Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spending Intentionally

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Budgeting is a hobby of mine. We have a spreadsheet with our monthly budget of $2500 (see how to make your own budget) and update it on a regular basis to keep track of how much we are putting away each month in savings. I like putting all the numbers in and tracking our spending in different categories.

We choose carefully how to spend our money. We spend more than we need to in gas money so we can see our families regularly. We have a bigger grocery budget than we need because buying organic is expensive, no matter what they say.

I also like not spending money. In some cases, I look for ways to save (buying in bulk, comparison shopping, etc.), but often I just look for ways to not spend. New shoes? Nope, these ones work. McDonalds? Eh, we'll be home in 20 minutes. Two cars? Ha, one is so much better. Another cloth diaper? Well, maybe, it's so cute... Wait, no! Have some self-control!

Babies in cloth diapers are just cute. I can't help it.

More important than choosing what to buy, though, is choosing where to buy.

Living in a mostly capitalistic society, we vote with our wallets. The only way good businesses will flourish is if consumers support them. When choosing a business to support, we look for

  • Local: Are products made in the area? If this is a chain, are corporate headquarters in this region?
  • Environmentally friendly: Does the company recycle? Do they sell organic goods? Is packaging streamlined to reduce waste? Do they sell quality goods or try to fill your home with their junk?
  • Community building: Does the company reinvest money in the community? Do they sponsor activities designed to bring people together? Do the employees know their customers?
  • Urban: Although we live in the suburbs, we are committed to supporting urban businesses. (My parents still live in the city, so we shop while we're in the area.) Urban sprawl makes me sad.
  • Positive work environment: Are employees paid a just wage with comprehensive health care? Do employees seem happy and recommend their workplace? Is the area clean and well-lit?

Most places we shop meet the majority of these criteria, although only the Public Market gets five stars. (America's Favorite Public Market in 2010!) How do your shopping choices reflect your values?

[This post is a 2-for-1 deal. In addition to being part of the Carnival of Natural Parenting, it's also post #5 in a series about intentional living. Last one coming on Thursday!]
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)
  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life... — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth - Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family's realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the "real cost" of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here's why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she's made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget - and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma's Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen's monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she's lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children's financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family's lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she's willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me ... a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old's learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It's Not a Baby Crisis. It's Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • "Making" Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters... But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive...Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living - and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo' Money, Mo' Problems — Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family's finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn't always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family's approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.


  1. I thought your note of shopping urban was really interesting. I do find that the urban stores tend to be locally owned, and I love making friends with the owners!

    Also, I have that problem with cloth diapers, too. And baby carriers…

  2. Our shopping choices definitely reflect our values in not accumulating "stuff" and finding quality used/thrifted items instead of new. I'm still working on making more local/organic choices with grocery shopping - that has been a process for me!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Even though I buy a lot used and get a lot on Freecycle, I could really use some restraint and more intentionality in purchases. I'm impressed at your budget (on your other post) and that you can spend only $200 a month on food! Wow! I guess the baby is not yet eating, right? I spent $40 just at the farmers market last weekend! And that was only veggies and eggs for just a week or less!

  4. Great post for both CarNatPar and your intentional living series. You know I've been following along with your series and enjoying it immensely. Lots to think about when I get off my laptop and live.

    It's interesting to read where you choose to spend and where you choose to save. The fact that you do both with such consciousness is what I find fascinating. It's important to make those choices in what businesses to support, but time consuming to do all that research. We do the best we can, right?

    And cloth diapers are irresistible (I will admit to having a slight problem with carriers, too)

  5. Budgeting - what a great hobby! I admire how intentionally you approach all your purchases. And I agree about cloth diapers ... that photo is just TOO CUTE! Deb @ LivingMontessoriNow.com

  6. Seriously, you live on $210 for food per month? Even if I don't count the money spent on food that my children eat, we would easily spend $500-$600 per month. Food must really be expensive here in Canada! Or else, maybe you eat a lot of grass? :-) When you come here to do canning with me next summer, be sure to bring your own tomatoes!

    I've enjoyed your entire series on living Intentionally. That's what life is really all about, isn't it? Identifying our values and living in such a way as to achieve them everyday. And such fulfillment there is in seeing Life with Intentional eyes.

    Joy to you, Cat!

  7. @Lauren: Hm, yes, we also have four baby carriers... shh! :-)

    @Dionna: Thrift stores are so much fun! I have a difficult time not buying every cute thing I see, especially for Peter.

    @Jessica: Peter has been eating "real people food" for about 9 months at this point, but he's tiny for his age and doesn't eat much. I think groceries are cheaper here than other places... I think I'll post our menu on Friday, so you can check back then to see how we do it. :-)

    @Zoie: Thanks for the encouragement! I agree that researching businesses can take a lot of time. As with everything else in life, I guess it's about striking a balance -- how much time to devote to that over all the other things we want/need to be doing!

    @Deb: Thanks! We think we'll keep him. ;-)

    @Patti: Wait, you DON'T eat grass? I thought that was a universal entree... :-) I'll be posting our weekly menu this Friday, so you can check back then. And I will definitely bring tomatoes!

  8. I love the idea of developing criteria for what values you want in a company you're purchasing from. Seems like that'd make it much easier to not get distracted by all the claims on packaging etc about how great a company is, which tends to happen toe a lot I think :)

  9. @Crunchy Con Mommy: I think I've been a conscious consumer since my mom first pointed out to me that if I bought that My Little Pony, it wouldn't fly on its own when I got it home. :-) Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Buying local is very important to me, especially when it comes to food. I buy books from local indies. Clothing, I suppose, is the category in which we do most of our non-local spending, but frankly, we don't buy much clothing.

    How do you research the practices (environmental, labor, etc.) of the companies you shop from?

  11. @Rachel: Sorry for taking so long to respond. As far as retailers, I tend to look for small, local shops where I can get to know the staff and owner. We have a wonderful local grocery chain that has become a regional chain. They publish information about what they are doing for the community and environment. (Self-published information can be misleading, of course, but it's a safe bet that if they're not promoting something good, they're not doing it, so it's a good starting point.)
    For manufacturers, I check them out on http://www.goodguide.com/ or http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. Hope that gives you a good starting point!