Saving for a "Rainy Day"

Remember the old fable of the grasshopper and the ant? The fun-loving grasshopper lived for today and never worried about what might be coming around the corner. The clever little ant, on the other hand, worked himself ragged, preparing for a “rainy day”.

When times got tough, and the cold of winter forced the grasshopper to see the error in his ways…he was forced to beg the ant for help. The moral of the story (of course) is to be prepared (the Boy Scouts of America have embraced this as their motto, though I doubt that decision had anything to do with this old tale).

It’s an old story, but it is one that resonates today.

These days, amidst a fluctuating economy and uncertainty in the workplace, we are all forced (even if only subconsciously) to pick a side. Do we turn a blind eye to the “what if’s” that the future may hold, roll the dice, hold our breath, and do whatever makes us happy with no regard to the consequences? Or do we hunker down, and figure out how we can trim our budgets, save some emergency cash, and maybe stock up that pantry?

What are you? A grasshopper or an ant?

I’d say that I fall somewhere in the middle, though heavily leaning toward the ant hill of it all. You won’t see me out buying the latest fashions or charging anything. We don’t use credit cards, and if I shop for clothing at all it tends to be thrift stores or garage sales. We do spend some money on things that aren’t necessary (NetFlix and the Internet are admittedly guilty pleasures in which we indulge). Largely though, we are careful with our money. We have goals which we hope to meet and exceed. Could we get there faster without those few indulgences we splurge on? Sure. But we’ve figured out what works best for us, and I think that every family has to make that decision for themselves.

Yes, we have room to improve, but I think we’re heading in the right direction. We are working to pay off debt and save money. I garden a bit, and enjoy canning. Along the way we’ve also been stocking up on store-bought groceries. Well, the stocking up part is really more me than Hubby. He doesn’t have a problem with it, but I can tell he sometimes wonders what in the world we need with a flat of canned peas, a case of mac & cheese or a jumbo box of biscuit mix when we have plenty of food in our cupboard?

I blame my folks. Growing up, we always had a modest stash of non-perishable foods on hand. Though both of my parents were born in 1950, they had heard stories of the Great Depression from their own families. My parents grew up in an environment where saving for a rainy day wasn’t even really an option. It’s just the way it was. And they, in turn, have passed that lifestyle down to my brother and I.

I don’t copy everything my parents do, but I’ve followed their pattern when it comes to stocking my pantry. I don’t go crazy with things we know we won’t eat, and I try to only buy extra when there is a good sale. I carefully watch expiration dates, and rotate my stash – using up the oldest stuff as I replace it with new. It’s nice to know that if an unexpected medical bill comes up, or if one of us were to lose our job, we would have a modest cushion which hopefully would get us through for a short period of time. My little ‘food collection’ has also come in handy on a day-to-day basis. If I’m baking a cake and realize I’m out of flour, for example, I don’t panic. I just go to my pantry and there (if I’ve played my cards right) will be the flour I need. I then jot down that I need more to replace what I’ve removed from the pantry. It’s cyclical, but fairly easy to maintain with a little effort.

I’m no pro. There are a lot of blogs and websites out there that you should check out if you really want some clever stocking-up advice. One of my favorites is Coffee, Tea, Books & Me. Brenda writes about a lot of topics, but she has a whole section of her blog devoted to keeping a pantry full, in preparation for that “rainy day”.

Whether you are a grasshopper or an ant is obviously a personal decision, and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. A friend of mine stocks up throughout the year so that in December she can use her usual grocery budget for Christmas shopping. There are many ways it can be done, and the key is finding one that works for you. You should do only what you feel comfortable with and only what works within your budget.

I’d also like to point out that in the original fable, the ant (when asked for food by the starving grasshopper) gave him nothing. Instead, he rebuked the grasshopper for not planning ahead. That isn’t really the part of the story which I’d aspire to follow. After all, I think most of us are taught to be charitable to those in need. However, if you come to my house in your brand new car, carrying your designer purse and asking for food – I might hesitate just a moment before I give you that jumbo box of biscuit mix which I’ve stashed away. In the end, I’d probably give you what you came for – but you might have to leave the car with me.

Note: Image from Amazon. To buy the book, go here.

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