Friday, October 15, 2010

In case you were wondering...

...this is what $64.52 worth of clothes from the thrift store looks like. Brands represented: Levi's, Children's Place, Gymboree, Osh Kosh, L.L. Bean, Gap, Old Navy, and Jumping Beans. There are 32 items of clothing here, so the average price is around $2. All are for my two boys, ages 4 and almost 1.

And my favorite find of the day is this adorable Christmas sweater vest, which was $1.

The very beginning of my path to choosing homeschooling was when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I knew immediately that I wanted to stay home and raise him, instead of leaving him with strangers all day and going to work. I had no idea how to make that happen financially, but I knew I would figure it out. I remember being terrified to tell my boss that I was pregnant because I knew the question to follow was going to be, "So what do you plan to do after the baby is born?" and I already knew the answer in my heart - and I knew it was one she wouldn't like.

The solution ended up being that I still work part time, but just a couple evenings a week and on Saturdays. This way I can work around my husband's work schedule and we don't have to worry about outside child care. This is a good balance for us, although it still leaves us with a lot less money coming in than we used to have on two full-time incomes, and now we are feeding twice as many people! I often hear other moms saying that they wish they could afford to stay home with their kids, but it's really not as hard as some would think. Our budget is pretty tight, but it works. I highly recommend the book, America's Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. (Yes that really is their last name.) I am definitely not as hardcore as they are, but this book does have tons of useful advice on stretching your money as far as possible, and implementing just a few of their strategies has really helped us. There is a whole section on shopping for clothes, which is what inspired me to start shopping at thrift stores. Sure, you have to hunt around a little, but you can find some great, barely-used, high-quality stuff. Because here's the thing: kids grow really fast. Sometimes they outgrow things they've never even had a chance to wear, or maybe only wore once or twice. And those are the things I hunt for.

Another piece of the Economides' advice I have tried to use is to make fewer trips to the grocery store each month, but buy more and stock up when you're there (so you don't have to go back again as soon). This is because for every time you walk into a grocery store, there will be a certain percentage of impulse buys. Fewer trips = less temptation and fewer impulse buys. I have found this to be very true for me, and this principle has definitely chopped a lot off of our grocery bill. They shop just once a month, but I have only been able to stretch it to about once every 2-3 weeks. The one area where I differ with them is that they are major coupon clippers and plot out their trips using store ads and buy only what's on sale. Personally, I'm just not that motivated. But at my Mother-in-law's insistence 2 years ago, I grudgingly began shopping at a store called Aldi and discovered that a) their prices are usually better than other stores' sale prices and b) their products are usually as good as or even better than the brand name stuff I used to buy. I truly have to credit Aldi with helping us balance our budget... I am a huge, huge fan.

I think bargain-hunting is a natural part of life for a homeschooling family, so I will occasionally be sharing great finds and things that have worked for me. There's a lot more where this came from...

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