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Just Do One Thing…and Save Money

Right about now, between McCain’s totally spinning out of control (on a personal and on a campaign basis); Palin “going rogue”; banks NOT doing what Paulson promised they’d do with their bailout money, and winter coming on, it’s going to be easy to just throw up your hands and say, “I can’t cope – there is nothing I can do – I’ll just end up sitting in the dark, freezing to death, starving.”

There are a lot of things out there that none of us can control. None of us is going to be able to go to Congress, lock the doors and refuse to let them have access to the bathrooms until they hold Paulson and the financial community accountable.

Ok? Get used to it.

But – on an individual and family basis, as I have written here before, there are a whole lot of things we can do. The problem is: which corner of the elephant do you sink your teeth into first?

As Curly says at the top (God, I love that film), “one thing…just one thing” – just pick one thing and take a good long hard look at that and see where you can make changes.

I’ll use myself as one good, sinful example: in many areas of my life, I have no idea how much stuff I’ve got or where it is. So I end up doing things like: buying another pair of black pants, another pair of black pumps, another size 8 set of knitting needles, etc. I also do things like when I see a sale on something I like, I tend to buy a bunch of it. I must come by this one naturally because when my father died, we found six pairs of darned (and redarned and redarned) socks in his drawer and elsewhere in his chest, 32 pairs of brand new, in the packages, beautiful wool socks that he’d bought because they were a great price and goodness-only-knows-when-I-might-run-out. Sort of socks as savings account.

Now, I have this problem all over the house, and it really is quite overwhelming and makes me feel guilty and stupid and out of control. So, what I did was PICK ONE THING: the stupid knitting needles (hey, I like to start small – the black pants thing is just too over the top – I’m really afraid of finding out how many pairs of extra black pants I have that I am not wearing). I enlisted the DH’s help (easy to get him to help get things organized) to run around the house, look in every odd paper sack, knitting bag, etc. and find all the odd needles. I happened to have saved a couple of those ‘in-notebook’ zip pencil holders and I organized them and the other notions and oddments (hey, so I have a collection of 12 tape measures – whose business is it?) and put them into a three ring binder that I put on the shelf in the room where I (shudder) keep my sewing machine, my fabric (another project), and other craft stuff.

So, how is taking an hour of an afternoon to get this one thing organized a thrifty thing to do?

Well, I now KNOW (really and truly know because I also wrote down the numbers on a 3×5 card and put it into my wallet) that I have no excuse to buy any knitting needles ever again..unless I want Size 0 or Size 1. So I have no excuse to spend money on that at all. I’m on the knitting needle diet – sort of like being a diabetic only with knitting needles instead of refined carbs – never again. When I added up all the additional pairs of size 8s (and 7s and 6s and 5s) that I’d bought (these babies are not cheap – we’re looking at $6-$7 a pair) because I’d forgotten I had them or couldn’t find them, I was looking at almost $100. Wasted money.

So, how to pick “just one thing”? Just look at where your money goes and pick one activity in your life that is costing you money and change what you are doing and how you are doing it. It might require organizing it, like I did with the needles (and desperately need to do with my closet), or it might require rethinking the planning (like cooking on weekends or using the grocery store circulars to do the shopping or getting up 15 min. earlier to make yourself lunch to take to work).

But it will do two things: first and most important, it will make you feel that at least in this one area of your life, you have exerted control, made it better and made it more workable, and secondly, it will save you money. It will not take you a tremendous investment of time and probably no investment of money at all. The first time is a little bit crazy, but it does get easier – just pick one thing and do that – start big, start small, but get started with one thing … and then move on to the next.

Here’s a few of the “one things” that I changed that got us more knowledgeable, organized and saved us money:
1) Sat down with the DH and the grocery store ads on Sunday and decided what we wanted to eat on a weekly basis.
2) Made it family policy that when the DH picks me up from work, we go home immediately instead of running errands which can lead us to go out to eat. Eat at home and then decide if going out to do errands is worth it or if they can be done at lunch, consolidated at the weekend, etc.
3) Looked in the freezer to see exactly how many pieces of chicken we had. At this rate, we don’t have to buy chicken, no matter what the bargain price, until Spring ’09.
4) Looked at myself in the mirror and decided that I really look awful in white blouses, thus eliminating the urge to purchase any even though they are being flogged in the fashion press.
5) Figured out that if we could get paste tomatoes for less than a certain amount of money, it would be worth it to can them; otherwise, not worth it (except for the whole sodium thing – but that is a quality issue).
6) Looked at the list of charities that we’ve been supporting and made some decisions in terms of what is really important to us as a family.

Don’t feel overwhelmed; just make your own list and start with one thing at the top and do it. Just one thing. (Thanks, Curly)

(originally published at Oxdown Gazette)

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