Five Reader Questions

by Katy on March 3, 2013 · 43 comments

It seems lately that The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group is more active than the blog, and readers have found it to be a valuable resource to finding answers to life’s little (and big) questions.

But I want you, the blog readers to get a chance to answer some of these questions, and here’s your chance. So please, share your wisdom, your ideas and even your snarky answers to Non-Consumer Advocate readers. (Okay, just kidding on the snarky answers thing, constructive answers only please!)

So let’s show everyone that the blog readers are just as good (if not better) with helping one another out.


1) From Jessica:

How do you guys deal with house parties that try to sell you stuff (i.e. Mary Kay, Scentsy, etc.). I like going to them to socialize with friends, but that stuff is way too expensive for my tastes. I don’t want to offend my friends, so I still go. I usually tend to bring a pamphlet to others to perhaps buy. I am just too cheap!


2) From Crystal:

What is the most interesting way you have earned extra cash?


3) From Samantha:

Do any of you experience guilt when you don’t have foods your children like? I have a tremendous amount of that!


4) And also from Samantha:

My ten year old is pushing our grocery budget out of bounds. He is very slim. He has been eating a big bowl of oatmeal for breakfast daily, but recently has become hungry about an hour later and he is hungry about every 2 hours. Our family of 4 grocery budget is $200 a month. What can I feed him for snacks that are inexpensive and filling?


5) From Jennifer:

Hey everyone. I’m excited and scared about something that I’d like to get some feedback on. My husband and I decided last night that, starting tomorrow, we will no longer be purchasing anything that we don’t need to survive (there are a few exceptions, like my son’s high school trip because we don’t want him to miss it). I want to do this, but I’m freaked out because it’s a completely new lifestyle. We are cutting out cable tv, going out to eat, stopping at Dunkin Donuts for hot chocolate, going to the movies, buying junk food, and on, and on. One reason we are doing this is because my medical bills are really high and have given us some debt. We want not only to pay that off and prepare for more medical bills that are definitely coming, but also to train the kids to think differently about spending. What are your thoughts about cutting out all unnecessary expenses? How would you handle this?


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

WeaverRose March 3, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Hi Jennifer,

My first reaction to your plan is that it sounds harsh and would be hard to live with for very long, so what about setting a time limit, like a month for this version. Keep notes about what was hardest to live without. What did you and the members of your family miss the most? What alternatives did you all find that worked for you, like using the library instead of buying books or renting DVDs? Then at the end of the month take time to figure out what adjustments you need to make your plan livable for the long run, like maybe a $7.99/month Netflix on-demand subscription would be an acceptable alternative to cable if your family really misses cable. Or maybe some kind small allowance for each of you to spend as you please would reduce some feelings of deprivation.

I’m struggling with my own tendency to spend money to make myself feel better and have asked my husband to be more involved with finances and support me more with this difficulty. Patience, compassion and no judging one another helps.

I wish you the best on this new journey.


Alice March 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

1. If I want to go, I’m very upfront with folks that I’m happy to come, but that I’m not going to be buying anything, so I understand if they want the night to be more of a sales-ey party. I know that some people need it to be more focused on earning money, and I don’t want to create friction if that’s the case, but I’m not going to be guilted into buying anything.

3. I don’t have kids, but if you’ve got any ease in your budget (which may not be the case, given question 4), maybe let your kids each ‘plan’ a small part of your grocery list? If they’ve got the ability to choose, they may appreciate what you end up with more, since they’ll have to make the trade-offs themselves.

4. Beans! Black beans, cheese, rice and hot sauce are a staple at our house, and since they hit protein, fat and carbs, they tend to be pretty satisfying. You can make up a big amount and freeze it in smaller portions, then he can heat up whatever he wants. Cheap cheese is fine for this, since the hot sauce will provide a lot of the flavor.

5. I agree with WeaverRose – cutting out *all* nonessentials is doable in the short term, but can really lead to trouble down the line. Building in some kind of indulgences makes sense – maybe a small budget for each weekend, and each member of the family gets to rotate through and pick what to do with it? If they want to ‘save’ the $ up for something big, they can, or you can have pizza + a library movie night for something smaller?


Ali March 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm


While I can’t relate to Mary Kay parties, I can relate to trying to stick to my own values and budget while maintaining a circle of friends who can be spendthrift. I participate in nights out about half of the time and reciprocate in ways that feel right to me. For example, we may have a couples over for a home-cooked dinner party instead of treating at a restaurant when it’s our turn. If I was in your shoes, I would go to the parties sometimes and make a modest donation rather than buying stuff I didn’t want/need or couldn’t afford. I would follow up with a low-cost girls’ brunch or cocktail night– or whatever fits your social circle.



Jessica March 4, 2013 at 6:31 am

Thanks Ali! Wintertime in Iowa has made me pretty antisocial, and so I am thinking about going to the party just to see people, but I may just stay home and ask for a pamphlet to bring to work for others to gaze through. 🙂


Sharon March 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

I agree with Ali, and always check with the hostess to make sure it won’t be a problem to just come for the social aspect. I sometimes offer to bring a beverage or a snack. It makes it more fun for the other guests, which is very important for the hostess and the seller.

If I had a busier social life, I could just skip the sales parties, but I find them lots of fun when I know the crowd.


Ali March 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I totally agree with Alice on #4! I’ve done low-cost burritos with beans, rice and a little cheese and hot sauce in a tortilla and froze them in mass quantities. You can also do this with scrambled eggs and really make them stretch with the lower cost ingredients. Do you make your own yogurt? That could be an option. Also, it’s not expensive to make hummus out of dried chickpeas, lemon and spices (I skip the tahini). Buy russet potatoes in bulk and do homemade potato chips withghe hummus. Use the rest of the spuds for potato soup and potato bread. My son would house all of this stuff ;).



Carla March 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

1) From Jessica:

I don’t go. lol! If it’s my BFF i’ll go, (she makes me…lol!) but i’ll avoid them like the plague as much as possible. It’s all overpriced and stuff I don’t use, can’t afford, nor “want” to afford, so why bother? I’d rather get together at another time where i’m not feeling pressured to buy something.

2) From Crystal:

I don’t know about “interesting”, but I sew custom made items (wallets, baby sets, camera strap covers, etc…) and offer photo shoots for extra income.

3) From Samantha:

Nope.. no guilt. lol! If there’s healthy food in the house and they’re being fed full meals and snacks, there’s no need for guilt. Perhaps try to bake on the weekend with your children, something they choose and buy the ingredients from bulk to keep costs down?

4) And also from Samantha:

Fruit, an extra bowl of cereal, a boiled egg, a chunk of real cheese, etc…

5) From Jennifer:

My thoughts on cutting everything back & out? We’re already pretty much done that… 😉 Our income is dropping by almost $400 in the summer, so our modest income, just got a whole lot more “modest”. In order to save for retirement and stay debt free, we need to pinch pennies like crazy and keep our priorities in order! Just think of how much better you’ll feel when you don’t have that debt hanging over your head! 🙂 Find other ways to ‘treat’ yourself, free city events, free date nights at home with DVD’s from the library, etc… it CAN be done and done well!


Kate March 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm

1.) I sometimes go and buy a gift for someone else. Or, I gauge how much the person actually wants the pleasure of my company vs. my $. If it’s the latter, I decline.
2.) Interesting money maker? Selling my old stuff on ebay/craigslist. Nothing to interesting here.
3.) No guilt on not feeding my kid things he likes. A lot of the world is starving. He can deal with eating what we have in the house.
4.) Can your son eat peanut butter/nuts? They are calorie dense and filling. Also like someone else said eggs/cheese. Anything with protein, it is filling.
5.) It is scarey. I had a hard time at first. But, it feels a lot better to not have to pay a credit card for silly things like a starbucks trip. Utilize your library! It gives you the illusion of shopping because you get to take stuff home with you! You can rent a movie from the library. Exercise, go for a walk or to your local park. Have a picnic with your family (we have indoor picnics where we spread the blanket out on the family room floor.) And, make sure you eat enough at home and bring snacks with you so you are not tempted to by junk food (my downfall, i try to keep a Larabar in my purse w/ my reusable water bottle). 🙂 and read blogs like Non consumer advocate!!
Hope that helps!



Mr. Everyday Dollar March 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Jennifer has a great question!

While I live a very non-consumer lifestyle – foregoing things like cable T.V., eating out regularly, owning a smartphone, buying media (books, movies, music), the morning Starbucks coffee, and having a minimal wardrobe – I certainly didn’t make all those changes overnight.

I commend you on taking this new path with your life, but I’d suggest making the changes you want to make slowly, and realize you’ll have setbacks. It takes time to ratchet down your lifestyle, and much like the problems with a crash diet, in order to be successful I think you need to set attainable and realistic goals. Maybe the first month you cut the cord on T.V., the second month you forego movies, the third month you forego eating out. Measure how you do with each thing month to month, and come up with a plan to address setbacks.

For a list of things you might consider cutting I’d like to point you towards a recent post I did on that topic at Good luck!


Linda in Indiana March 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm

1. House buying parties….men would never invite men friends over on the condition the had to buy something….I got caught up in this when I was in my 20’s. If you have to buy something to keep a friend….not much of a friend in my estimation.
2. Been traditional in earning money. Waiting to hear ideas.
3. When my children were still at home, they too complained that they didn’t like lots of what I served. I found that if they were hungry enough, they would eat. Maybe sounds gruel….but it is our job to feed them and give them nutrious food….not to necessarily cater to their whims….that whining gets them what they want. I tried to schedule choices they liked also…but they wouldn’t always want the nutritious choices but it was my job to provide them with them.
4. I agree with the suggestions of things to offer your son that sound nutritious yet not expensive. We always had fruit, good bread w/peanut butter, yogurt, toast, granola, popcorn, boiled eggs, etc.
5. I, too, think that if you can build in a small discretionary amount for you and your husband you will be more likely to stick with your no spend plan. It won’t feel like deprivation that way. Then you can view it more as a game. Cold turkey is a hard thing to swallow all at once. If you have a small amount weekly or monthly, then you may even have money left over to save up or just feel like you could have spent it but chose not to.


Karen March 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

1.) Agree with @alice above. Either don’t go at all or make a spending plan and stick with it.

2.) No answer here.

3.)If there is nourishing food in the house and nothing he likes, too bad. This is a “want”, not a “need.”

4.) Don’t know if your son will drink milk of any sort, but a little milk and some low-cost fruit in the oatmeal will help. If the milk is a problem then some other sort of low-cost protein as mentioned by others above.

5.) Take babvy steps that you are comfortable with


lisa March 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm

4) Fat and protein=satiety! Grains like oatmeal–especially alone–will result in an insulin spike that will cause major hunger later. Try to pair carbohydrates with something with fat/protein to keep blood sugar regular and keep him from getting so ravenous later. Instead of a huge bowl of oatmeal, give him a smaller one with a side of bacon or with nuts and heavy cream on top. Snacks could be whole milk yogurt, nuts, beef jerky, veg and peanut butter, tuna with mayo, hard-boiled eggs, cheese. Sneak in extra fat wherever you can.

Unfortunately, foods heavy in fat and protein can be expensive, but spending a little more to buy them may help you spend a lot less elsewhere. Ways I save on these foods: when I find meat, cheese, and butter at reduced prices (close to sell-by date) I buy up a lot and freeze it. Nuts and peanut/almond butter are much cheaper in the bulk section. Whole milk is ~.50/gallon more expensive than lowfat, but the kids drink less of it because the fat fills them up…good luck!


Maria March 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I agree with Lisa!
Try actually stirring a heaping spoon of Peanut Butter into the bowl of oatmeal. It makes the satiety last longer. You’ll probably still want a mid-morning fruit and nut snack. Your son is probably also in a growth spurt, so let him fill up on nutritious foods.


Carol March 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Here’s my 2 cents on some of these issues:
1-the Tupperware party. Either be upfront with the host when they send along the invite or ask you in person, and simply tell them that while you’d love to socialize with the family/friends/other attendees, know that circumstances just don’t allow me to purchase anything. A true friend would accept that as is and not push further, and frankly, the reason for not purchasing is your own, private reason: whether it be due to finances, the high price of these items, decluttering your life etc.
3-kids don’t like what we have? that is too bad. They need to learn from an early age that they eat what is on the table (unless sick of course). I do not cater, am not a short order cook. That said, if i know a kid hates X as a vegetable, I will also cook a second one that I know he’ll eat. My kids were never the ones who ate only X,Y, Z. Sorry, that is learned early on. Let them make a fuss, and refuse to eat. They’ll make up for it at the next meal, if truely hungry. One way also to turn kids onto new foods is to have them help prepare it.
4-sounds like your 10 y.o. is hitting puberty (Mom to 3 sons here) and they are bottomless pits. Continue with canisters of oats (not packets) and add a side cup of yogurt (bought by the quart) He needs additional protein to keep him going. Makes a big difference. Healthful, seasonal fruits and vegetables can also be added. Hard boiled eggs-prep ahead for an easy morning. Avoid white flour if possible. Make sure ww bread is served with P butter, and milk is offered (for example) to make a complete protein.
5-family going on an austere financial budget: have a family pow-wow at supper. Explain that due to your past and future medical bills, there will be some changes. State what will have to go. Offer some suggestions for how they can help (ex: we can no longer afford the cleaning lady,so Dad and I are asking that each of you take care of your rooms every week, and there will be a rotation on who does chore x/y/z). Ask them for their help for findng free/low cost entertainment thru school: concerts, plays, movie night thru park and rec. Ask them to brainstorm other ways to save money. Give examples with groceries: while we can no longer afford to order pizza at Joe’s pizzeria, we CAN make our own/buy one on sale with a coupon, etc. Ask for ideas for substituting: ex: instead of the cinema, borrow a DVD and make some popcorn for an at home movie, Friday night board game night. Ask if they can hold a tag sale or cull things for consignment. Get them on board, make them a part of the solution. Kids are very resilient. I speak from experience.


Mama Minou March 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Great post!
@Samantha–you didn’t mention if your son was a picky eater or not (I have one of those), which could change things. I second the beans option above, but I would add making fridge or freezer burritos that can be taken out and quickly reheated. Also: marked-down day-old bread (often can get this with two-for-ones at nice local bakeries at closing time)served with peanut butter, and homemade muffins. Muffins are a staple at our house. Cheap, quick & easy to make, and healthy. I try to throw a lot in for extra nutrition, like blueberries (we pick a bunch in the summer and freeze ’em), raisins, ground walnuts, grated carrots, extra eggs, and of course use whole wheat. Adding half a cup of chocolate chips to the batter makes them disappear faster. He might also need a little more (healthy) fat to stay satisfied.
@Jennifer: I’m there! And it feels good, not deprived at all. It’s just making the switch, mentally and lifestyle-wise, that’s hard at first. Think of it as a survivalist super-power that you now have. After those bills are taken care of, you can continue to use the skills you honed to meet any number of other goals. In the meantime, use the library for books, music, and movies. Exercise outside. Ride your bikes if you have them. I don’t know how to explain, but it’s almost like an on-off switch. The thing to absolutely not do is think “I’m deprived…” . Instead I highly recommend looking for perspective in books like “In the Material World: a global family portrait”. It will make you fell rich, rich, rich!


Lois March 3, 2013 at 3:56 pm

To Jessica: I hate the pressure of those types of home parties. I will go if I want but make it clear up front to the hostess that I don’t use those products and won’t be buying. I don’t believe in pressure sales of something I don’t want in the first place.

To Crystal: At one time when my boys were little I found a job that asked me to write as many sentences for their software program for English as Second language students. The word lists were divided up by grade level. I would carry a notebook everywhere I went, my favorite place to write was at the playground or in the evenings when my boys (4 and 7) would offer suggestions to me. I made enough money just from this to stay home with them as a single mother.

To Samantha: I would try to make something similar to what they wanted. For example, my youngest had an egg mcmuffin from McDonald’s with friends and loved it. I looked into what it was and realized it was only a muffin with egg and cheese. Not a problem, I used whole wheat muffins, our own eggs and rice cheese. He was thrilled with it. It would all depend on what your children wanted and if you could come up with a substitute. Instead of packaged chips bake your own tortilla chips and add whatever seasonings, herbs you enjoy.

To Samantha on her 10 year old son: My son was the same way, extremely thin yet at non stop. At one point I mentioned it to the doctor who suggested I eliminate fat from his diet and he began to gain weight (not a lot) and his appetite was more stable. She told me she suspected he was not able to metabolize fats and there fore was undernourished as nothing he ate with a fatty meal was absorbed. He did as a teenager again have a huge appetite and we found that pasta helped him to regulate his appetite. It was nothing for him to eat an entire package of spaghetti with an entire jar of sauce for a mid morning meal.

To Jennifer: That is a huge change to do all at once. I would suggest you don’t let it feel like punishment. You can still have your hot chocolate, just buy a container of cocoa which is very cheap around here, and even cheaper if you have a bulk foods store near you. As for movies, I’d borrow them from the library when you feel a need to watch something. If you have a computer you can find that all the main channels like CBS and FOX have their own website where you can view the same programs you enjoyed. Hulu also offers many of it’s television programs and movies free (without having to subscribe). And for meals I would suggest you take advantage of a slow cooker which can make an entire meal that is delicious without effort on those nights you miss going out.


WinterLightHomestead March 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

1. I don’t go.

cringe worthy anecdote
I once had a (church acquaintance) hostess ask me why not when I said no thank you, and I replied, “Because I won’t buy anything. I’m trying to save money for ____________.” Her reply, “Oh, you’re so cute.”

*head desk*

2. I don’t know if y’all will find this interesting, but it brings me great satisfaction and happiness. People hire me to craft items for them (usually crochet), especially at Christmas/Hanukkah gifts time.

3. No.

4. I have a 14 year old son (skinny!) who is eating me out of house and home. He has a constant, endless appetite. I have no answer for this one, and I’m going to be eagerly watching others’ comments!

5. Too much too fast. You won’t be able to maintain. Trim some; get used to that for a few weeks. Trim some more; get used to that for a few weeks. And, so on and so on. Adjust as necessary. Figure out new activities and “treats” to fit your new budget and lifestyle so you won’t end up feeling bitter and deprived. (I’m sure we could all come up with great suggestions in that direction from our own paths!)

What you’re describing is the financial/lifestyle equivalent of a crash diet. There’s no way you’ll be able to hold up. And, y’all will both end up cranky, resentful, and frustrated. You aren’t in the middle of a huge emergency/crisis that demands such an instant and drastic change. Don’t do it. It’ll be failure in 3..2..


chris March 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm

hi jessica – i get invited to those parties also and don’t go for the same reason you don’t; i went once or twice over the years when the hostess said it was okay not to buy anything, but i have to tell you that i just felt guilty not purchasing anything; i do have to say though, that that is my problem or perception i think – i doubt if people care that much about what i do or don’t do and i may read more into it than i should; i would rather socialize when there are no expectations other than enjoying good friends


chris March 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm

hi jennifer – i think your goals are wonderful, but i have to say that i think that you’re diving way too deep into the pool before you learn to swim; whenever i start working on a new goal i break it up into small pieces so that i can have some sense of accomplishment as i’m going along; it helps me keep motivated; some steps are more difficult than others and may take longer than you planned, but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water; embrace each step individually and tweak them as necessary – good luck, jennifer


Shannon March 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm

1. Hi Jessica! I basically try to avoid those parties unless it’s hosted by a bestie. One thing I’d suggest if you are craving the company is to invite your girlfriends over for girls night in. Everybody brings something, and you make a fun beverage in a punch bowl or blender. I’ve done crafting parties and now we have a book club.
2. Hi Crystal! I sometimes earn extra cash by participating in market research focus groups. The pay for an hour or two ranges from $40 to $150 depending on what you’re doing. Sometimes they want you to use the product for a couple of weeks, and sometimes it’s just discussions and questionnaires. You can google to see if you have a firm in your area.
3. Hi Samantha! The small amount of guilt I feel when my kids don’t care for the food I’m cooking pales in comparison to the tremendous guilt I used to feel when I served up chicken nuggets every night. The transition to “real food” was rough, but you can do it! (Dessert helps!) as for #4 I’m reading everyone’s comments too…my skinny 7 and 9 year olds are bottomless pits. I will say I try to avoid empty carbs with them…they can devour a box of cereal between them in an hour!

5. Hi Jennifer! I can tell you we ‘ve cut nearly all that stuff out and don’t miss it. We get books and movies from the library, sure, but really we find ourselves not even watching a ton of tv (all our favorite shows are on networks anyway.) I guess the best thing you can do is to find alternate ways to use your time. Maybe pick up a forgotten project or hobby you already have the materials for. Also the restaurant thing: one thing we started doing was recreating favorite meals at home and tallying up our cost vs. the restaurant cost. Today, for example, I estimate that the enchiladas, rice and beans I made, including a soft drink, was about $10 for the whole thing, which would have cost $45 with tip at our favorite restaurant, even using a coupon. We try to have “fun” meals (burgers, Mexican, etc)on the weekends to make up for what we think we are missing out on.

Good luck to all of you in your financial goals!


Amanda March 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm

) From Jessica:
Honestly, I ALWAYS have an excuse not to go. My MIL is the queen of these parties and she knows now not to ever invite me. haha

2) From Crystal:

I have a professional consulting business on the side. Not really interesting. In college I tutored low income kids 🙂 way more interesting.

3) From Samantha:
No way!! I gave up guilt a long time ago!

4) And also from Samantha:

Muffins, dips & crackers…Bananas seem to be super cheap here…

5) From Jennifer:

I think this a great idea…Everyone else gave some really good tips above. One thing I might suggest is to budget for a cheap date night or something once a month. I think everyone needs that!


Christy March 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

first time responding, but I’ve been reading and following for awhile.

4) My fiance and I generally eat oatmeal (made w/homemade kefir instead of water) with a decent amount of peanut butter and some maple syrup for breakfast. He’s good all morning, probably in part because of the added fat & protein from the peanut butter. For whatever reason I’m still hungry and wanting lunch by 10, so I’ve been trying things like frying up an egg to go with. Adding peanut butter or some other source of protein and fat to his breakfast and meals in general may help, or like me maybe you it’ll take some trial and error to find what foods are satisfying for longer.


Practical Parsimony March 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

1) Home parties. I did want Tupperware and bought very little. However, I always told friends I had little money, and if I were pressured by the friend or seller, I would be very unhappy, maybe rude, and never come to another. Then, for all the other parties for makeup or cooking supplies, I turn down the invitation because I don’t wear makeup or do not need more cooking supplies. I broke out all over from gobs of makeup the seller put on me.

Surprisingly, the first time I declined an invitation on grounds I would not purchase, the friend said to come for the headcount since that determines the prizes she gets. I will even book a party if the friend supplies the guests. All this counts for her. It works for me and my friends.

2) I mail packages to my daughter. I get paid what I spend on postage and get paid a fee, also.

3) I never felt much guilt. But, I did try to broaden their horizons. Almost every meal contained one thing they did not care for. ‘One bite” was the rule.

When the older two were 10 and 8, I finally grew very, very weary hearing about how they did not like a food. So, I told them I would allow them each to choose a food that never had to pass through their lips again. But, if I went along with this, then they had to eat everything else without complaint. If they did complain, the deal was off. Son chose cheese and daughter chose tomatoes. That very night I prepared a casserole that contained no cheese on one corner and no tomato on the other corner.

The four-year-old asked why she did not to get to choose a food. I told her it was because she was too little to really know what she did not like. I told her I could tell when kids were growing up because they liked and ate more foods. She swelled up and never turned down another food!

Peace reigned even though they grumbled for more of the things they liked.

Because they loved zucchini casserole so much, I made three huge casseroles for dinner one night. My friend did the same thing with macaroni/cheese one night and french fries the next because her kids begged for those two things at all meals and would not eat what she cooked.

If you were talking about sweets, I baked something maybe one a week. But, this was back in the 70s when parents felt less guilt, and rightly so.

4) He sounds normal. My son wore an 11 slim for over two years yet ate everything in sight. Make sure each meal or snack has protein, fat, and carbs. That way, the snack will stick with him. If he is eating sweets, he may be just having blood sugar spikes and valleys. All my friends who also had boys experienced this eating all the time for about 7 years. Feeding them nutritious

However, I had reactive hypoglycemia when I was young and now. Eating every hour or two is necessary.

5) Cutting everything at once seems cruel and undoable. Maybe doing a little cutting with a substitute would work. I would say don’t surprise everyone. Have a discussion/warning with an explanation of the goal. Can you just cut out going out to half or less of what you do now. If you go out once a week, cut it to once a month. Same for everything else.

Maybe you can figure out other things to cut out that would allow you to continue doing a few things that mean something to you. For example, I don’t use paper napkins, I deliberately don’t drive about three days each week. You can figure out what you can cut out to be able to afford a few fun things. The cutting out is beyond what you cut out from the enterainment items you listed.


Melissainkdesigns March 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

If I have no intention of buying, I don’t go. If it’s a new home party, I might attend out of curiosity. I once did direct sales, and I think, if you do attend, it’s nice to go with the flow and at the end of the evening, instead of taking a catalog, just quietly let the salesperson know that you enjoyed it but won’t be purchasing anything and wish them luck with their sales. There are ways to be tasteful and kind without purchasing. I only buy things if I want them.

I pick up curbside finds and sell them. I usually wash them first 🙂 but not always.

Hmm. Is it because I can’t afford what they want or because it’s unhealthy? My kids don’t often get the brand of cereal/snack they want, but I buy a healthier alternative. Is there a way to buy in bulk and then package the stuff yourself to save money? Another example, I don’t buy beer or beef jerky as part of our grocery budget, but I fill up my husband’s stocking and Easter basket with a stash. I also think the idea of, “Here is $3 for the month, you may buy whatever snack you like with it.” is a good option too. They’ll learn how to decide between the $3 back of candy and the 10-pack of fruit snacks and maybe even search for coupons.

Beans are good, if he’ll eat them. My husband and oldest love a bowl of rice with soy sauce. Yuck. I wonder if making him pre-prepare his own snacks might curb his appetite a bit?

It sounds very drastic. We don’t have cable, but we do have Amazon Prime and Hulu. We have a certain amount of “going out” money each pay period, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Is there a way to “fun it up”? Set a goal, like saving/paying off $1,000 and then treat yourselves to the movies or a steak dinner at home. I think it’s important to celebrate along the way, it’ll make you enjoy those indulgences more. Good luck.


Martha March 3, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Selling parties:
When I’ve been asked to go to those parties, I just tell them I am not the target audience and I dont want them to waste their time and resources on me. People seem appreciative and never ask again.

No guilt re feeding my kids

Bottomless pit:
I agree re bean burritos for snacks.
Also agree with adding nuts and fruit or even butter to the oatmeal to make it last.

Crash Diet
I agree that you can get there but might have more success if you cut things out more slowly. You didn’t mention how old your kids are, but if they are beyond toddler-hood, getting buy-in from them by asking for their ideas will probably help it be a more successful project. Not that they would have veto power, but they might have ideas of things you haven’t thought of.

good luck, all!


Carole March 4, 2013 at 4:55 am

For Samantha: I always had peanut butter sandwich makings for my son and his sisters for an after school snack. I also allowed them to make chocolate milk from Quik if they wished. Sometimes I made oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies and I doled out 3 to each kid and kept the rest for later snacks. Sometimes I bought a 6 pack of candy bars when I grocery shopped, and everyone got one. The snacks shouldn’t go on continuously—have meals at regular times.

About selling parties: usually catalogs are available ahead of time. Pick out something inexpensive and useful. The opportunity to socialize is impotant as sometimes it’s the only chance to visit casually.


Diane March 4, 2013 at 5:34 am

Samantha: I think Katy has some wonderful low cost recipes in her archives that might suit your son. What about a breakfast burrito?

Jennifer: I’ve lived without any extras for quite some time. I call it Living Large on Little! I don’t have children at home now, but do enjoy my life and I can find many freebies for entertainment and fun. It takes some effort, but once you are attuned to searching out free fun for your family, you’ll become a pro. The library is a terrific source for DVDs and audiobooks for families, as well. I make my own snacks, eat fresh foods and cook from scratch and limit my casual dining out to once a month…makes it much more special.
Think of it as a challenge to meet, rather than a setback and enjoy the new journey!


Roberta March 4, 2013 at 7:19 am

I have a 10 year old and a 7 year old. If they had their preferences, they’d eat nothing but buttered noodles and candy, LOL. I feel no guilt about providing them healthful foods instead of their preferences. When they visit a friend they get these things, but it is a treat. At home, they get vegetables, whole grain bread, nuts, fruit for snacks, milk or water to drink. And they are both healthy. That is the point of being the parent — to make them healthy, not satisfy their every whim.

I agree with Christy about adding peanut butter to his oatmeal. And if you’re adding sugar, cut that out. My kids love oatmeal with peanut butter, raisins or other dried fruit (a small handfull), a sprinkle of cinnamon, and oats from the bulk bin. Sometimes some applesauce, too. Both kids will eat a snack some mornings (we homeschool) and they get leftover muffins, apples and peanut butter, a hardboiled egg, or toast with peanut butter. Fiber and fat fill them up. (And lately, I’ve been making a big batch of quinoa (from the bulk bins). They add dried fruit and butter, and enjoy that as well.)


Eli March 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

2- We walk the ditches alongside our road (rural) and pick up cans that litter bugs throw out. We also pick up cans when we see them on the ground in parking lots when we are in town or wherever we go having a designated bucket in the car that we empty when we get home. It is the same thing as picking up dropped pennies on the pavement!! We also will pick up metal items people have set out for the trash that the garbage men don’t pick up. Distant family members now bring our kids their cans at holidays…. before you think that’ll never amount to much… the kids bought a laptop from their proceeds last year and obviously helped protect the environment too.
4- Teach him to cook!!!!! Plant a garden and have him help tend it. Around here the motto is: If you eat here on a daily basis, you also garden and do chores here. Buying rolled oatmeal and wheat berries in 50 pound bags is a very small fraction of the cost at the grocery… you can make fresh bread for a fraction of what it costs to buy a loaf, homemade granola and granola bars are also super simple and cheap, with many many recipes being available.
5- I’ll also vote use the library to it’s fullest. And if you are never going to eat out again, I recommend the buying Todd Wilbur’s book series Top Secret Restaurant recipes,he has a website I think. When we moved rural it became obvious to us that eating out was a very expensive undertaking when it took an hour on the road in addition to the actual cost of eating out. The recipes in the book are great, are way cheaper to make at home, neither you or your family will feel deprived of eating out!! Also see #4


Joy @ Joyfully Green March 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

Regarding house parties: I stopped going. Just politely RSVP “no, but thanks for inviting me” and say you have other plans. You don’t need to say that your “other plans” mean “not spending money on more crap.”

Regarding feeling guilt over not having foods the kids like: Nope, I don’t feel any guilt at all, because there are sooooo many foods–you just need to work a bit harder on finding some healthy foods they will eat. Think out of the box–pomegranates (which they get to peel to uncover the little “jewels” hidden under each layer), coconuts (which they get to hammer open–with your help!), healthy dressings for veggies, etc. Also, try baking or cooking healthy food together. (I just featured a recipe for organic chocolate chip cookies at my blog–not exactly a health food, but at least a big improvement on the crappy cookies at the store.) I don’t think you should ever feel guilty as a parent for not getting your kids junky food that they whine for. Stand firm and be proud that you’re helping them make better choices for their health.


emmer March 4, 2013 at 9:03 am

i think i have been declining those “buy” parties long enough that i may never be invited again. i object to the high prices on stuff i don’t need and the waste of resources to make and transport them from whatever faraway place thy are made. you risk the lecture if you invite me. 🙂

it sounds like jennifer may NEED to make that cut back very quickly. if that is the case, the many suggestions above will help. may i add that being organized about what you are doing helps. and visual– make a big wall chart showing the decline in outgo and the increase in debt payment. i suggest getting (at the library) the book “your money or your life” as life-changing way to look at your relationship with money. i retired at age 52 because i “go” what dominguez and robbin had to say. good luck on your journey.


Carla March 4, 2013 at 9:37 am

1. I go to the parties if I feel like seeing the people who’ll be there. I have ZERO guilt about not buying anything. Having said that, I think it’s truly awful that the way in many people are related through each other is through consumerism – it does irk me. There’s a group of friends in which the last 3 gatherings have been shopping parties. enjoy what you can: in a boutique in a boutique I had fun trying on new outfits and got a lift from seeing how I could wear great dresses. In turn, I plan to host a clothing exchange soon.

2. I was a simultaneous interpreter for a visiting activitist. Paid great and super interesting.

3. Nope. No Guilt. Not allowed in my life. 🙂 Seriously, when this comes up we talk about how each family makes its own decisions, and if the food is ok but just not at home, we talk about how if they get offered it, they can have it and enjoy it and we can share that fun story another time.

4. Sounds like he needs more dense protein and good fats. Add some eggs, bacon, shredded coconut in a smaller portion of oatmeal, almond butter, etc. Also breakfast can be any food – maybe some leftover stews? or whatever dinner protein-y leftovers you have. High-carbs can lead to a rollercoaster of hunger, protein+fat will lead to longer lasting full belly.

5. Good on you! But leave yourself some room for treats, even if small amount per week. With no ‘fun’ money, you may end up in a money ‘yo-yu’ diet, where you may feel so deprived you’ll spend lots and end up with further debt. Good luck!


Bonnie March 4, 2013 at 9:40 am

For Samantha regarding her son being hungry soon after oatmeal breakfast:
The best thing I can recommend that works wonders for us is an good sized egg burrito. We scramble 2-3 eggs, put them in a tortilla with cheese, tomato, onion…whatever else you’d like (sometimes just salsa) and then eat the whole thing. It fills you up and sticks with you for a long time. It’s cheap and healthy.
Sometimes I will scramble the eggs the night before to make it faster in the morning. Hope that helps.


Kailey March 4, 2013 at 10:41 am

1. None of my friends do this (thankfully)

2. No creative ideas here

3. I don’t have kids

4. A cheap snack is homemade popcorn. We do ours just in a pot with a little oil and then drizzle a tiny bit of melted butter and olive oil but you could get more creative. Homemade popcorn is cheap and full of fiber and you can control the fat and salt. Roasted chickpeas are a good option too, they give you the crunch and satisfaction of snacking while being healthy and cheap. And ‘ants on a log’ (celery, peanut butter and raisens)

5. I agree with those who think it will be difficult going cold turkey on all non-life essentials. You don’t NEED hot chocolate to live but it definitely makes it more pleasant so just make it at home in a more cost effective manner. You don’t have to cut everything out completely, just cut out the middle man (eg. dunkin donuts, movie theatre) and save the middle man for special occasions (if you even care to include him at all).


Elenor March 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

Jennifer: I write this from the perspective of having lived it. Within 2 years, at 28 and 30, my husband and I each got a catastrophic illness. Even though we had excellent dual insurance, we ended up $250,000 in debt. (At one point neither one of us could work and we were sometimes too ill to drive. If we could not find a friend, we had to hire a cab to go to chemo. I also had to go to Seattle for treatment at one point and we lived in a hotel for months, which the insurance would not cover.)

I am here to tell you that you can do this because we did it. We cut out all luxuries—including internet (went to the library), movies, fancy coffees, all meals were eaten at home, we made our own yogurt and anything else that was cheaper homemade, we cut each other’s hair, and on and on. It was hard core. Our families told us we would not make it, that we would get crabby, that we would go on a frenzy of overspending to compensate. The only thing that happened was that we got crabby, but we were crabby from being ill anyway so I am not sure it made any difference. The joy and relief of paying off the bills was worth every minute of it, every single minute. In fact, after we were done we kept up most of the financial diet (except we stopped cutting each other’s hair—both of us sucked at it and we looked like scarecrows—and we bought new computers and now have internet). We are now 47 and 49. We own our home outright and we will both be retiring on July 1. We are not rich, but who knows how much time we have left so we woudl rather live modestly iin our paid off house, with our garden and animals and one trip a year than slave away for a 60 inch television.

You can do this; ignore the naysayers. (Strangely, we also found that during this time we became much more disciplined in other areas of our lives and much more appreciative of life.) Good luck.


Libby Gontarz March 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Jessica–Usually these parties encourage extra guests. You may wish to invite a friend who loves to shop and has money to attend with you, with your hostess’s approval. That increases the head count and takes some pressure off you. Feel free to say no or not purchase without feeling guilty. Just don’t promise to go and then bail. I had a crystal party once where all 10 of my friends who had promised to come simply didn’t show up. Extremely embarrassing! It also cured me of holding those “parties.”

Samantha–please discuss the situation with your son’s pediatrician. I never heard of the fat-absorption problem, but diabetes can make a person very hungry even when they don’t need to eat, and it can also cause weight loss. Ask for a checkup and dietary advice. I find that old-fashioned oatmeal stays with me longer than instant. I always add fruit and a little fat, usually by adding nuts or sunflower seeds, which also increases the protein.


Cathy March 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I’ve never had to go cold turkey on ALL unnecessary expenses but, crazy person that I am, I’d see it as a fun challenge. We cancelled cable over 20 years ago and never looked back. And there are so many free options now that weren’t around then: DVDs from the library, free movie series programs through the university, the library, our city and the county (especially outdoors in the summer), and tons to view online. In addition, you might find other types of free entertainment. We cook almost all our meals at home (in part because of food allergies), but I bake pizza every week, we have treats, etc.

I have two suggestions: 1) Think about keeping internet service if you can. There are so many things available to you online (like movies, TV shows that air on cable, email, paying bills). It might make cutting the cable less painful; and 2) Read books/blogs that are inspirational. Others have suggested Your Money Or Your Life. In addition, look at The Complete Tightwad Gazette. This version is a compilation of Amy Dacyczyn’s 3 books plus some things from her newsletters that didn’t make it into any of the books. START with the Reader Letters (they’re super inspirational) and then backtrack to the advice. Yes, some is a bit dated, but just think of those things in 2013 terms. Another one in that same vein is Frugal Luxuries. It’s got a softer approach, but recognizes that we don’t want to feel deprived. I also highly recommend Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. This tracks Levine and her partner’s experiment to go an entire year buying only what they determined were necessities. It’s well-written, entertaining, but honest.

The last thing I’d suggest is to try cutting out all unnecessary expenses for a specific length of time (1 month? two?) and plan to reevaluate. If you find you’re doing great, keep going. If you constantly feel deprived, see if you can afford a specific “treat” each month. Good luck!


Su March 4, 2013 at 2:01 pm

#5 Jennifer – We just fired cable today. It was our last big indulgence but after awhile I couldn’t even justify the expense. We live very modestly. We all dress from garage sales and second hand clothes. My youngest wants Justice store clothes. I tell her that she has them but we let other people pay the expensive part first, use them and sell them to us at yard sales for 50 cents or so. We love popcorn but I make it on the stove top instead of expensive microwave stuff. I upcycle as much as possible. It has become a fun game trying to get something out of nothing. View the new lifestyle as an adventure rather than a sacrifice and see what great freedom comes from it.


Madeline March 4, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Hungry kids: BEAN BURRITOS! Make crock pots of pinto beans and keep in fridge.Teach son to make burritos. APPLES, too! Filling!

Parties: I always say “Geez..I don’t need a THING. ” I never go to these parties. Way overpriced merchandise I do NOT need. Ever. There are lots of other ways to hang out with friends.

Cutting back: Try a BIT more slowly,perhaps? those are a LOT of changes to do at once! But great to get started, good luck!


Madeline March 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Elenor: What an inspirational story! I hope that health care reforms mean that your story will not be repeated, in the near future. A country as wealthy as ours should not ever allow its citizens to go broke over an illness!!!!


Sanna March 5, 2013 at 4:00 am

5. Be nice to yourself. Have strict rules, but those rules should include rewards as well. We did this, too. I gave myself a rather tight but sufficient budget (check your grocery bills for knowing which budget is doable and which are the most expensive traps for your family) for buying groceries, but everything that was leftover could get spent on “treats” on the weekends: Usually about 5$ a week, for which I sometimes got a flower or a special chocolate at the supermarket or a cone of ice-cream at the park – sometimes we didn’t spend it that week and saved up and went to a bar for a beer or a trip to the cinema another week. Make sure to find other (no spend) ways for outings and having fun: museums often offer free entry once a month, some nice walks, sports at the park, board games or DVD nights with friends. Make a challenge to read those books on your shelf you meant to read for years or to craft a little more (if you have craft supplies at home). Baking and cooking from scratch can also be a nice passtime and help reducing your spendings at the same time. If you just focus on what you can’t do, it will be harder than if you focus on what you actually can do.


tna March 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Sometimes jumping in and just doing it cold turkey is a good way to start. Later down the road you can always change things you don’t like. I hadn’t watched tv for about 5 years and didn’t really miss it. Recently I bought an hd antenna and find I’m enjoying the “free” tv. PBS is wonderful and the local news and weather keeps me up to date.


Leah March 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Ideas for making extra money?

Check out your county extension service or lifelong learning programs at nearby colleges or universities to see what instructors they need. You’ll be surprised what you might be qualified to teach that you take for granted – couponing, scrapbooking, genealogy, home budgeting

I use Swagbucks (an online search engine/site where you earn “points” for searching and can use the points to buy things like Amazon gift cards). It’s not a lot of cash, but easy to do, a little at a time, and last year I earned $100 in gift cards.


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