Living a Frugal Lifestyle

Frugality in your life may be a choice or a way of life made necessary by financial circumstances. This is a guide about living a frugal lifestyle.

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One Size Doesn't Always Fit All I have been a frugal woman all my life. And it seems I am always researching or joining a group in an attempt to find ways to be even more frugal. And in my quest for information I have found this; one size doesn't always fit all.

So many times I will read a post on a subject and many others will comment after it that this is the wrong way and their way is right. For instance, I have seen people post how to save money on gasoline in their car by combining errands, tune up, etc. And others will post nasty comments below it telling them they should not OWN a car, they should use public transportation, ride a bike, or walk. Oh, really? I live approximately 70 miles from the nearest town that has public transportation. Due to arthritis, bike riding is out. Since the closest town is about a 5 mile round trip walk, that is out, too.

And if I posted that, I am sure many commenters would start typing I should move. I have a beautiful home in a small town with over half an acre of land. Before we moved to this home, I did some research. Twenty miles up the road in a town with more shopping areas than mine, a home similar to mine, with a postage stamp yard, is over twice what I paid for this one. Sprinkle in a higher crime rate, more traffic, the noise, and the higher taxes and, to me, it is a better deal to be here.

Some people, when they read a post on stockpiling a pantry, will post messages telling them it is wrong, they are hoarders, and telling them how THEY do it, and that their way is the right way. This one size for all doesn't fit me, either. I live in a rural area where shopping is limited. And since there is little competition here the prices are sky high. So I don't shop often. When I do, I spend a day shopping, separating, and storing my food/non-food items properly. I rotate my stock. I save a fortune by doing it this way, not only on my items but the gas I save from not having to run to the store to buy an item I am out of. Last year a freak storm came through and power was out in our area for over a week. Those who did not plan ahead had to drive 20 miles up the road to eat several times a day. And then while they were gone they had visitors called looters. Since I had a fully stocked pantry (and a generator) I stayed put, and so did my belongings. I don't judge those that feel they don't need extra food on the shelf, but it is the right size for me!

Another subject I see arguments posted on so many times is vegetarian vs meat eaters. I recall seeing a post on how to stretch hamburger. And below the post the comments started on how if the poster would eat they way THEY ate, they would not eat meat, be a vegetarian. And of course the comment rambled on and on. Now I am not dissing vegetarians, to each their own. But please, I am a meat eater, let me be! I like beef steak well done, with steak sauce. Tofu just isn't the same thing!

Everybody does different things as we walk through life. I recall one group having this thread that you only need 100 items in your home, nothing else. WHAT? And take away my cook book collection I love reading? My music boxes that I wind up and listen too when I am in the mood? No, sorry, this may be for you, but not for me. That one size doesn't fit me, either.

Now I am not a big TV watcher. But in the winter when getting out is hard to do, I love to watch classic movies. (Can we say "Arsenic and Old Lace"?) And since this is what I REALLY enjoy, we have TIVO. I can hear people gasping now and typing furiously "YOU DON'T NEED TIVO! GO TO THE LIBRARY AND GET FREE DOCUMENTARIES FOR FREE TO WATCH!" No, I don't think so.

I believe I will pop my microwave popcorn I purchased last month at Sams, kick back in my comfy chair I purchased at a Salvation Army for only $4.50, drink my tea made from mega sized tea bags and kept cold in the fridge sitting in a gallon glass jar that is a recycled pickle jar, and hit the play button on the remote and enjoy a classic movie. I am saving a fortune by not jumping in my car, driving 25 miles to a theater, paying to get in, and then paying $20 for popcorn and soda. I like my way, it fits me, and it makes me happy. (And yes, I drink lots of water, but I like a soda. Maybe some don't but I do.)

No, one size just doesn't fit all!

Have a wonderful Frugal life, but do it your way. Because, one size doesn't fit all. :-0

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I was born and raised in the city. When grade school was out for the summer, all my friends stayed close to home, taking occasional trips to a beach or theme park. None of them would have agreed to spend their summers the way I spent mine. I chose to spend them in the country with my cousins and uncle, and my aunt, 'Bertie Jane'.

They lived on a four hundred, twenty-five acre farm. They raised beef cattle, hogs and chickens. They also had two or three milch cows. Most of the land was either pasture for the cattle, or planted in the large wheat crop they grew each year.

Spending the summers at 'Aunt Bert's' was my own decision. I knew in advance how hard I would be expected to work in the hot fields all day. I also knew there would be no distinction made between my cousins and me. Without thinking, I even called my aunt 'Mama' a few times. The mistake embarrassed me, but not her. She just said 'What'?

Do you think an eleven or twelve year old would agree to such, today? Almost three months without wired entertainment. No television. No Play Station 2. No computer games. No forever texting friends. No burgers and fries.

My aunt was frugal out of necessity and passed it along to her children. My cousins and I never went to a store. We never had money, except for an occasional 50 cents we made picking a gallon of blackberries for someone. My uncle had a friend who came by occasionally. He always brought each of the children a stick of gum. We were thrilled. Imagine that happening today.

Bertie Jane was the mother of thirteen children. You would think all her time was spent rearing those children. She did a fine job of rearing them all, but her work did not stop there. Every day except Sunday, she was up before sunrise, putting a pan of biscuits in the oven, cooking grits and making gravy, frying eggs and side meat and brewing coffee.

After breakfast, she washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Time for a break? She never took one. After finishing up in the kitchen, she donned a wide brimmed straw hat, a pair of 'over alls', and a pair of plowing boots. Then she went to the fields where she worked as hard as any man until it was time to come back to the house to cook the noontime meal.

Oh, and what a meal! Corn that had been picked just that morning from her own garden, stewed in a cast iron frying pan with fat back grease. Sliced tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, fresh from the field. Green beans from one of the four to five hundred, quart and half gallon jars of vegetables she 'put up' each year. A big pan of biscuits made from the very wheat she bagged while riding on a dusty combine for hours each day in the hot sun. And just like the coal miner's wife Loretta Lynn sings about, she never complained. There was no need.

Dresses made from feed sacks? My aunt wore 'a many' of them. The sacks were also sewn into pillow slips and other useful articles. No perms, no make up or lip stick, no perfume or cologne; just a slight hint of Ivory soap. Her countenance alone spoke the truth; a faithful wife, a good mother and one of the hardest working women you would ever see.

The house sat a mile from the nearest road. Sometimes, two weeks or more would go by without seeing anyone except ourselves. I don't know how my aunt did it, but she raised contented children. When school was out, they were pretty much isolated from everything except hard work. They didn't seem to mind. They all got along well with each other.

There was time for play, and play they did, just as hard as they worked. They were an ingenious lot, making most of their own toys. I loved the time I spent with them. We raced through the pastures, climbed trees, skinny dipped and played ball, always with an ear tuned for Aunt Bert's warm and familiar voice, 'Y'all young 'uns come wash up. Supper's on the table'. To my knowledge, my aunt never spanked any of her children, and yet, they all grew up without drugs, tobacco, alcohol or confrontations with the law.

How should such a good wife and mother leave this Earth? A peaceful and painless death? A heart attack in the middle of the night while sleeping? I say 'That would be my wish'. And she left, just that way.

It's been sixty years...and I still miss you, Aunt Bert.

Those were the days.

(Photo restored by Doug, using Gimp)

An old fashioned black and white photo of a woman in glasses.
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    When Are You Being Too Frugal?The definition of frugal is "Prudence in Avoiding Waste". We all should be wise and thrifty, and reuse or recycle where possible, but here are some indicators when you just might be going too far to be frugal and are simply being cheap or possibly hoarding:

    • You compromise your health by not seeking medical attention for something you know in your heart really should be checked out by a professional.

    • You compromise your safety by eating food that you know is iffy because it could be spoiled.

    • You reuse plastic water bottles, to-go food containers, plastic silverware, or even non-food plastic containers that are not recyclable Food Grade #2, #4 or #5. These plastics can leach bad chemicals into your food and beverages.

    • You deny yourself even the tiniest of treats that would be good for you emotionally, like an occasional cup of coffee or meal out. You even deny yourself something as simple as a small bottle of your favorite bubble bath or lotion.

    • You hoard items, because you got a good deal on them, but know in the back of your mind that you'll probably never really have a use for them.

    • You save just about everything when you know you realistically probably will never use or need them, instead of giving them to someone who could use them or recycle them.

    • You deny yourself basic necessities. I've known a couple of people who had nothing more than a bed and had to stand up to eat or sit on the floor, when they really could afford to at least purchase a couple of second hand chairs and a small table.

    • On the reverse side of denying yourself the basics, you grab up every piece of free anything; from clothing, boxes, and knick-knacks to furniture, simply because it was free. It's piled everywhere 'just in case you can use it in the future', even when you know there is no real use to you. Your home has become a storage unit.

    • You spend too much time trying to save money, instead of finding ways to supplement your income with extra earnings.

    • You spend more on gasoline driving around trying to save a few cents on a sale or use a coupon before it expires, than you save.

    • You take extras at stores or restaurants (like sanitary hand wipes, paper towels, napkins, or condiments) to save some money, when in reality doing so is stealing and is ultimately costing others for those items.

    • You buy items that are cheap that you know really won't last long to save some money, when you could buy the better quality item for just a few dollars more that might have lasted a lifetime. Remember the definition of 'frugal'?

    • And, as silly as it might sound, you feel there's no such thing as being too frugal!

    Does anyone here at ThriftyFun have any other ideas to share of what might be going too far to be frugal?

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    My wife is one of the most fascinatingly frugal people I have ever had the honor to know. I regarded her desire to live a thrifty, uncomplicated life as thankfully low-maintenance, for we were young and broke and she could stretch a dollar a country mile with no complaints.

    My Frugal Wife!

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    I've been on my own now for four years, a single parent turned "empty nester", and living on a disability pension. Here are my tips.

    container garden

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    When I was a child, my family and I lived in the city. Being a nature lover, I would often take long walks in the country. At that time, the county did not have a garbage collection service. People would put their garbage in a vacant area on their property.

    Being Thrifty or Frugal: The Big Picture

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    For as long as I can remember, my mother would have to scrimp to make ends meet. She divorced my father when I was in first grade, so was now home with 3 children, aged 6 and under. We had lots of hand me down and thrift store clothes and toys, but rarely anything new.

    A 70s family

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    I have been at my new job for 4 months now and I have had my days reduced to 3 days a week from 5. I am not a happy bunny but as the job is pants, its forcing me to look for something else, which is good.

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    My entire life I have lived with not having an over-abundance of anything. My mother was a single mom of 3 during the 70's when the state did not bother going after deadbeat dads who did not pay child support. I remember being 7-8 years of age and having only 3 stuffed dolls, a jump rope, and an old laundry basket to play with. My sister and brother were older than I, so they were not home much for me to have someone to play with.

    As I got older and moved on my own, I did not own a car and walked everywhere. I did want the convenience of owning a car but not the expense. I bought my first beater car at age 22 for $750 and kept it for 3 years.

    At the present time, I am married with 2 children. We seldom have extra money to go out with, so I try to instill in my children to be grateful for what we do have. We have a house (with a mortgage) and cars to take us where we need to go, so we don't have to walk in 100 degree heat or a foot of snow like I did when I was a teenager. I teach my children to be happy we have a roof over our heads and plenty of food on the table.

    We live frugally by making homemade products; from laundry detergent to seasonings for food. We rent movies, get them free from the library, or wait until they are on TV to watch them. I have my children help me look through coupons and cut out what we use. I teach them to check prices on items before buying.

    I love a good box of chocolates now and then, so during the holidays I will pick up a few boxes when they are less than 50% off and stash them away and they will last 6-8 months if stored well. Of course, I buy clearance or marked down items.

    I, myself, have joined different website boards to find new ways to save money by like-minded people and so thankful to have found many!

    I lead by example for my children to learn and live by frugality and that it isn't a "bad" thing to be frugal when you have everything you need while receiving a few wants now and then also.

    By LisaE from WI

    Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here:

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    I used to be proud of being spontaneous, of living on a whim. Now that I can no longer afford to have anything I want at the moment that I want it, I have come to savor the far deeper pleasure of expectation, of waiting for something and looking forward to it.

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    A friend of mine, for as long as I can remember, would say, "A loaf of bread costs what it costs, and you can eat only so much bread. Why would you buy more bread then you could ever use?". In my younger years I would chuckle to myself.

    Loaves of bread

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    As of August, I am debt free and I am very thankful for this. I just want to say a big thank-you to all of you, because I have really benefited from your frugal wisdom which you have freely shared in your posts.

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    When I was in my early 50s, I began to question the lifestyle my husband and I were living. I knew I wanted less stress, I knew I was tired of working for someone else, and I felt there had to be a way to achieve my goal of quitting the corporate world for good.

    The posts mentioned almost every ethnic group, including blacks, Muslims, Jews and American Indians, and talked about an effort on campus to debate changing the university's mascot, a Viking. The threats came days after some student leaders suggested that

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    I have been a single parent now for 9 1/2 years. My kids are now teenagers, and we have been living the 'frugal lifestyle'. When we first began our journey, we have had lots and lots of criticism and were branded as, 'the poor folk', especially from my family and from the whole community. My Frugal LifeMy ex-husband left me with a ton of debt, and it was really sink or swim. He really cleaned me out, so to speak, and we were completely left with nothing.

    I have been making my own washing liquid, cleaners. We shop at op shops. The other day, I saw that they were selling cup cakes for $3.00 each. I said to my daughter, 'we must go home and make those'.

    In the last 10 years, the frugal lifestyle that we now lead, has paid off two mortgages, a new car, paid off $10,000 off the bankcard debt, painted and renovated the house. We now own 3 horses, and my teenagers go to a private school, and I am a single parent!

    The irony about this story is, that some of those people who have criticised me, surprisingly, now live the frugal lifestyle.


    By Michele from Mullumbimby, Australia

    Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here:

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    I have been honing my frugal skills every since I left college, years ago. My first frugal research started with an old book entitled "How to Save on Everything", written in the late 40s. It had all sorts of interesting ways to reuse, remake, and recycle.

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    At various times of my life, I have had to live frugally. I've had times of plenty and times of hardship. Over my many years, I have become a bit of an expert.

    flowers made from yarn

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    Frugal? I have been "wealthy" yet savvy enough to ALWAYS save 10% of my salary. I had a big city condo downtown, never wanted for anything. And yes, I got hit by the stock market drop just like everyone else.

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    Inspired by Lucy's lovely essay on her move to England and coming in touch with frugality (not to mention her talk of wasting Starbuck's coffee), My Frugal LifeI was inspired to submit a piece I wrote a few months ago.

    Coffee Wasters: Why, Oh Why, Dump Your Starbucks? And, May I Have It?

    By: Jackie Tithof Steere
    As appeared on ChicagoNow

    You know who I'm talking about, don't you? You have to have seen this.

    A man (or woman, let's be fair) goes to all the effort of stopping off at Starbucks, waits in an enormous line, and digs deep into his pockets to pay for (let's face it) that very pricey cup of coffee, only to walk over to the condiment area and purposely spill about an eighth of it into the garbage. All to make room for cream.

    When I see it, it's all I can do to stop from cupping a hand or opening my mouth beneath their cup to catch that liquid gold. Steaming hot or not, I'd risk singeing my taste buds for the stuff, and not because I like it so much. That's a good quarter of two's worth of fancy java.

    Am I insane, or is wasting coffee (any coffee) one of the most illogical things you've seen another human being do?

    First of all, don't Starbucks employees usually ask customers if they'd like room for cream? Even if they don't, can't you ask them for the space? Even if you forget to ask, can't you make some yourself by sipping it down? I actually know what I'm talking about here. It's happened to me before. I don't have quite enough room for all the half and half or milk I want, so I fill it up as far as I can, take a few gulps (it's cooler now), and fill 'er up again. There's no shame in that (I think, anyway).

    And, second of all, there are people parched for coffee in India (or in some part of the world, surely). Did their parents neglect to tell them? Haven't they heard the same dinner time stories I heard growing up? My parents told us "eat your vegetables, there are children starving in the world (blah, blah, blah)", and "I walked five miles uphill to school everyday with holes in my shoes."

    If that didn't encourage us to clean our plates, they'd charge us for the meal. I think skipping out on my mom's stuffed shrimp one night set me back about five bucks, thirty years ago!

    Last time I checked, food and drink cost money, and even more dough for gourmet. Is it a sign of one's status or wealth to waste such luxurious things? Clearly, I haven't arrived.

    Or is it a matter of copycatting; someone sees someone else dump, they figure it's all the rage, and so they hop aboard the wasting train?

    Now, I've certainly heard of topping off a drink; I've never before heard of tipping off one. But, then again, I'm no expert.

    Please, please, please can someone help me understand? Have you seen this? Are you a coffee waster who'd like to come clean? Tell us all about it!

    By Jackie Tithof Steere from Chicago, IL

    Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here:

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    "Wake up and smell the roses, you really can't go home again". That's what I thought anyway. But with childhood memories dancing in my head and trepidation in my heart, I gave it a try.

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    My wife and I were meandering down a well-worn packed dirt trail in the Lake Louise Area of our Canadian Rocky Mountains, when I noticed all was not forest green and wonderful in our leafy paradise.

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    One of the difficult things about being frugal is when you see others doing what you would like to do. At the mall where I shop, there are a lot of cafes and eateries. Delicious smells in the air. People sitting, talking and eating and I realize I am HUNGRY.

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    When my husband recently had shoulder surgery and found out he would be off work most of the year, we were forced to cut back and live frugal.

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    Better Living Frugal Living AdviceJanuary 26, 2013
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