Thursday, March 5, 2009

Did I Really Just Blow The Budget?

I have spent the past couple of days trying to justify a couple of purchases for the urban farmstead. I finally decided to post what I have done here and let the inhabitants of Earth judge the Martian:

First Scenario: I had completed a list of the various fruits that I would like to be grown on our property. Right now, we only have an old mulberry tree that produces fruit. Anyway, when I tallied up the strawberries, blackberries, grapes, vine peaches, blueberries, etc. The total was $68. I thought long and hard about this and then looked in my cabinets, deep freezer and two refrigerators. I decided to skip grocery shopping for the week. We probably would have spent around that amount buying food at the grocery store. We actually don't have to grocery shop too often because we are really stocked up. Given the uncertainty in the economy and the job market, we try to have food stored so that we won't have to buy much in the event of a layoff at TheMartianMan's place of employment. So, should I add the cost of the fruit plants in to the farm budget or is it really about the same as buying groceries? After all, these groceries will be on the table during the summer and fall!

Second Scenario: As you probably know, we really want some chickens. Our desire was to actually breed some unusual breeds. Now that I have a friend who is willing to hold a rooster or 2 for me at his farm, I actually have the opportunity to be able to breed 1 unusual breed. The problem is that for the breed that I want, I cannot seem to find chicks ANYWHERE!! So I must hatch eggs if I am to get these birds.

So I browsed around on Ebay and saw a used top quality, almost foolproof incubator. It works kind of like the rotisserie that they advertise on tv during the holiday season: Set it and Forget it! Though I bid and bid and bid...someone else won the item. Then a miracle happened! I remembered that I had a stash of American Express gift cards. They were left over from a vacation that we took last May. The cards were free to us since we cashed in reward points to get them. There was a grand total of $325. So, I used them to buy the brand new version of the top quality incubator. Since I bought it with free money, should it count against my budget?

Before you answer, I also have three plans for recouping the money that I spent for the incubator. The first plan is to hatch out some specialty breed eggs for others and sell them to people like me who cannot find them anywhere. This would help me to recoup some, if not all of the money over time. The second plan involves possibly ordering up some quail and selling quail eggs and or birds locally. I believe that there is a market for it. The third plan is to sell the incubator on Ebay when it has paid for itself. The auction that I was bidding on taught me that this particular model of incubator holds its value and that people are willing to pay an awful lot of money for it, even when it is used. I can also do a combination of any of these three plans and probably MAKE money on the deal. So, given all of this rationalization (fooling myself) that I have done, should the incubator count against the farm budget?


Aimee said...

Plant the trees! Plant them! Plant them! $68 is nothing when you are talking about fresh blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc. You could spend that in one month on fresh fruit. Trees are forever. And beautiful and good for the earth. Plant the trees!

And about the chicks, have you checkd McMurray hatchery?

ChristyACB said...

Fruit Trees - I think it should be a combo situation. You can reduce fruit purchases or tally up the normal fruit purchases and take the hit that way combined with a small amount from your budget.
Example: If you normally spend 10 a week on favored fruits, spent 5 a week on less favored but equally nutritious fruits for several weeks. Some of your budget SHOULD hit for it though, since the items were not, in fact, free. Just think of all that jam, fruit leather, frozen fruit and deliciousness you'll get!

Incubator - That is a tricky one. It wasn't really free money because you may have used that money for anything you wanted but this is how you used it. I would count it. You are planning on making profit to keep a running tally on cost/gain. Then, as you recoup the money from chick sales, you balance the tally out.

The old wisdom of it takes money to make money, or takes money to save money, is in a lot of ways true. Sometimes an upfront investment is required that later amortizes out materially.

Instead of worrying about loopholes in what counts and what doesn't, maybe instead re-think the budget you made. The number set for the amount to spend was pretty low, required you to budget in very lucky finds (never good to count on) and didn't cover contingencies, rising costs or infrastructure (which you did need for chicks). Instead, re-work your budget with items that wound up not accounted for and use a different color to reflect them.

In the end, that may help one of us readers out here to have a budget when our times comes that might be more comprehensive.

TheMartianChick said...

I'm glad that you agree with me on the fresh fruit! We go through a lot of strawberries in our house during the summer so I selected 3 varieties of everbearing ones. I also ordered vine peaches. They grow from seeds and are on vines like a berry. I bought those because I really have to see that to believe it!

I have checked just about all of the hatcheries, Aimee! They probably all have me on a watchlist because I have called with so many questions. The breed that I'd like are mostly offered only by backyard breeders and only as hatching eggs. The breed hasn't been in the country all that long. (Black Penedesencas). The big hatcheries don't offer them and if they did, they might not have the best stock for breeding. The only reason why I wanted a really good incubator is because even the eggs are expensive! I don't want to spend a fortune on breeder quality eggs only to have them not hatch in a regular incubator. If the eggs were cheaper, I'd be willing to suffer through hatching problems, knowing that I could easily replace them. I don't want to have to buy the eggs more than twice...I'd prefer to only buy them once!

TheMartianChick said...

Hi, Christy!

I try not to buy fruit in the winter from any source. I usually go to the farmer's market once a week in the summer too buy eggs and whatever fruits and veggies are in season, that I don't grow myself. I rarely spend more than $20 in any one trip to the market and $5 of that is on eggs.

If I do add the cost of the incubator into the budget, then maybe I could post a running tally on the blog so that everybody can see the progress as I pay it off. It would also keep me honest about being diligent about paying it off. (TheMartianMan is pretty good at keeping me honest about these things to!)

Though we could have used the gift cards for anything, we did get them for free. We just used our credit card for regular purchases and paid in full so there was no interest. The card has an annual fee, but that was waived for the first year. We then closed the card before a fee could be assessed. (I'm really trying to weasel out of this, aren't I?)

Patrice Farmer said...

I think you did excellent! It takes money to start so don't worry about it. You'll recoup the money for the fruit trees in no time. And the incubator...gotta love free! Free money doesn't count against you. You don't need to replace the money just enjoy it when you hatch out your new chicks.

I don't know if Craigslist has special breeds but if you want to start looking for some baby chicks or even some laying hens, check out the farm and garden section of Craigslist. This month will be the beginning of everyone starting to get new chicks and sell them.

ChristyACB said...


I'm laughing *with* you right now. :)


TheMartianChick said...

Thanks, Patrice!In my mind, I do feel as though I HAVE to replace the money! I have a lot of different types of crafting equipment around the house. At one point in my life, I did a lot of country crafting and I sold it in a crafter's co-op. Money was really tight in those days so instead of paying a fee to sell in the co-op, I would work in it to pay my dues, so that it wouldn't take away from the household budget. Any money that I earned went into the household and to buy more supplies.

When I bought a sewing machine (so that I could get into stitched crafts)I immediately sewed up a bunch of scented sachets from fabric scraps and bits of lace. Once they had all sold, the $100 sewing machine was paid for and was essentially free. Since that time, I have always taken that approach to things.

Besides, once the incubator is paid for, I can always keep hatching to keep a small income stream coming in with quail or chicks!

I will definitely be checking out the farm and garden section of Craigslist. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much farm-related anything on their except for goats and sheep. TheMartianMan has put his foot down about having goats or sheep on the premises. Besides, the code enforcement would catch me the minute that I brought them out to mow the lawn!

TheMartianChick said...

Christy...Can't you see that I'm looking for a cyber enabler? LOL!

Brad said...

For what my opinions worth, I see no problems at all with your expenditures. If you put the money in the bank the interest you would draw would be pitiful at best. Or you could wager it in the stock market. I think you have done the right thing by investing in the future of your homestead. It cost money to make money, or in our endeavor as homesteaders to build a better life. I see you are a planner, and are already planning for the capital return from these items. So I say good for you!
I do think you should hold on to the incubator though for future uses. I know nothing of the breed of chickens that you want, but if they will go broody and hatch out their own eggs it will be on their schedule not yours. My incubators are the most important part of my operation except for the egg layers.

TheMartianChick said...

Your input is worth plenty to me, Brad! After're the one that made me even consider quail!They just weren't on my radar. I agree that relying on a broody hen to hatch eggs is quite UNRELIABLE at best!

With the original farm plan, I thought that I would sell just the fertile hatching eggs for whatever breeds that I chose to raise. I was only going to do the rare breeds of birds. The reality of trying to do this in a city made things a lot more difficult. I can still sell hatching eggs (especially since the post office is only 1/2 block away).

The interesting thing that I have learned this afternoon was that my gift card were set to expire in May. I was not aware that they could expire, so I could have lost the "free" money and had no way to get it back. Due to the fact that they are gift cards, I cannot cash them in either.

I really don't think that I will want to sell the incubator. That is just an exit stategy in case I get to a point where I don't need it or don't want to hatch eggs again. I like knowing that people are willing to pay close to full price for a used unit.I've read on the Backyard Chickens site that people can become hatchaholics. I really believe that I have the gene for this since I love having baby critters around. I would likely keep hatching for others as long as there was a profit in it for me.

fullfreezer said...

I vote for getting the fruit. Not only will it pay for itself once but again and again. And there is nothing like being able to pick your own raspberries. We have a variety of everbearing golden raspberries- OMG!! They are that good! I can't tell you what kind because I got them from someone who got them from someone know the drill.

TheMartianChick said...

How lucky you are to have the golden raspberries, Judy! I'm so tired of my husband (sneaking behind my back) buying the ones in the grocery store that are shipped all the way across the country during the winter. You actually have to look inside each berry to make sure that it is not mildewing! EEeeuuww!!

Milah said...

Buy it all! Plant the trees, eat what you want, put some up for later, and sell the rest. In the end, you will get a good return on your money.

About the sounds like a good investment. You have to spend money to make money;D Just remember to sell it when you are through.