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Shoestring Budgets
Kitchen utensels
Photo: Benjamin Ach
As a child growing up, one of my very favorite places to hang out was my grandparent’s house. They didn’t have a lot of luxuries but there was a certain humble peace that pervaded their home, and I loved to be there.

The food was simple but there was plenty of it. Every evening around midnight, “Papa,” would rise from his bed and make his way into the kitchen in his pajamas for a cup of hot chocolate. How excited I was to join him in his nocturnal routine.

There were never boxes of expensive cold cereal in my grandparent’s cupboard. Hot oatmeal was the fare every morning; even the cat ate a small bowl of leftover porridge for breakfast!

My grandparents never used soap pads to clean their pots and pans. Instead they scrubbed them with old balls of rolled up tin foil.

They never owned a color TV or air conditioner but when they died they left a respectable inheritance to their two children. Nana and Papa had mastered the art of living comfortably on a small budget.

If followed, the following four budget stretching principles will save thousands of dollars over time, regardless of your income:

1. Don’t Waste!  Americans throw away more than some cultures subsist on. Set your thermostat up or down a degree or two to conserve energy. Use solar heating by opening blinds on sunny days to warm your home in the winter. Open windows at night to cool your home in the summer.

Turn off lights when not in use; turn off water when brushing teeth and scrubbing dishes.

Donate unused items to charity, or sell them at a yard sale or swap meet. Use really old clothes for rags and save on paper towels! 

Trade in your gas guzzling SUV for something more economical.

2. Plan Ahead!  Pay car insurance premiums “up front” to save on monthly installment fees. Save gasoline by combining all your errands on one day. Start out earlier and save on gas and stress by driving slower.

Buy airplane tickets at least three weeks in advance; take advantage of Internet specials.

Ask your CPA for an “early bird” discount if you do your taxes in January before the rush.

Pack your lunch the night before. Eating out can cost thousands of dollars per year and the food is generally not as healthy as you might prepare.

Buy clothing in January taking advantage of the biggest sales of the year. Shop at thrift stores, consignment stores and outlet malls. There are even grocery outlet stores that offer food at amazingly reduced prices.

3. Save!  Experts recommend 5% of your income. If your paycheck is $1000, save $50. If you gross $2000, save $100. In this way you will eventually be able to pay cash for larger items such as furniture, appliances, a newer vehicle, or a family vacation, instead of purchasing these items on credit and incurring high interest rates.

4. Give!  Giving to others and giving to God ironically sets a cycle in motion that stretches your budget in amazing and unexpected ways. Some call it karma; the Lord calls it sowing and reaping. In God’s economy, when we give, we receive and when we bless others, we are in turn, blessed.

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By Kathy A. Lewis. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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