Don’t Knock Home Economics
When I say “Home Economics”, it might bring to mind an era when folks were taught in school how to care for flour babies, cook, and mend all of the items. Especially if you were a woman, in Home Economics you might learn how to sew full wardrobes for your entire family and vacuum covers that look like bunny rabbits. Essentially, you might think of these classes as “home making” lessons, for all the future Home Makers in our midst.
The Case for Home Economics
I’m not knocking the cooking and cleaning and sewing aspects at all. I love me a good sew. That, however, is not how I envision Home Economics. Here, I am suggesting a re-working of that definition.
When I think of Home Economics, what comes to mind includes: budgeting, prudent shopping, frugal living, earning money, making intentional choices with my money—basically, how money enters my home, and how it leaves my home.
Thankfully, there is an abundance of knowledge on the internet. To live in this era, where we can Google anything, is exquisite. I’ve come across a litany of articles written by Personal Finance/Financial Independence bloggers who really break down investment strategies: “Don’t just work for your money, make your money work for you!” An absolutely simplified summary. Truly, there is extremely sound advice out there. Here is an example of a fantastic article on such a topic.
In that same vein, I’ve seen some side-eye thrown at budgeting, coupon clipping, and “How to Save on a very common expense that everyone has” articles. From the real personal finance savants, these things aren’t advanced personal finance, they are usually written by women, and aren’t the answer to Financial Stability, Freedom, or Independence.
Not to be contentious but…
How you bring money into your house, and how you allow it to leave your house, is absolutely the most important thing regarding personal finances.
What You Bring In
I’m not going to dive too deeply into this, but…your income matters. Poverty is real, especially the generational variety. Not everyone starts in the same place. Safety nets are a privilege.
If you are caring for an elderly family member, kids, are a one income household, receive government assistance, or have any other situation to where working a side gig or a second job isn’t feasible, I get it.
Side gigs and second (or third) jobs are cool if you can do them to bolster your income. There are a ton of articles on side gigs, asking for raises, resume building, how to apply to a better job, etc. If you have the luxury of relatively straightforward socioeconomic mobility, Google That Shit.
Having a healthy income can make all the difference in how much you contribute toward retirement, your savings account, any investment accounts, etc. There are definitely some people out there who have high incomes, and still live paycheck-to-paycheck (back when I struggled with financial literacy, I used to be one of them). While the money you bring in is extremely important and can’t be discounted, if you spend it all, it doesn’t help you save for your future.
What You Spend
This is the bread and butter of Home Economics to me. At this point in my field, I’ve reached the highest pay I will receive, and am Master certified. I aggressively worked toward getting myself to where I am now, and it shows. Because I get paid by the hour, the only way I can make more money at this point, is work more.
My time is precious to me, as is the ever elusive work-life balance. Since I am not interested in working more, or trading my limited free time for money, I have chosen to hone in on my spending.
My spending includes our mortgage, utilities, food, gas, and other living expenses (some essential, some not). Tracking my spending has been key to narrowing in on where my money goes. No matter how much I make, if I miss this crucial aspect of the process, forget saving for retirement. Forget VTSAX or any other index fund I want to invest in. It won’t just happen for me—I have to spend less than I earn to make it happen.
So Give Home Economics a Chance
When I see an article that espouses how to save on groceries, or frugal hacks for gift-giving, I might read it, or I might scroll by. I’ve read so many of them that it might not hold any new information for me. But I will never knock those articles, or pretend I’m too good for that kind of advice. We all have to start somewhere. And Home Economics is where it started for me.