The Frugal Life Newsletter
The Frugal Life
February 25, 2002
o The Frugal Life* (TFL) is published every Monday by, Keren Wells, publisher. TFL is intended for subscribers only. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or, change your subscriber data, see the instructions at the very end of the newsletter.
o A Note From Keren
o A Management Tool for Expenses –by Gary Foreman
o Last Week Readers Needs
o Readers Tips
o Subscription info
A Note from Keren
A Management Tool for Expenses –by Gary Foreman
Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I want to make a grocery budget but I am not sure what to include on that list. Do you include your household items such as light bulbs and laundry needs? Regular household needs such as bath tissue and paper towels? My husband and I would like to reduce our grocery bill but as it stands everything for the house comes from our grocery budget.
Kathy asks a good question. According the federal government the average family spends about 14% of their after tax income on food and another 1% on
household supplies. So keeping track of these expenses is important.
She’s on the right track. Her budget should be a management tool. It’s purpose is to help you quickly identify problems and possible solutions.
You ‘read’ a budget just like a management report. Begin at the bottom and work your way up. You’ll start with the bottom line totals. Then check the subtotals. Finally, if necessary, you’ll look at the detailed part of the budget.
Start by finding out two things. Was your income near the expected level? And were your expenses close to the budgeted amount. If both totals were close to what you expect you can be pretty sure that things are under control and you don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for problems.
Next you want to look at the subtotals. That’s how you find what category is the source of any unexpected mismatch. Most managers will start with the groups that include the biggest expenditures. For families that would be housing, autos and food.
If your actual and budgeted subtotals match in a category you can pretty much skip the details that make up the subtotal. It’s taken just a moment to verify that everything is fine. An efficient use of your time.
If you find a difference between the actual and expected subtotals you’ll want to look at the individual expenses that make up the total. Again you’re looking for actual expenses that are much different than what you expected.
In most cases by going from the totals, to the subtotals, to the individual line items it’s easy to find any problems. That’s because you’ve narrowed the search to a reasonable area. And once you’ve found those problems you can decide what changes are required to get things back into line again.
Consider Kathy’s food/household products situation. By combining the categories she has found it difficult to determine what’s causing them to spend more than they want. So until they can get that area under control they’ll want to split out household from grocery items. And even that might not be enough. They may even need to separate meats from vegetables and canned goods. Or any other division that will help her understand the problem.
Once she’s brought the offending expense back into line they can combine the two categories. It only saves a few minutes when she enters the data, but her time is valuable.
Another thing to remember is that you don’t always have to do things the same way. For instance, Kathy may combine the category without problems for
a year and then suddenly begin to have troubles. She has two choices. She can go back to her receipts and split the category for the last month or two. Or, if it’s not a crisis, she can beginning splitting into two categories this month.
The same thing is true for other categories. For instance, if your entertainment category is growing you may need to separate video rentals and movie tickets from dining out. Whatever will help you easily identify where your money is going.
The key to remember is that you only want to collect as much information as you’ll need to find problems when they occur. The trick is to not waste time collecting info you won’t use, but to still have enough data when you need to find a problem. That means that there is no one right answer to Kathy’s question. It all depends on how much info you need at the time. _______________
Gardening with Kids
Copyright 2002 Deborah Taylor-Hough
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
While exploring online recently, I stumbled across an excellent educational resource for parents and kids.
The “KidsGardening Parents’ Primer” is a complete online resource for introducing children to the joys (and educational benefits!) of gardening. On the Parents’ Primer’ opening page, it says, “Through the seasons there are big projects and little opportunities for gardening with kids that can fit seamlessly into your life. This primer will help you learn to recognize those opportunities and turn your kids’ questions into fun discoveries. And you’ll get the garden- building basics too!”
Chapters include information on:
–gardening activities by age group
–turning your kids on to gardening
–getting ideas and choosing what to plant
–building fun garden structures for the whole family
–making gardening fun
–building a small garden
–involving kids in the necessities of maintenance
–avoiding gardening hazzards
–quick and easy gardening projects
If you’re in an area where the weather isn’t warm enough to seriously considering taking a spade to the earth right now, this is an excellent time of year to get started with the planning and preparation stages of your family gardening project.
SUBMITTED BY: Deborah Taylor-Hough
–Debi is the mother of three, author of several bestselling books (including Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat for for a month), and editor of the free email newsletter, Bright-Kids. For more information on easy educational ideas for you and your children,
Q. I am trying to find Tart Shells. They used to be sold in the grocery stores and suddenly have disappeared. I like to use these to create pastries and other items that my family likes. The shells are about 1 1/2 inches in height and 3 1/2 or 4 inches across. –Krystal Q. Does anyone know how to make the scented pinecones that are so popular
during the Holiday season and how to make the scent last? –Martha
Send your answers to editor
Last Week Reader’s Needs
o I was wondering if anyone had a low cost solution to commercial dog
food? I have 2 dogs and one is quite large, I feel i spend more on dog
food than I do on groceries for my family! I have tried the cheap stuff
and they won’t touch it, I do have kitchen scraps but I have a family of 5
and not much in the way of leftovers, any ideas? Nancy Read answers here:
o When washing clothes, I use a liquid detergent. I use a quarter of the
amount that is recommended on the package. The clothes get clean with no
problems, and I don’t have to rinse some loads twice to make sure all the
detergent is rinsed out. I save on detergant, water and power! –Toni o I have found that closet space is a premium in almost all new homes and some old ones. I have reclaimed one of my closets by removing the “Coat closet” of all coats and I have put a rack up in the garage that holds all of my coats & the rest of the family. Now i have a free closet to put shelves in and create a pantry or towel closet/bath supplies. Or whatever you choose. I find having the coats in the garage not only gives me space but convenience of handy location because we always go out the garage anyway! And in the summer when they are not in use, I just put plastic over them and they are “stored” for reuse in winter!
If you have any frugal tips, please send them to editor
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