Monday, June 25, 2007

Small Savings Add Up

I’ve been called a tightwad, and I guess it’s true. I have to pinch pennies to make it. I am not however, cheap, which I define as doing things to save money that cause harm to others. This attitude towards money didn’t come naturally, or even easily, to me. My mother was a compulsive shopper (among other, less flattering things). She would go on a shopping spree and spend the rent money when it was due in a few days and payday was a week away. This happened all the time. I’ve had my some struggles with money, but nothing that serious. I’ve had to learn –the hard way –how to be responsible with money.
So I pinch pennies whenever I can. Sometimes I might not save much from a particular project, but even spare change adds up. I do not mean to imply that one should concentrate on small things in an effort to save money; by all means, focus on the big things first. But don’t overlook the small things as a waste of time, or you could be losing out on some significant savings.
Take my bread baking, for example. I bake all my own bread. The time commitment is minimal and I save some money doing it. I make my bread for many reasons that far outweigh any cost savings. These include knowing what the ingredients are, lack of preservatives, the enjoyment I get from baking, and the fact that nothing beats a freshly baked slice of bread with butter spread on it. But let’s focus on the cost benefits for a moment.
The cheapest store bought white bread is about a dollar per loaf. But white bread is essentially empty colors –no vitamins, no fiber. I only eat whole wheat bread. The cheapest loaf of whole wheat bread in my area runs about $2.00, usually more. I could purchase bread at a bakery thrift store, but I’ve discovered it doesn’t last long enough for me to finish the loaf. I eat about a loaf of bread per week, so if I purchased my bread I would have to pay $8 a month for it.
How much does it cost to bake my own bread? Keep in mind that I only bake one day a week and fill the oven when I do. (With casseroles, pies, etc to make sure the energy isn’t wasted.) My basic bread recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, 1 tsp of yeast, 1 cup warm water, and 2 tablespoon of cooking/vegetable oil. Using the most expensive ingredients, here’s the cost breakdown:
Flour: .60/loaf
Yeast: .60/loaf
Water: essentially free
Oil: .10/loaf
Electricity: ~.10/loaf
This brings me to a grand total of $1.40 per loaf of bread. Okay, so I only save 60 cents per loaf of bread I bake myself instead of buying. But that 60 cents multiplied by four loaves a month is $2.40. Multiply that by 12 months, and that’s a yearly savings of $28.80.
Now, less than 30 bucks a year isn’t going to my fanny out of the financial fire as I struggle to finish grad school, much less get me to my dream of five acres or more. But it’s a start, and is indicative of the kind of things that make a difference. Maybe thirty bucks a year won’t do much, but if I can repeat that with two other projects that earn about the same or slightly more, that’s a hundred dollars in savings per year. And that’s real money. That kind of money could allow me to purchase a pressure canner, which would let me save on my other groceries, which would let me save even more money which would…I think you see where this is going.
Why am I writing a post about saving money? Because money is the number one obstacle and the primary key to achieving one’s dreams or making changes to your life. Leaving a smaller eco-footprint means spending less money –but often you have to spend money to get to that state. The same for voluntary simplicity. And the pursuit of almost any dream in our society means spending some amount of money. If you have plenty of it, great. You can do almost anything. But if you don’t have enough cash, you’ll have to find away to get it. This usually means saving at least some amount. And anything that helps you cut expenses and save some money, no matter how big or small, is a stuff in the right direction.

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5 Comments:

Blogger TiaDavidandourLittleChickens said...

I recently did my bread-math too and my real savings came in bulk flour and yeast. Instead of packets I buy it in a big bag for $4...the bag has lasted over 9 months and I still have a quarter of it to go! I don't grind my own flour yet but that will increase my savings as well. You are right about the attitude...it's gets you going in the direction you want to live in..I call it "living deliberately" and it's made of hundreds of little authentic steps like this.

6/27/2007 2:32 PM  
Blogger squire said...

Pennies become dollars and dollars become 10's of dollars. Savings are savings and if you don't start somewhere they can not grow. Great blog, by the way.

7/01/2007 7:43 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

I've made the same analogy about bread with my family but we can go through at least two and sometimes three loaves a week and our stores don't stock decent (read made from actual real ingredients and not just dyed white flour) bread for less than 3.65 a loaf and since I buy wheat instead of flour and grind my own as well as buy yeast in bulk my cost per loaf is well under a dollar - more like .50. Add that up at a minimum of two loaves a week and it's almost 30 dollars as opposed to four dollars when I bake my own. Twenty-six dollars a month isn't anything to sneeze at - that's almost our phone bill. Good for you for finding places to economize!

7/16/2007 12:38 PM  
Blogger Gavi said...

This is awesome! It is so cool to see all those pennies add up. I need to get out of the habit of saying "Well, its only 70 cents more". Doing that constantly, paying those 70 cents (or whatever) more, really adds up in the long run.

Thank you for this great reminder!

7/28/2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger comrade simba said...

Switch to sourdough and keep the 60 cents that went to yeast...

7/31/2007 5:58 PM  

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