Monday, July 29, 2013

Frugal Games for Saving Money Up

Money is a major issue for most homestead farms. Extra is not just laying round. I've talked with a number of local homestead type families to see what strategies they've used. And I came away with some nifty ideas. These are "games" that people play in order to make money issues less painful.

1- Family #1 keeps their monthly budget money in envelopes. For example, $200 in the envelope labelled "Food". At the end of the month if there is any cash leftover, they transfer it into an envelope labelled "Something Special". Then when they have enough set aside, they reward themselves by spending that cash on something special for the family. Along this same line, they snitch a dollar here, a dollar there from some of the budget envelopes. Just one dollar so that it doesn't really make a big difference. That dollar goes into the "Something Special" envelope. The mother says this also encourages her to try growing more of their own food, plus it's an incentive for her children and partner to try eating new foods and recipes. Her partner now willingly buys clothes at the thrift shop because the money that they save on each item used instead of new goes into his "allowance" envelope.

2- Family #2 (one guy) fixed up a bicycle he got on Freecycle. Every time he rides it to town he figures that he saves $5 in gas. He puts that cash into a jar. Then when some tool or "guy toy" comes along that he's just gotta have, he has the cash without killing his budget.

3- Family #3 takes all their coins that they get as change and puts them in a jar that they glued the lid shut (slot cut in the lid to poke the coins through). That way they can't snitch money out of the jar without the rest of the family noticing. That money becomes a Christmas present to themselves, split up equally to each person. They can then each go out a enjoy spending it without a guilt trip.

4- Family #4 works together on Saturday mornings for 3 hours doing something to earn a little cash. Picking up and processing macnuts from trees that the owners aren't interested in is one of their most common jobs. They also pick coffee from an abandoned orchard, process it and eventually sell the green bean. They've also picked and  juiced various citrus and lilokoi, selling the frozen juice to restaurants. The money goes for family entertainment-- birthday parties, vacations, snorkel equipment, movie tickets, picnics, etc. This gives the whole family enjoyment that they otherwise could not afford. Anyone who wants to work past the 3 hours then earns the money for themselves.

5- Family #5 says both cash and time is in short supply. They grow excess food on their little homestead, but do not have enough extra time to sit at a farmers market to try selling it. And since their excess is not consistent, they have had no luck selling it to local restaurants. The parents have done the ground work and support for their children to sell the excess to neighbors. The kids are paid a commission on what they sell, with the family's share of the sales going to buy much needed seeds, fertilizer, garden tools, etc. so that they can expand the garden. They are planning to get a few egg laying chickens next spring, thus garden waste and unsold veggies can go into making eggs.

I've used the coins-in-a-jar game to save money. That one works for me. 


  1. We do the coins-in-the-jar game and after a few years of playing it, have figured it takes 6 months (almost to the day!) to fill the half gallon Mason jar full. That is $200 every 6 months - $400 a year. We also take our recyclable glass and plastic or metal stuff and add the money to the money from the jar (we don't put it into the jar - this is extra). At the end of the year we have a nice little nest egg we use for either something special or if we don't have enough for what we want to spend it on, we save it until we reach our goal..

  2. This post brings back many memories of how I managed my finances during the many "starvin' student" days, when I would use the envelopes trick, only I feared someone would steal real money, so I wrote little scrip slips, which were removed or transferred to another envelope as needed. The real money was kept in a savings account at my bank. No checking account! My little passbooks were tossed out by my ex, sadly, but they did show how I was able to make the buffalos on nickels sing the national anthem [not just squeeze them to make them squeal]. My wife and I still bank any proceeds from garage sales, rebates, and pocket change, and we allot our vacation budget a guesstimate amount for a dinner at a nice restaurant that we forgo when we stay home instead, so we can buy that dinner on our vacation, or upgrade our airfare (last-minute beg at the ticket counter for that!).