Sunday, May 23, 2010

Priorities in the Congo

Nicholas Kristof has written an article about his experiences talking to some incredibly poor people in the Congo Republic.

In his article Moonshine or the Kids he makes a similar point to what I wrote a while ago in Priorities, where I describe a poor Armenian man who said his top priorities were his family and his health, but spent huge sums of money on liquor and cigarettes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kids and Food

A while back, I wrote about food waste and how much of my kids' food ends up on the floor. It's something I'm working on, and so I appreciated finding this post from WiseBread with ten good tips on how to keep calories out of the trash.

10 Ways to Cut Waste When Feeding Kids

Thanks to Cheap, Healthy, Good for the link.

Since We're Talking About Clothes...

J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly wrote a post this week about a little clothing experiment he did over the past year. How many of his clothes did he actually wear? Take a look, and think about your own closet.

The One-Year Wardrobe Project

Thanks to Cheap, Healthy, Good for pointing this one out.

Easy Way to Patch Little Boys' Jeans

A couple of weeks ago, I finally got sick of the pile of little boys' jeans on my sewing table. I was not feeling terribly ambitious, and so I came up with a lazy way to patch them. I like the results.

Here is what I did. I took the jeans that were especially worn out and I cut out the back pockets (so I had two layers of fabric, and one layer had raw edges). Then I found jeans of a similar wash, pinned the cut-out pockets over the holes in the knees and sewed around the outside edge on my sewing machine. It takes some careful arranging to get them on the machine so you can sew through the right layers, but it's do-able.

The bottom layer of the patch frays a little around the edges, which gives it a slightly distressed look without being sloppy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Keeping Cars Running

Car problems can wipe out any budget, not to mention put lives at risk. I'd heard once that short trips were bad for cars, so we started trying to avoid short trips around town as much as we could. Biking and walking are more fun anyway. I finally found an article explaining why short trips are so bad. It also explains a bunch of other useful car care tips:

Best Ways to Keep Your Car Running

One of the byproducts of engine combustion is water. When an engine reaches its operating temperature that water turns to vapor and is expunged, either out the tailpipe or the crankcase ventilation system. On a short trip, however, that water stays inside your car's engine and exhaust. Unfortunately, water is one of only three ingredients necessary to make rust (you've already got the other two, oxygen and metal), and rust kills ... A further complication of condensation and water is that it dilutes your oil, which then does a poorer job of lubricating the engine. If you can't avoid taking lots of short trips, we recommend you change your oil frequently, such as every 2,000-3,000 miles.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Alterations to the Clothing Budget

Cutting back on the clothing budget can be really hard. Somehow it feels more personal than other things. But, it is often necessary, and it can make a huge difference in our overall spending. Here are a few strategies to help. Choose the ones that work for you.

1. Keep careful track of how much you spend on clothes each month. Sometimes just seeing the numbers will help you come back to reality.

2. Learn to be thrifty. Check out this article from the April Ensign. Jane McBride Choate gives great practical advice for getting everyone dressed while staying on budget.

3. Make some new rules. If you are too often finding items that are irresistible, maybe it's time to set some guidelines. The easiest rule to make this: if you don't have money left in the clothing budget you can't buy it, no matter how cute it is. You can add in some more creative rules, though. Use your imagination. My cousin-in-law used to keep herself in check by selecting one color every year. If an item wasn't available in that color, she couldn't buy it. My mom's strategy was to make me think about it for a while. If it's still irresistible tomorrow, you can always come back. Or try this: you can't buy anything new until you've worn everything in your closet at least twice!

4. Buy clothes that fit and flatter. Usually when I throw clothes out without wearing them much, it is because they never quite fit right or they emphasize my figure in awkward ways. It doesn't matter how trendy it is; only buy if it looks great on you.

5. Speaking of trends... If you don't love it, skip it.

6. Shop with cash. Somehow money is more real when you hold it in your hands. A few months ago, Jeremy and I gave each other a sorely needed clothing bonus-- in cash. It was great. I always knew how much money I had left, and I managed to make it last.

7. Learn to love the thrift store. With a little patience you can find some great stuff here (I promise). You may not find it this time, though... Thrift stores also offer a dose of perspective: You can see what things look like after they have been washed a few times. And you won't be overcome by the chic atmosphere. It's all about you and the clothes. Do they fit right? Do you enjoy wearing them? Okay.

8. Avoid marital tension. At our house, we do this by making clothing come out of our personal allowance. Electronics also come out of our allowance. I buy clothes; Jeremy buys computers. All is budgetary bliss.

9. Don't shop for recreation. (This bit of advice comes from my family finance professor, Alena Johnson ). If you have enough clothes, and you're bored, you can always make someone cookies.

p.s. I love cookies

10. Be you. Remember that old Mormonad? "Be you're own kind of beautiful." If not, here's a link. We really can't be everything. Enjoy the beauty and talents of others; be beautiful and talented yourself; but don't be the same.