Conscious Cash Conscious

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.


Folded Money Buddha

Folded Money Buddha

What I have discovered with my ideas of money and budgeting for my family is that it is a trade-off of time and effort vs. expense and convenience. I have to weigh how much of either I’m willing to spend and strike a balance between them.

For example, I will go out of my way to avoid or do without anything made by Nestle regardless of the inconvenience or expense. If I’m at the end of a long day and cooking turkey meatloaf from scratch with 3 exhausted kids hanging on me, I will opt for the Trader Joe’s version even though it costs more and is wrapped in plastic. I do my best to plan meals ahead of time, rely on my crockpot and quick stir-fries that emphasize vegetarian dishes, since they end up less expensive for us.

I notice that I can maintain my commitment to creating as small an environmental impact, teaching the kids about being mindful of where things come from and where they go when we’re finished, and spending as little as possible is increased with patience and planning ahead.

I have to admit that neither patience nor planning is easy for me. I have to work hard at them by being mindful of the balance of discipline and playfulness. These are the things I practice when I consider where and how we spend our money.

My hope in sharing these specific examples, is that they will inspire creative thinking about how to be balance the budget with peaceful practices. Living life mindfully also means saving money.

Covet less

The first thing I try to sort through is whether something is a need or a want. It is hard to sort through this sometimes, especially when a new recipe or educational activity has the potential to enrich our lives. Consumer culture in the US encourages discontent with what I already have and encourages “bigger, better, faster, more” as a lifestyle. It can be difficult to sort through exterior noise to find the message from inside. Creating a disconnect between enjoyment of the new and the need to possess helps my pocketbook.

I remember that ultimately, if I’m undiscerning of my purchases, I will find emptiness and boredom. The trap is that I would need to accumulate more to fill that void. Keeping things simple and not bringing more into my home than I have a space for helps.

If an item goes on sale, there is less need to hoard and more reason to leave things for the next person. There is less of a feeling of being deprived if something is not purchased right away or at all. Taking time and really considering what is needed means that what I do buy is appreciated more but not used as a crutch, and is less of a financial burden.

Care Take More

Before I bring any new item into the house I think about the fact that I am caretaking every part of it. I remember the Buddhist idea that we don’t really own anything, but are temporary users. This includes not only the item, but the packaging and process in creating and transporting the item to me.

For example, if I don’t grow my own, It makes the most sense to by a green pepper from the farmer’s market and place it in my reusable cloth bag. It makes slightly less sense to buy a loose green pepper at the grocery store and the least sense to buy the pepper pre-wrapped in plastic on a plastic tray, grown with pesticides and shipped from who knows how far away.

I am a caretaker for not only the pepper, but also for the plastic wrap and plastic tray. The pepper may have little impact on the earth, but the plastic will be around for more than a thousand years. Is it worth it for one pepper? I don’t own the pepper or plastic wrap even when I buy it. I use them for a time, then they continue to exist in some form long after I’m done with them. That waste will be here for thousands of years after I’m gone and my need for a pepper wrapped in plastic seems tiny in comparison.

So, I have to ask before I purchase anything, “What will happen to this when I’m finished with it? Can it be reused, recycled or turned into something else useful? Or will this be tossed into the landfill and pollute the Earth that I am ultimately a caretaker of as it also caretaker of me?”

I tend to spend far less money this way when I can cringe at the waste created by getting a latte while out instead of waiting until I get home. It saves money to make things myself to avoid excess chemicals and waste both at the time of purchase and after I am done using it.

It never hurts to ask

Before I decided to buy something or get rid of something, I try rehoming. For example, someone may have extra garden bounty or their child has outgrown a toy. Someone may be in need of something I am finished with. I check Freecycle, ask charities and nonprofits, talk to friends, and post to my parenting group. If I am patient, I have almost always been successful at getting and giving.

After my beloved rescue dogs passed away, I wanted to do something to help our local no-kill shelter in their honor. I called them to ask what they were in need of and aside from the expected food, toys, blankets, and money, they also needed medications. I asked everyone I knew for donations and ended up with 4 SUV loads, including a lot of unfinished animal medications that would have ended up polluting, even if properly disposed of.

One of my favorite Freecycle stories is after we purchased some new appliances, we were left with large pieces of Styrofoam pieces. I try to use those for padding items for storage or shipping, but we just had no use for these and they were going to cost us an arm and a leg to dispose of properly. So, I posted on Freecycle. A model airplane builder responded that he could take them all. They make the perfect lightweight filler for his pieces. He said that every single piece would be used.

These experiences proved to me that it is worth the effort to ask. Even things that I think are useless may be the solution to someone else’ search and never have to be recycled or thrown away.

Think Different

Just as I can never guess how someone else might use something I am finished with, I try to think about unusual ways to use the things I already have. For example, that Star Wars action figure my son bought? The paper-backing is heavy-weight enough to withstand reuse as cardstock. The pictures are of my sons’ favorite characters, so they want to reuse them, too. We cut out the characters, tape them to straws and they have puppets for imaginative play. I’ve used the molded plastic as play dough molds, paint cups, or containers for small items.

Money Buddha

Money Buddha

I wash and reuse plastic wrap and bags (I don’t think I’ve bought either in years.) Containers, especially glass jars and cans are perfect containers for everything. I keep a box in the garage and rummage through it whenever I need a space for something. I have saved a lot of money by seeing things that may appear as trash at first because with a little cleaning or modification, I don’t have to buy new.

Crafty blogs and Pinterest have been an endless source for inspiration about reusing things differently. I have a gorgeous drop-side (and therefore recalled) wooden crib that was never used for anything but storing laundry. I found a blog that gave me the idea of repurposing it into a bench and a card rack. These will be wonderful homeschool projects, as well. Now, I won’t have to pay to have it recycled and I won’t have to buy that entryway bench we have been mulling over for years.

Be present with the future

The final thing I think of kicks in most often when I am considering an impulse purchase. Will the momentary joy of this purchase be long or short-term? And if not, is the joy important enough to be worthwhile once it fades? If I spend this money now, how will it affect me later? Can I do without something else if I purchase this?

I like to approach things from a feeling of abundance. While I know that my money is not abundant, if I allow enough joy in, I won’t feel deprived. It is easier to pass on impulse buys if I have already filled my joy bucket that day. Staying present to look for opportunities to do this without spending money keeps my budget in check more often than anything else I do.

How do you balance your family ideals with your budget? I would love to hear from you.

Image credits: Dollar Artist, Tanya-Oniya


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.

32 thoughts on “Conscious Cash Conscious

  1. Pingback: Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family Hybrid Rasta Mama

  2. Pingback: The Green Stuff

  3. Pingback: How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune |

  4. Pingback: ABBA said it! «

  5. Pingback: Money On My Mind | Diary of a First Child

  6. Pingback: Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance | Vibrant Wanderings

  7. I’ve always thought that if I were happy with what I was doing, I wouldn’t need to have so much. And when I read the heading, “Covet less,” I realized that I must be doing something right, despite my constant busyness, exhaustion, overwhelm … because I’m not really feeling that hankering so much anymore.

    Thank you for the idea of caretaking. A profoundly useful way to help me make decisions.

  8. Love all your points here Zoie…

    I am so bad with number 1 in particular…I actually feel quite content with what I have until I go out shopping! It seems like I can’t see things in a mall or grocery store or whatever without wanting to buy and feel deprived if I don’t (even if I had no inkling that thing even existed before I saw it!). I actually do limit going out to such places for that reason, but I’d like to be able to simply resist and really, really know how much I have to be content with.

    • Thank you, Kelly. It is amazing how much the stores prime us to feel that discontent. I have to admit that I avoid clothes shopping because of the feeling. I can shop for other people just fine, but shopping for myself isn’t fun. It feels like desperation. I’m content with what I have (and my husband ends up getting me new clothes when he gets fed up with my same old jeans, tees, and sweaters.)

      Yet another thing on my list to work on diffusin (but it’s at the bottom)

  9. Pingback: An Unexpected Cost of Parenting: The Medical Journey | MamaLady

  10. Pingback: Crunchy Chewy Mama » Blog Archive » Money could buy me … a clone?

  11. Great post, Zoie! I love your emphasis on finding a balance between time and effort vs. expense and convenience. Your green pepper and Freecycle examples were awesome. I tend to give lots of things to Goodwill and the public library, but Freecycle sounds like a wonderful option, too. Deb @

  12. I love the thoughtful way you’ve written about this topic! I found your freecycle & donations section really inspiring — what great ideas for passing things on to a good home. Your point about not needing to buy things on sale hit home as well — I’ve continually had to remind myself I don’t need something just because it’s cheap. Thanks for giving me still another way to think about it when the covetous urge strikes.

    • Thank you, Lauren. It’s easy to get caught up in those urges, isn’t it? They’re full of possibilities for future happiness (or it seems that way)

      I started reading Walden Pond after writing this. My husband has been looking sideways at me as I have been considering donating entire boxes without looking inside. If we haven’t opened them in 2 years, we probably don’t need it. Possessions feel dead weights to me lately and that’s hard to reconcile with 3 little kids.

  13. I like the way you thought about your choice of which pepper to buy, I’ve been thinking about the ridiculous amount of plastic packaging recently (especially after hearing about the North Pacific Gyre – I had no idea these things even existed…) and I’m taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic waste that our household produces. This quote of yours will stick with me: “What will happen to this when I’m finished with it? Can it be reused, recycled or turned into something else useful? Or will this be tossed into the landfill and pollute the Earth that I am ultimately a caretaker of as it also caretaker of me?”
    I’m also trying to teach my eldest daughter to be mindful of our world, but I think I’ve still got a way to go myself. I really enjoyed reading your post.

    • Thank you for your comment, Phoebe. It’s horrific when thinking about it, isn’t it? All that plastic and for what? A moment’s use? I think we do what we can and if enough people act differently (and let businesses know what we’re doing, ala Beth Terry‘s example) things will change. Or they won’t and the roaches will reign supreme in our trash.

  14. This post really resonates with me, Zoie. I’m grateful for it. I really have issues with an imagined sense that I’m depriving myself when I pass on things I want. This leads to me splurging more often than I would like to, and wishing it were different later. You have given me a radically different way to look at and respond to these types of situations. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Melissa. That is a tough one, isn’t it? My key to unlocking has been to understand what fills me and what depletes me (and then be honest about it.) I like to think being with my family fills me, but it often depletes me. I need things for myself too. Those things are: Yoga, meditation, quiet time, walking, music, reading, and writing. Buying things doesn’t make it to the list, although I think it might sometimes.

      The hard one for me to diffuse is food. It doesn’t actually make me feel better lately and I’m looking at why…

  15. Pingback: Total Disclosure and Total Reform « The Adventures of Lactating Girl

  16. I admire the way many of your ideas save you money, even though the focus of your post is not on living frugal or thrifty. I try to be that way, too. I hate having to consider every purchase froma nickel-and-dime perspective!

    And will you please post pictures of that crib-turned-bench when you get it done?

    • Thank you, Patti! I started to write about being frugal and thrifty, but it just didn’t move me this month (I’m in the middle of spending mode for homeschool supplies and the upcoming holidays, I guess)

      I will post the bench, but please don’t hold your breath. I’m looking at next year at the earliest…

  17. Pingback: Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers « Intrepid Murmurings

  18. Fantastic ideas! I especially like being mindful that we are responsible for the packaging, not just the item. We also have to work to match our budget and our ideals. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thank you for stopping by to comment, CatholicMommy. It’s easy to overlook the packaging, isn’t it? I sometimes feel ill about the extravagant packaging everywhere and what is being done with it when the item has been removed.

  19. I *love* the story about everyone donating to the animal shelter – what a success!! And I’m with you on rehoming and looking for hand-me-downs before buying. Through our local parenting board, we rehome some of the most random things that would otherwise go to waste. Ty for sharing Zoie!

  20. Pingback: Parenting While Owning a Home Business | Natural Parents Network

  21. Some fantastic ideas; thanks for sharing. I particularly loved the Buddhist concept that we are simply borrowing things and I couldn’t agree more that things begin with separating wants from needs. In a consumerist culture we need to pay a lot of attention to that one.

    • Thank you, Mrs. Green. I think much of it is because there’s so much to deal with. It’s easier to unplug with the newest and ignore that it will be an empty feeling after awhile. Corporations use it as another way to manipulate the masses. It’s nigh on impossible to break away from that.

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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