January 15, 2009

Money Talk And Cupcakes

I've been thinking a lot about how we spend our money lately--mainly, because we have less of it now. I'm not entirely sure how much less. I've been meaning to make up a budget ever since Warren started working three days a week, but instead of being a responsible adult and facing the situation head-on, I'm taking the three-year-old approach--the one where you cover your eyes and the bad thing disappears. So I'm pretty much ignoring my bank account altogether. Am I the only one who does this?

Anyway, lets steer clear of the growing list of Things I've Been Avoiding and get back to money talk. This is what I've been thinking: First of all, it makes a lot more sense to buy used than it does to buy new, on many levels--it's better for the environment and it's better for your wallet. And thanks to freecycle and craigslist finding obscure used items (jogging trampoline, anyone?) has never been easier. So, I've made a commitment to myself to buy used whenever possible. In order to make this work I've decided that I should try three alternate ways of getting an item used before buying it new. So I might try craigslist, then a second hand store, then maybe our homeschool e-group and if I haven't found what I'm looking for I'll buy it new.

Some things are better purchased new, though. For example, that book on the teenage body that I'm getting for Jerry. I really don't want to end up with a copy that's been embellished by the comments and drawings of a 13-year-old boy. Call me crazy but I think it's better to be safe than sorry in this case. Also, I considered getting a chemistry kit used but then I got worried about having the right chemicals to do the experiments, or things being mislabeled (and explosions ensuing) and I thought I'd better go new in that case as well. So, I'm not being too rigid about the whole thing.

When I do buy new I'm trying to buy local as much as possible. One way to make buying local easier is to find what you're looking for online and then see if a local store can order it for you. I tried that with the chemistry kit but the company that makes the kit has a $500 minimum so it didn't work out because the store owner didn't need $500 worth of merchandise from them. Still, some companies don't have a minimum so it could work. Of course, sometimes buying local is more expensive (it's hard to beat amazon.com's prices) but business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open might be willing to make a deal--it doesn't hurt to ask.

Speaking of buying locally, here's something else I've been thinking about: What's my responsibility to the businesses in my community? I've been thinking about this a lot since I started toying with the idea of joining the compact. One of the things I love about Silver Lake (my area of L.A.) is that it's so vibrant. Part of what makes it so vibrant are the boutique stores, cafes, restaurants and mom and pop businesses scattered throughout the neighborhood. If I want those places to stay open I have a responsibility to spend my money there, right? Right. So, how do I balance my own need to save money and tread lightly on the earth with my desire to keep these neighborhood businesses alive?

I think I'm probably on the right track with the whole idea of asking local business owners to order the items I would otherwise be buying online. Sure, it takes a little more time, but it also gets me talking to the local business owners more than I would if I were just buying off the shelf. And that creates a stronger sense of community. Seems like a win/win situation really.

So that's what's been on my mind these days. That and the cream-filled chocolate cupcakes I made a couple weeks ago. I can't stop thinking about them! The cream filling is almost exactly the same as the cream filling in Krispy Kreme's plain glazed cream-filled donuts! I'm going to do a terrible thing now and tell you how to make that cream. It's so easy (which is why it's terrible). All you need is a jar of marshmallow creme and a stick of unsalted butter. When the butter reaches room temperature put it in a mixer with your 7 ounces of marshmallow creme, whip it together, and voila! Your arteries will start to harden just looking at it.

No comments: