Friday, March 27, 2009

Budget - Saving Money

Like most people I have been thinking about the economy, incomes and budgets. Both my husband and I work on contract; he as a mobile computer programmer and I as a research and developer. Which means we do not get paid weekly, biweekly or even monthly. We get paid when we sign contracts only. We get contracts when someone (or a company) needs to hire someone, like one of us, to do a job. If they do not need us or choose to go without, we also go without. Hence staying on budget.

We were thinking of different ways we can hedge against the next two years of economic shortfall. We live two blocks from our grocery store food co-op, so no transportation cost, other than calories burned from walking. Though the large grocery store is a 10 minute bus ride away. ( We have no car, meaning no car payments, insurance payments, gasoline costs, repair costs or the once upon a time many parking ticket costs.) We have a water filter attached to our faucet. So we do not pay bottle water prices. We already buy bulk foods such as dried beans, dried fruit (currents, raisins, mango), and love our complex carbohydrates (pastas, brown rice, granola). We cook foods that are in season; asparagus in spring, squash in the fall, etc. We buy by the case from on-line stores such as, Ecocover and Seventh Generation for all our toilet paper, baby wipes, diapers, laundry detergent and dish washing detergent. The cases are delivered to our door free of charge.

I pay less per eco-friendly toilet paper roll or diaper then the leading non-eco-friendly product. And I did not even have to leave my house. This is a major convenience when long shopping trips, via city bus, with a toddler, is not how I want to spend an afternoon. Because I buy on-line and ship many things to my house, on the occasions I do need to go to the grocery store, I can fit everything in a shopping basket and get through the 15 items-or-less cash out line.

But what made me think to write this post is that I just finished filling out our contract for a Community Supported Farm share (CSF). What happens is a local farmer will offer a portion of his/her crops in exchange for us paying up front. For us that means about $1000 for a family's worth of veggies for a YEAR ! We drop that kind of cash on veggies in half a year. This farm we are joining is an organic farm that practices sustainable farming, e.g. they use compost (which is fermented leaves, grass, and plant clippings) as fertilizer and they do not spray pesticides or herbicides. A 20 week fruit share (think "supply") runs a little over $200. Still, this is nothing had we bought these foods at a grocery store. What is better? The farmer drives into the city, to designated drop off points. I meet them at one of these points, which for me is a total of 2 and half city blocks. I find this convenient. What is even better then this ??? My child learns that fruits and veggies do not grow in stores, that there is a farmer who cares and takes pride in the healthy food they produce. My toddler can meet the farmer ! Too cool. This adds depth to her understanding, meaning to how the world works and community.

Making friends and expanding ones community can add to ones happiness. Like I said before, my husband and I have high tech lives. Good food, slow food, enjoying cooking, chatting with the farmer as he hands us our purchase is a healthy distraction from the looming, downsizing economy. Plus we have food, regardless of our income for a year, at half off the grocery store price.

We did this slowly over the last 3 years. First went the car, then we got the water filter, then we bought all our bulk baby items on-line....we figured out how to cook dried beans...etc. It can take some time. We focused on one thing at a time and it all added up quickly. The savings and slower pace are luxury.

Now, if only they had shares in chocolate !

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