Last week of school!

Yay! and, Ugh…

How many of you feel this way about summer vacation? I will be honest: the most appealing aspect is NOT having to get up early to take anyone to school. Even if I still wake up at 6:30 am, there’s something comforting about doing it naturally. There’s also something comforting about laying in bed for an extra hour, reading internet news and Facebooking! (For those of you out there who are parents of babies and toddlers: keep on trucking! You are doing the Lord’s work! I hope that you are getting at least 4 hours uninterrupted sleep at a time!)

Biggie loves summer vacation!
Biggie loves summer vacation!

One of the most difficult things we deal with, though, is spending too much money. That extra bit of free time during summer spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for our bank account. Remember, I told Joe that I was going to “earn” money by being frugal. ( See my About Me page.) Thank goodness Zander has a summer job lined up, as well as copious hours of water polo practice.  I can continue on my budget plan with as few distractions as possible.

Want to know some of my budgeting tactics? I just knew you would say yes!

Here is my favorite: I avoid going to the grocery store.

Because, when you go to the store for milk, you always find something else there that you really really need. Am I right?

For our family, the big money-suck was the grocery store. What is it for you and your family? Online shopping? Going to the mall, perhaps? For some of us, shopping makes us feel better. It may be a substitution for something else we need, akin to overeating. Recognize that you are feeling needy, and take a different, less damaging path towards feeling better. A great idea is to do something nice for someone else. Sorry if that sounds Pollyanna-ish, but it is true. Make a pan of baked pasta and take it to a friend who’s having a crazy week. I guarantee you, it feels better than spending money.

Above all, AVOID the thing that is your budget poison.

“I can resist everything, except temptation.” – Oscar Wilde

If you just can’t shake the need to shop, though, try shopping differently: Give yourself some cash – $10? Maybe $20? (NO DEBIT OR CREDIT CARDS ALLOWED!) Now head to a dollar store and go treasure hunting. Look for a local, privately owned one.  These little stores are gems, often with overstock items from Target or Trader Joe’s. Fun! There is a chain of stores here in California called “Daiso Japan.” Most everything is $1.50, or 99 yen. This is my go-to place when I need a shopping pick-me-up. Other places that I enjoy are small ethnic markets. There are usually very affordable exotic items, and it’s always an educational experience. If you do go to one, be respectful. Sometimes there are crazy things hanging from the ceilings or in the produce cases.

Back to my family’s problem: we were spending well over $xxxx a month too much money on groceries. There is something cathartic for me, walking the aisles and checking out the goods. I love going to the grocery store, especially by myself.  But it is budget poison so I finally said: NO MORE “QUICK” TRIPS TO THE STORE. The biggest reason for unplanned trips: we would run out of bread. Solution: I make our sandwich bread myself now. It is fairly easy, the ingredients are cheap, and it tastes so good!

Phresh bread!
Phresh bread!

Baking loaves of bread is just one thing I do to avoid trips to the store. I also make our laundry soap, mayonnaise (see the “It’s a Miracle” post,) salad dressing, shower cleaner, and tomato sauce when I have fresh tomatoes. I make hard cider which is VERY easy and VERY delicious. (All of these are subjects for future blog posts!) When I can, I supplement our groceries by growing some vegetables. We live in Southern California so I have great seasonal opportunities for growing food. (One year, I even grew tomatoes and squash in the front yard, because that’s where the irrigation was. Could you manage one tomato plant in an area that gets water and sunshine?)

Those are some cool cucumbers, right?
Those are some cool cucumbers, right?

Balance your options with how efficient and feasible it will be to make some consumable items yourself. Besides saving money and avoiding extra trips to the store, the feeling you gain from the mastery of some of these tasks is priceless!

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