels do I really NEED?"
  2. A while back, I posted a list of things I like. Forgive me Olay, but I take those Olay deep-cleansing cloths and cut them in half.
  3. Quit buying expensive hand creams, though you should always happily accept them as a gift, and use a little plain olive oil instead. It absorbs into your skin very quickly and works wonderfully well.
  4. Go to the library instead of the DVD rental store. Our library loans DVDs for free and you can keep them for two weeks. Also a much wiser choice than the theater.
  5. Quit smoking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stop groaning.  You know it costs an arm and a leg......and a lung or two.  Stop it!! Do you hear me?  Stop it!!! 
  6. How many different household cleaners do you buy?   I mainly clean with white vinegar, plain ammonia, or good old Pine-Sol.  The vinegar will make your windows and mirrors shine, takes the hard water off the shower doors and leaves no streaks when I clean my laminate floors.  The ammonia works well to get the junk off of that stupid smooth-top stove.  I wish whoever invented that ridiculous stove had it shoved up their tailpipe, but the ammonia helps.  And Pine-sol does almost everything else.
  7. I like cloth napkins.  I have an antique crockery bowl on my table with napkins folded and arranged points-up.  It's a pretty centerpiece on the table and so useful.  Cloth napkins are greener, of course, classier, and so reusable that they're practically free.  I made mine years ago out of fabric I bought for $2 a yard.  One yard gives you four generous-sized napkins, and so far I've had over 8 years of use out of them.  That's about 2000 uses so far, at $2 a yard for a cost so far of about 1/100th of a penny for FOUR napkins.  And there are still many years of use left in them.  Just choose colors that can stand the barbeque sauce, brown gravy and pizza sauce.  
Let's face it America.  Life needs balance.  We've been leaning so heavily toward the disposable, instant-gratification style of consumerism that our economic ship is listing.  We're dangerously close to sinking the whole vessel.  Government bailouts aren't going to help us (and they've hurt us enough already), we can't depend on the mortgage companies to learn their lesson, or the credit card companies to lower their interest rates.  It's up to us. 

We have to pay closer attention to our spending, without taking all the fun out of life.  Just like diets don't work if they're only about deprivation, budgets don't work if they're all skimp and no spend.  We can make better choices, though.  And we can find the challenge in saving.  Most of all, if we can get back to the basics of running our lives, a more hands-on approach might actually be more satisfying than having everything done for us.   We can save money, tread more lightly on the planet and get more satisfaction all at the same time.

Makes You Think?

http://learningfromdogs.com/2010/06/10/a-way-forward/

I read this post on Learning From Dogs this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.  Ok, it stopped me in my swivel chair, but you know what I mean.  We talk about this very thing in my house quite a lot. 

I am a firm believer that we should hope for the best...and prepare for the worst.  Focusing on the trials and tribulations of life doesn't make them go away, it just makes them more noticeable.  Focusing on the joy doesn't make the trials go away, but it sure makes the joy more noticeable.  Seek and ye shall find? 

My two grandmothers were polar opposites in this way.  My American grandma spent her whole life focusing on what was wrong.  She thought about the things she was disappointed in, the ways she didn't get what she wanted out of life.  And even though she came through the depression and the war with all of her sons safe and sound, and lived the rest of her life in relative security, she was never a happy woman. 

My Holland grandma had a very difficult life and faced so many hardships I couldn't begin to name them.  She focused on the blessings in her life and paid as little attention to the bad stuff as possible.  She lived 15 years longer than my American grandma, and lived all of her years with better mental acuity and better independent function.  Could these things be related?  Absolutely!  Read more about how your outlook on life affects your life.

Come on, kids.  We all know this.  When you were laid up in the bed with chicken pox, and you couldn't go out and play, what did your Momma say?  Mine told me, "OK, so you can't go out and play.  But if you were well enough to go play, you'd be well enough to do your chores.  Enjoy the quiet time and quit scratching."

We don't get to live a life that is free of trouble.  (That would be Eden, and we blew that deal a long time ago.)  What we do get is the power to choose.  Free will.   We have the unqualified privilege of deciding what to focus on in almost any given moment. 

Here is what I'm focusing on today.
  • Jim Reeves is singing "He'll Have To Go" to me.  My Daddy taught me to waltz to that song and it's a cherished memory every time I hear it.  Isn't music wonderful?
  • I have two healthy, happy, well-balanced sons.  GROWN sons.  Each of them has a very nice girlfriend (one son denies that it's more than friendship, but I'm reserving judgment.)  Life is good. 
  • My sweet hubs still makes my little heart go pitter-patter, even 25 years in.  If that isn't a true blessing, I don't know what is.
  • My pantry is full.  My basil is growing.  The freezer is full.  My bed is comfy and my house is a comfortable temperature.  I have great neighbors, a nice yard and a whole gaggle of neighborhood girls to fill the air with children's voices and giggling.
  • I'm needed.  Who would do the laundry if I weren't here?
  • I'm not fat and I'm not skinny. 
  • I'm not young and I'm not old.
  • I'm not rich and I'm not poor.
  • There is plenty of work to keep me busy, and there's always tomorrow for what I can't finish today.
It's an upside-down world in a lot of ways:  full of injustice, greed, poverty, pain and prejudice.  But it still the only world we have.  We might as well make the best of it. 

Profoundly Profane

***

I heard my colleague say a bad word!  I never heard her use one before.  She was severely provoked, which has always been a good reason for profanity.  Still, I was surprised.  When this friend drops a swear word, you know that things are serious.

Can I just be controversial and defend profanity?  We need bad words.  We need 'em!  There are times when a simple, "shoot!" won't do.  There are moments when you are pushed to the point where only the F Bomb adequately describes what you need to say.  There are people for whom the name "jerk" does NOT tell the story.

We need the bad words.  We need all the words.  We need some more words, too....some that haven't been invented yet.  (My youngest son invents a lot of very fine words.  Maybe I'll give him an order to fill.)  When you think about extremes of your life, you'll find that the words we have aren't always big enough.  That moment when you first hold your newborn child in your arms isn't fully described by "happy", "love", "ecstatic" or "thrilled".  It's ever so much more than that.

And there are times (whole days even) when "angry", "frustrated" or "infuriated" are completely inadequate to the rage that boils inside you.   When things go wrong enough, for long enough, "Oh sugar!" doesn't release that much frustration.  But a good, solid, "OH SHIT!" can really relieve the tension.

We wouldn't have all these many words if we didn't need them.  They all describe the shades upon shades of meaning which is the human experience.   Good words, strong words, happy words,  sad words -- even the dirtiest, most vulgar word you know says something meaningful and describes something that no other word quite does.  That doesn't mean we should use the words carelessly, but then, if you've been reading me for any time, you know that I don't think we should use any word carelessly.

I'm a big fan of meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  The only way to do that is to choose the words which most clearly express what you wish to say.  And sometimes you just need to say "F it."


I AM Teachable

I can be taught.  I can!!

But before I tell you what I learned recently, I'll have to make an ugly confession. 

I never really liked sports.  Of any kind.  Oh, I can sit through a baseball game or a hockey game.  I cheered on the sidelines through my younger son's wrestling, football, soccer and track phases, but that was an act of parenting, not fanhood.  When I was in high school, I was NOT the girl who made cow eyes at the basketball players...generally speaking, I didn't like the jocks any better than I liked the sports they played.  Truthfully, I never saw much real value in athletics, except that it kept you from being a couch potato.  I've heard the arguments that kids who are involved in sports don't get involved in drugs, alcohol or gangs, but I'm not so sure.   I went to my share of those out-in-the-woods drinking parties and there were plenty of jocks there, too.

As is so often the case, I had a lesson to learn.  I already knew that the age-old parental curse, "I hope that someday, you have a kid just like YOU!" is the most powerful spell on earth, because the very things that drove my parents crazy about me showed up in my own children.  No, this lesson was about the value of sports.

There.  I said it.  There is value in sports.  Only a few years ago I thought school sports were pretty much a waste of time.  Fun, but a waste of time.  Now my son is a young man with a high school diploma, a couple of college scholarships to choose from and a whole new understanding.  Gone are the years upon years of me banging my head against the wall, saying, "You have all the potential to do anything you want, if you'd just apply yourself.  You could get straight As, if you'd just apply yourself.  You could (fill in the blank with almost anything) if you'd just APPLY yourself!"

He sees it too, now, and it's thanks to the sports.  His success in Track & Field has shown him that the world is his for the taking.  All my motherly love and encouragement didn't show him that.  The fine examples that the sweet hubs and I try to be didn't make the difference.  Good coaches who were strong enough to ride his butt, teammates who cheered him on.......and a pile of gold medals sure made him think.  For the first time he sees all the talent that we've all be swearing was his.  The world is bright with promise for him and he is looking around with new eyes.  And it was in high school sports that he found a door to that new, bright world.