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Reader Interview: Tracy

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6245918909_d13963766e_zsource: MIKI Yoshihito

Tracy is the owner of  the now defunct Tips to Organize Life, a wonderful site full of tips, recipes and articles aimed at making women’s lives a little easier. She is also the mother of an eight year old son and works full time as a legal secretary.

Craft Stew:  Though your website is focused on organization, I see that it has a strong frugal slant. Where did you learn to be thrifty?

Tracy:  My parents were very fond of teaching my brother and I to be responsible financially.

When I turned 14, my parents told me it was time for an after-school job.  When I didn’t make any attempts to get one, my  father got me a job as a waitress at a local pizza restaurant.

On the day I brought home my first paycheck, my parents sat me down at the kitchen table and gave me my first financial reality check.  They said that every week I was to put half of my paycheck into the savings account they had set up for me.  With the other half, I could do as I wished, but they handed me a list of luxury items that they would no longer purchase for me. If I wanted to continue to have any of the items on that list, I would have to buy them for myself.

Over the years, as my jobs changed and my paychecks grew larger, the list of items that my parents would no longer buy for me grew as well.

Craft Stew:  How has this influenced you as a parent?

Tracy:  I believe that earning an allowance for certain responsibilities around the house is a great way of teaching your children that in the real world people get paid for the work that they do.

You have to be careful with allowance, though.  Certain tasks should simply be an expected part of each child’s household responsibilties.  Distinguish between responsibilities and chores.  If you expect your child to make his or her bed every day, this is a responsibility since it is not negotiable. You will not pay your child their allowance if they do not do their chores, so make sure their chores are tasks that are over and above their non-negotiable, every day responsibilities.

Craft Stew:  How do you handle child related expenditures?

Tracy:  Birthday parties are kept to a minimum.  We do not believe in spending tons of money to have a fancy party at the most popular venue. We have my son’s birthday parties at home with pizza, salad, cake, family and a few friends.  All kids want to do when they get together is play.  They can do that just as easily at home for free as they can at a $400 inflatable jumping toy place.

The same goes for holidays. When it comes to holidays I believe in sticking to a budget.  I set an overall amount of money I want to spend, then I make a list of everyone I buy a gift for and set an estimated budget for each person.  As I shop, I keep track of the actual amount spent.  This way I can be sure to stick to my overall goal.

Craft Stew: What about clothes shopping?

Tracy: I’m also careful when I shop. Every year when I am doing back to school shopping for my son, the first thing I do is take stock of what I already have and make a list of any holes that need to be filled in.  I keep my purchases to a minimum, buying only enough to last until knowing that he will receive clothes as gifts from family members.  I shop only on the clearance and sale racks at stores that carry quality merchandise for a reasonable price.  I want my son to look good but I am certainly not going to spend a fortune dressing him since he will be lucky to wear a garment for a year before he outgrows it.

I was very fortunate when my son was born and received an overwhelming amount of hand-me-downs from friends and family members so I try to return the act of kindness by handing down my son’s outgrown clothes to people who I know can use them.

Craft Stew:  Do have any other tips you can share with our readers?

Tracy:  I love to grocery shop.  Here are my favorite frugal tips for the grocery store.

1.  Stock up on items that you use as staples when they are on sale for a very good price at the grocery store.  Be careful when stocking up and make sure that you are choosing items that you will actually use and not being tempted by a good sale on an item that will go to waste in your pantry.

2.  Use cloth or canvas bags at the grocery store.  Not only will you be helping to save the environment by cutting down on the use of plastic bags, but most grocery stores give you five to ten cents off of your grocery bill for each bag used.

3.  Shop from a list to avoid impulse purchases.  Take stock of your pantry and refrigerator while creating your shopping list to avoid purchasing items that you already have.  Only deviate from the list when you find a good sale on a staple and want to stock up.

4.  Try different brands.  Don’t just reach for the most advertised brand because it is the one you think is best.  The more a company advertises, the more they will increase the price of their product so that you wind up paying the advertising costs.  Do some experimenting with the less expensive brands.  You may find one you like just as well or even better.

5.  Save money by getting creative with your leftovers.  If you make meatloaf, crumble and freeze the leftovers.  The next time you make spaghetti you have instant meat to add to your favorite sauce, avoiding the need to purchase a more expensive meat sauce or fresh meat to add. Before you wrap up those leftovers and stick them in the fridge to await death think about how you can re-purpose them into a brand new meal.

Thank you for all your great suggestions, Tracy.

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