Friday, 25 May 2012

Frugal Friday (25th May)

It has been gloriously warm here the last two days.  Papa Bear and I have enjoyed some beautiful walks in the park!  We do miss having a garden, but even without one, we've still been able to make the most of the wonderful sunshine - in England you really do have to make the effort to enjoy it while it lasts, because it never does!  Already this afternoon, a strong breeze has got up, which is perfect for drying laundry, but not so good for walking in.  I hope the weekend will be just as lovely as the last couple of days have been, so that we can enjoy being outside with the cubs - who have finished their end of semester exams, and are looking forwards to a well deserved rest - before Cubby joins Papa at work for his summer break, and Little Bear joins Mama at home for hers! 

Having the cubs at home with us whilse they study at college is a great privelige - but feeding four adults isn't cheap!  We greatly admire families who have a lot more mouths to feed than our's, and who yet still are able to provide economical and nourishing meals from a single income.  For us, managing to stretch our pennies has been a long learning curve.  It's one reason why we decided to have a regular "Frugal" post on the blog - so that we could share some of what we have learned along the way.

Managing on a budget is really, at its most basic, all about learning to make do with what you have - and being able to prioritise your expenses so that the most pressing bills get paid first.  Learnging to stretch an income was something that we found more difficult than we had expected when we first married - the bills always seemed to be bigger than we had anticipated, and the money coming in, always less!  But we've grown in our understanding of how to balance our books each month, and nowadays, each month's outgoings are fairly similar.  We have some big expenses coming up in the next couple of months - our car will need to have its MOT and service at the garage, and God willing that it passes the MOT - if it doesn't, more expense! 

But Papa Bear and I are open to knowing that the car is one area where we could make savings if we needed to.  We could survive without a car.  Sure, it would be difficult - but not impossible. Most days Papa Bear gets a ride to work with one of his workmates, and although we use the car to get to the supermarket, it would be possible for us to do the supermarket shop using the bus, if all 4 of us went together.  We could rely on taxis for other vital journeys that were too far to walk, and on the bus service for trips into the town and to Church.  We like having a car, but we regard it as a luxury.

What other areas of our lives could we pare down if we had to?

Well, there is the TV for a start.  Although Papa Bear and Cubby enjoy watching sport on the TV (which would cost considerably more than the subscription and license fee, if they were to actually attend the games themselves - a ticket to see their football team play a match is over £50 for one person), we could do without it if we had to - life would still be good, without a TV!  Little Bear and I could quite happily do without the TV altogether even now, but I know the menfolk would miss it - that is why we do have one.

We have a LoveFilm subscription which is useful to us as it means we can select our own films at our discretion, and watch them when we choose (we don't have a "Tivo" or other recordable device with our cable TV package as we already feel this is an unecessary expense).  But this too could be dispensed with if necessary - we can share our small collection of DVD's and videos (yes, we still own a working video machine!) with other family members, and that way still have plenty of films to enjoy.

We could eat more frugally if we needed to.  Papa Bear sets our food and household expenses budget, and he recently raised it - but we rarely reach the limit he has set for each week.  The money that we save out of that weekly budget is going towards a fun and exciting adventure we have planned for later in the year!  It is all booked up now, and we are looking forwards to it very much indeed!  I shall share more details of this later ... He he!

We already have a set budget for gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but again, this could be pared down if needed.  Already this year, I have been making some plans for Christmas gifts for family members in our huge family - things that I can make and get ready ahead of time.  This is one way to spread the expense of holiday costs like Christmas gifts.  We also buy savings stamps to spread the cost of our Christmas food bill - all through the year we contribute to this, so that we have lots of money saved up by December to spend on meals for family and friends throughout the holiday period.  But we could pare this down too if we had to!

We already save money by not having vacations.  If you are working for a family business as Papa Bear does, vacations are a rare luxury anyway - if you don't work, you don't get paid - and he has grown up knowing this to be so.  Apart from our honeymoon we have only had a handful of family vacations - and none of us have ever been abroad - we don't even own a passport.  While it would be wonderful to experience more of the world, at this season in our lives, it isn't best use of our income to spend it on fancy holidays and trips abroad.

We don't spend on entertainment either - as I have described in previous posts, there are plenty of ways to have fun as a couple or family without having to spend much - or any - money!  We would rather save our pennies for more important expenses such as ... getting the car through its MOT!

We don't spend much money on eating out, either - and when we do, it is usually at a reasonably priced restaurant such as Brewer's Fayre (an English chain restaurant similar to Cracker Barrell) or on a takeaway treat such as fish and chips!  This weekend I am planning to serve home made "McChicken Sandwiches" for our evening meal on Saturday - another way to save money! 

Being creative with ways to save can be fun!  We only have one way to spend each penny or pound that comes to us - and it's worth remembering, that none of what we own is really our's - it's God's.  We must use the resources He gives us to take care of wisely - and that means, not being careless or extravagant - and being thankful for what we do have.  All of us have far, far more than we actually need.  It's so easy to be lured by the tempting displays in shop windows and magazines - and on the TV and internet.  But unless we seek God's guidance first, we are likely to slip up.  I try to remember this whenever I am tempted!  And ultimately, knowing that I am serving Him by using our income carefully, is a far greater reward than any material possession or transient experience that we could buy.

"Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also". (Luke 12:27-34).