Monthly Money Lesson – April 2020

When I first started the monthly money mistake series it was a way to stay accountable at the same time as learning new money lessons.  This month I’m going to focus more on the money lesson than the money mistake.

A money lesson also sounds more targeted toward growth than a money mistake. Yes, it is good to learn from one’s mistakes, but learning comes from the lesson, and growth has always been the focus of this series.

With everything going on in the world right now we are not spending as much money as we used to.  And with so many shops closed there is less temptation to mindlessly buy things (I’m not much of an online shopper) and our travel budget has dropped to zero. 

Looking back on previous monthly money mistakes, a lot of them have to do with food.  This month’s money lesson also seems to relate to food, although the lesson itself is universal.

But before we get to this month’s money lesson let’s recap progress on last month’s money mistake – the cost of not being prepared.

Last Month’s Money Mistake Follow Up

Last month I outlined four action steps that would help me and my family to be prepared should another global pandemic or major emergency affect us.  When it comes to preparing a family emergency preparedness kit I can honestly say I have done nothing to achieve this goal.

To be honest, it has sort of slipped my mind.  We are, however, getting better at not overspending when it comes to grocery shopping.  And even though we may not be getting the best deal every time we shop, we are shopping less overall.

The creation of a family emergency preparedness kit is a task that will be ongoing.  Thankfully we have not needed it but really should do some work to be more prepared should something drastic happen.

This Month’s Money Lesson – Preamble

Real estate is a big part of our investment portfolio. We currently own and self-manage 9 rental properties that we bought years ago based on specific property criteria.

One of the things we do whenever we have a new tenant move-in is to provide them with a tenant welcome basket.  The basket is full of cleaning supplies and necessities that may not be readily available during a move.

Because we self-manage our portfolio and are not dealing with tenants moving-in frequently, one of the ways I have made this process easier is to create a list of all the items that go in the tenant welcome basket.

Some of the items we purchase in bulk so we have a storage tote for any extra supplies we have.

This past month we had a tenant move out because she bought her own place.  This meant that we also had new tenants moving in and therefore needed to prepare a new tenant welcome basket.  As I’m working from home, my daughter and I are staying fairly self-isolated.  This means that hubby does all of the errands as he is also still going to work as an essential service worker.

So I printed off the tenant welcome basket list, went through our supply storage to cross off any items that we already had and didn’t need.  Then I sent hubby to the store to pick up the rest of the items so that I could assemble the tenant welcome basket.

The Money Lesson

When hubby got home I learned a valuable lesson that I already knew but needed a reminder of.  As the one who does the majority of the shopping for our household, I’ve developed a bit of arrogance in my ability to get the greatest deal every time and also knowing what’s best.

As I was reviewing and cataloging the receipt for our real estate accounts I noticed that hubby had spent 40% less on the tenant basket than I usually do. Yes, we did have a good stock of supplies already on hand, but that would have maybe accounted for 15%.  

That meant that hubby had spent 25% less than I normally do on the same items.  How could that be? I’m the saver and he’s the spender in our relationship.

So how did hubby do it? What was the money lesson here?  He shopped strictly from the list.  He had never had to do the shopping for the tenant basket before so he just trusted the list and bought only the things listed on it.

You see when I shop, even though I often have a list, I will frequently go off list and pick up more things that I “think” we need.  Sometimes these things are needed and sometimes they are not.  Often we would survive just fine had I only bought the things on the list.

This makes me think of Parkinson’s Law and how it relates to money.  My spending will accommodate to the money that is available.  Going outside of the list makes it feel like there is unlimited money available – even if there isn’t.

But shopping strictly with a list confines and helps to control the spending.  

Unintended Teacher

Without even knowing it, hubby was teaching me things about my spending habits and how to save money by using a shopping list.  And it wasn’t only when buying items for the tenant welcome basket that I was exposed to this lesson.

Now that hubby is doing all of the grocery shopping, he always shops with a list and very rarely strays from it.  This is in part because he trusts me to make sure that everything we need is on the list. Does that mean that I don’t trust myself when I buy things outside of the list?

I have often benefitted from making to-do lists and checklists. But it took this pandemic and a bit of a role reversal for me to appreciate how beneficial shopping with a list can be.  And how detrimental to our budget shopping off of the list can be.

In fact, last month was the first month we spent less than our food budget in a very long time.  Maybe this was because we aren’t eating out as much as we used to, or maybe it’s hubby’s list shopping habit?  

Monthly money mistake - April 2020 - Shopping with a list. #handfulofthoughts #moneylesson

Action Steps

This month’s money lesson is a super easy one and one that I needed reminding of.  Having things slow down right now in the pandemic has been the perfect time to reflect on habits and money lessons.

Moving forward here are a few action steps that will help to take this money lesson a bit further:

  • Take the time to make a complete grocery list every time
  • Only buy what’s on the list
  • Look for other opportunities to switch roles with hubby – these may lead to more lessons
  • Be open to teachable moments

I have learned many things from my husband over the years but I never thought how to save money would be one of them.  Stepping outside of my preconceived notions and being open to teachable moments was crucial in learning this month’s money lesson.

This is a money lesson that will continue to benefit our family moving forward.

What was your money lesson this month?

6 thoughts on “Monthly Money Lesson – April 2020”

  1. A really timely lesson. Today (before reading this post), I happened to actually stick to my grocery list (i.e., scribbles on a Post-It) for probably the first time. Like you, I tend to wander a bit and pick up plenty of things I don’t necessarily need but rationalize. Then, I often wind up throwing those same expired items out long before they’ve been used up because they were just impulse purchases ad not vital to my needs.
    I try to apply a list-based methodology when visiting bookstores as well (which I only let myself go to once I’ve made my way through the stockpile of books I’ve accumulated over the recent preceding period).
    Great advice and effective, if followed.

    Take care,

    1. Ryan – I think right now it seems easier to stick to a list. For us, it is anyway because are only shopping every few weeks, instead of a few times a week. There are so many money lessons right now.

      Personally, bookstores are not too much of a problem for me because I’m addicted to the library. I just love how I can request a book and then just have to walk in and check it out – so convenient and no list required:)

  2. Interesting! That’s great that you were able to save money. Usually I do the grocery shopping because my husband will just buy whatever even if it’s not on sale. He buys certain things on occasion. It’s hard not to buy a little more than is on the list during a pandemic though. I am already running low on some pantry staples. I have fridge anxiety (it was running low and looking empty).

    1. GYM – I can totally understand the fridge anxiety. With all the uncertainty it’s difficult to know the impact will be on the food supply chain.

      In normal circumstances, my husband was terrible at grocery shopping. I think he’s better now because all the responsibility is on him so he wants to make sure our family has enough healthy food.

  3. Being more stringent with the budget during these pandemic times, I have been going strictly with a list. I have found it not only saves money but also time, since I am only going directly to the list items and browsing less.

    1. Jimmbboe – I completely agree with you that shopping with a list not only saves money but also saves time. That is if you know where everything is in the grocery store. My husband often comes home saying that it takes him a lot longer to grocery shop because he’s still learning what things are in what aisle or area.

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