Planning ahead to make the most of saved money
A dime’s not worth much on its own — “one thin dime, one tenth of a dollar….” But if you save that dime and add to it, before long you’ll have a dollar and more.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I had a friend named Joan. Joan didn’t like pennies: they were brown and plain; they weighed down her pockets; they irritated her when they jingled at every step she took. Joan’s solution was to throw them away and let them roll down the sidewalk, one by one. She laughed at other kids who would pick the pennies up.
Some Saturdays when several of us went to the movies at the theater on Main Street, 10 of her discarded pennies bought my popcorn.
I’ve always liked having a little “stash” of money to add to for emergencies (and indulgences). To make my stash work for me, it’s important to add cash every day that my wallet is fat — even the spare change in my pocket, when deposited in the Bank of Linda (a jar I can see into), adds up surprisingly fast over time.
Once a stash grows comfortably (say, to the point where you could buy two new tires in an emergency, or pay for a child’s birthday party), then what? Then, you make it work for you.
I know someone who takes home the same salary she made 20 years ago. Of course, she’s gotten raises over the years. How can that be? Here’s how — many years ago, she decided to keep a certain amount of her bi-weekly check and put the rest (a very little bit when she started out) in a brand new bank account.
Over the years, she’s continued to take home the same amount. Of course, the amount she saves has grown until what’s saved is much more than what she spends. Now, she goes on vacation periodically, knowing she can afford it. When Christmas and birthdays come, she’s prepared. And her stash renews itself every time she’s paid.
When my children were small, we went for a week at the beach in Virginia or South Carolina every summer. One particularly lean year, we couldn’t go. It made us doubly determined to plan to go the next year.
I figured down to the last dollar what it would cost us and told Heather and Jenny if we saved $300 from August to the next June, we could manage it. They put some money in a big jar we used as our “bank” every time they baby-sat. I put change in every night.
When the jar was full, we’d count and roll the coins and take them to the bank on the corner to be deposited in our vacation account. We hit our goal, and then some, which paid for a no-frills 5-day trip to Virginia Beach (who needs frills when you have the ocean?), then a few days at Nanna’s in North Carolina.
Plan ahead — work to get what you want — and you’ll amaze yourself.
When you hit the road on that vacation you saved for, carry your food with you. You’ll eat healthier, spend less than you would on fast food, and have a little more for dinner in a nice restaurant when you get where you’re going. Don’t forget to stop periodically and walk around — take a break from the car to get your circulation going and wake up. The highway can be hypnotic.
Here are some ideas for your cooler: pack enough food for the first day; pack fresh washed fruit (apples, oranges, bananas and seedless grapes) to eat on the road, and for a day or two after you arrive. Take water in individual bottles — traveling’s thirsty work.
To eat on the road, make sandwiches as you go: use chilled natural sliced turkey and ham; sliced bread; little packets of mustard, mayo, relish and ketchup (whatever you like). Use the disposable plastic flatware you’ve accumulated over time.
Pre-sliced celery and a small jar of natural peanut butter makes a good snack on the road.
Freeze-dried fruit snacks satisfy the desire for something crunchy (without the chips that used to make my feet swell driving to North Carolina).
Don’t forget to transfer any food that’s still fresh from the cooler to a refrigerator when you get where you’re going. (If you’re camping, and have no refrigerator, refresh the ice that keeps your cooler cold as soon as you can.) Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure it’s 40 degrees or less inside so your food will be kept at a safe temperature.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.