Family Living 4 Less

Saving Money Without the Sacrifice!

Archive for February, 2009

Give me a break! … from spending money, that is.

Posted by flsquared on February 28, 2009

In my mid-twenties, I moved to Spain for 3 years.  I thought that Europe would be different, but I didn’t expect such a culture shock.  

One of the things that I remember distinctly was how difficult it was to grocery shop.  Our work schedule was from 9-7, but we seldom left before 7:30 or 8.  By the time I got home after a 45 minute metro ride, it was 9pm and the grocery stores were closed.  The biggest challenge for me was that nearly everything was closed on Sunday.  If I didn’t get my shopping done on Saturday (or leave work at a decent hour one evening), I was out of luck.

While it is definitely more convenient here in the US, there is something to be said about not being able to shop on Sundays.  It forces you to slow down and spend time with your friends and family once a week.  It forces you to recognize that you don’t need to shop every day.  How cool is that?

I challenge everyone to take a break from shopping once a week.  If that’s not possible, try once every two weeks or even just once a month.  After it becomes habit, you won’t even miss it!

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“The Eater’s Manifesto”

Posted by flsquared on February 25, 2009

Speaking of food being a priority for our family, I just finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.   

This book was an interesting take on eating:  according to Pollan, much of what Americans eat is not, in fact, food. And when we do consume food and non-food products, we  tend to eat too much of it.

The last portion of the book includes suggestions on how to–and not to–eat.  Here are the ones that struck a chord with me:

1.  While (culturally) the Japanese stop eating when the are 80% full and the French when they are full, Americans know to stop eating when their plates are empty.

  • Make sure your portions are of the correct size.
  • Eat at a table (not at a desk, not in front of the TV, …) and with others.  Make your meals a social experience.  This will also make it easier to eat slowly so your brain will register when you are full!

2.  Get to know your food:  

  • Cook (as much as you can).  Try to get “hands on” and minimize the use of the microwave.
  • Plant a garden (if you can).  If you live in a city apartment like me, try to go to farmers markets and participate in your area’s CSA.

3.  Eat quality food–you will appreciate it more and need less of it.

  • (my favorite!)  Don’t buy your groceries where you get your gasoline!
  • Avoid processed food products when you can (keep an eye out for unpronounceable ingredients, health claims on the packaging, a long list of ingredients,….)
  • Shop around the supermarket instead of through the aisles.  Other then frozen veggies and dried legumes, most of the aisles are full of processed non-food items.
  • You can eat meat (hurrah!), but it should be more of a side dish than an entree.

While fresh fruit and veggies are not always the least expensive options at the store, eating more “food” and less processed “non-food” has actually cut our grocery bill.  But even if it hadn’t, the benefits (more energy, better moods, improved health, …) are worth the investment.

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My Philosophy on Saving Money

Posted by flsquared on February 23, 2009

Rule #1:  Prioritize.  Know what is important to you and your family.
My husband is Spanish.  When you visit Spain and talk to the “natives”, you will be asked two questions: Do you like Spain?  and Do you like Spanish food?

Our priority, when we were first married, was to always eat well.  Now, this doesn’t mean champagne and caviar every night, but when we ate, we would eat a good, healthy, variety of food.  Food is a priority for us.

When we had our boys, safety and medical care became our priorities as well.  I never scrimp when it comes to buying a carseat or will ever again look for an apartment in a sketchy area.  And, as they get older, education will be another priority.

Rule #2:  Use common sense.  
I watched the news the other night and there was a special segment dedicated to saving money during this tough economy.  Tips included:  

  • if you use coupons, try to go to stores that double or triple them.
  • combine errands and carpool to save gas.
  • check books out of the library.
really?  this is news?

Rule #3:  Live simply.  Don’t spend money if you don’t need to!
This should probably fit under #2, but it is important.  Your family needs your time and attention, not stuff.  Try to enjoy each other.  

This will also lead to needing a smaller living space (which, in turn, will lower heating and cooling bills, etc)…

Rule #4:  Spend well.  Know when to invest in quality and know when to purchase “throw-aways”.
There are times when you need to spend.  After all, who needs to cut themselves on cheap knives or waste money on a classic cardigan that pills the first time you throw it in the wash?

On the other hand, there are times when it’s easier to throw away a juice box than to lug around an empty sippy all afternoon, hoping it doesn’t stain everything in your diaper bag.

I can’t say that I’m perfect, but I try to keep these rules in mind to help our family spend our money as wisely as we can.

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Welcome to (FL)^2 !

Posted by flsquared on February 23, 2009

The other day, heard two ladies in the grocery store commenting on how prices keep rising and it is becoming more and more difficult to save money these days.  

Tell me about it! Here’s our story:

A year and a half ago my husband and I packed up and moved to Pittsburgh so he could pursue his MBA.  A week before classes started, we had our first son.  5 months later, I was laid off.  2 weeks after that, I learned we were pregnant (oops!) with our second son.  

Pregnant, with a newborn, having to temporarily relocate for a summer internship in Philadelphia, and knowing that we would be moving a year later, I knew it would be difficult to find another job.  

So here I am, a year later, a SAHM and loving it…..but trying to enjoy my time with my babies and still make ends meet.

Why a blog?  Ever since I can remember, my friends have turned to me for financial and budgeting advice.  I always seem to live pretty well, and always beneath my means.

I have been looking for tips to save money these days, and I seem to find two types of sources: 
The majority are (to me, at least) “obvious” solutions such as “turn off the lights if you aren’t using them” or “set your thermostat lower at night”.  Perhaps I come from an overly frugal family, but those are no-brainers to me.

The many other sites seem extreme, and would cause us to sacrifice and enjoy our time together less.  I’m not willing to do that.  For example, cloth diapering does save money, and while we do it for our newborn, it is more hassle than it’s worth for our toddler.  And don’t even get me started on the guy who separates the 2-ply toilet paper–who has the time?!

In this blog, I hope to compile different tips that work for our family to help us all live a simpler, more enjoyable, and less expensive life….without the sacrifice!

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