Garden Money

I am going to compare the approximate costs of “family activities”, and therefore the potential savings, of a six-month home gardening warm season, and a routine of garden-event based experiences during the same period.  These costs are for a family of four.

The idea is that if you don’t have an “active” garden, your family spends a surprising amount of time engaged in entertainment activities outside the home.  On the other hand, if this same family decided to forego these activities over the same period of time, they could both save money, and also discover a new side of life.  These home- and garden-based activities may not be as much fun, at first, but they would probably be more healthy in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Let’s suppose that during the six months from about May 1 to October 1 a family of four pursues the following average number of activities:

1.  “Going Out” – Approximately $10 for transportation (30 miles @ 35 cents per mile), and $50 for snacks and shopping for knick-knacks. This would occur ten times per warm season, for example, ten Saturday afternoons. $600.00.
2. “Eating Out” – This would cost $100 to cover gas, meals and knick-knacks, etc. and occur at a rate of approximately ten times. $1,000.00.
3. “Sporting Events” – This would consist of mainly ball games, and include gas, knick-knacks, meals, event tickets and parking.  This would cost $100 per event for three events per warm season.  $300.00. 
4. “Amusement Parks” – This would be an all-day family outing to one of the giant theme parks.  (Spring carnival in your home town—no problem.)  I estimate the same cost as a ball game or $100 per warm season, X 3 = $300.00.
5. “Big Vacation” – This would be 1-2 weeks in length and would include all of the above plus major travel and lodging expenses for a total of approximately $3,000. 

Therefore, a family of four could likely spend a total of $5,200 during the six months of the warm season of the year engaged in shopping ($600), eating out ($1,000), ball games ($300), Amusement Parks ($300), and vacation ($3,000).  Total:  $5,200.00.

Now let’s cover the alternative version of these events held at home in the garden:

1.  “Don’t Go Out” – The family would spend ten “garden afternoons” puttering, working, playing, relaxing, doing crafts, etc. in the garden.  Zero costs.
2. “Don’t Eat Out” (10 times) – These would be garden evenings spent outside or on the patio or indoors in inclement weather eating meals specifically from the garden and engaging in activities such as harvest, preparation and clean-up together.  Zero costs.
3. “No Ball Games” – These would be three “per game” garden parties held over the course of an afternoon and evening both in the garden specifically centered around listening to the ball game or watching the ball game on TV on the porch, etc.  Zero costs.
4. “No Amusement Parks” – This would consist of three all day garden parties specifically focused on the kids.  All sorts of games, puzzles and activities could be centered around the garden as well as the patio.  Such things as homemade soft drinks using garden mints as well as homemade ice cream using other herbs, contests and prizes rather like a backyard amusement park.  Neighborhood kids and friends could join in.  (Make sure it’s not the same weekend as the local carnivals.)  Minimal costs.
5. “No Vacation” – The family would replace the vacation with a 1-2 week garden celebration including day trips to local botanical gardens, demonstration farms and dairies, pick-your-owns, petting zoos, arboreta and anything else related directly to the home garden.  Obviously, special family events would be included and be held in the garden such as reunions.  Think of it as a massive picnic interrupted by day trips.  Costs would probably equal daily “going out” plus “eating out” costs—or less—say, $150 per day @ 10 days or $1,500.

Total out-of-pocket costs for a “stay at home warm season” for a family of four is about $1,500, or just a little over 25% of the “Go Out” routine.  Net savings:  $3,700.

Clearly, in addition to the cost savings of a vegetable garden running at a savings of up to $2,500 for a 600 square foot garden, foregoing mostly non-essential spending on out-of-home amusements and activities could save a family about $3,700. Use the garden as a second focal point—after the house—for the family.

Let’s say I’m too conservative and round up the non-food savings to $4,000.  That’s a total savings of $6,500 in addition to eating well and having fun.  Then, next, let’s say we cut out only half of these non-essential events.  The family would still be saving $2,000. That is almost 75% of the amount that the family would be saving by eating home grown produce rather than eating store bought produce. Yet the family could still go on five shopping trips, five nights out to dinner, etc., etc. per warm season.  For those in the South and Sunbelt, the “warm season” in the garden could be year ’round, thus saving even more money, and possibly changing your domestic way of life.

Notice that none of these changes interfere with golf outings, judo, karate or ballet lessons, church and civic activities.  They simply replace a few discretionary income leisure pursuits, and, in the process, save an extraordinary amount of money.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 at 10:16 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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8 Responses to “Garden Money”

  1. Peg Andreou said:

    Sounds good. My children would have killed me if I had ever printed this out … our lives were sort of like this and they thought we were “poor.” until they went to college … and realized what poor was.

  2. i would like to add to your list:

    camping and i mean real camping–the tent, the campfire and cooking over the open flame, the walking in the dark looking up and seeing stars as one has probably never seen them before.
    i know there is an initial cost but that can be reduced by looking for sales, craigslist, etc.

  3. Karen Orlemann said:

    I do not know you sir, but I want to thank you for freely sharing the gift of your wisdom and insight. I enjoy reading your blog and especially appreciated the leverage this one provided in persuading other family members to invest time, money, and effort in gardening.

  4. Sudy said:

    You speak my mind and heart, my friend ! Am going to copy your written thoughts and share them with 2 of my daughters and their families. Thank you.

  5. Noni~ said:

    Love your writing and point of view on most issues.
    Happy to report we are already doing the family home and garden thing!!! People were sold a load of hogwash when they were taught that we needed more- truly what we need is BETTER…. Better care to be taken of our Earth and our resources, BETTER Government controls on things that are known to be toxic and therefore NOT ALLOWED to be produced or used etc…. Keep the better words words and works coming!

  6. Genevieve said:

    We live a lifestyle based around cooking, hunting for our protein, growing a beautiful garden and entertaining at least 2-3 a week for ourselves and our friends. In the summer months, it all takes place in our grounds and gardens. People love to visit; our home is more like a B & B. I endorse and whole heartedly agree with the soulful value of what you espouse….


    Let’s be honest. It is not cost-free. We labor for days on end to make it beautiful and welcoming, whether it’s annual plantings; spring/fall clean-up; growing the herbs and tomatoes; procuring the all natural protein; purchasing seeds or container plants every year- it’s an ambient, deep, meaningful and costly lifestyle. It’s less expensive to go out at times!

  7. Drusilla Walls said:

    If families actually did this they would be closer, happier and richer and truly appreciate the wonderful, magical world around us more than they can imagine, I know, I’ve been gardening for 40 years now and have enjoyed every moment of it and hope to continue for another 40!!

  8. Mary Twell said:

    I really enjoy the way you think.I know…I’m probably considered a “house frau” But doing things in the yard, planting the flower/vegetable areas
    sitting back watching the progress That beats spending “going out time” The only exception I have is the occasional special live music concert,
    or new movie debut.

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