Sunday, August 15, 2010

Champagne Taste, Beer Budget?

No problem!  Something I have been meaning to post about for a while now is budget.  We're still working on one that works for us, so I didn't feel like I could really say much on the topic.  But then I thought, "Hey, we're a one income family who is able to save, go out on the town and buy nice things occasionally.  Maybe I do have something to talk about!"  I'm not tooting my own horn by any means.  In fact, I constantly think we spend too much, but then accept that saving everything isn't very chic.  Especially if you want a life.  After running out to Sur La Table in Annapolis today to look at the Staub pots, and caving and buying a Valharona chocolate bar for some mousse later this week, G and I began to discuss our new philosophy as well as things that we've been doing the last 3 years.  

First, we buy the best we can afford.  Secondly, this doesn't mean the most popular or expensive, and we research, research, research.  Thirdly, we evaluate if we really want/need something before purchasing it.  Hence the reason I've been considering cast iron cookware for 3 years. (I take my sweet time.) And lastly, we take care of the pieces so that they will last a lifetime. 

We have a motto when it comes to food.  Buy the best, eat less.  It has helped me really enjoy food more (who knew I would fall in love with cheeses?), while eating less and slimming down.  We have our CSA (though it isn't expensive overall, it was a chunk of change upfront), because it allows us access to organic small farm tomatoes that taste exactly like God intended a tomato to taste.  We buy organic milk because I don't like the hormones and antibiotics in regular milk, and we think it tastes better.  The cost does make you more careful with just chowing down on it, and instead I find satisfaction in smaller quantities.    With other things in our home we do the same.  We buy beeswax candles for the health of them and they smell divine.  We purchase clothing that we expect with care to last years or even decades (I tend to choose more classic pieces).  

This doesn't mean we always (or even often) spend a lot of money.  Trader Joes has some very affordable cheese.  In fact their log of plain goat's cheese is far cheaper than what I can get even at the commissary!  We pick up coupons for our organic dairy products (milk, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and half & half).  Our earl grey tea we love we bought in bulk.  Same for our escargot (Amazon has some great deals).  And champagne?  We don't make enough to drink it all the time, but have found some great sparkling wines that are completely affordable.  We research and shop around on any big purchase.  We got a deal on our iMac because it was the only one they had and was the floor model.  Currently we're looking at getting a tea kettle and fell in love with the Simplex one for a gas stove.  But at $140 dollars we decided to wait and see.  We came home, have searched out reviews and after reading many that talked about owning theirs for 15+ years we decided that wasn't more than a coffee date out each year.  We won't rush out and get it, but next time we see if we'll be picking it up.  
As for not going with something just because it's popular, this can be highlighted by the Le Creuset vs. Staub.  While I'm sure the Le Creuset is a fine pot, after looking both over at the same time, we decided we like the Staub better.  The knob on top is easier to grip, the handles are bigger, allowing me to carry it more easily, and it's got the spikes on the inside of the lid to baste my meats for me.  So we will be going with the Staub.  

I have been doing very well lately evaluating whether we need something, even the small things.  Ten and five dollars here and there often enough adds up, and will get you quicker than a big purchase because it sneaks up on you.  If I decide we don't need something then we ask, but do we really want it?  Such as "I don't really need this pair of shoes.  But I really want them."  At that point I mentally go through my closet deciding if they will fit into my wardrobe well enough to be cost effective.  I have a pair of gold Coach loafers that made the cut back in April.  They don't have anything flashy shouting "Coach!" which was important to me, they are comfortable and I've found they look good with jeans and a simple top.  For bigger items we evaluate if we really need them or just want them.  For my wedding I registered for crystal that I now kinda hate.  It isn't me, and because of that we rarely use them.  So they will be sold once we've saved for some delicate crystal wine glasses over this next year.  It was nice to have crystal at the time, but by making a quick decision, it ended up being a waste of money.  I'd love a set of All Clad cookware, but my Emerilware has obviously done very well by me and isn't going anywhere for years to come.  In fact, it looks the same as it did the day I bought them.  

Which leads me to this:  take care of your things and they will last.  Of course, accidents happen.  Things will break or simply wear out.  But a little bit of care can go a long way.  We're careful with our breakables.  We make sure to go over our clothes and keep them in good shape.  We polish our shoes, clean dirt off the soles, and I have a few pairs getting ready to go see Mr. Cobbler for new soles and heel tips.  With clothes, washing them every time you wear them, unless they get actually dirty, wears them out.  G loves his button downs, and so when he gets home he hangs them up to air out and throws on a tee.  I hand wash my lingerie to keep it in shape and looking nice.  It's little things that really don't take long, but will keep your purchases looking lovely for years to come.  

You can live a chic life full of champagne bubbles, it just takes figuring out how to make it work!  


  1. I miss Sur la Table. You are so right about taking care of your stuff to last for a long time. I got to go to a Le Crueset outlet and got me one. This and the Sur le Table cookware is the most expensive items that I have in the whole house. Content, oh yeah!
    As for food budgeting I kind of know how much I spend each month. We have been buying from the local market which is way cheaper. When we eat foreign food it does add up. So it does balance it out.

  2. So true, I just gave away my wedding dinner service - I have no idea what I was thinking with my formal choice back then!

    Great philosophy, all of our treats are thought out too nowadays.

  3. You are wise to research and plan to buy quality items. When my husband and I were younger, I was a stay at home mother so we had a tight budget. Once or twice a year, my husband would get a bonus check and he would always share it with me. I always looked forward to that event and would plan to purchase quality household items with the money. Many years later, we still have many of those items and I'm glad I waited and invested.

  4. I have a motto...."life is too short to own crappy cookware". I bought a Le Creuset pot this year and cannot believe I waited so long. It has made all the difference in how my food turns out. Well worth the investment. I've asked for another size Le Creuset for my birthday this year. I'm going to slowly build that collection, but the great thing is, it just takes a few pieces to have all you need. I really do believe in buying the best you can afford as you say. It makes a lot of sense. Saving in other areas is often worth it to splurge on something that will last.

    I really enjoyed this post Kalee!

  5. I, too, am in love with cheese. I could make an entire meal out of cheeses.

  6. I thought I was the only one who looked for deals on escargot! Ha ha. We have a discount store here that has huge cans (probably 40 snails) for $3. They are the same brand that are sold in the supermarket for $15 or so! I now own probably 10 escargot plates (thanks ebay) so I will have to have to serve them at a large dinner party some day...

  7. I love your message in this post. Even though I live the same way I learned a lot from it. Merci.

  8. I so agree with the taking care of your things and clothes! I think if you take the time to research and you invest in quality it's so much less wasteful and so worth it.

    I am always shocked at the number of people that toss out baby clothes and potty training underwear at the first stain. It's amazing what you can get out with a little elbow grease and good products! We have only tossed two of my daughter's pieces to date and she's two. And we have had our share of stains! I buy pretty good quality there too - why buy what will fall apart at the first wash for cheap? We buy things that will last multiple washings and multiple kids. Now if we don't have a girl next - we'll just pass on the well cared for clothes to someone else who needs them.

  9. Great post. We've been married 29 years and made do a lot so I could be home with the kids. We are now in a position to replace and upgrade some of our things and like you, I'm giving a lot of thought to those purchases.

    You mentioned cast iron. My mother gave me three of her old cast iron skillets (different sizes)and my grandmother had given me her HUGE skillet in which she used to fry chicken. Despite having had these in my possession for a few years, I've only recently begun using one. I now have a perfectly seasoned skillet which is better than the Calphalon non-stick pans I had been using. I'm convinced. I will be seasoning the others and getting rid of the Calphalon.

    When we married, my aunt and uncle bought us a set of Amway waterless stainless steel cookware. Believe it or not, those are the only pans I've ever owned (other than non-stick skillets) and they are still just fine. Perhaps not as pristine as they once were but perfectly serviceable. Quality counts.