It’s mid-February as I write this, and for us farm and ranch folks, it’s also the time to pay the tax man. Our city friends have another six weeks or so to get everything prepared and dropped off to their tax preparer for last year’s ‘final tally’.

Some of our friends and neighbors won’t have a lot to ‘tally up’ due to the Atlas blizzard that took so many critters to the great beyond. (On occasion, I still see dead cattle along some of the roads I travel.)  But, ranchers are a tough lot and for the most part they will make it through with the help of a lot of friends and the many strangers who stepped up to the plate, donating replacement cattle or money through the Rancher’s Relief Fund ( and others of the same type.

It’s also the time of year when the folks who are ‘in the know’ talk about IRAs and 401Ks. I truly wish some of this was taught to the young folks in school–the savings part at least. I remember years ago I was told if I started investing $1,000 a year at the age of 25, I could end up with a ‘nest egg’ of $213,000 or more by the time I turned 65. Of course, interest and investment return rates fluctuate with the times, but at that time, we had no money–period!

However, times have changed and many folks have, as my grandfather would have put it, “moved on up in the world”.  Most drive new cars (granted, they have payments), a good share of them have higher education–high school for sure, and many more have technical schooling or college of some kind. They have cell phones, computers and all sorts of things our parents and grandparents couldn’t possibly ever dreamed of. Of course, all of this ‘stuff’ costs money, and lots of it.

My question then is this: Do you have ANY savings? If so, have you saved enough? Do you have that ‘kitty’ in the cupboard to fall back on if times really get tough? When I ask people, most of them tell me they have no savings whatsoever–they live from check to check, borrow from family and friends when needed and ‘just get along’.

Some people save all of their change–they might put it in a fruit jar, bucket or other container and when it’s full take it to the bank and put those dollars in a savings account. When I worked at a grocery store years ago, some of the kids would come in with a $5 or $10 bill and buy some candy. Many times they’d pick up the bills, but throw the change in the wastebasket! When I asked one of the children why they were tossing it, I was told, “It’s NOT real money!”

I really don’t know how many people could come up with $500, much less $1,000 or more all at once–but, just suppose your family began to practice some ‘small’ economic changes in order to start some sort of a savings/backup plan that would be available in case of an emergency.

Can the family use coupons for groceries and save $100 or more a year? (I’m not talking about the extreme coupon folks that have a warehouse full of cereal and laundry soap in the back bedroom). I’m talking about just using coupons for things you normally would purchase and setting aside that $5 a week or so into savings. That $5 a week turns into $260 in a year’s time!

Making meals at home in a slow cooker instead of eating out can save quite a bit over a year’s time. If you normally spend $30 a week on meals eaten away from home (and for some folks, it’s way more than that each week), you can save over $1,000 a year even factoring in the cost of the food you would need to purchase.

Instead of hitting the malls on weekends shopping for new clothing, why not check out the local thrift stores? I’ve found brand new clothing (complete with tags) at thrift stores, and shoes still in the boxes that have never been worn. (I check the soles–some have never touched the floor!)

Make it a point to check out the yard sales. Most cities have a list of sales, dates and times and a partial list of what is being offered. If nothing interests you, go to the next listing.

Years ago, my kids wanted to learn how to make pasta. I’d been making homemade noodles, but one small son wanted ‘p’sketti’.  We found a pasta maker at a yard sale for $1, and used it for years. (I found a sticker on the box. It cost $59.95 plus tax over 35 years ago!) It’s still sitting on the top shelf in the pantry and will be used again someday. There are small children in the neighborhood here and it’s a great way to engage them in making their own food.

Tax time brings out the frugal in most of us. If you have ideas to share, please send them to me and I’ll publish as many as I can.


by Paula Vogelgesang

Paula Vogelgesang is the author of the monthly column "Pennywise", and is a monthly contributor to the Farm And Livestock Directory.

Email her at [email protected]

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