Monday, February 16, 2009

Cash flow considerations

Last week we had a bit of a cash flow problem so I was limited to utilizing only the cash I had in my wallet for any purchases I needed to make. We are lucky in that this was a (very) temporary problem, but it was a new experience for me in the sense that I couldn't just whip out the ol' debit card (already a step up from the credit card) and make my purchases.

I already consider myself a fairly conscientious shopper so that I don't spend needlessly and only buy the things that we need. We are certainly not deprived of anything, and the category of "things we need" can be fairly broad, like certain snack foods, or another set of pajamas for the baby, or something.

Last week I had to rethink my "needs" because I was literally limited to what was in my wallet, and that was courtesy of a return I did at a store and they gave me cash back instead of depositing the funds into the checking account. I had to make that money last until the next cash inflows came. I broke down my "needs" list even further, into two categories: what is needed RIGHT NOW, and what can wait (although still needs to be purchased). I also needed to ensure that I had cash for an emergency if one should come up, so I really didn't want to spend ALL of the cash. This really forced me to think and evaluate my shopping. At the grocery store, did I REALLY need this or that RIGHT NOW? Can it wait? Can I make do with what I have at home?

This exercise forced me to examine my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for meal ingredients and think of how I can use them in fresh ways without buying more food. With the pantry stocked and food in the fridge and freezer, I really thought it was unnecessary to continue buying food - surely I could come up with something. One night we had pasta with bottled sauce and goat cheese we had in the fridge (no point in buying pasta sauce in bulk if it's not going to be used); another night we had salmon patties with mushroom-dill latkes (sounds gourmet, right? I had all the ingredients already). I intended to use up every option available to me before heading out to the store for necessary items (like milk for the baby, etc).

It worked! And fortunately there was no emergency, and I have about $15 left over, so I really didn't spend that much. I'm very pleased. I hope that this new attitude continues because there really is no sense in buying something that I really won't need or use. I just need to be more cognizant of what is already in my house, and how I can use it. Perhaps I can come up with a new use, or a new meal, or a new application for an item. (Thank you Real Simple for the section on New Uses for Old Things!)

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