Free Advice from a Frugal Family Thrift Counselor
Go ahead. Say it three times fast. I dare ya. Seriously though, who knew such a job even existed? Enter Mary Webber, who held the post for Maine Savings Bank for over fourteen years, participating in radio shows, workshops and various television segments. To get the inside scoop on what she has to offer for advice, read on.
Number one mistake you saw people make.
In the grocery store? Not planning ahead! It leads to overspending in the first place, having to go back to the store for fill-in stuff, and the best, most nutritious and economical meals really do require planning.
Most hilarious media moment.
One experience I'll never forget was when Betty Rollin of NBC News came to my house to interview me. At that time I was single with four young children, having to do everything on my own including re-shingling my house. As I demonstrated that particular skill, Betty said to me, "Well, it doesn't sound as though you need a husband." To which i threw up my hands and sighed, "I DO need a husband!" A few weeks later NBC forwarded to me a piece of mail, a marriage proposal... from a man in an upstate New York mental institution.
Top piece of advice for people trying to create a budget for the first time.
Buy a school composition book, the kind with the black-and-white cover and lined pages inside. Then whenever a bill comes in, put it inside the book. Use one page for each month and list each bill, its due date and the amount - XYZ Company, the 17th, $23.89. When you pay each bill, check it off in the far right column with the date paid. This is totally NOT complicated, NOT time-consuming. It's amazing to me how many people just toss their bills in a drawer, pay them haphazardly and have no idea at any given time what they have and what they owe. Plus, the add-on fees for missing the due date on payments can get very expensive. This is absolutly the simplest way to ease into the budgeting, the next step being to acually plan ahead for bills you now can anticipate being due on certain dates each month, and eventually at different times of the year.
Since few people have the time to tackle every single DIY savings project out there, can you recommend a few of the most powerful strategies, in your opinion?
Always consider the TRUE cost of any project in terms of both time and money AND then consider carefully which you have the most
of. And, when I say time, that includes energy and skill, as a lack of either will mean spending a lot more time! Some things just can't possibly be worth the time they'd take you to do them! Let me give you a couple of concrete examples: One example would be painting even one room in your home. After the expense of buying materials (something which often costs more than anticipated because you need a few specialized tools you didn't think of at first), do you have the patience and the time to do a good job of painting around those windows and doors, etc.? How much would a painter charge? You can usually find individuals who do great work at much less cost than hiring a company to do it. Now, if it would take me a good full day, say 8 hours, to paint my room, and a painter might take 6 hours and charge $100. Well, you decide... How long will it take to earn enough to pay for it? While I might sew curtains because I really enjoy sewing, it may be quite time-consuming and not save a whole lot of money. But to me, that's okay. Any DIY project is always a trade-off of time and money. ALWAYS!
In addition to being a thrift counselor, Mary is also the author of The Frugal Family Kitchen Book, where she tackles such things as the time-money conundrum, hay bale gardening and provides a tip that regular readers will know is close to my heart: When you notice a particular item is dirt cheap, study up on every conceivable thing you could possibly use it for. (Binder clips, block mozzarella, raisins, whatever.)
A cool recipe from Mary’s book? Peanut butter frosting.
- one quarter cup peanut butter (she recommends crunchy for extra attitude)
- 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar
- one third of a cup of milk.
Beat all three ingredients together until spreadable.
To read more about Mary’s advice and adventures, check out her web site.