photo by Sister72
Yesterday’s edition of Parade magazine that came with our Sunday paper had an interesting cover story: How America’s Thriftiest Families Save Money. I enjoy reading about how other families are saving money, and was eager to read through the story. Like most things, I found a few points to agree and disagree with, but for the most part it sounded similar to our own family’s plan to learn how to save money every month.
Things We Have in Common With the Heinz Family
The Heinz family also apparently likes to hit the $1 movie theater, and when they do, they like to sneak in a few treats. Whether sneaking candy into a theater qualifies as frugal or cheap was the subject of a hot debate here at Frugal Dad just a couple weeks ago. We’ve done it ourselves on occasion, but the last couple times we saw a movie we just ordered a popcorn and drink to share. It’s hard to beat movie popcorn, and no more frequently than we go it isn’t exactly a budget-buster.
They are Wii owners! We debated for a long, long time whether or not buying a Wii made sense. A few months ago we set up a targeted savings account an ING Direct and began diverting a few extra dollars there each paycheck. When we had enough for a Wii, and a game or two, we transferred the money to our checking account and paid cash. It was a great decision! We’ve spent many Friday nights staying in having “Wii parties” as a family. I’d like to think the entertainment cost savings alone have already paid for the upfront costs of purchasing the Wii.
Near the end of the article Mrs. Heinz lamented not being able to afford to send her kids to science camp. In the past we’ve made some tough decisions about skipping summer vacations (which we’ve done this summer), passing on trips, etc. While I admire their frugality, I must confess sometimes I wonder if we are making the right decision. After all, think of the memories created on family vacations, summer camps, etc. Life is to be enjoyed, and despite the costs, we should all stop and smell the roses from time to time.
Where We are Different
They got a $4,000 tax refund. According to the article, the Heinz family “purposefully overcontribute to get a yearly windfall” in the form of a tax refund. No way we are loaning the government $333 a month interest free just to get a “windfall.” That $333 could be used to pay down debts or saved and invested. Both of the these approaches would yield higher returns than sending it to the government for 12 months.
The Heinz family rescued a television from the trash. We haven’t been that lucky in trash finds, but it isn’t like we have gone looking either. I just don’t like the idea of going through other people’s trash. It feels like an invasion of privacy. I recognize that is just a hang-up on my part, and if the people are willing to throw it away they probably don’t care who looks at it. Still, I am just not into dumpster-diving as a way to save money. I did retrieve three pair of roller blades in fairly good condition from a neighbor’s curb once. Unfortunately, they didn’t fit anyone in our household, but three of my wife’s cousins were happy to put them to use!
The differences between the Heinz family and ours are a good example of a philosophy I share with Dave Ramsey: personal finance is personal. What works for well for one family may not work so well for another. You know your family’s situation best, so take any advice you read or hear and scrutinize it to make sure it fits with your personal situation. There is no shortage of people willing to share ideas on how to save money, but ultimately you are the one that has to live with yourself and your decisions.