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Monday, November 16, 2015

This doesn't just happen . . .

it all takes planning.

I was trying to explain this to an acquaintance the other day. You all know that I run our household like I'd run a business. Because it is a business!

Merriam-Webster defines business as "dealings or transactions of an economic nature". Aren't we carrying out dealings of an economic nature? We have an income that comes in and expenditures which go out. And somewhere in between, we have all of the activity which has the ability to grow, preserve or deplete our finances. I am CEO, manager, labor force, and accountant for this enterprise.

As the CEO, I set the direction for the activities which will bring us the greatest financial rewards. As manager, I make the detailed plans for how to activate this direction. As the labor force, I do the grunt work of carrying out these plans. And as the accountant, I look at the numbers to ensure we are, in fact, making financial gains with our activities.

That's the big picture.

On a smaller scale, yesterday afternoon, I finally made the year's supply of salsa. I didn't just head into the kitchen and say to myself, "gee, I'd like to make some salsa. I think I'll run to the store and buy everything in my recipe". I could make our salsa in that spur-of-the-moment fashion. But my accountant tells me that the figures don't add up. I would be spending more in ingredients for the homemade version than I would spend on commercially-made salsa.

Making my own salsa is a valuable use of my time, if I obtain each ingredient or supply at our area's lowest or close to lowest price. But doing this takes planning. I need jars, right? Fortunately, I have a large supply of jars that have been given to us, or that I've purchased at second-hand stores in the off-season, or that I've scrounged from free bins at garage sales, and some jars that I bought on sale at the local discount store. At the end of the canning season, I check the discount stores for marked down lids and rings. I watch for ingredients to be at their lowest prices of the season at the wholesaler near us (Cash & Carry), for items such as canned tomatoes, garlic powder, vinegar and onions. I grow, harvest and dry or freeze my oregano and cilantro. I collect and save little packets of red pepper flakes from my kids' pizza outings. And when I have everything else I need, I buy my jalapenos at either the local produce stand or at my favorite year round ethnic market.

Once I have all of my supplies, then I schedule an afternoon to make a 12-pint batch. I spend about 3 hours, start to finish, to make 12 pints. If I just shopped dollar sales at the supermarket, I would spend as much as $24 on this amount of salsa, when the 8-oz jars are on sale for $1 each. If I shopped at Dollar Tree, I would see about the same cost for this much salsa. Buying salsa in a 64-oz jug would cost about $1.48 per pint, at a store like Wal-Mart, which is an improvement over buying salsa in the half-pint jars. But, by making salsa at home, using my best buying/acquiring strategies, I spend under $5.50 for the 12 pints, or under 45 cents per pint. That's a savings of about $12 for our supply of salsa.

My accountant says that saving $12, doing an activity that is one of the more "fun" homemaker activities, and not displacing any other work which could bring in income, is a good use of my 3 hours, on a Sunday afternoon.

My labor force is looking at the jars, all neat and in rows, and feeling satisfaction on a job well-done.

My manager is pleased that the salsa could be made affordably and under budget, with some planning.

And my CEO is thrilled that the bottom line is more money in our pockets, and less going out the door.

Who else, here, thinks of their household as if it were a business? Judging from many of the past comments, I believe I'm in the company of quite a few other CEOs!


  1. Lili, you have one of the best run businesses around with an important ingredient that all successful people in business for themselves have--hard work. Running a successful household also requires a lot of planning ahead and patience with delayed results in many cases. The thing you buy on sale today, may not be used for a few months or weeks.

    There are all kinds of people in the world and not everyone naturally has great planning skills, however, they can all learn from your and others examples.

    1. Aww, thank you, live and learn. Yes, patience. And a good deal of good fortune, too.

      This may be hard to believe, if you go strictly by my posts, but many years ago, I did not have great planning skills. I was always playing catch-up, and often missing things. A girlfriend of mine once said that I was "treading water". Not going under, but not getting to shore, either. I've had to learn to plan.

  2. I'm with you...I think of my household as a business too!

    The salsa looks great! I love the feeling of making jam, jelly, salsa, applesauce, or whatever and then looking at the jars all filled with finished goodies. It does take hard work, but the end result provides a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.


    1. Hi Angie,
      And you know, I get much more satisfaction looking at a several month's supply of something, all made, than doing it one day at a time. Although, making quickie salsa just for one dinner is always a pleasant surprise to the rest of the family.

  3. I totally LOVE this. I haven't actually thought about it in that way, but I think I'd have to say that my household is firmly in the non-profit category. You know... a business with a mission. One that, um... seems to revolve around cats. :-) BUT, as we always said when I worked at the music school "Non-Profit is a tax status, not a business plan!"

    1. On a slightly more serious note... re cooking for one - at some point in my travels, I realized that I could either spent a bunch of money and eat junk every day, or I could cook for myself, which would cost much less and mean that I got to eat much better food. Seen in that light, the choice was sort of a no-brainer!

    2. I had to laugh at this. We often say we're running a facility for geriatric pets, mostly cats. Definitely non-profit. ;) They keep life fun, though, and our three younger cats are livening things up!

    3. Cat and Cat (who both have lots of cats) -- I have wondered if the university scholarship program we offer in our household, is a non-profit or an investment decision. I guess time will tell how good of an investment it turns out to be, when I'm knocking on my kids' doors looking for someone to take an old lady in.

      As for cooking for one, if I find myself in that position again, now that I've had a lot more cooking experience, maybe I'll do a much better job at feeding myself than I did when single.

  4. This is so funny--I NEVER thought running a household was a business--but that's exactly what it is!!

    Your salsa looks delicious! That is one thing I never was good at making. I was so good at a pantry full of home canned goods when the kids were little but now I hardly can anything anymore. I like making jam and I freeze a lot more than I can. I'm just not feeling it the last couple of years.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I go in phases, too. In fact, I only made a few jars of jelly this year, and only the spiced fig jam. And I had no desire to make pickles. I figure we'll eat up what's left from last year, then I'll start fresh with jam/pickles next summer. Maybe you've just had far too much to take care of in recent years. Giving yourself a break from doing a lot of canning is good self-care.

  5. I don't really think of running a household as a business, but I suppose it is! I think of it more as building our family .... it takes money to have a family, of course, so I do try to use our money wisely. I feel like I have a few short years to prepare my children to be adults and to raise their families, and I feel like I can accomplish that better by working outside the home less and being present in the home more. That helps me to be more loving and supportive to my husband and kids, by keeping the house running smoothly and making sure we have nutritious meals. I can do the errand running which somehow seems to eat up a lot of time ... I can be home when the kids get home from school and hear about their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days (or good days!), etc. I know you feel this way, too, Lili. Sometimes it's easy to feel undervalued when you are a homemaker--your posts show how it's really a job that requires many and varied skills!

    1. Hi Kris,
      And I think you do a great job of balancing enhancing family life with financial concerns.
      While the bulk of the child-raising happens before age 18, I also think the opportunities to guide our kids doesn't end when they reach adulthood. I just have to be more subtle at this stage ;-)

  6. Running your household like a business is smart and pays dividends well beyond the 9 to 5 worklife career span. As you pointed out so adeptly, there are skills involved at every level, and you don't just jump in one day and decide to run a successful household. It takes time, training, dedication, investment, etc. Just like a business. As we enter retirement (starting next month), these thoughts haven't rung more true. I am glad that I have approached our budget and activity in the household with a business mindset. We have laid out our business plan for the next 20-30 years (nah at least solid ones for the next 5 years). Have considered contingencies and made best/worst case scenarios, plans A-D. This surely felt like running a business. Furthermore, I would like to boost my frugality several notches (to your level of carefulness), as I've considered this to be our third leg of retirement (Social Security and our savings as our other two) or our part time activity in retirement. I've tracked my "frugal deeds" for the past 9 months and it seems to average about 1K per month. These are things I've done that require a bit of planning and coordination. So I know that putting a little more effort can pay these great dividends. Funny, I was talking to our son this weekend, and told him that I'm going to learn to be more frugal next year (I won't collect Social Security til October next year), and he said "but you're already frugal?" I explained that frugality is a continuum and I'm going to push it as far as I know how. Once I learn my frugal lifestyle, I doubt I will change once we start receiving retirement benefits, so our retirement checks will have much more value.

    I believe frugality is a trained set of skills that can pay dividends well beyond our work life, day in and day out.


    1. Just another note, frugality is just the means, not the end. Frugality will help us afford what we most value.


    2. Hi YHF,
      It's always good to have a contingency plan, or two or three!
      I see funding retirement, as you do. We'll collect our share of SS, added to our savings/retirement funds, and then just continue to live sensibly. I think it's both mentally and financially important to think through what retirement will look like, for each of us, long before we hit retirement age. You're doing great!

  7. That's a good way to think about it, and I have at times. You do a great job with your business and planning ahead. I think I may have been taking too many mental health days lately in order to hike. :/

    1. Hi Cat,
      Well, those "mental health" days will save money, too. Getting exercise will save on future medical bills. And fresh air is free! So, enjoy those MH days while you can. Winter will be here soon enough.


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