How Balanced Is Your Budget?


I love seeing everything at once in my tiny, organized pantry!

I love seeing everything at once in my tiny, organized pantry!

I’m bracing myself for a barrage of hate mail for posting this, but my recent discovery has brought me such freedom that I simply must shout it from the rooftops!

I’d like to think I’ve proven myself as a reasonably frugal consumer. When I say “frugal”, I mean that I am budget-conscious and put some effort into finding decent bargains while also recognizing that my time is at least as limited as my finances. 

First an admission: I do not coupon (gasp). I found it to be too time consuming and confusing. On top of that, in order for couponing to work, you have to actually remember to give the cashier your coupons…oops!  I used to be a regular shopper at warehouse stores like Sam’s and Costco because of the low per-unit price you could get by buying in bulk. But then I realized that while spending $400 in one week for 3 different items may save me money in the long run, my short-term cash flow was precisely that…short. So I began shopping at a discount grocery store that stocks mostly off-brand products but where the prices (and the quality) are at least as good as the coupon and warehouse deals without the hassle or the huge outlay.

Finally, I had managed to secure a low unit cost without having to purchase a high quantity. I began to see the benefits of fitting normal-sized products into my tiny pantry (pictured above…I just love my pantry). Gone (eventually) were the 2-liter bottles of soy sauce and vats of olive oil. Crackers, pretzels and cereal were no longer going stale before they could be consumed. I was able to reclaim part of my garage for storing other items besides overflow food. And it no longer took the National Guard to help me unload all the groceries each week.

Unfortunately, I kept buying more cans and boxes than I actually consumed each week out of pure habit…”just to have some on hand”. I still had one large shelf reserved in the garage for storing all my extras. In the garage, mind you…where I hate to go. I would send the kids down to get stuff for me, so I lacked a keen sense of what was actually there. I was always buying things we didn’t need and not buying something we did need simply because I assumed we already had more of it down in the garage.

And then something happened to knock some sense into me. I fell down the stairs and dislocated my shoulder…badly. I could no longer carry as many groceries and was forced to shorten my weekly shopping list to only what I knew we would use in the next week or two. 

Eureka! Now I can fit everything into my pantry where I can easily see at a glance just what we need. Everything is fresh and actually consumed rather than wasted. Putting the groceries away is quicker and easier, and I now have even more room in my garage. I feel so FREE!

All of this has made me realize that being a “frugal” consumer means respecting not just your financial and time limitations, but your space limitations too. My father used to always say, “Space is at a premium.” It surely is a precious commodity to be used wisely. Don’t squander your spacial budget just to stretch your financial or time budgets. Find a balance of all three.

How do you balance your financial, time and spacial budgets?

Note: Your Sam’s or Costco membership may still be worthwhile for purchasing household items, office supplies, electronics, etc. at a great price or for when you are feeding a large crowd. I am not suggesting you ditch it!  Just don’t let bulk purchases of regular groceries eat up all your space.


The Cure for Chronic Medicine Cabinet Pain

Almost everyone has snooped in someone else’s medicine cabinet at some point in their lives. My grandparents loved to tell the story of the time their houseguest, while brushing his teeth one morning, let out a loud yowl from the bathroom. Turns out he’d gone into the medicine cabinet to “borrow” some toothpaste and accidentally grabbed the Ben-Gay by mistake. Ouch! Serves him right, I say.

Most medicine cabinets these days are filled with more personal hygiene and beauty products than medicine, and rightfully so. Turns out that despite its name, a medicine cabinet in the bathroom is one of the worst places to store medicines due to the warm, humid environment. (For more information on proper storage of medicine, see this link from ). Snoop these days and you are more likely to find a vast array of hair care products, make up, nail polish and…well, crud, to be frank. Spilled mouthwash, gloopy toothpaste, the dusty old aftershave given as a gift and never used. And, okay, a few bottles containing some old prescription pills that expired two years ago.

The bathroom embarrassment doesn’t end there (and no, I’m not talking about bodily functions). What’s under your sink? Ten-year-old bubble bath? Cardboard and plastic wrappings from multi-packs of soap, deodorant, toothpaste and toilet paper whose contents were consumed long ago? How about dust…lots and lots of dust, grime and grossness? Whatever it is, it’s not likely to be a scene you’d want snooping guests in your privy to be privy to.

Get out your calendar right now and schedule a bathroom organization overhaul for six months from now. You only need to allot about 15 minutes for it, because you are about to do all the heavy lifting now. Grab a trashbag, an old rag or two, and your favorite all-purpose cleaner and start tossing all the old, expired, never used junk out of your medicine cabinet and under the sink. You’ll be amazed at how much space you’ll save just by getting rid of all the useless garbage you’ve been harboring. Next, give everything a good wipe down and clean the cabinets well.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, Opening Doors to Organization (, I’m a big proponent of utilizing the inside of cabinet doors and the prime real estate on the back of a door. One of my favorite organizing tools is the old shoe pocket organizer with clear plastic pockets. They are good for so much more than shoes and really enable you to maximize storage opportunities behind the door. I did a recent bathroom re-organization where the medicine cabinet was not only so stuffed that the countertop was infected with the clutter bug from the overflow, but it was old and shabby looking too. The paint was chipping and there were stains that could not be cleaned from the cheap shelves. My solution was to move everything to a pocket organizer that hangs on the back of the bathroom door. After cleaning out the medicine cabinet, the organizer not only held all the remaining contents of the cabinet, but there was room enough left over to store hair brushes, accessories and hairdryers too. Winning!

Best of all, you’ll save money when you discover all the treasures in your bathroom cabinet you didn’t realize were there. My clients won’t need to buy soap, deodorant or razors for quite awhile now.Who knows…you may even find an extra tube of Ben-Gay to share with house guests who forgot their toothpaste!

Medicine Cabinet Before - OutsideMedicine Cabinet Before - InsideAfter Bathroom Organization OverhaulThe Magic Cure!