The summer 2006 issue of Marriage Partnership has a fascinating article about the experiences of one couple who scaled back their shopping and purchase habits over time. They eventually mastered their spending habits so well that they were able to go grocery shopping only once a year. It wasn’t easy at first; like most of us they enjoyed eating out regularly, frequent trips to Wal-Mart and other stores. However, during the first year in their house a plumbing repair turned in a major remodeling job and forced them to examine their budget with a fine-tooth comb to produce extra funds to pay for the repair job. Among the highlights of their experience:
- Taking small steps at first Eric and Donna Reed first went a month without buying anything. This included drinking powdered milk, giving up fast-food french fries and wearing pants to work due to holes in Donna’s pantyhose
- They then took a leap to three months with no spending. This included mapping out in advance the number of bars of soap, rolls of tissue paper and loads of laundry detergent down to an exact science.
- During their annual buying spree, jokes from the cashier at the warehouse club included “do you own a restaurant?” and “do you own a cleaning service?”
- They did allow $10 per week for milk and fresh produce. Also gift cards were purchased for restaurants with the twofold purpose of limiting the spending at the restaurant and treating them to a fun evening now and then
- This frugal planning saved them approximately 50% in groceries. That would be equal to clipping thousands of coupons per year.
- They made exceptions for dry cleaning, medical prescriptions and car repairs.
This wasn’t easy for Eric and Donna, but they eventually compared themselves to their missionary friends in Asia who were told to bring four years of supplies for their trip. When compared to that couple the Reeds didn’t have it too bad with that level of required planning.
With some discipline, planning and flexibility the Reeds show that we needn’t live the hyper-consumption lifestyle to which so many are accustomed.