Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Make Savings - Part 1

How to Make Savings

One of the best tools to make your homestead or farm more effective and efficient – and to keep it from being an expensive hobby –  is learning how to “make savings.”  Making savings is somewhat along the lines of the old Ben Franklin adage that “a penny saved is a penny earned.” But making savings actually gets you further ahead then just keeping that penny in your pocket.

Making savings means:

a) keeping money by not wasting it on things you don't need; and
b) not spending money and still getting what you need anyway by doing it yourself.

Its a way of 'creating' income by not spending money thereby eliminating the need for additional or a second income. Think you really need two incomes? Nope.

Here's how it goes:

The first way to make savings is by not spending money on stupid stuff – and then using that saved money on something you really need. There are tons of resources on how to reduce your spending, avoiding money drains, and staying away from financial black holes. Do some research and figure out where you are hemorrhaging money and then stop doing those things.

There are a million easy ways to keep more of your money by not spending it on stupid stuff. Think you can't live without cable? Not true, we live just fine with our 5 broadcast channels. In fact, stop watching TV. All it does is make you feel bad about what you don't have. No need to be a senseless victim of marketing. Besides, you can watch just about anything online at hulu

Are you shrieking that I must be out of my mind? OK then, go to the library and check out your favorite TV or cable series for free. Free. Not paying a rental fee, but FREE. To that point, we are so disgusted with the 'cheap' matinee movie price of $7 per person that we rarely go anymore. And when we do drive all the way into town (from way out here that's $15 in gas) we usually are shocked by what's considered cool by the popular culture...and come on.. the product placement in TV and movies is so ridiculous...do you really want to watch a two hour commercial?  Anyway, we've reduced our entertainment budget to about.. oh, $50 a year, if that.

Another money pit – working. That's right, having a job costs money.  It used to cost me $15 a day just to go to work when I had my Big Life. That was the coffee, lunch, and and extras I deserved from working so hard. Not to mention all the clothes, gas for commute, the gym membership, the manicures, and all those kind of things.  Remember when gas was $4 a gallon? The Big Man was driving 105 miles a day. At that point, why even bother?

But don't you have to have a job!?! Well. Nope. Make enough savings, figure out what you can produce yourself, eliminate all your debt and well... why have a job? You'll discover a whole community of folks who don't have a work-a-day life. For us, right now, it works best if The Big Man has the job and I work here on the farm. We only need one income. But figure out how to make your homestead profitable and then you've got money for expenses you can't grow yourself – like insurance.

Further, if the whole Latest (not Great) Depression isn't enough to convince you that maybe this whole thing about working a job for a company that will dump you at the drop of a stock point, getting a 401K, and maybe someday you'll be able to retire do what you want, is a bunch of crap well.. I'm not sure what will.

A short note on health insurance.... one of the things I found out when I gave up my Big Life was that I was not a hypochondriac... and I wasn't sick anymore. I'm healthier, happier, and I don't need any of those drugs advertised on TV. This is really something because I used to be sick all the time. My doctor's office had a parking spot reserved just for me and my file was always at the check in station. The last day I was in my old life I drove away with no less than 5 prescriptions.. now? None. Anxiety? Insomnia? West Nile? Ebola? Nope. Hard work, real food, and fresh air work wonders.

But back to the 'stuff'? Cool cars?  Big toys? Meh. Over rated. While I haven't read his books, I knew I loved Dave Ramsey when I heard him say something along the lines of  'Why are you buying things that you don't need, with money you don't have, to impress people you don't know or care about.'  I've been a dork, nerd, or geek for most of my life and I'm OK with that so I'm not concerned who I am or am not impressing. When anyone tries to “one up” me with their expensive toys I just flash  my “$0.00 due” credit card bills.  Most, if not all, cannot do the same. As the song says “There's no dollar sign on peace of mind....” You can't pay for this kind of relief.

When you feel good about yourself, you really don't care about the stuff. I don't even have an iPhone. In fact, the cell phone I have is from The Dollar Store and cost me $10. What's worse? Having a 'lame' phone or having a $500 cell phone bill because your kid wanted to text all their friends that they were having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Toss that expensive phone and the expensive contract directly in the trash and go and get a by the minute phone. Cell phones = money pit with zero to no value. Emergency use? Absolutely. Otherwise, hang up and drive. Its cheaper for you and safer for the rest of us.

As for travel – every day is a vacation for me so I'm not really even interested in going anywhere anymore. The same "oh wow" you get from seeing an impressive piece of artwork in an old museum, or seeing a spectacular wonder of the world can be found in a kiddie pool full of baby ducks. I'd trade every day of my working life for those summer days sitting in my chair, drink in my hand, being the duckling lifeguard.

But what about success? Isn't that measured in money and houses and things and toys and vacations and stuff?  Only if you think so.  What if you put more stock in relationships, being productive, being self reliant, working to make your life and those around you better, and living the life that you want? 

Making savings so you can live the life you want is wildly satisfying. Its better than getting a raise, or winning the VP's Award, and its better than pretending that the job you are doing means something to you.  Short of being a brain surgeon, does it really mean something? Come on corporate monkeys, dig down deep and ask yourself if that's where you really want to be?

Take it from me, when you get laid off after years of being a dedicated Company Man you'll see that they don't have any loyalty to you. Finding out just how expendable you are kinda shakes up the way you think about success as measured in corporate pens and awards. Still think that is success? Then, Friend, take a minute to think about who told you that lie and how long you've believed. it.  Then go to talk the Baby Boomers you know about the shattered remains of their 401K's and their bad health – see if it worked out for them.

None of this is rocket science and you've heard it all before. The big data point is – instead of buying all the 'stuff' why not make your life more satisfying?

By not buying into the buy buy buy get get get of our culture you can make savings by avoiding all the crap that “They” think you should have.  You don't need that stuff. I used to work in marketing so, believe me. I know.  All you need is to be happy and satisfied with your life.

All of this, of course, is along the lines of the book Your Money Or Your Life. The theory is that you are trading your life (time, energy, etc) to make money. One of their strategies is to reduce your expenses to the point where you can live on very little income. Get rid of your debt. Get rid of your expenses. Avoid senseless spending.

And this is where making saving through farming comes in...and our second point about making savings by not having to spend money and still getting what you need.  Find ways to get the things you need at low or no cost by doing it yourself.  Some people call it self sufficiency.

Self sufficiency is kinda like crack...or interior redecorating. Once you get started you don't want to stop. You start looking around at everything you consume and think, “wonder how I can grow/make that myself?”  If you don't have any debt then your next biggest expense is usually related to household expenses. Our utilities are pretty low, so in our case the next big expense was food related items.

We caught the farming bug after we started with chickens and a big garden. Pretty soon we were standing in the Sam's Club thinking about what we were putting on our trolley and thinking “Can't we just do this ourselves?” We don't buy all the processed junk.... so basically we needed meat and dairy. 

And by the way, if you're buying a bunch of frozen, prepared food, boxed stuff, anything with “itos” in the name, or yelling an order for “food” into a clown... stop. And for heavens sakes stop buying soda – diet or regular. Its not food. Its not good for you and you are wasting a ton of money. Want to make real savings? Then make your food, raise what you eat, eat what you grow, and do it in a self sustaining way.

On our farm we raise pigs, turkeys, chickens, and ducks for food. The goats provide most of our dairy. But you don't have to raise livestock to make savings for yourself. Just make dinner. Contrary to popular belief, fast food isn't cheaper than making dinner. Its just easier. If you grow your own food then I guarantee a nice, balanced plate of food is cheaper, healthier, and better for your heart and soul than anything they hand you out of the drive thru window. You can read here about how I make fast food – it took me exactly 7 minutes of standing up and technically it was 2 meals worth of food for two people. Sure it required planning and preparation... but thats part of making savings.

If you're willing to do the work, to do the planning, and shift the way you think about money and consumable goods – there are tons of ways to make savings. Little steps add up and every dollar you save my doing it yourself is another dollar you can use for something else. Don't dismiss small savings. In fact, search them out and capitalize on them.

Here is another example.....

I was telling a friend about how raw goods plus my labor equals goods and services that we need for our lives.  A lot of what people pay for is convenience or labor to get to the finished good. Take bread for instance. A good quality loaf of artisan bread can cost $3.50 or so in the grocery stores here.. and up to $7 a loaf in the city. But the true cost of goods for that loaf of bread is more along the lines of oh.. under a dollar. I make bread all the time. Most people would roll their eyes, picture themselves and their kitchens covered in flour, and think “But that takes all day!”

Nah. Not really. The actual time spent standing up and do all the processing, from heaving out the bag of flour to taking the finished loaf out of the oven is less than 30 minutes. And I don't even use a food processor (posers, you know who you are) and that gets us 2 loaves of bread. Good bread. And we know it doesn't have any funky chemicals or stabilizers or whatever it in. Too much effort? OK Princess, get in your car and drive down the store, buy a loaf, and then let me know how long that takes you.

By the time you get back I will have done all the mixing (by hand!) and it will be sitting there rising. And since I've worked out a routine to do all the 'futzing' during the day to give it that artisan-created-bread-taste and texture... its easy-peasy and the process is just something that I fold into the background of my day. I love these instructions – but I use a slightly different recipe. Come to think of it I'll do a bread post soon.

We take this approach to most of what we consume around here. We make most of our food – and we don't just make our food.. we MAKE our food by growing it. We grow 95% of meat, all of our eggs, a good chunk of our veggies, and most of our dairy. Pretty much we have the lowest grocery bill in the county. Our grocery bill, less dog and cat food, for most of the summer was about $25 a week.

You read that right. Still think you don't have time to do this?

Coming soon – how to make even more saving with your grocery bill. Gardening, small stock raising, and a special guest will tell us how to get a pig, raise it, butcher it, and fry it up in a pan.


Anonymous said...

Ouch! ;)


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Amen OFG. Simplify and celebrate... with duckings, baby goats, or whatever you love!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hee hee Hey Poser, you know who you are. Be a man and use a big bowl and a spoon! Just kidding.

Vicki - yep! Now if that goatie would just have those babies! I think she is tired of me poking at her.

Tabatha said...

You can't hear the applause, so I thought I would let you know just how much I enjoyed this post.

I read & re-read your tale of leaving the corporate life & dream of the day I play "Take this Job & Shove It" at full blast as I haul butt out of the parking lot & head toward my tiny farm in waiting.

Day by day I'm getting a little closer to my goal. I can't wait :)

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

Most excellent post! And you are right - it is very addicting once you figure out you can make your own cream-of-whatever soup needed for a recipe - and it tastes a bigillion times better than store bought! Or your very own chicken broth, chili seasoning, salad dressing, egg noodles, and well, you know...... Once you start, it almost becomes a personal challenge to MAKE IT YOURSELF! I really enjoyed your post!

Anonymous said...

Livin' off the fat o' the land and living the dream! Oh yea... Hallelujia sister - keep it coming!

-Poser's Wife

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Tabitha! Yep, nothing felt better than walking out that door. Can't wait to read what you've got going on at your place.

Hey B2B! Once you start, you really can't stop. I'm gonna be all cheese making all the time this summer. We just found out that we'll be getting our big Sanaan goat back from the breeder and will start milking the first week of April!

Hogs and kisses, Poser's Wife!

Unknown said...

Getting rid of the debt is absolutely the best advice! (ok it's all great advice, but debt free gets 2 thumb and 2 wings up from us!)

When my husband got hurt and they laid him off while he was on medical leave, we instantly lost our only source of outside income. First things we did? sold the cars that we still owed on, bought a couple old beaters, paid off the house - and 3 weeks later had another baby! HAHAHA

Seriously - only bills we have now are property taxes, electric and auto insurance. We splurge to have phone and internet - but if it came down to it, the latter two will be cut off.

oh and, I know how to bake bread, but if you saw my kitchen set up, you'd understand why I don't bake bread regularly - yet.

Chai Chai said...

This is a another great post. I totally agree about cutting back on unnecessary expenses. We don't watch a whole lot of TV, and the library has a pretty darned good selection of DVD's.

You have already sold us on goats, looks like homemade bread baking may be next.

the gold digger said...

Yes yes yes! You don't buy sliced almonds at Whole Foods. You don't buy washed lettuce in a bag. You don't buy organic cold breakfast cereal.

You buy bulk whole almonds and cut them yourself. You buy (or grow, in the summer) head lettuce. In the winter, you buy what's on the bargain produce counter. You buy bulk oatmeal. You can the pears from the tree in your back yard.

You buy your clothes at Goodwill or at consignment stores. You get your books and movies at the library.

You cook. From scratch. It's not that hard and the food is better than anything Kraft or P&G makes. You eat what's in season.

I see women with those individual puddings and applesauce in their grocery carts and I want to ask them if they know how much money they are wasting and if they know how easy it is to make these things at home?

You get by with one car, even if that means getting up at 5:00 a.m. to take your husband to the airport for a business trip occasionally.

My goal is to get our house paid for (it's our only debt), get the ex-wife paid off, and be free so my husband can change to a lower-stress job. Actually, if we could just get rid of the ex, that would help.

It is not that hard to live thriftily if you just decide to do it and not to give a good goldarn about what other people think.

Dodi said...

Amen- I could have written this myself. It's hard for others to understand sometimes, isn't it. It's a different mind set of how to use your time as well as your money. We have less debt, better food, and a better life since I lost my job. My health is better because there sure are a lot of sot so nice people that you just have to deal with when you have a job. Working towards SS is freedom and enjoyable. Thanks for writing!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks Yardfarmers! But isn't it hard to convince folks that yes there is life after a job? And that sometimes loosing a job is a blessing because you're getting a life?

Hi The Gold Digger! (btw, love your handle!) Yep. The one that always gets me is the gals with a cart full of processed junk...and diet soda and/or worse... Slim Fast. I just want to take them home and show them how to make a good nutritious meal.

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