3/7/11

Practical “Penny Pinching” Tips toward Preparedness

Have you ever noticed that most people wouldn’t think twice about picking up a shiny quarter off the terrazzo floor of some shopping mall? But how many would stop long enough to drop their grocery bags to scoop up a measly penny? Admit it – like me – those annoying, worthless, cheap pieces of metal end up on the bottom of your purse, sucked up in the vacuum cleaner or swept in a dust pan and tossed in the trash. 

In an age where every cent should count, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the value of the humble penny. Could it be that every time we esteem its worth, we are daily making the choices that will inevitably put more money back in our pockets? What are some practical ways we can pinch even something as small as a penny, and save big? If you aspire to be a ready woman, think about what that means financially and how your choices really add or subtract from your future. Since there are too many “penny pinching” tips to mention in this one post, I plan to make this a three-part series, so stay tuned. Here are your first five tips to help get you started down the path of penny pinching:

Penny Pinching Tip #1:

Learn the value of saving, setting aside and storing something of value. We live in a “spend, spend” society - even in a rocky economy, people are going crazy trying to get that last thing on credit and tossing both reason and wisdom to the wind. Benjamin Franklin knew the value of a penny, and coined the common phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” We would do well to heed the words of good ole’ Ben. He meant that any penny you don't waste is the same as earning a penny. The same could be said of $10, $100, $1000 and so on. And saving doesn’t necessarily mean money per se; it could be other commodities like food, clothing, precious metals, property and so on. We need to stock up on things of intrinsic value and common, everyday supplies before the products are no longer available or the cost is so hyper-inflated, we simply cannot afford it. Pennies in and of themselves are miniscule but they add up in so many ways.

One practical and easy way to save is utilizing a large quart or gallon size pickle jar for pocket change. Remember the days of the piggy bank? The pickle jar works well and gives you that sense of satisfaction when the change finally meets the brim! Think about it: Who really misses the change in their pocket, wallet, car console or drawer? By dropping your loose change in a big pickle jar - or the equivalent - you can save hundreds, even thousands in a year. No two jars are created equal either: How many quarters versus pennies, nickels and dimes you collect will obviously affect the amount you cash in, but the point is start somewhere.

Penny Pinching Tip #2:

Let wisdom, prudence and prayer be your choice over impulse. If you want to be wise with your spending – and saving - ask yourself the essential “Three Question Rule” before making any purchase. Do I really need this? Do I have enough discretionary income to pay for it? And have I prayed about it?

  • Do I really need this? How many times have you purposed to buy a few essentials at your local department store and ended up buying other meaningless trinkets or gadgets that you ended up never using. Beware of advertisements luring you into their trap of “need” versus “want”. You know the difference. Think of how much more could be added to your budget simply by eliminating these frivolous purchases. So before making any purchase make sure you really do need it.

  • Do I have enough discretionary income to pay for it? To put it more succinctly, are all my bills paid and essentials purchased before making this purchase? If you want to be wise and prudent in your purchases, make certain you have the money at the moment – i.e. in your bank account or on hand. Purchasing things on credit is simply not the best choice. Think about it: So you got that amazing, new outfit 10% off the original price, but ended up paying the amount you thought you saved in credit card fees over the course of several months. The only “credit” exception I make is when I can purchase something – like furniture – on the company’s loan option of “no interest / same as cash”. As long as I know I can pay for it within the timeframe allotted with zero interest, then I make the exception. Even this is not an ideal situation as we never know from month to month whether or not we might encounter a job loss, death or illness that sets us back - which brings me to our next “Three Question Rule”:

  • Have I prayed about it? God cares about every decision we make and how it affects our relationship with Him and others. Could that money be better spent helping someone in need thereby advancing God’s kingdom instead of our own? Will this purchase bring strife in our relationship to our spouse or close friend? Are we doing it for the wrong reasons to impress our friends or family? These are the questions we should ask while seeking God’s will. He would never tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word
 Penny Pinching Tip #3:

Start putting your hard-earned dollars to work by starting a food co-op, setting up some wholesale accounts and buying in bulk. My husband and I have learned the quickest way to put pennies – more like hundreds, if not thousands – back in our pockets is by making large joint purchases with others, setting up wholesale accounts and buying in bulk. Since we have a well-established business, selling everything from solar, bulk food, outdoor gear, homestead supplies, books and more, we have hundreds of wholesale accounts. Though some of our suppliers require that we maintain a retail store with a resale certificate and meet a minimum monthly purchase, others will open up a wholesale account with nothing more than your first order. You have to be willing to do your homework, but most companies openly provide you with their name, address, website and phone number right on the box!

Ideally, you should open up an account with a business name and be prepared to buy things in case lots, but this is not always the norm. If you can’t afford making larger purchases, consider pooling your efforts and resources with others - or what some call a “co-op”. And even if you can’t do either, you always have the option of comparing the unit cost per item, and choose to buy the larger size – when grocery shopping anyway. 

Penny Pinching Tip #4:

Repair, restore and replenish quality made items rather than repurchasing new ones. How often do you look at a piece of dinged up, water stained furniture, and think it’s high time to finally replace that pile of junk? Or, think nothing of buying a new pair of leather shoes without evaluating the savings of simply repairing the soles? What about a blouse or pair of slacks that if simply mended or a few buttons replaced would remedy an otherwise quality item? Consider the cost and the quality of the item, and make a wise choice: Is it cheaper to repair or replace for something comparable?

I’m thinking about the antique, solid, rock maple hutch handed down by my mother-in-law that use to be a part of my husband’s home d├ęcor when he was a little boy. Rather than pawn it off at some antique shop, we decided to restore it back to new condition. I remember stripping the old stain, sanding it down and hand staining it back to an early American appearance. It still sits in our dining room to this day. I am well aware that to replace that piece new with the same solid wood / dove tail construction would cost a pretty penny – no pun intended. So yes, restoration was the best penny pinching decision I ever made.

Here’s another thought: Have you ever thought about reupholstering your dining room chair cushions rather than replacing an entire dining room suite? This is another project I plan to do in the not-to-distant future. It’s so easy to go online and type in the Google search engine, “how to replace seat cushions” and do it myself! http://www.ehow.com/how_5058488_reupholster-dining-room-chairs.html

Penny Pinching Tip #5:
  
Make a list of all your monthly expenses and trim, trim, trim! First start with your grocery budget: Review the last three or four receipts and highlight everything you know deep down you could live without. The next time you’re at the grocery store, see if you cannot substitute generics without sacrificing taste and nutrition. Pay closer attention the unit cost of each item. Typically the higher volume item is cheaper. Take advantage of coupons, store discounts and sales. Next take a look at all your non-essential purchases, and ask yourself that question again: Do I really need this? Consider the savings over the impulse to buy.
 
Do you have memberships and dues that could be eliminated or reduced? What about all those extra cable or satellite channels you never view? Have you considered taking your own trash or recyclables to their respective facilities rather than incur that monthly charge? Since I live in the country, no recyclable service exists, so I take it upon myself every month to drop it off. It takes me all but ten minutes to sort and toss into bins while doing something productive for the environment. For the longest time, we couldn’t even find a dependable trash service, and had to haul our bags to the local dump. It wasn’t that big of a deal, and it saved us about $35 a month. The point is – these things add up real quick. Evaluate the cost of every living expense, and trim, trim, trim!

This concludes the first five penny-pinching tips toward preparedness! I hope you will join me in the next couple of days for the next part of our “penny pinching tip” series. If you would like an automatic reminder of future posts, please subscribe via email or feed (See right sidebar). After all, you are a vital part of the Ready Woman Blog! Thank you for your support!

Roxanne L. Griswold
An Aspiring Ready Woman


Copyright 2011

3/1/11

Live Today like Tomorrow is your Last

 Days before my friend’s untimely death, I strolled around my property with a heavy heart knowing the moment was closing in. I caressed the tiny buds on a fruit tree we’d planted last year, and told my husband, “Becky will never get to do this again.” I burst into tears. Why did cancer have to steal such a precious flower like my sweet friend? She was one of the most giving, Godly souls I’d ever known. If a kind heart could be measured, Becky’s was brimming over.
 

What made her life so different? And what would I do today if I knew tomorrow was my last? This sobering thought hit hard days later when my dear friend finally lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. Grieving her loss, I began to count the cost: What truly matters this side of eternity? Am I living aimlessly for selfish pursuits or for God and others? Becky was a beaming example of a self sacrificial life lived for Christ. She never stopped giving, helping, serving and loving well. She lightened the darkest room with her smile, and made me laugh even when she was dying. Could this be said of me?

The day after the tragic news, I pulled the weeds from my soon-to-be garden while the breeze whipped against my face, the warm sunshine tinting by pale skin from the long winter months. I thought of my friend and I remembered her words to me several months back, “Run your fingers through the dirt. Feel the breeze on your face. Smell the fresh blossoming flowers. Hug the ones you love. Do it all for God. And never take life for granted, for tomorrow could be your last.” She knew her days were numbered, yet she cherished every moment like it was her last – for it indeed was.

As I contemplated the reality and finality of death, the truth dawned on me: Cancer did not win the battle - nor does any other death story - the victory over death stands on God’s precious promises. Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” I am awed how God kept giving this same scripture verse several times this week as a constant reminder that cancer was not in control – Christ is! In fact, I have to share this story how God brought this verse to me: My family and I were driving home from Knoxville when we heard the tragic news of Becky’s death. My eyes were swollen from the tears, but we kept talking about the hope of the resurrection and the great promises we have in God. Suddenly, as we were passing a tractor trailer, we noticed etched in the dirt, the scripture references John 11:25 and John 3:16! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth upon Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” We were deeply touched how God demonstrates His intimate love in the midst of our deepest sorrows.

Isn’t that what it is all about anyway? Did not God give us our life and breath? And will we not one day have to give it back? There is no question from this day forward that I cannot keep or take anything with me when it’s all said and done – even this body I will have to lay aside, along with all my earthly possessions and accomplishments. The only thing that will remain standing is how I made each day count for God’s glory and for the blessing of others. If we know this, how will we live differently if we knew tomorrow were our last? What kind instead of harsh word would be spoken? What selfless deed would be done for a friend – or foe – in need? What grudge, bitter or jealous thought would be left behind? Will we be Jesus to others even when it hurts?

My friend was a stellar example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ. Her life – and death – drove home the fact that there are really only two things that will matter when we draw our last breath: The souls of those whose lives we impacted and God Himself. Becky is now on the other side of eternity with unspeakable joy and full of glory. God has wiped every tear from her eyes and there is no more sorrow and pain. (Revelation 21:4)  This is life! And this is what she told me on numerous occasions: That if others could know Christ and be saved as a result of her life, then dying would be worth it. She was willing to lay down her life, so that others could know God. And this is what Christ did for us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

By Roxanne L. Griswold

© Copyright 2011