By Melissa Stefanec
For all of those parents out there who don’t spend their valuable time following the Chinese zodiac, 2019 is the year of the pig. In Chinese astrology, pigs are a sign of good fortune and wealth.
Although the whimsical part of me can conjure up a plotline where I randomly come into a great fortune this year, the pragmatist in me recognizes I will simply have to save more money than I spend to accumulate some monetary wealth.
However, being a mom presents the unique and awesome opportunity to constantly acquire junk, stuff, clutter and crap.
Kids want a lot of stuff. Grownups want a lot of stuff. Kids like to do fun and costly activities. Adults like to have fun and expensive hobbies.
The opportunities to spend money on stuff and fun are as seemingly endless as the amount of ‘I want that’ I heard during the holiday season.
To that end, this year I am going to share some financial resolutions. Small changes in routine become habits, and careful financial habits add up to money in the piggy bank (practicing self-restraint regarding dad-joke-level puns will be on my resolutions next year).
Resolution: Cut back on food waste
I am usually pretty good at this and have consumed many almost-expired lunches in the name of this endeavor. However, lately, I find my husband and me slipping. It usually starts something like this: One of my children decides the only food they will consume is _____. We buy loads of ____, but then my child quits the stuff cold turkey. Or, I buy a bunch of food, with the best intentions of cooking some awesome stuff, only to eat out more than we should or succumb to dinners of lunch meat, cheese and chopped veggies. I need to limit my groceries. No one will go hungry.
Resolution: Just say no to sales
I love a good sale. When it comes to finding cheap and quality clothes for my kids, I deserve some sort of statewide recognition. This means my kids end up with too much clothing. I am not really saving money on clothes if I buy a lot more than they need. I am actually spending the same amount of money I likely would if I didn’t bargain-hunt and waste time. At best, that seems like some pretty faulty logic. How am I going to say no to sales? I am going to unsubscribe from emails from kids clothing stores. Then, I will only hunt sales when my kids actually need something.
Resolution: Hit the garage sales in the summer
If I happen to buy too many 50-cent or $1 clothing items, I resolve to totally forgive myself. I’d better hit garage sales and cash in on cheap clothes while my kids still think it’s cool to spend a morning going to garage sales and then sporting their finds in public.
Resolution: Keep on consigning
A few times a year, I sell items at a local pop-up consignment sale (enough mystery, I sell all my used goodies at Polka Tot — the fine people at Polka Tot have no idea I’m writing this). This not only forces me to keep unused stuff moving out of my house, it also puts some dollars in my bank account. One year, we used our earning to pump out the septic tank! Living the dream, folks.
Resolution: Eat out strategically
I know this one seems like a low-hanging fruit, but hear me out. It seems like half the time we eat out, my kids don’t bother eating. In fact, most of my kids’ so-called meals out are actually consumed at our kitchen table (in the form of reheated leftovers) or over my or my husband’s desk (in the form of a working lunch). Why should I, as a grown woman, spend money to eat macaroni and cheese with tidbits of cold french fries in it? It’s just as easy to make some PBJs with a side baby carrots and ranch at home as it is to eat out; it’s a lot cheaper too.
Resolution: Clean out and stay out
Most of us spend a gross amount of money on stuff. That stuff then moves into our homes, garages and yards. It requires upkeep. This spring, I’m planning a huge cleanout of my cluttered spaces. I did it last year, but I didn’t go far enough. I told myself if an item made the cut last spring but wasn’t used in the upcoming year, that item was to be donated. Cleaning out may not save me money, but not replacing that stuff with other stuff will.
Resolution: If I were moving to Europe…
I usually apply this thought process to my stuff purges. I start looking around at all the stuff in my house. If it’s not something I use regularly, I ask myself: If I were moving to a faraway place, would I keep this item? It helps me truly assign value to things. However, I can apply this principle to things I want. When I want to buy something, I will think about its long-term utility and how often I will use it. That should keep adorably useless items from making their way into my home and add some padding to my bank account.