Why I don’t say “We can’t afford that.”

I don't say "I can't afford," and it's not because of what it reveals about our finances.  See what you think.  Changing the way you talk might change your finances too!

With a budget like ours, you might think that we would say that we can’t afford a lot of things.  While we talk openly about our limited finances, you won’t hear me say that I can’t afford something.

The phrase “I can’t afford ___” has always been an awkward one for me.  I avoid saying “I can’t afford ___,” not because of what it reveals about our finances, but because it’s negative, makes me the victim, and solicits financial advice.  I also think there are psychological benefits of changing what you say.

It Has a Negative Connotation

When I hear the phrase “can’t afford,” it brings me back to middle school.  I always cringed when mean kids would pick on kids who obviously had less than them, and say “at least I can afford ___.”

I came from a middle class family, but I always felt protective of the kids who came from poorer families.  I didn’t care so much if people made fun of my off-brand shoes, but when less fortunate kids were teased with “you can’t even afford ___.”  That really rubbed me the wrong way.  Sometimes kids are really mean.

It’s Passive, Not Active

Saying that you can’t afford something puts you in a passive position.    You’re not in charge.  Someone or something else is in control.  You’re the victim.

Choosing not to spend money, on the other hand puts you in an active position.  You are in control!  It’s not your finances that are controlling you, but you taking responsibility for your money.  By voicing how I choose to spend my money, I feel empowered instead of victimized by my finances.

I Don’t Want Financial Advice

When I hear others talk about financial problems, my mind immediately tries to solve them.  I don’t always give unsolicited financial advice, but I usually think it.  I’m not judging, just trying to solve problems and find solutions.  If a friend complains “We just can’t afford ____,” then my mind will make a quick analysis of their spending to try to find a way for them to make room in their budget.

I usually don’t want others analyzing and prioritizing my spending to help me overcome problems.  Avoiding phrases like “we can’t afford ___” keeps the financial advice at bay.  No one can argue with what I choose and it doesn’t present a problem to solve.

What I Say Instead

I take an active role in my finances by saying what I choose.  For example, before we got an amazing deal on smartphones, I would say “We don’t want to spend money on smartphones right now” instead of “We can’t afford smartphones.”

Other times I will list the alternative: “Going to Six Flags would be fun, but we would rather put more toward our student loans this month.”

If my kids ask for something that costs too much or that I don’t want to spend money on I will tell them “That costs more than I want to spend” or “Let’s see if we can find it at a better price.”  I also try to help them weigh their choices and focus on goals.

Am I Alone?

I very well may be the only one who has an aversion to the phrase “I can’t afford ____.”
That’s fine.  I’m a word person.  The semantic difference between “I can’t afford __” and “I don’t want to spend money on ___” is very apparent to me.  At the same time, I can see how people who don’t get so linguistically involved would say that they are essentially the same.

In addition to the linguistics, the psychology behind what we say is interesting to me.  If we start speaking less passively, will we become a more active participant in our finances?  Will taking responsibility through our words carry over into our actions?

  • Does anyone share my aversion to saying “I can’t afford ___”?  Why do you avoid it?
  • Is there a difference to you between “I can’t afford ___” and “I don’t want to spend money on ___?”

Saving Money On Food By Buying Ingredients and Cooking From Scratch

So far in 2014, we've spent an average of $239 a month on food for our family of 5. One of the ways we keep our costs down is by cooking from scratch. Here are some ideas to help you get started saving.

Every month when I share the ins and outs of our family’s finances, people are surprised at how little we spend on food for our family of five.  Our goal is to always stay under $300, which we have done every month except Januaray ($317).  For the past 8 months (Jan-Aug 2014) the average amount we spent on groceries was $239.  We had one no-spend month in there, which brings the average down.

Cooking From Scratch

One of the major contributing factors to our low grocery budget is that we buy ingredients instead of prepared or convenience food.   Prepared food, whether it be from a restaurant, take-out, or from the grocery store, is generally more expensive than cooking your own meal from scratch.  As you become accustomed to home-cooked foods, your taste buds won’t let you go back to prepared foods.

When we get home from our big monthly grocery shopping trip to Winco and Sam’s Club, we still don’t “have anything to eat.”  Besides fresh fruits and veggies there isn’t anything we can dig right into.  It all needs to be prepared.  Next month, I will be showing you exactly what a month of SixFiguresUnder grocery shopping looks like.

Every family’s budget, tastes, and preferences are different, so everyone’s grocery list will vary.  If you’re used to having mostly prepared and convenience foods, make small changes each month, so that the changes will be sustainable and not overwhelming.  As you look through your shopping list see what items you could replace with ingredients.

Here are a few ideas:

Instead of buying a club sandwich from the deli near work, buy the ingredients to make your own sandwich to bring with you.

Instead of buying cans of soup, buy the ingredients to make a big pot of soup in the crock pot.  Eat half for dinner and freeze the rest.

Instead of buying boxed pasta dinners (Pasta Roni, Hamburger Helper, etc.) or frozen lasagnas, buy the dry pasta and other ingredients to make it yourself.

Additional Benefits of Cooking From Scratch

Cooking from scratch is healthier, which will save you money in the long run when it comes to health and medical-related costs.  When you cook from scratch, the ingredients are fresher and do not require any chemical preservatives.

Besides being cheaper and healthier, food cooked from scratch tastes better!  From mashed potatoes to chocolate chip cookies, fresh bread to chicken noodle soup, the homemade version is always tastier than the alternative.

Do What Works For You

Cooking from scratch isn’t the only way to save on food costs.  For some lifestyles and personal preferences, cooking from scratch all the time may not work.  If you are interested in lowering your food expenses, consider at least experimenting with cooking from scratch.

If you have a busy schedule, take advantage of slow cooker meals.  You will be amazed at the variety of healthy, delicious, and inexpensive meals you can cook in your slow cooker with very limited preparations.

Some of My Favorites

Here are a few favorites below.  You can find more more here.

Creamy Tacos Casserole is a frugal and delicious dinner that makes great leftovers! Homemade Tomato Sauce from Tomato Puree that you canned Mock Lasagna

Homemade Whole Wheat Pancake Mix-- Our secret to a fast, healthy, hot breakfast! Cooking and Freezing Dry Beans Cheesy Squash

How About You?

  • Is cooking from scratch worth the savings for you?
  • What ideas do you have to help others get started cooking from scratch?
  • What are your favorite meals to cook from scratch?

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In the next couple months, I will explain several of the other ways we are able to keep our grocery budget so low and still enjoy healthy meals for our family of five.

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Let’s Talk About Interest

"Those who understand interest earn it.  Those who don't pay it."  When did you grasp the concept of interest?  Have you taught your kids?  Let's discuss!

I was probably a teenager when I first heard J. Reuben Clark’s classic explanation of the power interest has on those in debt.  I remember the uneasy feeling I had.  I caught a glimpse of the bondage of debt.  I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid having interest as my constant companion.

“Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation. … Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.”  

I also remember learning, at about the same time, the principle “Those who understand interest earn it.  Those who don’t pay it.”  It was clear to me which side of interest I wanted to be on.

Still, years passed and life happened.  We knew exactly what we were doing when we chose to go into debt (thought there are still things I would have done differently).  We don’t like this debt thing very much, so we’re trying to get out of it as fast as we can.  It will be refreshing to be just earning interest and not paying it anymore!

Kids Get It

Our young children understand interest.  We are open with them about our debt situation and we use it to teach them about debt.  They know that interest makes the amount of money that we have to pay grow.  They know that the longer it takes us to pay back Daddy’s law school loans, the more we will have to pay.  They know that if we pay the loans quickly we will pay much less.

The other day we were talking about interest at the dinner table.  My kids were asking how banks make money.  (It was mainly the 5- and 6-year-old, the nearly 3-year-old was pretty involved in his dinner.)  We explained that people let the bank hold their money because the bank pays them a little bit of interest.  Then the bank gives their money to other people to borrow.  When people borrow money from the bank, the bank charges the borrowers interest.  The amount of interest the borrowers pay the bank is much higher than the amount of interest that the bank pays to people who let the the bank use their money, so the bank keeps the difference.

This was the first time we had talked much about the good side of interest.  The kids picked up quickly.  It was obvious to them that we would rather let the bank use our money and pay us interest, than borrow from the bank and have to pay them interest.

Let’s Discuss!

  • When did you first grasp the concept of earning interest?  Of paying interest?
  • Do your kids understand both sides of interest?
  • Have you felt the crushing and enslaving power of interest, as Clark describes?

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Homemade Bagels Step-by-Step Tutorial

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

I have always been intimidated by the idea of making homemade bagels.  Fresh-made bagels from a specialty shop are so delicious, that I figured I couldn’t even come close at home.  I knew that their were several steps and some unique techniques, so I thought it was something that would be easier to see done than just learned from a recipe.

Well, this weekend fresh bagels sounded really good, so I got brave and gave them a try!  I found a great recipe from the Prudent Homemaker.  We made the first batch on Friday evening while we waited for Daddy to get home from work.

I was AMAZED!  They were so delicious and just like our favorite fresh-made, store-bought bagels!  For dinner that night, we ate cheese-topped bagels along with fresh homemade tomato basil soup, then the kids had a raisin bagel for dessert.

By Saturday evening, we only had one bagel left, so we made another batch.  The kids really want to have them in their school lunches on Monday.

For those of you who are visual learners, I took pictures along the way, so you don’t have to be intimidated by the process.  Here goes!

Homemade Bagels

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water (105-110 degrees)
  • 4 Tablespoons yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 7 cups flour
  • 1 egg white (for glaze)
  • 1 Tablespoon water (for glaze)
  • toppings and/or mix-ins of choice

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water, yeast and sugar.  Let yeast bubble and foam for about 10 minutes.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Mix in salt.  Add in flour and stir until dough comes together.  When it becomes difficult to stir, use your hands to knead the dough.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Knead dough on your working surface for 5 minutes, adding additional flour if dough becomes sticky.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

If you want to add mix-ins to some of your bagels, you’ll want to do that at this point.  The recipe will make 16 large bagels.  I divided my dough into quarters so I can make several different kinds.  This time, I’m adding raisins to 1/4 of it, craisins to 1/4 of it and keeping the other 1/2 plain.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Once you’ve kneaded in your mix-ins, put each ball of dough in a floured bowl to rise.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Cover your dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour.  I spent the afternoon canning tomatoes,  cooking beans, and making blackberry cobbler, so my kitchen was plenty warm!

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

After an hour, your dough should have about doubled in size.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Divide your dough into 16 equal pieces.  If you have all your dough together, divide it into fourths, then divide each fourth into four parts.

I use a dough scraper/cutter whenever I’m make bread or other pastries.  I prefer plastic ones because I don’t have to worry about it scraping of marring any surfaces.  The curved edge is perfect for scraping out bowls.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

To form bagels, roll each piece of dough into a ball, then press your thumbs into the center to make the hole.  (That tumor in the picture below is a cluster of raisins.)

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Lay on a lightly floured working surface (more flour than in the picture).  You can see bagels at the top of the picture were done first and were already starting to rise by the time we finished (my 6-year-old was my helper).

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Cover and allow to rise for about 10 minutes.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Meanwhile, prepare a pot of lightly boiling water.  You pot doesn’t need to be super deep, just deep enough to hold enough water so the bagels don’t touch the bottom of the pan. Adding a tablespoon of sugar helps give the bagels a nice sheen.

Also, spray two large cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray.

After bagels have had about 10 minutes to puff up, careful bring them to your boiling water 1 or 2 at a time.  You can have 2-4 in your water at a time, depending on the diameter of your pan.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Set a timer for 1 minute.  After a minute, flip the bagels over using a slotted spatula.  Allow bagels to boil on the other side for about 30 seconds.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Remove the bagels from the pot with a slotted spatula.  Allow them to drip off over the pot, then flip them onto your greased cookie sheet so the prettier side is up.  Repeat until all the bagels have taken their turn in the boiling water.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Whisk the egg white with a tablespoon of water for a glaze.  If you have a fancy utensil you can brush the glaze over the bagels, otherwise, you can just use your finger, like me!  This time I left the raisin and craisin bagels plain on top, but we’ve also sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops which, of course, was a big hit with the munchkins.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

This time we tried some onion bagels.  I re-hydrated some dehydrated onion in a bowl when I started making the dough.  I drained off the water the spread some of the onions on the bagels tops after glazing them with egg white.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

My favorite kind of bagels are the cheesy ones!  Using a cheese slicer, I cut thin slices of regular cheddar cheese that I broke into pieces and spread around the tops of my bagels after glazing them.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Have your oven racks spread apart so that you can fit both pans in at once.  Total cooking time will be 25-30 minutes, but after half of the time has passed, switch your pans.  That way, they each have an equal opportunity to get their bottoms and tops turn a beautiful golden brown.

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

Use a spatula to take a peek at the bottoms near the end of their baking time to be sure they don’t burn.  When they look good on the bottom and top, they’re done!  Use a spatula to move them to a cooling rack.  Enjoy warm or let them cool and store in an airtight container.  If your house is like mine, they won’t last long, but if they do, bagels freeze like a dream!

Step-by-step photo tutorial for delicious homemade bagels.  Create a gourmet bakery treat with this simple recipe and your favorite bagel toppings or mix-ins!

 

The possibilities are endless when it comes to toppings and mix-ins fro homemade bagels.  Get creative and experiment to find your favorites!  If you’re a vanilla kind of person, just leave them plain!

For more from-scratch recipes and money-saving kitchen tips check out our Cutting Kitchen Costs archive.

Note: This post contains a few affiliate links for some products I love.  For more information, see my disclosure policy.

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