Making Ends Meet
4:50 PM EST, January 12, 2012
Some people seem to be natural born soup-makers.
I wish I could count myself among them, but to do so would be an ambitious lie.
It's not for a lack of trying. I've lost count of the times I've taken a leftover chicken carcass and boiled it for hours, anticipating a hot, tasty broth rife with thick grandma noodles and nourishing veggies.
I sample the broth from a spoon and my taste buds yawn at me. "Boring," they declare. Or worse yet, "Gross." Then I toss it in the trash.
The soup makers of the world are shaking their heads, wondering what kind of dope can't figure out how to toss in some chicken and veggies and serve. In my defense, I've found far greater success with creamy soups. I make a potato soup that brings 'em running to the table and my juice-based veggie usually ain't half bad either.
Still, I hope one day I'll crack out a chicken-based soup that'll knock 'em dead. I want this to happen not only to appease my ego, but to gratify my frugal nature. While I like the warm satisfaction of soup, I also like the idea of getting two meals out of a chicken and saving some money. Controlling expenses is important to me.
For many people, the margin between income and expenses is small. For others, there is no margin, and some financial situations are just plain upside down. It's easy for experts to say "increase income and reduce expenses." In reality, more lucrative full-time work is tough to come by. Additional part-time work is not always feasible, because it brings costs like childcare, travel and clothing, not to mention stress on family. There are times when part-time work pays enough and times when, in the bigger picture, it doesn't.
Expense reduction, on the other hand, is almost always an option. Even when we think we've hit barebones, there usually is something more to be done. I'm talking dollars and pennies, because when margin is small or non-existent, it makes a difference.
Everyone knows to cut take-out, cancel unused subscriptions and shop sales. But we might forget to turn off water while we brush our teeth or to turn off the bedroom light when we go downstairs. Or we might fail to get two meals out of a chicken.
Some savings ideas don't come naturally. But just because I am not soup-maker of the year doesn't mean I'm going to give up and go hog-wild spending and wasting. There are other ways to save that seem nearly effortless or even fun to me.
Stave off unnecessary clothes shopping. I get a kick out of going through closets and drawers and using what's there to piece together outfits that look new. A scarf, a vest, a pair of boots or a piece of jewelry changes a look.
Forego new home decor. Transform a room by rearranging the furniture. Retrieving a throw, a rug or a painting I'd tossed in the attic offers a boost without spending.
Skip the play-in restaurant. Put a ribbon line on the floor and let little ones toss pennies in a jar or throw a wiffle ball at a paper cup pyramid. They get excited, and it's free.
When margin is small, dollars and cents do matter. Consider your natural bents and use them in ways to help you save.
Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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