Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chores vs. Life Skills

The word "chore" has a very negative feeling associated with it - for adults and kids alike. That is why when we introduced chores to our kids we called them "Life Skills".

Now, they saw right away that we were talking about chores. However, we told them that they were going to learn the skills that they would need to be independent in life. Now, they got excited about that. (It's all about marketing.)

During this same talk BEFORE life skills training started, we told them what to expect - VERY important in any situation. We told them that during training they would become tired and not want to finish the skill. However, that was the time that they need to keep going to learn how to work hard - even when they don't want to. What a great life skill right there!

Now, as with any employee training, I am right there with them. Teaching them the proper way to do the chore and how to pay attention to the details. Now this is great because they will know exactly how I want the job done. This has worked so much better than just yelling, "Just go clean your room." Then fighting them to get it done, then finding out they didn't do it they way I expected. AAAGGGHH!

Also, they see me working right there along side of them. This twarts the classic whines of, "We are doing all of the work and you are doing nothing. We are just your slaves."

It is important to remember that they are kids. They didn't come to this life automatically knowing what I think or want (even though sometimes I think they should :) Taking the time to do the training has allowed us some great moments together (all three girls dusting and polishing the piano - beautiful).

There have also been some not so wonderful moments. Mostly when the chore is almost done and they start whining. That is when I remind them that this would happen and they need to keep going. So far (knock on wood) this has worked and we have been successful!

Today my five year old shook out the rugs, took off the chair pads, and vacuumed the foyer and dining room floors. While the seven year old wiped off the table and chairs, and mopped the same area. I stayed busy bopping back and forth training them.

Also, every morning they empty the entire dishwasher. I am LOVING that life skill.

I read a book called "The Parenting Breakthrough" by Merrillee Boyack to get started with this. I highly recommend this book. Here is the link if you are interested. http://deseretbook.com/store/product/4931238

Saturday, June 20, 2009

National Brands vs. Generic Brands

During one of my college Home Economics classes I learned this little tidbit. Many times National Brands, e.g. General Mills, Barilla, Johnson & Johnson, etc. will put their products in different (less attractive packaging) and put a generic or store brand label on it. By doing this, it allow them to capture more of the market and reach people who aren't willing to pay for the name brand products.

Most of the time the product and qualtiy is the same, remember just different labels. I always get a laugh when there is something wrong with a product and the store is forced to show what generic foods are made by the National Brand companies. (Not that I think it is funny when something is wrong with the food. Just making that clear. :)

There is however one thing that I will not buy generic - cream soups. I have bought and been happy with many generic products in my day, but nothing compares to Campbell's cream soups.

Now, let talk about the price of National vs. Generic. If you are NOT using coupons, I suggest buying generic brands. They are cheaper with the same quality - no brainer.

However, if you ARE a coupon* user, you can buy National Brands for much cheaper than the generic labels. To do this you simply combine a store sale with a manufacturer coupon. My pantry is loaded with name brand food that I buy for about 66-75% off the normal price. Sometimes I even get it for FREE. This is much cheaper than what I can buy generic brands for, even on sale.

Another thing to consider is the placement of these different brands in the store. Think of the shelves as real estate. The prime spots are at eye level of the consumer. A lot of people will just grab and go. So the most expensive foods are at eye level a.k.a. National Brands.

However, if you look at the bottom shelves, that is where you find the cheaper brands and generic brands. They can't pay as much money to get their product at eye level so they are put lower. And remember their quality is still great.

So take home lesson here: either use coupons to get National Brands cheaper, or be willing to buy uglier packaging to save money.

*If you are looking for a great way to organize your coupons you can buy one of my systems at www.TheCouponBinder.com. The binders are already put together so you just need to plug and play. Also included are the instructions on how to save 50% or more on your groceries.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Three "E" Rule

An interior decorator friend of mine taught me the Three "E" Rule a few years ago and it has helped relieve a lot of frugal frustration.

The "E"s stand for Ease, Economics (Cheap), and Elegance. Now this is how it works. You can any combinations of two Es but you can NEVER have all three. For example:

If you want something to be Easy and Elegant, it won't be Economical. (In other words it will be expensive.)

If you want something to be Elegant and Economical it won't be Easy. (You have to do a lot of work to save the money.)

If you want something to be Easy and Economical it won't be Elegant.

Get the point?

When I first heard this I was taken aback. How can you not have all three? But this rule is true. In the ten years since I have heard this I have not been able to disprove it- trust me I have tried.

When I am planning an event or setting a financial goal, I keep this rule in mind. It helps to keep me realistic in what I am trying to achieve. It also helps me to spend if I need something to be Easy and Elegant when I don't have the time to do it myself.

Lastly, and most important to me, if I want something to be Economial and Easy then I need to realize it won't be Elegant. However, it will be presentable. This helps me to be realistic in what the outcome will be and I am okay with that. I would rather save the money than save face :)

Why I'm Frugal

Living a frugal life is not always easy. You get raised eyebrows, funny remarks, people asking why and how. Even my own father teases me about having worms (compost worms). He says they have medicine for that.

Let them tease, let them question, I know that deep down they respect it. It is something that they haven't been able to do and wish they could.

So why am I frugal? At first it came because of necessity. But as we continued to live frugally we discovered MANY benefits. Too many to let the life style go. I will list my top seven below, in no particular order.

1. Teaching our kids the value of money, how to use it wisely, and let them learn how to use their own. (I will blog about that another time.)

2. Teaching our kids that you don't need "things" to have fun.

3. In the two years that we have adopted this life style we have saved quite a bit of money, payed down considerable debt, and were able to buy my DH a new car (with money saved by coupon shopping - love it!) We are aiming to be completely out of debt in 15 years or less.

4. Have become more enviromentally aware. By buying fewer "new" things and more recycled things (thrift store and yard sales) we have become to appreciate helping out the earth.

5. Have become more self reliant. We have a garden to cut down on costs of produce. This gives us the feeling that we are more able to take care of ourselves in an emergency situation.

6. It is FUN! Just like in Mary Poppins, if you find an element of fun in what you do it becomes a game. Our family LOVES to save money. Our kids get a thrill out of negotiating at yard sales and trash picking after them (an art I will talk about later too.) We congratulate each other on our skills and laugh at how cheaply we get things for.

7. It gives me a skill to become good at while I am at home raising our kids. It gives me a "brain exercise" to figure all of these things out, and it has financial benefits to boot. What more could I ask for?

I would love to hear why you love being frugal, your successes, and any of your tips. By starting a community of Frugal Friends we can help each other out.