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family finances

Sewing: Worth it…more or less

Given the plethora (today’s ‘big’ word) of opportunities to buy what looks like inexpensive (i.e., cheap and cheaply made, of cheap goods) clothing, Aunt Toby would like to ask the logical question: If I can go to Wal-get-ohl-H&M and buy a dress for $30.00, why bother sewing? Let’s just say that you are one of the lucky people(few though they may be) who actually can go to the rack, pull off a size whatever, put it on, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Dayam, I look hot!” Well, let’s look at the major reasons people are STILL sewing clothing in A.D. 2009: creative outlet and fit and selection issues.

Creative Outlet. This is the ‘my eyes are bigger than my stomach’ situation – sometimes it is merely that people see clothing that they could not possibly afford to buy and feel their skills are such that they can reproduce the look for less. At other times, it is a case of people falling in love with fabric (whoever dies with the biggest stash wins) and are inspired from the fabric up. Another factor is actually practical: If you are someone who actually looks on a wardrobe as something that can be freshened up with the addition of certain more ‘on trend’ items (and by that I mean items in certain colors or prints or shapes) and you can’t find them in the stores (a situation your Aunty finds herself in many many times) in your size, or in a style that flatters you, sewing is an option. If you are the sort of person who would be wearing high end looks AND also have the skills to pull this off AND you value your time at $0.00, then you can definitely save money. As for stash-a-holics – as someone who not only has built her own ‘fabric edifice’ but inherited a stash from her mother and great aunties, Aunt Toby has to say, “I feel your pain, Sisters.” (more…)

Home Sewing: Is it worth it?

Once upon a time, many moons ago, your Aunty used to teach workshops on spinning. This was a time of Birkenstocks and flowers in the hair and dirt under the fingernails and livestock out in the barn that needed to get sheared once a year. And once in a workshop, I was approached by a very earnest couple who asked me this: “I want to make a sweater – what sort of sheep should I get?” And I asked what their goal was. If it was to get sweaters, then they should go to a store and get sweaters. If it was to learn how to knit, then go to a yarn store, get some yarn and get lessons and learn to knit a sweater. If it was fiber work, they could buy fleeces and learn how to clean and dye them and get them carded for spinning into yarn. But NONE of any of those things, I explained, was as expensive or time consuming as buying, raising, and caring for a sheep. And this has a bit of connection to a topic that is near and dear to my heart, which is: Is it worth it to make your own clothing or clothing for family members? This is a two-part post which talks about this in terms of this issue. (more…)

Aunt Toby explains investments

Fasten your seatbelts kids because Aunt Toby is going to tell you one of the most important ‘home truths’ you will ever hear. Commit this to memory. Write it down and embroider it for a wee bit of framed art over your desk. Never forget it and don’t allow anyone to ever tell you otherwise.

Here it is: Investments are things that you spend money on that bring in income.

Income. Real cash flow. Revenue streams (sort of like the Mississippi only with greenbacks). Dividends. Interest. Rents. Payments to YOU.

Why am I saying this? (more…)

Just One Thing: Atkins for Plastic

Take out all your credit cards. Even the ones you don’t use but once a year. How many do you have? Oh, you want Aunt Toby to show hers first?

I’ve got…12. That is just moi. We are NOT an average American family, which in 2004 had 8.

Frontline Credit Show

This show gives a great overview of how Americans came to live on a diet of plastic (did you know that South Dakota, the price of shipping corn, and banks on Long Island are the magic combination?).

But that show was in 2004 (thought there are updates on the site). For more current statistics on credit card related stuff, go to:
Cardtrak statistics

Don’t Save Money — SAVE MONEY!!

Money You hear this from people all the time, “I saved xxx much money.” “I got a great bargain; on sale, it was $xxx but I paid $yyy.” “I found a way to only pay, $xxx for thus and such; I saved so much money.”

As many of you know who read my other diaries, I am someone who believes in the power of language. I believe that words and their meanings have almost a magical quality to change our thinking. Think about the phrase “Homeland Security” – think about what THAT’s done to us.

Aunt Toby is here to announce the opening salvo (remember that detergent?) in my war against any of the words starting with the letters: S-A-V. That word and all of its daughter and sons (saved, saving, savings) have basically lost complete meaning. And here is my reason why: People think that “saving money” (that is, paying less for something you are going to buy anyway, or buying something based on the discounted price) is SAVING MONEY.

What you really DID was “NOT SPEND MONEY” or, perhaps more clearly, “NOT SPEND AS MUCH MONEY.” You did not actually SAVE MONEY. (more…)

If You’re in a Financial Mess, You Might Thank Shopping For It

shopping There are a whole lot of blogs out there. One researcher estimates that there are 175 million of them. I read a bunch of them. What I really look for is someone who says something that really makes me think. I read a blog recently that was a “lightbulb moment” for me.

The young lady whose blog I was reading, a couple of months ago faced a financial crisis – she and her husband have one of those “modern relationship arrangements” – she pays hers; he pays his; they pay the household stuff together. So, when her credit card balance got to be the size of AIG’s bailout, she had to do some negotiating with her DH in terms of how to pay that sucker down because she couldn’t afford the minimum payment any more.

Now, this is all well and good. Her DH was kind, nice and nurturing – he took the credit card away and told her to come up with a plan. He even recognized that she could not go “cold turkey” and she came up with this: She would get $10 a week to spend however she wanted to. This did not include costs like lunches, car fare (what a homey, old fashioned term that is) and so on. This was her “play money” and she could spend it however she wanted to.

Ten dollars. $10.00. This, for a woman whose purchases had produced a credit card balance that required her to make a fairly humiliating appeal to her husband for her own personal bailout. (more…)

The Light at the End of the Tunnel — and how you and your family can get there faster

moneyOK – everyone comfy? Want more coffee?

We’re back in the kitchen (because that is where the food, the heat and the good seats are). We’ve talked about (to review, in case anyone is taking notes here and no – there are no essay questions on the final) saving money, starting a garden, “doing one thing” to improve your situation, and finding out who your network is.

Today, we’re going to grasp the wriggly monster with both hands: The country is in the toilet. Really. The news gets worse every day. It looks as if we are “staring down the barrel of a gun” and “hitting the wall” – simultaneously. (Being able to do both at the same times is going to take the skills and physique of a contortionist, but I digress.)

And now Elliot Spitzer gets out there and basically says that all the money that has been used to bail out the banks and AIG was wasted – like we didn’t know that already.

But he did talk about something that we WILL talk about which is:
“government investment in the long-range competitiveness of our nation, not in a failed business model…”

What I want you to do, right now (and you know I am all about the “right now”) is to take that phrase “government investment in the long-range competitiveness of our nation” and replace a couple of words so that it reads like this:

“personal investment in the long-range competitiveness of ME” or “family investment in the long-range competitiveness of family members.” (more…)

The Grasshopper or the Ant: Who’s Going to Survive What Will Be Coming?

For those of us who are of the less optimistic bent, the economic future looks a little dark. There are others who insist on referring to what is happening as “not as bad as the Great Depression.”

I’m here to point out something that tells me that it’s actually going to be worse for a lot of people. (more…)

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? (more…)

Thrift: It’s Not Just For Your Granny Anymore: Another in a Continuing Series of “The Guide to the Economically Depressed”

food1Ok, you get the fact that life as we know it is over. You also get that things could get a whole lot worse in terms of your life as a consumer before they are going to get better. What you don’t “get” is how you, as an individual, are going to navigate through this period until we all somehow come into the sun (cue sfx of birds singing and cash registers ringing).

A big part of the problem is that the whole concept of “being thrifty” got thrown out the window in about 1982 (more…)

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