It’s no secret that I enjoy funneling as much of our income as possible into our savings accounts. But with the recent choices that we’ve made we have slashed our short-term savings ability. While we are not entirely a one-income household (I bring in some income from freelancing), losing a steady paycheck makes it feel as though we have become one.
There are millions of one-income households in the United States for any number of reasons: the head of household is single, one partner is starting a business, a parent is staying home to raise their children, medical issues, unemployment, etc. This can put obvious strains on finances, but can also be a great opportunity for a person to become better stewards of the income that is being earned.
In between now and when I begin earning a steady income I plan on doing what most of these one-income households already do: use my frugal skills to contribute to our household’s bottom line. I’ve polished my frugal resume, and here’s what I have to offer:
Slow Consumer Pulse
Patience is not only a virtue, it is also a solid money-saving strategy. Patience allows you to postpone purchases for months when there is more income as well as to purchase items at a discount that impulsive shoppers or even normal shoppers will not find. This is because most items will go on sale over time, and the cost of many consumer items will decrease as the newness fades away (especially true in the electronics and video game industries). You can also take advantage of “consumer drafting” if you have patience, meaning you can purchase the newest books/clothes/and other products secondhand at great discounts.
Creativity beyond Driving to a Store
When a problem, need, or want arises in our household I take the opportunity to come up with alternatives besides purchasing something at a store. The first thing I ask is whether or not we have something at home that can be substituted. Next question is whether or not we can make something to accommodate the need. Then we look to borrowing, buying used, and waiting/postponing (patience!). Finally, if there appears to be no other workable solution, I try to use a free gift card in order to make a purchase. Going through this line of questioning over the years has created some interesting solutions, such as our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.
Black Belt Shopper Status
While it’s nice to shop from our own cupboards whenever possible, our household has many purchase occasions throughout the year. These include shopping for gifts, groceries, insurance, etc. I’ve honed my shopping skills over the years, learning how to layer deals, shopping clearance racks/bins first, shopping out of season, learning how to play the drugstore game, buying discounted meats from the manager’s special section and freezing until needed, etc.
Ability to Stretch Resources
It’s not enough to be a Black Belt Shopper in a one-income household. Having the skills to stretch resources will ultimately expand our money supply and stretch the time in-between shopping as well. This includes using less meat in recipes (for example: buy two pounds of ground beef and divide it into three servings to use in recipes that call for one pound of beef), giving our cats a spoonful of wet food as a treat instead of an entire can, using dish towels instead of paper towels in most situations, etc.
An Established a Sense of Value Independent from Manufacturers
When you obtain items in ways different from purchasing them at full retail price (such as by borrowing, bartering, purchasing used, layering sales/coupons/gift cards/credit card rewards), you develop a sense of value that is much different from the value assigned by manufacturers and retailers. Having someone in the household with this kind of knowledge means that you can more easily say “no” when a bad deal presents itself because you know there is a much better deal to be had. It basically takes away the sense of urgency manufacturers like to create through their advertisements.
Earning money is only one part of the money management equation. Spending that money judiciously to maximize its potential and to safeguard your household’s savings account is just as important. After all, even someone who earns $1 million but spends $1,000,001 is broke.