I’ve been sharing a list out of a budgeting newsletter on items the author never buys as a way to save money. While everyone has their own ways of trimming the budget, I didn’t love this list. I have no idea who the author is or what their life is like but here are my thoughts on the remaining items on the list.
Food – prepackaged mixes, processed foods, anything in a can (I buy fresh or frozen), pre-made bread (I make my own), pre-made pudding, bottled water.
I’ve talked a lot about how I feel about premade foods and how to reduce the cost but I think this list is a bit naive. I can’t imagine there is a case when buying fresh or frozen vegetables is consistently more cost effective than canned. We eat a lot of canned corn because that’s the cheapest way to get it for my family. I would prefer fresh or frozen but it’s not affordable.
We buy some processed foods – cereal, pasta, bread. I like store bought bread. I love homemade but we’ve yet to find a recipe that lets us make a sandwich that isn’t really heavy on the bread. It’s about making choices. I buy canned chili because I love it. It reminds me of my childhood. I, also, make chili. But it’s not the same feeling when I eat it.
When my son was little, we ate a lot of boxed mac and cheese. It was easy to make, he could help, he’d eat it, and I could add things to it to make it more nutritious. It was also 33 cents a box. I could afford to supplement with fresh or frozen vegetables. The cheese to make it from scratch was significantly more expensive and that was just the beginning – it didn’t take into account the pasta, butter or milk (yes you use those in the boxed version but significantly less). To make it from scratch meant I couldn’t afford to add the vegetables.
When it comes to food, I find the best solution is to understand what your family will eat then make sure you can make that as nutritionally balanced as possible. If your family only eats chicken nuggets, don’t spend the money on hamburgers. That’s a waste. If you want to make a change and feed your family a different sort of diet – whether to cut back on processed foods or to add more vegetables, do it sneaky. My son talks about hating that I hid veggies in his mac and cheese but he ate it then and still eats it now. He, also, eats his vegetables so I must have done something right.
Last note on that list – we buy bottled water. We don’t buy it often but I like to get a gallon now and again because it’s good to have in the house. I would rather have a gallon of water than a six pack of soda. It’s great for travelling and emergencies and cheaper than a filtration system.
Extras – Beer, wine, alcohol, cigarettes.
We don’t smoke so that is not something I can talk about but if we did – I imagine we’d be roll your own sort of people since that’s the more affordable choice.
As for alcohol, my first thought was this person was insane. We buy alcohol. We enjoy the occasional bottle of wine or beer. I like having peppermint schnapps in the house for cold season and I use a fair amount of vodka to make my own extracts and tinctures.
What does this author want – a pat on the back? So I wanted to be snarky but then I was watching Shameless and was shocked at the amount of alcohol they drink. A poor family consumed more money in alcohol than I have for a food budget. I, almost, think they spend more than what I want my food budget to be. We treat alcohol like a treat and we don’t go expensive. If we spend $100 a year, then we spent too much.
Household – gasoline for the lawn mower (I use a rechargeable electric lawnmower), lawn chemicals, conventional hot water heater (I have a tankless water heater), much gasoline, excess water.
Obviously, this person owns a home. Not everyone on a budget is so lucky.
I will say we owned a lawnmower for our last home but I couldn’t see replacing it with an electric lawn mower. The amount of gas we used for our once a month (or so) mowing was less than paying someone to mow. We kept the grass a little on the longer side and mowed infrequently. To me, that’s better for the environment. Grass was happy and we were happy. Our growing season is not very long and keeping a lawn alive in this area is hard so we never had to mow more than about 5 times in a year, depending on weather.
I never used chemicals. If I had a problem with the weeds, I pulled them. Made nice fodder for the farm animals (mine or someone else’s) or compost.
Hot water heaters are only for homeowners but I would rather have a conventional than a tankless. Maybe they have improved but they were more of a good idea than a good practice back when I worked for a plumber.
Gasoline and water are those things that I feel like you have to deal with as you can. We fill our gas tank twice a month and some months that’s barely enough. We don’t take long trips and rarely take trips that aren’t necessary. I’m not going to deny my family a trip to the park because it uses gas (and we are not somewhere where you can easily walk). We try to combine trips as best we can.
When we did have a house our water bill was only an issue in the summer. We watered the lawn infrequently but kept up with the garden. We only had to worry about the bill for about 3 months a year. It’s all about the balance – did what I cost on the extra water equal the food I got in return.
So there you have it. I would love to hear what you have to say. Do you agree with JV’s list? Are there items that you feel are a complete waste of money so you never buy them?