Becoming an Efficiency Expert
By Ann Hays
The Good News, October/November 1983
Food for the dinner table, clothing for the children and on occasion a night out — day-to-day money management weighs heavily on the minds of many.
You are not alone in your struggle to make ends meet. With high unemployment, inflated prices and devalued currency, homemakers the world over are faced with the battle of managing the funds available to them.
Providing the best possible services for your family is of primary importance. Every woman is in a position to greatly contribute to the financial stability of her family simply by using most effectively what money she has.
And in doing so, she can become an efficiency expert.
Buying less expensive items, buying less often, eliminating waste, making it yourself and simply doing without are a few of the many ways to save money.
Certainly one of the biggest weekly expenditures in the home is food. An effective way to minimize grocery bills yet still provide nutritious, creative meals for the family is by efficient meal planning.
Before doing the weekly grocery shopping, plan the meals to be served during the coming week. Use the four food groups — milk and dairy products, grains and cereals, meats and proteins, fruits and vegetables — to meet nutritional needs. Be familiar enough with the alternatives within the groups to substitute certain items, based on store specials.
By putting this information down on paper, you will be able to ensure variety in your meal planning and have an organized shopping list at the same time.
Another important tip is to plan meals around foods that can be served in several different ways. This enables you not only to add variety to your meals but also to utilize leftovers more effectively.
The next step in your shopping strategy is to select a market that has the best buys and specials. Based on accessibility in your area, you may want to consider a “no-frills” supermarket.
“No frills” generally means picking a product out of a cardboard box instead of neatly organized shelves and then bagging your own groceries at the checkout counter. You will save the cost of the service of these added conveniences on the price of the products you purchase.
When shopping, read labels for content, weight and grade. Purchasing the supermarket’s own label or a generic name can provide additional savings without losing nutritional value. Buying cheaper cuts of meat can give you basically the same nutrients and taste if cooked properly.
Be aware of advertising and merchandising gimmicks. You don’t want to be induced into buying a product that you don’t really need.
Another way to save is by buying in bulk or large quantities. If the price is right and the product is something that your family regularly needs, you may want to consider stocking up. Don’t be tempted to use these goods to excess, however, just because they are available.
In most areas, it is possible to include the use of coupons in your shopping strategy. Don’t use them, however, on products you don’t normally use or need. And check to see if another brand is less expensive.
Perhaps one of the biggest ways to stretch your food dollar is by eating at home. According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the average, meals eaten out cost at least two and one-half times more than meals prepared at home. By preparing it yourself, you can also be certain of the quality and preparation of the food your family eats.
Cutting clothing costs
Another area where costs can be cut is clothing. In most areas, clothing is seasonal. Just before the start of a new season is the time when prices are the highest. If you are able to wait until end-of-season sales, you will be able to save money.
Waiting can also help you avoid the pitfalls of the latest fad, which is not so fashionable in a few months. Plan your wardrobe around classic, timeless styles.
Buying quality clothing can save money in the long run, even though the initial cost may be greater. Purchase only what you are able. If you simply can’t afford certain items, even a few accessories can give a new look to some old outfits.
Sewing your own clothes can result in significant savings. Developing your talent as a seamstress can also be a marketable skill.
One other way to save on clothing costs is by seeking out used-clothing stores. Also, check garage sales in more affluent neighborhoods. This can be particularly economical in the case of small children’s clothing. Children often outgrow garments long before wearing them out.
Other ways to save
Have you ever considered bartering for the goods and services your family otherwise couldn’t afford?
Bartering is simply a cashless exchange of merchandise, skills or services. It can be as simple as exchanging baby-sitting services for a neighbor chauffeuring your child to school or other activities. A more complex exchange may be ironing, mending and sewing in return for music lessons for your child.
What about that occasional night out? Can you really afford it?
Recreation and leisure time spent with the whole family is extremely important. If dinner at a restaurant is simply unaffordable, consider having a picnic at a park. Commercial entertainment such as going to a movie can be quite expensive. An evening at home with popcorn and games can be just as much fun and more profitable. Even a weekend camping trip can be surprisingly inexpensive.
Home gardening, family haircuts at home — once you’ve become a trained efficiency expert, you’ll think of many more ways to economize.
For more information on building financial stability in your family, write for our free booklet Managing Your Personal Finances.