I don’t go shopping much anymore. Some weeks I don’t go near the shops. It’s just a lifelong habit I’ve got into from years of living a frugal lifestyle. I only get what we ever need but it got me thinking about what is the true value of the things you buy whether that’s food, clothing or whatever.
Dinner time is and has always been for me, for the last 10 years, a struggle for my daughter and I. It’s a long story but I got to thinking about the actual price of the food I serve and what she doesn’t (or won’t) eat. I don’t spend much on food and we always eat well but with me not going to work and trying to save every cent I can, it still makes me mad when she wastes food, or more to the point, just won’t eat it.
I started putting the price of the food, and other things we buy as a rule, into an ‘hourly rate’ or how many hours of work I’d have to do to pay for those things. This is what I came up with.
How much is a parent’s hourly rate?
For those of us who are parents, you only know too well how it is to take on the role of teacher, carer, nurse, taxi driver, cook, cleaner, etc etc. What is the hourly rate for that? I know we don’t get paid for it but if we did, I’d have to say it would be a large amount. Because we don’t get paid, it’s even more vital that what we do buy is carefully thought about and how it will benefit or be of use in our home.
Even if we were to get say $40 an hour. The job of parenting never stops. It’s from sun up to sun down (and in between). It’s Monday to Sunday, every week of the year from the day they’re born. At 24 hours a day, 365 days a year that works out to about $349,440 per year. Imagine that? That would be our mortgages paid off, overseas holidays and maybe a new car every couple of years. Unfortunately that’s not a reality so those of us who choose to be stay at home parents, taking special note of what you buy is even more critical.
Is spending $40 on a takeaway meal justifiable when you aren’t earning $40 per hour? Is that new decorative item from Kmart (plus the other impulse purchases you made) that total $40 worth it? If you’re wondering how to save money and stay on top of the household budget, it’s important to note that the purchases you make are absolutely necessary or ask yourself “can I make this cheaper myself”, “can I use something else I already have” or “can I make sure I stock the basic ingredients for those takeaway meals and make it at home”. You can’t spend what you don’t have.
What about if you were working?
So what about if you are a working parent or both of you are working? Both of you might be on $40 an hour or upwards. Does this enable you to make larger purchases like a bigger house, a fancier car, buy takeaway food at least once a week or buy brand new clothes for the family? All those things are maybe affordable but what if one or both of you lost your jobs? Are you able to slip into a routine where you could manage without that extra $40 an hour? Wouldn’t it be better to live like you haven’t got it just in case?
I know when my (now) ex-husband left and I was left with no income other than the allowance from the government welfare I received, that I managed and I managed well. I had worked all my life before having my children and always had money. I lived a frugal lifestyle back then and saved for a rainy day (or overseas holiday). Every day items like clothes were bought secondhand and only when I needed them. Food was still the same basic pantry ingredients but cooked into exotic cuisines I loved so much. This is how my parents and grandparents lived and were always comfortable. They always had money for the bills. Always had food (and good food) on the table and had their homes paid off well before time.
My grandparents were able to sell their dairy farm and retire at the age of 60 and move to the Sunshine Coast here in Queensland and they still lived frugally. My Mum and Dad (who sadly passed away when he was only 59 and ready for retirement) always had enough money to pay for our sporting ventures when we were young and bought us only the best equipment. We didn’t eat much in the line of takeaway nor did we get a lot of new clothes. Mum sewed and we were given a lot of hand-me-downs from neighbours.
They certainly didn’t earn anywhere near $40 an hour and Mum stayed home only taking in babysitting and sewing jobs to supplement Dad’s income. They had their house paid off when I was in high school. It’s all about priorities and not flittering away your hard earned income on unnecessary expenses.
What is the cost of the products you buy?
There’s a huge phenomenon here in Australia at the moment with everyone being crazy about shopping at KMart. The KMart marketing team have done so well to instil a real love of the discount variety store with consumers that they just can’t walk past it without popping in and picking up some little thing. Sure, there’s a lot in there that might be necessary, like underwear for the kids, a new mixing bowl or printer ink. That’s all I go in there for. I’m always surprised by the so called “KMart Lovers” who love cleverly marketed cheap trinkets for the home, the cheap, heavily discounted clothing and other cheap wares.
It might be a bargain for $3 for a brand new kid’s t-shirt but think about how much it cost to make, how much profit KMart are making and what did the person get paid who made it. At what price are these imported products being produced? Are they 20 cents each? How much is the person who stands in the factory spray painting those cheap cutlery sets getting paid? What about the young girl who sits at a sewing machine for 18 hours a day, sewing together t-shirt after t-shirt?
My conscience won’t allow me to buy these cheap items, especially brand new. I see them all finish up the secondhand stores after a little while for about a dollar each but still won’t buy them. What purpose do they have in my home other than being a dust collector. KMart brings out the next season’s catalogue a couple months later and you buy the next product they’re promoting. I would rather fill my home with functional items, family photos and drawings and trinkets belonging to my family members that really mean something. If you’re wondering how to save money, bypass the discount variety stores, avoid impulse buys and only buy things you need.
How much will it cost you to make it yourself?
You can’t be bothered cooking dinner so you pick up a $40 burger pack for you and your family. You’re a working parent so you’ve probably earned that (or near to that) in an hour so you can justify it. What about if you had bread rolls and meat patties in the freezer, salad in the fridge, wedges in the freezer and a cheap bottle of fizzy drink in the fridge that cost you all up under $10? It might be a little bit of effort to put together but by the time you add up the wages of the person who cooked those burgers, the person who served you, the delivery costs of transporting the raw ingredients, the store manager’s salary, the marketing and advertising, what is the real price of the actual food? Probably about less than $10 and not very nutritious I bet.
What about that costume for your child’s upcoming fancy dress disco or book week? Do you rush out and spend $20 on a costume from KMart because you can’t be bothered? The costume probably cost about $2 to make in some factory in China. If you looked in your child’s wardrobe and added a few items from the second hand shop, you’d probably come up with a really neat costume for way less than $20 and it would be original.
I’ve seen this meme pop up on Facebook a few times and I have to agree with it. That’s why I don’t buy much craft supplies. Most of the crafts I did with my children when they were young (and still do) come from food packaging that I’d saved. I had a big box when the kids were young that I’d save all the cardboard boxes, lids, rubber bands, etc etc and use other household items like cotton buds, cotton balls etc and I pick up a lot of craft supplies from the second hand shops. I only recently bought a huge bag of beads for my daughter for $3 from the second hand shop. It will last her a lifetime if she decides she wants to make necklaces, bracelets, bookmarks or whatever else.
I’ve always said once my children are older I will start quilting. I just adore them. I have a few that my aunt has made for me and I started a quilt last year using old fabric scraps I had. If I was to take the hobby up now, starting new, I would need a bank loan to buy the fabric. It is so, so expensive but there are so many people doing it. There are fabric designers, pattern makers who bring out books. It’s quite trendy to be making the latest collection of fabric into a quilt but at what price? Will it cost you $500 for the fabric and notions by the time you finish it? Early modern quilting was a way to use up scraps of fabric and remake them into something useful for the home like bed coverings, mats or heavy duty curtains for example and also a way for women to come together to socialise. No craft shop is going be getting my money for the latest designed fabric just so I can cut it up for a quilt nor are they getting my money on cheaply imported craft supplies. There are so many ways you can make do with things from around your home.
I take a lot of pride in my home and who and what is in it. Buying a $10 trinket from KMart isn’t going to benefit my family one bit. An organised home that we all pitch in to clean and keep tidy is our sanctuary and my family’s safe place to be. I truly value my hourly rate and what I spend it on. It will go towards items that are needs and the rest will be put away for a rainy day, a holiday or an experience for the family. What price can you put on the people in your life over the useless products that are available for purchase today?
Think of your time as a dollar value and it might help you to see the value in the products you buy. If you’re a stay at home parent this should make it easy to think twice about making an impulse purchase.
Developing these new habits and really thinking twice about what you buy and how it will benefit you and your family will certainly help you create the lifestyle you want instead of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, following trends, feeling the fear of missing out on what everyone else is doing and having the money to pay your bills on time and keep some leftover for a rainy day.
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