"They must retrench; that did not admit of a doubt. But she was very anxious to have it done with the least possible pain to him and Elizabeth. She drew up plans of economy, she made exact calculations..."
I love this quote from Jane Austin's Persuasion. (To retrench means to "tighten one's belt; use resources carefully.") I thoroughly enjoy the picture she paints, in this book, of two completely different types of people. Those who care nothing for the proper management of money, only how the world perceives them, and those who give it careful consideration and attention.
We must indeed, retrench. We are in the throws of an addition to our rather small home (1300 sq. ft.). We are doing nearly all the work ourselves, in order to save money and keep down our total debt, but we are going to be hiring the sheetrock done soon and after that the cabinetry. These will be large expenses and if we do not retrench (and save some serious money), we will be faced with the very real prospect of having to take out another loan.
To help inspire me, I have been reading the sage advice and wisdom offered in old books and reprints of old books. One hundred plus years ago, "economy" was a virtue much admired in a woman. The introduction in Mrs. Lydia Marie Child's 1833 book,The American Frugal Housewife (one of my favorites for many years), begins with the following words:
"The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time, as well as materials. Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be; and whatever be the size of a family, every member should be employed either in earning or saving money."
We have lived fairly frugally for some time now, but there is definitely much room for improvement. About 13 or 14 years ago I discovered the first Tightwad Gazette book, (There were a total of 3 which are now available in one volume.) and it literally changed my life. Everything in that book was completely new to me and I began to look at money totally different way.
Here is another old quote, this time from the "Young Lady's Own Book", published in 1836. This excerpt is from the chapter entitled "Domestic Economy":
"...an account-book is earnestly recommended; printed ones may be had with columns for every article, and for every day of the year; and to those who are so frequently wondering which way their money goes, this would have the effect of demonstration; it would do away all that was mysterious in the business, and convince them that they have neither had holes in their pockets nor been robbed."
With that idea, I thought I might make up some pretty, old fashioned looking, household account forms.
These are in the Small Meadow Press style, but not nearly as beautiful as the papers that the talented Lesley Austin creates. I truly wish she had something of this sort. It would make the mundane task of keeping track of my pennies almost pleasant! Anyway, until then, I'll use these. If you would like to see a detailed close-up, click here.
These are meant to be used sort of like the envelope system, but without the envelopes. In the "Amount Available" blank at the top, I will put the amount that I would have put into an envelope, and when it's gone, it's gone. I have only included the household expenses (of which I have the most control), not the regular fixed bills or house construction costs. Also not included, are major homeschooling costs as we take a teeny bit out of every check to cover those. The "food" category also includes animal feeds. Meal planning is always the biggest help in saving in this category.
I hope to include the older kids on this project. The plan is, to save all the receipts in a small baggie for the month (already doing that) and then total and categorize twice a month. I think it will help them to get a better idea of what it takes just to run the home, and they will get to share in the thrill of seeing our family frugality paying off.