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The Parent’s Notebook

By Aminisha Black
Stretching Dollars and Making Cents
In this culture, the term resource is synonymous with money or materials that can be converted to money.  We are conditioned to think that the sole solution to obtaining resources is to acquire more money rather than create ways to lessen the amount of money needed.   That makes sense given that this capitalist economy is fed by selling more and more stuff for the highest profit.    
In a recent workshop I was reminded of what valuable resources people are as two parents shared their dollar saving techniques.  The significance of the high value Africans placed on relationship became clearer.  Relationship is key in order to maximize human resources.   
Councilman Charles Barron recently told a group, “We expect folk to become activists but they’re dealing with survival issues.  Brother Barron, as a council member, will negotiate (through relationship) with other council members to increase housing, employment and affordable health care for his constituents. The family’s role in moving beyond survival is key.  Family is where children as well as adults learn how to relate and it can provide a model for empowering small units to access resources in order to move beyond survival.  While city and state officials control government budgets, parents can wield their influence by getting the most out of their available dollars at home. 
   Michelle Ballard, mother of four tells her children that she’s always on a budget.   She says that she wants them to learn budgeting at an early age.   “I only buy things on sale and during off-season”.  Michelle makes the rounds of supermarkets on Sundays and collect their circulars for the week.  She then makes the rounds only getting the items on sale from each store.  She also looks for Manager’s Specials, items nearing the “Sell By’ deadline.   Michelle says those items are marked as much as 75% off the original price.
Kweli Pierre, mother of two, also shops sales. She purchases large quantities of items that her family uses frequently, enough to last until she catches it on sale again, freezing perishable items.   She’s a member of Costco’s which similar to BJ’s and Sam’s, sell memberships and offer savings available with bulk buying. By sharing the membership with family members, their membership returns two percent of total purchases at the end of the year.    Like Michelle, she shops off-season for adult and children’s clothes when prices are reduced 85% and more and she is among the thrifty shoppers that include The Salvation Army on their circuit.   Kweli also has a family membership at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum that admits two adults and all children of a household to BCM and all the Science Tech Centers throughout the country.  The pass allows unlimited visits during the year at the price she’d pay for three visits as a non-member.
With four daughters, Rosalyn Inman has mastered stretching the clothing dollar by recycling. Articles of clothing purchased for the oldest is saved for the next and on down the line.  She stresses the importance of networking because a group of mothers expand the recycling circle, resulting in an overflow.  However, she excludes recycling shoes, sandals and sneakers because they are shaped by the wearer and might affect the other’s walk.  Rosalyn says she deals with the needs of her family, not the advertised trends.  With cheap and quality as operative words, she has compiled a list of stores.  An advocate of school uniforms, she says the advantages include neat appearance, reduction of rivalry and the extra time they allow her to purchase other items. 
These savvy consumers recognize the hype to buy a lot and pay top price for “stuff”.   Kevin Anderson shares that when his son wants to purchase an expensive item, he negotiates with him by selling him on the extras he could have if he chose the less expensive one.    Bottom line it could be said that the flow of resources is determined to a large degree by relationship and choice.  And the more we choose to stretch the dollar, the more we’ll have available for the extras.
What can you add to our Stretching Dollars and Making Cents collection?  Send your tips to or mail to P.O. Box 755, Brooklyn, NY 11238.

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