Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Making lists

In light of recent posts around the Jblogosphere, I dug up this poignant story from my youth . . . just kidding. Actually, I think this story says more about my parents than it does about me, maybe.

Anyway, when I was younger, there was a period of time during which I thought my mother was going to lose her job. Both my parents work b"H, and if my mother would have lost her job or stopped working, we would have been living off my father's salary.

Something compelled me to make a list of the things that I could forego - things that I thought we should cut back on, should we only be subsisting on my father's salary.  More or less this was my list at the time (in no particular order):
  • No more ballet lessons
  • No more music lessons (my brother and I were playing violin at the time)
  • Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • End book club membership
  • Don't buy unnecessary foods, like sugary cereals, cookies, candy; try to buy less food so things won't get wasted
  • Don't go clothes shopping so often
  • Disconnect cable TV
  • Don't go to the movies
  • Don't rent videos
  • Go to the library instead of buying new books (to be honest, this would probably end up costing us more, as we are notorious for returning books late and incurring huge fines.)
  • Wear the same clothes without complaining
  • Get rid of one of the cars (we had three at the time if I recall correctly.  Actually, it might have been two.  Doesn't matter really.)
  • Join Sam's Club or something like that so we can buy groceries in bulk
  • Turn lights off
  • Don't leave water running

That's about all I can remember.  I think my mother saw this list (I don't remember if I showed it to her or she found it) and she agreed with me on most of them, but she said that even if we were only living on one income, we would continue our violin lessons, which were private in-home lessons, because they gave an income to the violin teacher who earned very little money.  Also, the violin teacher would feel terrible if she lost the business, and my mother was very concerned that she should feel successful and that people appreciate her talents.

I think that you can catch a glimpse of the values that my parents have (and that they tried to teach us) that I understood that certain situations would call for giving up things that padded my life and made it more comfortable.  Even though we never lacked for anything, thank G-d, my parents worked hard to help us appreciate the things we had, and taught us to use them well so that our belongings would last and we wouldn't have to throw things out unnecessarily.  My parents are not wasteful people, and they work very hard to give me and my siblings comfortable lives.  I only hope that I'm putting what they taught me to good use.

As a curious sort of exercise, I made a new list for what I would cut back on now, should I need to do that for any particular reason.  It's probably not complete but it's what comes to mind now (again, in no particular order):
  • Possibly switch colleges, so my parents won't be paying the room and board fees at Stern (I'm on full tuition scholarship, which is a huge part of why I actually go to Stern).  Attend local college and live at home.
  • Fewer cell phones.
  • Don't go shopping so often.  Make do with clothes that I already have.
  • Wear contact lenses infrequently so that we don't have to buy new ones so often (because those are so expensive!  As are the lens solution and saline that I need to use [I'm sensitive about that {awwwww . . . }.])
  • Whenever I get money, put some in checking account and most into mutual funds.
  • Think through purchases before actually buying things.  Do I really *need* that?  Or do I just want it?
  • Don't buy sugary cereals, cookies, candy, expensive crackers.  Buy less food so that things won't get spoiled and go to waste.  Don't eat out.
  • Try to walk to local errands so that we don't have to take the car and spend the money on gas.
  • Buy books used, or take things out of the library (the former is probably a better option - as I said before, we're notorious for paying late fees).
  • Turn off lights when leave rooms.  Or better yet, if it's daylight outside, don't turn them on.
  • Get rid of one (or two) of the cars.
  • Print less so that we don't need to buy paper.
  • Don't leave water running.  Try to use dishes carefully so we don't run the dishwasher too often.
  • When buying things, look for items that are on sale.  Don't get hung up on brand names.  Use coupons.

Huh.  The thing is, most of the items on this list are things that don't necessarily have to be implemented in times of monetary distress . . . they are strategies or attitudes that need to be cultivated all the time, so that I can more effectively use my resources and be a little less wasteful.


(And also, does anyone know why the sentences after the first set of bullet points get closer together? How can I fix that?)


Ezzie said...

(No - I have the same problem.)

Wow, that's a really impressive list. I'm always running through in my head things to cut out in our own home, and generally come up somewhat empty - which makes some sense because we're not all that wasteful (can't afford to be! ;) ). But in truth, even some of the ones you mention are things we can do that would probably save us about $100/month.

There are certain items that I think are worth paying for even if doing something different would save you money; my Rebbe in HS, when I was talking with him both before I got married and a year later, brought up the money issues. I mentioned our desire to have many guests [you may be somewhat familiar? :P ] and that it was something that was rather important to us. On the other hand, a Shabbos for 12 isn't exactly the cheapest thing in the world.

He agreed, after seeing how strongly we felt about it, that it was something that we shouldn't stop doing - we'd just have to make up for it elsewhere. Not doing it would be a cause for more unhappiness than the bit of cash it would save us each week. Plus, in truth, it's not as much of an extra cost as people think it to be.

I think the same would likely apply to your Stern education, which I know you find rather important; the future gain on that might also outweigh the short-term savings.

the apple said...


Thanks. As a recipient of the Serandez generosity, I can definitely say that you are quite sincere in your desire to host many guests (which you do with such warmth and openness). And you're right about me staying at Stern - there are so many benefits now that it wouldn't be sensible for me to leave - the much greater gain would offset the costs. It's a matter of truly prioritizing and understanding what things you could do without and what things, should you not have them, would really bring you unhappiness.

I can think of even more things to add to my list, but I'm more curious to see what other readers have to say before I do so.

And thanks for the link! :)

Scraps said...

Growing up, my family had one car. We always cut coupons (and still do). My sister and I weren't allowed to shop in [what we thought were] "designer" stores, like Gap and Limited. Sweets were relatively limited; soda was only for Shabbos (or flat, if we were sick). We didn't have cable (still don't). We didn't have lessons in dance or instruments.

Hmm...have you met my mother? :-P

Erachet said...

lens solution and saline that I need to use [I'm sensitive about that {awwwww . . . }.]

ME TOO. People look at me funny when I say I still use eye drops for my lenses. But I can't put them in or take them out without! And it's INSANE the amount eyed rops cost. They cost more than solution!

tnspr569 said...

In terms of shopping for clothing, it's always a good skill to learn to shop the sales effectively. I pay less for the clothing I purchase at the Gap than what others pay for the clothing they purchase at Old Navy, for example (and the Gap clothing is definitely of a higher quality).

As far as household products, sometimes the cheaper brands work best, and sometimes the name brands are worth the extra money. If more of the cheaper products must be used to compensate for the lower quality, then the savings may not be as great.

It is important to take a step back and look at one's spending; it's not as easy as some might think to realize just how much one can spend in a month on recurring expenses.

Life is expensive.

corner point said...

(I also noticed that when you add a picture to a post, all the space bars turn into double space. Gotta doctor up my posts like 7 times till all the spaces come out good...dumb blogger program...)

Interesting post.

And good point, tnspr569.

SephardiLady said...

Interesting to see your lists. I wrote another post on a Yated letter where the man claimed there was nothing to cut back on. We all have areas we can cut if need be and realizing that makes one more thankful for what they have.

BTW-Email me when you have a minute. I have something to tell you that would interest you. :)

Juggling Frogs said...

Excellent list. I agree it's worth plugging up the money drains BEFORE financial crisis hits.

This type of list should be part of what everyone does in good times as well as bad. It helps make sure that money is being spent consciously.

I think the sentences are closer together because of the paragraph formatting. Using the HTML tab in the blogger editor (as opposed to "compose"), and make it consistent whether the lines are within the P HTML tags.

I find that the Blogger editor adds these in an unpredictable (and annoying) fashion, and have to edit them manually. It also seems to throw DIV tags everywhere.

Before publishing, I edit the HTML, getting rid of most of the DIV tags and adjusting the P (paragraph) tags.

Juggling Frogs said...

P.S. Kol HaKavod to your parents!!