Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Money, Money, Money...It's so Funny

We had a lot of fun last week, or so our bank account says. I'm sure it had to do with the holidays and relatives, etc. We spent and spent and then after it was all over, we realized that we had spent more than we had thought.

So this week is the "cut-back" week when we say no to everything. We're doing the "what can you make for dinner with a can of tuna, chick peas, and some olive oil?" Where is Mark Bittman when you need him? Luckily, there is enough beer and wine in the fridge to get us through.
It would have been smarter to budget for the extra guests but I'm actually not very good at budgeting. I'm better at spending money and then saying, "Oh my God!!! We can't spend money. Ever. Again."

Brian, however, hates it when I do that. And, I do most of the daily accounting. He goes to work and then comes home; he doesn't have a whole lot of time to buy stuff.

Of course, I think I spend money smarter than most people but apparently I don't. I get this idea from my mother. Early on in our marriage when I was sure that I was the better money spender I told my mother about it. She said she had felt the same way with my dad. She even told me that when she went back to work, my father told her to keep her paycheck in her own account. He was all old-fashioned about taking care of the family. So, she would say, "What's his is mine and what's mine is mine." I'll add that she said it rather tongue-in-cheek in case that didn't come across.
As a side note, I think my mother was the most frugal woman I ever met. For years as a child I had no idea what Cool Whip was (we whipped our own cream!) and I didn't know one could buy bread crumbs in a grocery store (we made our own!). So you can see where I would get the idea that I certainly know when to spend money.

Anyway, we decided that since we have no money, we'd spend part of next weekend volunteering. We've been trying to volunteer as a family but with my theater schedule it's very hit-or-miss. When I get a chance, I take the children to Cradles 2 Crayons, an organization that provides school supplies and other essentials to underprivileged children. Usually, we are there for an hour or two (until my 7 year old son decides he's had enough) cleaning sneakers or whatever.

But this weekend, we're going to walk a mile to raise money to supply backpacks full of school supplies for needy kids this fall. Normally, I'd just write a check but...we have no money! So, the kids and I are canvassing the neighborhood asking for donations.

I can't tell you how much I hate asking for money. Some people I know are soooo good at it. They go out one night and come back with tons of money. These are the people that when you need to stuff for an auction or for raffle prizes, they return with the 3-night, all-inclusive stay at some exclusive resort; I'm the one who gets the 5% off a spa treatment. I avoid every fund-raiser that comes home from school because seriously, who pays that much for wrapping paper?

Anyway, we've been out and about asking for donations. I told the kids that we are only asking for 2-3 dollars because I can't ask for anything more. Most people have been very generous and very kind. I'm having my daughter do the asking because, as I tell myself, it's good practice for her but we all know the real reason. She's doing a great job. My son tends to spend the time seeing how far he can jump off the porch.

We're collecting our money, and we'll do our walk but after this "cut-back" is over, I'll be glad to go back to writing checks and cleaning sneakers.


  1. so great that you are volunteering and that you are involving your kids. it is important to teach them at a young agee the importance of helping others. we try to do that with our boys, and volunteer regularly. great post!

  2. I'm oddly frugal, as I rarely comparison shop hate to waste stuff so I try to find a use for all leftovers. Probably comes from my dad since this is his type of thing - growing up in a war will do that to you. I make my own breadcrumbs, well, because I let bread get stale and I might as well use it. Cool whip is another story... non-dairy dairy like products scare me. Though on the rare occasions that I've needed whipped cream (as part of some recipe where it serves as the leavening usually) I usually opt for making it from cream over the canned/tub stuff since I rationalize that I'll be more likely to use the cream before it spoils than the pre-made whipped stuff. Truth is, the cream (or milk) usually spoils. I've taken to adding leftover milk to bread dough these days.

    Anyhow, I find the volunteering interesting and wish I did it, but hesitate because I'd have to go alone and I have this shy thing. So I usually write a check. I feel bad about that.

  3. Volunteering as a family is a great idea. And for added inspiration, I invite you to check out this short video -- ahamoment.com/pg/moments/view/4578 -- it's the "aha moment" of a mother and a son as they realized that doing volunteer work together was, as the son says, "the best thing we've ever done together." I know you'll find it inspirational.