Monday, January 19, 2009

Money Monday 01/19/2009

This week, I’m still fixated on our emergency fund, or, as I like to call it, our whatever happened to that emergency fund thing we used to have?

There are lots of ways to build an emergency fund. There’s the time-honored “make it a bill and pay it” method – this is where you decide on a set amount each month and set it aside. Nice if you’re already operating with a little extra each month, and an excellent thing to do with that hoped-for annual raise.

There’s the “scrimp and save like crazy until you’ve got one” method. This is where you curtail your spending so sharply you about cut yourself on it, and shovel the money you save into a savings account. It can be remarkably effective, especially if you ask yourself, “Will I actually physically die without {consumer good you’re about to buy}?” and only buy those things to which the answer is yes. Most of us have far more “disposable” income than we realize, when we really stop and think about what we’re buying and why.

You might not want to do without iTunes for the rest of your life and all, but for the sake of adding a layer of protection between yourself and homelessness…it might be worth considering giving up for a while, huh?

Then there’s the “holy smokes, a miracle happened and money fell right out of the sky into my lap! I know! Let’s save it!” method. The miracle might be in the form of an annual bonus, a tax refund, a sudden check because some rich uncle you never met died and left you a gift…whatever the source, it’s unexpected and therefore putting it into savings instead of spending it on Stuff shouldn’t be that hard…right? Right?

I’m going to be combining the second and third options (because frankly, as things stand we don’t have a dime of excess income) to start rebuilding our emergency fund.

The actual physical method is painfully simple, and also rather groovy. One thing we have managed to hold onto around here is our monthly-draw accounting method. Whether we are paid weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, whether we get a whack of random tiny checks or just one big one…we put them all into a holding account for the month, then take one (1) monthly draw into the household checking account.

Ideally, with a good emergency fund forming the foundation of the holding account, you don’t have to worry excessively about this week’s income. The bumper crop months cover for the drought-scorched ones, and you get to just kind of clump along spending the same amount as always. If you get a pay raise, it simply saves up. If you get a windfall, it likewise saves up.

Put it on autopilot, with the transfer an automatic thing from holding account to checking account, and you can just ignore that money indefinitely. To spend it requires action on your part, which hopefully involves thought…thought that will slow you down and make you really ponder whether or not you need whatever it is you’re about to blow that hard-earned money on.

This week, I’ll be working on just how tight a budget I think I can work within. There’s no sense in making it too tight because then I’ll just be constantly going over it…but at the same time, well, setting a budget higher than our income isn’t going to work either, now, is it.

But whatever I end up going with, the transfer is supposed to happen next week…so I’ve got to get on it. No matter how interesting everybody else’s blog is this week. Not, uh, that I get distracted that way. Much. Or anything. (Ahem. Moving on…)

We’ve got a crazy week ahead, so I’m keeping the meals super-easy. (Because again – I know the entire world is fascinated with how I feed my family…)

The term “vegetables” throughout is defined as “whatever fresh stuff looks good and is on special at the supermarket when I get off my behind and go shopping tomorrow.” All the meats are coming out of the freezer and we’ll be using powdered milk until my next Costco run, so my tab at the supermarket ought to be pretty darned low this week…really just some fresh vegetables to help me feel like I’m just an awesome! parent in spite of not being too regular about bathing my children or supervising their tooth-brushing techniques. (I recently discovered that Danger Mouse considers putting toothpaste on the brush, sticking it into her mouth and sort of sucking the paste off while wriggling the brush a little bit perfectly good tooth-brushing technique. Ay yi yi…)

Monday: Meatloaf, potatoes and mixed vegetables.

Tuesday: Curried-Honey Roasted Chicken, chicken-stock rice (exactly what you think it is, rice made with chicken stock instead of water) and vegetables.

Wednesday: Slow-cooker pork loin with potatoes and carrots. These are small skinless boneless pork loin roasts I get from Costco for under $2 a pound – put them in the old Crockpot with a slice or two of bacon over them for the day. If you like them kind of mushy, you can add your potatoes and carrots at the beginning of the day…I like mine a little less cooked, so I’ll put them in about an hour or so before we’re going to eat.

Thursday: Pork (leftover from yesterday, of course) in gravy, homemade biscuits and vegetables.

Friday: Roasted whole chicken, mashed potatoes and oh my goodness, there’s those vegetables again…

Saturday: Warmed up leftover chicken, cornbread, vegetables.

Sunday: Pasta, either spaghetti or whatever else I’ve got on hand, with plain old sauce-sauce. This will be the one meal all week the kids will eat without complaining about the “vegetables.” Argh.


natasha the exile on Mom Street said...

My son's only vegetable is KETCHUP.

Yes, here in Georgia ketchup is considered a vegetable.

At least, it was the last time I bothered to read the school lunch section of the newspaper in my husband's small hometown.

I even tried telling Grasshopper that marinara sauce is ketchup (causing my Italian ancestors to roll over in their graves) but no dice.

So I feel you on both the budget, "Holy penny-pinchers Batman!"

And the veggie hating kids.

Lydee said...

you are an inspiration as usual. I'm motivated to go put something in my crockpot.

Unknown said...

Now that the kiddies are gone from home, DH and I are stretching a crockpot of stew into 3 evening meals. Of course, that just means that I can't make weekly stew any more, or we would go nuts, but it's still nice because it gives me more knitting time.

Galad said...

This is starting to sound like a CAL (Cook along). You post the menus and the rest of us just follow along :-)

Since my small business is very slow starting, I'm trying to cook more at home. It is amazing how much money one can save when fast food isn't on the menu!

Science PhD Mom said...

I feel your pain on the empty e-fund! At this moment I am figuring out how we can shore up the ol' monetary defenses, and still attack the debt snowball with decent ferocity. It takes a bit of juggling! Hang in there.

Rena said...

I'm on the "wow, they gave me more money for school. let's see how much I can save after paying tuition and books... um... we can live on $200.00 in an emergency, right?"