Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

From a woman’s perspective, if things went badly and my family needed to tighten their belt, what are some ideas to really stretch the dollar? Things that can feel like less of a sacrifice and still keep a budget? 


Fearful of Enduring another Great Depression

Dear Fearful, 

The most important thing to remember is NOT doing something because everybody else does. Just because every does something doesn’t make it a good idea. 

Many habits we develop are because of our surroundings and whom we keep company with on a daily basis. This really influences us even if it is without realizing it or subliminal. 

Let’s start with the basics. Let’s take soap for instance – a bar of hard soap versus the now “trendy” liquid soap. Calculating the cost for each, keeping in mind amount and usage are significant factors. The average bar is 4 ounces and the average liquid bottle is 16 ounces. So, would you finish a bottle before you would use up four bars of soap? It takes 8 tablespoons to equal 4 ounces. When you use your body wash, do you squirt two, three or four tablespoons in your hand each shower? If you use two tablespoons, then in 16 showers you would empty one bottle of liquid shower gel/wash (about two weeks). Hard soaps, however, made with oil and fats last longer but one bar of soap can last four to six weeks. The main ingredient in liquid soap is water, so you are paying for water. The old claim that bar soap harbors bacteria and germs is invalid. Shower soap is more than twice as expensive as any variety of hard soap. 

How about those cotton pads and cotton balls? At a dollar for 100 cotton pads for your make-up eye remover, cut them in half since a full size is excessively large will cut the cost by 50 percent! The average woman will spend $15,000 dollars in a lifetime on beauty products. 

There are so many things you can eliminate. Cut in half or substitute if you ask yourself one simple question before every purchase: “Do I need this or do I just want this?” This includes eating out versus cooking at home by 50 percent or purchasing any duplicate item you want but don’t need.

Use a washable cloth to clean rather than paper towels. Eliminate using any paper plates, napkins or anything with a one-time usage. Use, reused and wash! This alone will save hundreds of dollars a year. 

Re-evaluate your auto insurance policy, homeowners policy and health insurance. Keeping a higher deductible (for any incident) will substantially lower your monthly premiums. This requires calling three separate insurance companies to get a baseline first. 

A budget is easy to make: Add together your fixed monthly expenses that include utilities, child care, among other expenses that you keep track of for a month including food costs and entertainment. Religiously save EVERY receipt because it is easy to forget. Then subtract your income from your expenses. Implement, monitor and if necessary, adjust your budget to fit your needs. That said, stick with it as much as you can. It should be your guide. Changing it again and again simply defeats the purpose of a budget.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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