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How much money do I “earn” by living frugally?

by Karen on June 22, 2011

Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, I don’t add any steady monetary income to our household (aside from occasional freelance work and sporadic income from this here blog). However, my decision to stay home has afforded me more time for household chores than I would have if I worked. To offset our lower income, I try to devote my extra time to tasks that reduce our expenses, and I consider the money we save as my financial contribution to our household.

I thought it might help motivate me to figure some rough estimates of what I’m “earning.” Hopefully you’ll find it helpful, too.

Cloth diapers

I initially invested about $300 in our cloth diaper stash, which will fit Judah until he’s potty-trained. The time I devote to cloth diapers is an extra 3 loads of laundry per week. I line dry them to fight stains, bacteria, and reduce electricity costs. I probably only spend about an hour washing cloth diapers every week. That four hours of work saves us about $30-$50 per month.

Breastfeeding

I realize that for working moms who need to pump, breastfeeding can be a considerable time investment. Since I’m with Judah 24/7, breastfeeding doesn’t take anymore time than formula feeding (in fact, it probably takes less time since I don’t have any bottles to wash). It saves us $75-$100 per month. Easy money!

Line drying clothes

I line dry about two loads of laundry per week, in addition to diapers. It takes maybe 30 minutes to hang and take down each load of laundry, so I spend about four hours a month line drying laundry. It’s difficult to estimate how much money we’re saving at this point. My dryer isn’t very efficient, so I often had to run loads through two or three dry cycles to get them totally dry. Estimates for dryer costs vary depending on your dryer, how many loads you dry, and how efficient it is. I estimate that we save about $10 per month by line drying. You could argue that $2.50 per hour isn’t worth the time it takes to line dry, but I find hanging our laundry relaxing, I like the way it smells when it line dries, and I like that we’re reducing our carbon footprint, so I’m sticking with it.

Eating at home

This is where I admit that even though I’m a stay-at-home mom, my husband is the cook in our house. Thankfully, since he’s a college professor, a lot of his work load involves grading papers and preparing lesson plans at home, so he’s home a lot more than the average full-time worker. So he cooks dinner for us every night when he gets home. I spend about 30 minutes a week menu planning, and we spend another hour and a half shopping together. Most meals take 30 minutes to an hour to prepare. All together, that adds up to 5 to 9 hours a week. There are too many factors at play to know exactly how much we’re saving, but we can easily spend the equivalent of our entire week’s grocery budget on two restaurant meals, so it adds up.

Coupons

I’ve really cut back on my couponing lately, because we’ve built such a huge stockpile at the drugstores. When I was clipping coupons every week, I spent probably an hour clipping coupons and planning shopping trips, and another 20 or 30 minutes in the drugstores. It’s tough to quantify how much I actually earned, but I could buy enough toiletries to last months in a single shopping trip for pennies per item.

Television

We cut our $50-per-month cable bill, and replaced it with Hulu, Netflix, and the library. Our memberships to Hulu and Netflix cost a total of $20 per month. Watching less TV costs us nothing, and forces us to get out and do other things. Win-win!

I eventually hope to add gardening to this list to cut our food expenses. Next year!

How does frugality enhance your income?

Photo credit: me!

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