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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:
Does anyone here at ThriftyFun have any other ideas to share of what might be going too far to be frugal?
The frugal life has taught me many lessons in life - among them, the importance (and pleasure) of organization and planning ahead. I used to be proud of being spontaneous, of living (and buying) 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. It's slow cooking rather than flash-frying that I enjoy nowadays. My crock pot, constantly in use, is a symbol of a changed life!
Now I save money by booking travel tickets months ahead, keeping an eye out for special offers. I make careful lists at the beginning of each week, working out exactly what we're going to need for a week of meals. I buy in bulk when I can - but am careful not to buy so much that it rots before we can use it. Becoming aware of what food is in season is useful too - as fruit and vegetables are far cheaper (and more delicious) when they are eaten at the right time of year.
Because we have no car, I make a list of all the things I need to do in town - so that when I get the bus in (about once a week), I can do them all in one trip. I keep a chalkboard in the kitchen where I write a "to do list".
Though I have far less money than I used to do, I no longer get that guilty, fretful feeling that used to spoil the too-quick purchase of, for example, yet another unnecessary item of clothing. Now, I just change the buttons on a jacket forgotten in the wardrobe and it looks as good as new. Keeping your shoes mended and carefully polished makes them last years. I used to rush to work in the morning and buy an expensive lipstick, picked out in two minutes, on the way. Now I know exactly what's in my purse, because details like that are important to me and I hate waste and excess. Furthermore, I know now that one lipstick, carefully chosen, is really, REALLY, enough!
It's been a revelation to me how pleasurable it can be to plan one's daily life rather than be overwhelmed, as I once was, by an avalanche of waste and debt and panic. Though making ends meet is a constant challenge, I feel now as though I've taken control again, that every moment of the daily routine has value in its small way, and when I look out at the world outside our cottage and see the apples on our tree or my washing billowing on the line, I feel a joy and peace unlike anything I ever knew before.
By Lucy from Oxford, UK
Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml
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: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml
My husband is on SS disability and I earn a modest income with a local hospital. A motivator for us is to make a word or phrase into an acronym that parallels our goals and keeps us on track. A favorite of mine is: "Work Smarter, Not Harder" and would look like this.
Wages used to the best of our ability.
Own outright as much as we can.
Rely on God
Keep finances and financial goals in perspective.
Save what we can honestly set aside each pay.
Measure of our earnings for others.
Advice from the Bible, books, websites, trusted people.
Remember past dollar mistakes and learn from them.
Extra money save half and/or put extra on a bill.
Record what you spend.
Never give up. You may have to regroup, but NEVER give up.
Organization saves $$$ and time.
Thankful for my job and God's provision
Happy with what we have.
Ask before we buy - something else to use? Do we really need?
Realistic goals, set 'em!
Discover what motivates you to save.
Energize and stay focused with short term goals.
Reap the benefits of finances in order.
By Sheryl from Columbus, OH
Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml
A tip or a philosophy? 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.
Sometimes, I would rummage through these small piles of trash. Not really expecting to find anything of value, I did it out of curiosity. Even though I didn't know the people who threw the trash away, observing what they once owned and then discarded, gave me a strange sense of closeness to them.
Most of these trash piles were pretty much the same. I remember one in particular. Among other things, it contained a broken, small white glass jar that once held face cream. There were a few tin cans scattered about. A wheel that had broken off a little boy's wagon. A length of disintegrating baling twine. A few other small items, either rusted or rotted beyond recognition.
There was no plastic. It was unheard of at the time. There was no paper. Any paper soft enough was saved for use in the outhouse. All other paper was kept for starting a fire in the cook stove or fireplace, or it was put aside just because there might be a need for it someday.
I had a neighbor who raised most all her food. On the odd occasion, she would open a can of 'store bought' food. After emptying its contents into a chipped porcelain sauce pot sitting on her wood stove, she would then add a bit of water to the can and swirl it vigorously. That water was then added to the pot so as not to waste even a tiny bit of the food.
If a man spotted a screw, nail or washer on the ground, he picked it up and put it in his pocket. One never knew just when it would turn out to be exactly what was needed for a given project.
If those people were alive today, they would be astonished to see the millions of cubic yards of garbage we generate every year. Sometimes, I become disheartened at my own species. I feel we have become no more than an ungrateful lot who only care about buying, using or wasting, and discarding.
And then, I read articles in ThriftyFun and have a change of heart. I learn there are still folks who abhor waste. Folks who wouldn't think of putting a piece of bread in the garbage. Stale bread is good for toast. Or it can be frozen and kept for bread crumbs to be used in stuffing, for making croutons or used in bread pudding. If nothing else, it can be fed to the birds. They will repay us by reducing the numbers of unwanted insects.
I once told someone we lived in a spaceship. He said "You're crazy". I replied, 'Think about it. The Earth travels through space. It is self contained. Except for radiation and meteor dust, almost nothing comes in. Except for reflected light, space shuttles and unmanned space vehicles, almost nothing goes out. So, the Earth can be likened to one big spaceship with a crew of six+ billion people'.
You do not 'throw out the trash'. There is no 'out' there. The best (or worst) you can do, is move it from one spot of our spaceship to another. Eventually, there will be no spots left. Then what?
With so many needy and hungry people among us, waste is a terrible sin. It is a sin against humanity. And with that in mind, let me say:
Each time I read another article in ThriftyFun on how to save, reuse, recycle, reclaim and share; my faith in the goodness of my fellow humans is increased. My thanks to all of you who show concern for keeping our little spaceship a greener, healthier and safer place to live in while it continues its journey towards Vega.
Gentle readers of this ThriftyFun site, the following is a true Wildlife story. 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. There was a small government sign printed with bold black letters that read: "Don't Feed The Wild Life".
Those who know me understand that I am a law abiding citizen, particularly when I am walking and munching happily on a large juicy green apple. I had no qualms at all about obeying that government edict. No qualms at all except for the four inch tall and furry brown chipmunk sitting next to the sign, who held both his front paws in the air and kept his large heart-melting pool black fluid eyes staring directly into mine!
Now when I mentioned sitting next to the sign, I did not describe how the sign was next to our trail and Mr. Chipmunk was sitting on the trail, blocking my path. In fact, most people would stop to read the sign and it made a perfect spot to ambush unsuspecting tourists. A four inch Robin Hood with the courage of a lion, who created tourist conscience conundrums.
Needless to say, my wife and I continued down the trail and you can ask yourselves, did I obey that sign or not? Somebody gave Mr. Chipmunk a mouthful of something sweet but I admit to nothing, and I repeat! I admit to nothing!
Do feed the wildlife! I am not suggesting that when you walk on the wild side, you bring meat and potatoes for the animals; but every visitor to a National Park in North America should be greeted at the gate by well paid Park Wardens, who provide said curious guests with seeds for planting in the Park. Free gifts that include native flower seeds and a native fruit bush. The wildlife, including freedom loving tourists, will enjoy eating the fruits of black berry and/or red berry Bushes. Even a small apple tree will do. Every tourist should be given brief instructions on how and where to plant their free gifts. In full sunlight or half sunlight or even no sunlight. Every Tourist should be made to feel welcome as an honored guest.
Have a Great Summer Vacation!
Signed: Joseph Raglione
Executive Director: The World Humanitarian Peace and Ecology Movement.
By Joseph Raglione from Quebec, Canada
Frugal? I have been "wealthy" yet savvy enough to ALWAYS save 10% of my salary. I had stretch limo with driver plus two Cadillac Opera coupes, a big city condo downtown, two beach front condos for vacations on the Pacific Ocean, mink coats, a box at the polo grounds, CEO of a successful business, never wanted for anything. And yes, I got hit by the stock market drop just like everyone else. NOW, at 80, I have sold all my property, gave my furniture to Goodwill and relocated across the country to a 400 square foot mini penthouse downtown rental, elegantly furnished with thrift store items, walking everywhere and riding public transportation, What a fun thing to do! I have never been happier.
I suppose my "new" friends think I am "barely making it" because I live on a budget of $750 per month and and LOVIN' it because it is a challenge! Most people do not realize the fun of recycling, the "IN" thing to do.
I moved to a town dedicated to that purpose. Thrift shops have Ralph Lauren, Jones of New York, Eddy Bauer, NYDJ, Gloria Vanderbilt. Lots of NEW name brand clothes are donated to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. and I dress just as well as when I was "wealthy" but having a lot more fun seeking out these bargain treasures.
My extra money goes to buy Warren Buffet stock each month and I am enjoying being free of material things and responsibilities, a load off my shoulders. Money in the bank can give you peace of mind these days of uncertain economy. No worries, no bankruptcy, no credit card debt, no repossessions, no home upkeep or maintenance, no vehicle expenses, yet I can have five-star restaurants whenever I want, theater and music at the nearby university,
Life is great but I am greater since I dropped my materialistic life and began the thrill of the search for thrift shop bargains. I buy new items 99% of the time and giggle all the way home at winning this hunt in today's economy. I am glad I traveled the world for 50 years and got rid of the itch to impress other people. POINT? I matured! I am content, finally.
By Avis from Boulder CO
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.
But wait! If I can contain myself for another 20 minutes to get home, I can make myself a grilled cheese sandwich with ingredients I already have. I have saved myself many dollars by doing that and not being lead into cafe temptation!
I don't buy magazines any more. I love to read, both books and magazines. but they are too expensive for me to indulge in that now, A friend gives me a bundle of magazines once a month when she has finished with them, then I give them to a next door neighbour, who works at a nursing home and she takes them in for the patients. This is better than throwing them in the recycling bin, as the pleasure of reading is passed on.
There are many other ways you can think twice or three times!
Sharing is good too. Recently I was given four avocados, which are expensive to buy here. The next day, I took two of them and gave them to a friend. Helping each other makes the world go around.
By Ellie from Melbourne, Australia
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. Since then I have read all sorts of old books of hints and on housekeeping from the old days, and gleaned interesting info from them. I recommend that you read up on tips and hints at Thriftyfun and elsewhere.
To me, being frugal is an ongoing process, as the frugal "game" is always changing. The 40s frugalists, for example, wouldn't know anything about freebie sites, and I get all sorts of useful samples from them. There are also all the online sweepstakes that you can enter just by filling in the forms. There are now free ebooks that you can download, my favorite freebie site is: freestufftimes.com. It lists oodles of downloads every day and you can download a Kindle for PC app free, too. There are also numerous freeware apps you can download for security, to clean up your computer, and for other uses. Check out www.filehippo.com for a list. I like CC Cleaner to clean out cookies fast and speed up my computer.
The art of frugality is creativity. Things are always cropping up. Did you know that you can resell giftcards for cash over the net, for example? (I am going to a focus group that is paying in a gift card, because I know I can convert it to much needed cash.)
And by all means learn to do as much as you can yourself. If you don't know how to sew, by all means learn, so you can mend everybody's clothing, sew on buttons, take up hems, and so on. Learn to maintain and repair equipment. (My mother kept a 50-year-old furnace going by learning to maintain it from watching the utility repairmen that came out.) Know what to do if your car overheats and so on. We even get along on good used tires. Not optimum, but surely a money-saver. Glue things back together, like loose shoe soles, before taking them to a professional. Spray suede and canvas shoes and bags with a soil repellant to keep them looking new longer.
Knowledge is power! The other day I found myself explaining all the ins and outs of how to deal with newspaper theft to a friend of mine, how you can call for replacements before 10 AM, theft bags, and credits to your account for missing papers. Check with the circulation department. Do your own taxes. The year Hubby insisted we go to HR Block, we had to pay more.
Now that Hubby is unemployed, he is taking the time and energy to go to the discount supermarket and last time he saved $15 off the bill. We also go to Smart & Final for certain more inexpensive staples.
Think about what you can sell. My best story is the etching I bought for $40 when in grad school, which I sold years later for $1500; a good return on my investment. Now with the prices of gold so high, maybe it's time to look through your jewelry box for things you never wear.
You all know about having yard sales and so on, so I won't go about those, except to say that I am still surprised that folks just chuck perfectly good items in the trash, rather than giving them away, donating them to charity, or selling them.
As times change, so will modes of thrift. I don't see many people making furniture out of cheese boxes anymore. What is a cheese box? But people can make things out of other scrap wood. I find that even book shelves salvaged from bookcases about to go into the trash can be used. Put one over a wastepaper basket to form an extra surface near your desk.
If people offer you stuff, take it. I now have enough paperclips and pens for a long time, because people were moving and getting rid of them. Those things cost money, too, especially if you are working from home. You can find good homes for things, give them away to friends, sell, or donate them. And feel better about yourself because you are not filling up the landfill.
Frugality is a lifestyle. I, for one, am always trying to think of a cheaper way to do everything. We got introduced to good used appliances a ways back and much of our household equipment was not bought new.
I admit that we don't use coupons much, but that's because we rarely buy name brand items. But we always do rebates if they are there.
Hubby hitched up with me knowing a bit about saving money, but I have to admit that I have been a very good influence over the years. He is now much better than I am at getting cheap electronics. And he doesn't feel self-conscious about going to a dollar store, either. Let's all be smart, and squeeze those nickels until the buffalo jumps around!
By Pam from Los Angeles, CA
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.
Frugality is not doing without the things that matter most in your life, it's about doing those things more cheaply. It's about two old and rather clichéd sayings.
It's about looking at your life and seeing where and by what means you can change things around to get the most out of the least. Sadly some of the biggest savings can be made in the two most needful things in our lives - keeping ourselves fed and keeping ourselves warm.
Food? It IS possible to cut down on spending without going hungry and without compromising on health. Vegetables are both cheap and healthy. Grow your own if you have the means. Grow them as cheaply as possible. Collect seeds for free from tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers. Throw potatoes into the ground that are starting to sprout. Make your own compost. Eat the parts others throw away. Beetroot leaves, for instance, taste delicious - just like chard or spinach.
Look for bargains. Go at the right time of day, and supermarkets will sell off stuff cheaply - but remember to only buy if you are sure you will use it before it goes off. Buy cheaper brands. Eat less meat and more veg.
My favourite is lunches. Did you know you can save up to about £1000 a year just by making your own lunch for work instead of eating in the canteen or buying ready made stuff?
Then there's the old fashioned idea of keeping poultry. If you have even the smallest of backyards you can keep a couple of chickens. Feed them well and they will reward you with eggs and they will even eat all your scraps and trimmings so nothing is wasted.
Clothes? Revamp old clothes. Make do and mend. Most of us could go a year or more without buying anything new. Not just clothes either. Recycling, upcycling and repurposing are all the fashion at the moment and there are masses of websites that will show you how.
Warmth? Turn down the heat and put on more clothes. When I was really hard up once I would regularly sit in a cold house but was lovely and toasty warm because I had 2 hot water bottles. One under my feet and one under my bum.
And - a luxury these days - if you are lucky enough to have wood burner or open fire there is free fuel all around you. Paper, card, old cotton cloths, old wood people are throwing away and old wood from forests and woods.
Living frugally does not mean being miserable. You can still have fun and entertainment without it costing you a fortune. Have a picnic then watch the sunset instead of going out to watch a movie. Invite friends round for a meal instead of eating out. Call in all your family for a gardening party instead of a garden party. You can save on not having to hire a gardener and have a memorable time too.
Giving gifts can be cheaper too. Have fun making a huge batch of baked goodies. Wrap them in cellophane with pretty hand made labels and they will be appreciated far more than anything you can buy.
In the end, you will actually begin to enjoy being frugal and start to appreciate the things in life that are free.
By ShirleyE 
I'm surviving the current economic times by using coupons on everything I can. One grocery store puts out a $10 coupon off a $50 gas card if you purchase $25 in groceries in their store. That is not difficult and you can use coupons on the $25 order. I buy my food, cosmetics, pantyhose, anything in the grocery store or discount drug stores with coupons. A lot of the things I get for free, or almost free, with coupons are donated to a local food pantry/community center. At the end of the year, I can deduct the donated items from my taxes.
I buy all the food I can from the store that gives Fuel Perks, $.05 per $50 in groceries, off my gas purchases. I'm also taking advantage of a free food truck that comes to my friend's church each week. She says what they don't give away (donated from local stores) is fed to the hogs, so she invited me to partake of the produce and bakery items. Last week, we got Bing Cherries at the free truck. They were $3.99 a lb. in the store.
For clothing, I either buy it very cheaply on clearance in a retail store, or go to Goodwill to their $1 racks. Sometimes, everything in the store is 1/2 off the marked price as on Labor Day.
I take advantage of all the free Grand Openings at businesses, free health fairs, free lunches if you listen to a senior topic such as Insurance or Medicare subjects. My senior friends alert me to all the things I don't know about. We invite each other as guests as these functions.
The oil in my car is changed free every 3 months by a local church who has an Oil Change Ministry. Not only do they change the oil in the cars for single and disabled men and women, but check out the car completely and give you a written report.
My entertainment each week is free Bluegrass/Gospel music. For other free entertainment, I check out the Free Happenings in my local newspaper.
Each week, I lead a Coupon Club. We share tips on what is on sale where, and exchange coupons. Although I collect coupons from many sources, this also gives me coupons I need. I also teach others, free, how to use coupons.
By Betty from Williamston, SC
Back when I first moved to Western Montana, we lived in an old cook shack; no running water, creek out the back, outhouse down the hill. Once you learn how to bathe yourself sparkly clean AND wash and rinse your hair clean by using one small galvanized bucket of hot water, I think a lifetime of frugality is required. Today, I only have to bathe once in a great while in a bucket of hot water, but can you do it? Takes practice! Good to know in case of a power outage or an emergency water situation. I store water and have a wood stove, so I can always be clean.
By Gracie from Stevensville, MT
When I was in my early 50s, I began to question the lifestyle my husband and I were living. I longed for a simpler lifestyle: 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. Quitting was going to be easy, but the more difficult task was finding the ways I could maintain my goal once I did quit.
The question of "What are you willing to change in your life to achieve your goal?" kept filtering through my mind, and I realized the answer was not using the words "give up" interchangeably with the word "change" in that phrase until I was able to understand the difference.
The most reasonable and surest way to achieve my goal was to just quit, and then deal with the aftermath in a very pro-active way. Yes, it was a "guts" move that many people wouldn't be able to handle, but with my husband's support and the knowledge that I would be the one handling "the aftermath," I quit, and then never looked back with regret. That doesn't mean it was easy, but my goal of making this work for both of us was tantamount to everything else.
After taking the first two weeks to just rest, recuperate and think, I began listing all the changes on paper that needed to be made, which included carefully guarding the resources that my husband continued to bring into our lives as well as finding new venues of producing income or additional resources based on what we already had.
Some decisions were just plain easy, such as canceling a standing weekly appointment at the beauty salon for hair and a manicure or eating out numerous nights a week because there was no time to fix meals, but even then, I knew this was only the tip of the iceberg.
The first major decision was to sell our home, which was way too big and costly for the two of us. Two people who want a simpler lifestyle don't need or want an executive home with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a three-and-a-half car garage, etc. (You know your house is too big for you when two of the bathrooms are regularly dusted rather than cleaned because of non-use!)
The 3,000+ sq. ft. house sold relatively quickly, and then came the task of finding a smaller house. When I found that much smaller house still within convenient driving distance of my husband's employment, then began the monumental task of downsizing our possessions to fit our new abode, which was slightly more than 1,200 sq. ft. That was perhaps the most sizeable job of all, and required several garage and consignment sales. (You know you have too many clothes when your yearly wardrobe requires two full-sized walk-in closets!)
After we moved came the adjustment period of being content and happy in a smaller home, and that did take some getting used to. My husband could care less what type of house we lived in, but I had initial difficulty because nothing "fit" properly according to my former lifestyle. This was a mental change I needed to make, and through home improvement projects and fixing what didn't work for me such as non-functioning closets and antiquated storage cupboards, within the first year, I grew to love that much smaller and unpretentious home. As I worked through the process of making each room or space as functional and comfortable as possible for the least amount of expended money, I found I still had too many possessions. (A smaller home means fewer possessions, which means less to clean and take care of! I established the rule that I had to be able to see all three walls of any cupboard or closet to avoid clutter or unnecessary stuff.)
Simultaneously, I began to tackle the financial problems of not having a significant savings program, but having an ample amount of credit card debt. This portion of downsizing our lives required constant attention, but I discovered some wonderful surprises that seemed so obvious in hindsight.
For example, the more time I spent in the kitchen making our meals without the aid of convenience foods, the more we skipped eating out and the less I was spending on groceries. The more time I spent in formulating grocery lists according to what was on sale, and establishing and then using a price book, the more funds were available out of the grocery budget for using on eliminating credit card debt.
The biggest and most important life lesson I learned was that I could waste our resources by not being careful how I used them. I found that if I minded the pennies, the dollars would take care of themselves. I cut out all the extraneous spending I could because I wanted to make sure I didn't have to re-enter the job market again.
I established a small kitchen garden to supplement our fresh vegetable, fruit and herb needs, and loved the small brick patio and bench area we built together for free under a shade tree near the garden. (Nothing beat enjoying an early morning cup of coffee while sitting on that bench just looking at a beautiful growing garden!)
I realized I only needed two pair of jeans - one for everyday and a good pair. I needed only a couple pair of shoes, one casual jacket and one dressier coat, etc. (You find you don't need two or three dressy evening outfits if your daily lifestyle dictates jeans and tennies!)
I realized I didn't need magazine subscriptions or daily newspapers because with the internet and a television, I could meet my needs without unnecessary costs. (You will love how little you then have to recycle, too!)
I realized that I didn't need to buy coffee or soda when I was out shopping but could reward myself quite nicely with a cup of coffee at home once I was done.
I realized that if I saved daily change instead of carrying it in my purse and then spending it, I could control the amount of money dribbling out of my hands. Each month, I would then roll the change and bank it in our savings account. (This later translated to saving all change plus $1 bills for both of us and if you don't think that doesn't amount to some sizeable savings, then just try saving it for one week to see what is getting away from you!)
I realized that if you pay yourself first into a savings account or better yet, do so through a payroll deduction direct deposit into your savings account, within six months, you will have a sizeable balance. (You can then maximize this account to also serve as your emergency funds account, but roll over into a longer-term, more productive interest bearing account when it gets beyond what you need for an emergency fund so that your money will work for you!)
I realized that we didn't need two vehicles if I planned my errands and "need to do" trips to coincide with weekends or times that my husband's vehicle was available to me. (Eliminating one vehicle also eliminates payments, fuel, licensing, taxes, etc.!)
I realized that we were more than content to provide our own entertainment at a much less expensive cost if we availed ourselves of what was offered at a much reduced rate or even free within our own community. (The symphony orchestra didn't fold because we were no longer dues-paying members!)
I realized we didn't need more than one credit card, and that no credit cards should ever be carrying a balance. I realized that paying cash for everyday expenses such as gasoline are way more frugal and cost effective than having to write out checks, expend postage, etc., to get a credit card bill paid.
I realized that if I could contain the outflow of money on credit cards as well as daily living expenses, I could much better control how much of that money stayed in my pocket, thereby lessening expenses each month. (Credit cards breed carelessness in me when it comes to handling money and yet cold, hard cash in my hand is likely to stay in my hand!)
I realized we didn't need to be spending up to one thousand dollars on gifts and holiday functions each year for friends and family members, but with careful planning and an attentive eye towards sales throughout the year, we could meet those needs just as nicely at a fraction of the cost.
I realized that every bit of information I needed to acquire on a simpler, more frugal lifestyle could probably be found on the internet. (You will be amazed at the wealth of information to be found on the internet, and how much you can learn to make a simpler, more frugal lifestyle a reality for your family. I am not talking about an austere lifestyle - just one that is more satisfying, more fulfilling, and not necessarily based on how much money you can spend to achieve your goals.)
Through downsizing our lifestyle, we were also able for the first time to meet and then exceed the ten percent tithe. And by reading and researching ways to get the credit card debt under control, we have finally realized that dream. (There are numerous sites on the web for strategic debt reduction and if you haven't availed yourself of these incredibly useful and free sites, I strongly recommend it. When you understand how important this step is and how easily it can be accomplished with today's internet sites that formulate your "plan of attack" on debt, you will have half the battle won! It is very possible for middle-income families to strategically reduce their debt load by thousands of dollars every year.)
Today, our lifestyle is very simple, very frugal but not stingy towards us or the things we want to do. Our expectations of what we "need" in this life are separated out from our "wants", and we know the difference. We are now devoid of undue stress and compromises in our life, and we are happier than we have ever been. We have a financial plan we can live within comfortably while meeting our expectations and know our future is as secure as we can make it. We look forward to each new day as a gift from God to be enjoyed and counted as a blessing.
And I personally would do it all over again in a heartbeat for the benefits we have received from this adventure!
Ronsan from Southwest Missouri
Growing up, I was always taught not to hoard. Donate or throw away what you don't use. On the other hand, I learned to buy good once, reuse and be creative, and you never do without. I do things at home like save good size plastic containers to use as dishes, carry to work containers or to hold things like nails or art supplies . There are many ways to reuse a container if you are creative, but don't have so many that it's just clutter!
I am a single parent of a two year old, so there's no one to impress with looks, LOL. So, stained or worn out clothes become pajamas, stained baby clothes become rags to reduce paper towel waste, nice plastic bags hold socks, I have my Christmas decorations in a plastic container from a comforter.
These are just some of what I do and I am always browsing sites like ThriftyFun to learn more! Like I just learned that baking soda eliminates odors more than just in the fridge. I have set some around for a few weeks and it works! I even stuck an open box of baking soda under my car seat!
Yes, I am an old school Star Trek fan. "These are the voyages of the . . ." Oh ok, I will come back down to Earth for a moment and talk about how I am feeding my family.
There are two ways that I can be frugal in the way I live my life. One way is to reduce, reuse and recycle, make my own things and save money for the things that really cost extra. This is the formula I use. I am frugal in every way, because number one it is in me to be like that, and number two it works and saves money for me. I love to save money but I am by no means a penny pincher. Shopping my way is, in my opinion, a frugal way, yet not by any means the cheapest way. But it is the best way I know to get the most nutrition into my family on a daily basis. I have found I can buy fewer very good and high priced foods and still spend less than when I am buying average foods that come in fancy ready to serve packages.
This is part of my philosophy: Keep food as close to it's natural form as possible. Sometimes I cannot do this, but I try. The fact is that the packaging on foods is very expensive. When a food is in a package, you know it has preservatives, and other things added that you may not like. I always have my most success when I plan out the most frugal way to eat. I have to consider time and quickness of preparation. Also simple preparation is important. I like to find real whole foods. I remember taking cereal to cheerleading practice along with vitamin water or Gatorade. The nutrition on this was amazing, I would not give them junk to eat. It was something like the Frosted Mini-Wheats type of cereal, where a lot of the vitamins were at 90 or 100 percent. They loved it!
I have special needs in my home, both animal and human. There are varying degrees of consequences to eating the wrong foods, some of them serious and some of them simply more or less an annoyance. Protein has been easy to provide. I do little red meat and a lot of chicken, and eggs. I am going to look into turkey more often as it might be a better choice. This has not caused a problem as they are pretty happy with the protein in the meats we have at home.
Vegetables are so important. In our house, they are either loved or hated. Food is a great buzzword and always will be. People love to eat. My family is no exception. That being said, I think some of the members of my family do not consider vegetables as food. If they could, they would beam them off the face of the earth. There was a time at the store when I would hardly ever go into produce for anything really green, since no one really would eat anything that I brought home. These are a few of the "vegetables" that are eaten in our home that I would not put high on the nutrition scale, but they are still kept on hand to eat because they are favorites.
One of them is the grain we know of as corn. Some people consider it a fruit and a vegetable as well. It is a family favorite in small amounts. It is also one of the foods to cause allergies in animals we keep as pets. Not only is corn in everything, it is cheap and that is what we feed our farm animals. So even if you are not eating corn, you are, because what you are eating ate it to begin with, more than likely. Corn is also in the form of sugar, it shows up everywhere. It is because corn is one of the cheaper ways to do things in the food industry. From texture to browning to flavor. You can Google high fructose corn syrup and find everything from A to Z. I can tell you I have researched it as well, and it is not harmless. It raises levels of a certain acid in the body that can contribute to high blood pressure. I am not a fan of sugar at all anyway, regardless of how it is made. My German Shepherd, Dutchess, who is eight years old is highly allergic to corn and to any grain.
The first treatment for children with special needs ranging from ADD to Autism is usually taking them off of grain and milk for a while to see if that helps. It has corrected autism in some kids and really increased the quality of life in others. For the most part, special needs children have issues, on an enzymatic level a lot of times on a cellular level, and it ends up causing a terrible reaction behaviorally and physically for them, as well as mentalyif they consume a food they cannot for any reason use or digest. Even a food that is next to a food that is being processed at a factory, if it gets the least minute amount of an allergen like peanut butter, it can cause a very bad reaction. There are warning letters from the FDA that go out all the time regarding undisclosed allergens in foods. Sometimes people with children who have autism won't remember that corn is a grain and that it should be removed in a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet. Gluten is in bread and Casein is in cows milk. Ironically, my child who has special needs, is not at all reactive to grains or to milk or anything else like this. We did do the food challenges on her early on and every so often to make sure she is doing good.
We do not eat a lot of bread from a loaf package. That is a long story, one I will get into later on one of my blogs. When I say we do not eat a lot of bread, I mean we don't make a lot of sandwiches. We do eat it in the form of pizzas we bake in our toaster ovens, but it is not excessive. We all know that flour and water make a sort of glue, well that is what it can do when eaten in excessive amounts to our bodies. What happens to my Shepherd when she eats grain is that she will scratch and scratch and get yeast all over her fur, it will turn black around her ears, and if she is not bathed, it will build up and build up which is unhealthy for her skin. She is just miserable. There seems to be a problem with us as a whole culture consuming too much grain.
We do eat potatoes, but as you probably know they turn right into sugar faster than a few other foods might. But this does not keep us from eating them. They seem to help my daughter feel better when she is nervous, or needs to have some kind of comfort food. I always eat mashed potatoes when I am looking for a comfort food.
Green beans are great for me, but no one else would eat them. They wanted them out of a can or frozen. Of course, as time went on, we ended up doing frozen and keeping them in a yogurt container in the fridge. I liked the V8 Juices and the fruit mixtures but the salt content is too high for me.
I spend a lot of time researching, reading, networking with people, and comparing their experiences of nutrition on behavior and healing of many different kinds. It is one of the ways in which treating and correcting Autism's physical and nutritional problems have come so far. At first, when I was looking at my daughter's diet from a healing and behavior perspective, I was thinking fruit juice would be great and nutritional. Of course, I was wrong. Real fruits were better for her. I still get orange juice, because I take iron pills and they absorb better when taken with orange juice. I found out she could have no more than 1/4 cup with her meals, that is even less than 1/4 cup and I decided it was better for her to just do the fruit. We had her at the doctor once when her blood sugar was low and that is when it was decided that fruit juice was not the best choice for her to drink. Other than the orange juice, I just buy juices that are 100% real, occasionally, and with little sugar. I like to encourage tea but that is a losing battle. I have not stopped fighting yet. Tea has a lot of antioxidants, if I am correct. I model eating foods that I would like to see them eat, such as cucumbers, which are incredibly nutritious. They have seemed to settle on broccoli for now, which is good.
Milk, which is a cardinal sin, so to speak, for most kids on the spectrum of autism, is tolerated perfectly by my child. It is amazing, because when it is an allergy or a sensitivity, even a minute amount can cause terrible reactions and behaviors. I was buying the nonfat kind of milk, the two percent kind, but alas I was wrong there too. The vitamin D does not do well without fat being present. I am back to buying regular milk. I only let them drink it with their meals and sometimes with Ovaltine.
Where we are now, we are on high protein, in the morning, and then we can do the rest of the foods the rest of the day. Vegetables, need fat in order to be digested. So without fat there will be not much bile and that is necessary for digestion of any kind of vegetable that we would eat. All of this boils down to being frugal in choosing which foods I am going to serve. I would never have thought I would ever spend as much as I do at the grocery store, as I do now, on foods. I buy the expensive big container of orange juice. It lasts longer. I do not let them drink it like water, it is only given in small amounts. The rest of the fruit requirements are just apples, bananas, tangerines, etc.
I buy eggs all the time, two or three cartons each time I go to the store. We buy yogurt, even though it is off brand, because of the probiotic element, and the good bacteria. It is a wonderful digestion booster and since our immunity is mostly in our intestines anyway, it is a way to increase immunity. We really "up" our vitamin C and yogurt in the colder months. It goes without saying that yogurt gets consumed really fast because I require them to put it on every plate they eat during the day. When I go to the frozen section, I buy the chicken patties you can cook in the microwave, that are already actually cooked. These are not cheap by any means. I buy the regular milk, not the low fat milk, because of the vitamin D issue, being that vitamin D needs fat in order to work the best for us in our bodies.
I also, the other day, was in the pet aisle, and I looked in the refrigerated section for the pets and I bought the food called Freshpets. It is ready to eat food you slice and feed to the dogs. Dutchess, my husband's older German Shepherd, is the one who gets it, and a few chicken patties a day and yogurt as well. Dutchess has to have baths all the time, and the Tea Tree Oil shampoo at Drs. FosterSmith is not cheap. I could make my own but I trust their brand more. I use Tree Oil for everything from lice to disinfection of the bathtub.
Far from being cheap, being frugal and careful in choosing what foods and what products I buy, has paid off in the long run. I spend less on things overall, and they last longer. So what may not seem frugal at first, is often the most frugal choice in the long run.
By Robyn Fed from Tri-Cities, TN
We should try to make thrifty not just doing with less, or spending less, but also thinking how to be globally responsible. You know, rags rather than paper towels, cloth napkins not paper, using a drying rack or clothes line instead of our very wasteful (gas or electric) dryers.
Fortunately many things that cost less, thinking long term here, are also better for our environment. If you drive around for the best buy, how much time and gas do you waste? Granted it pays to shop around on items we use, especially big ticket items. There are just more efficient ways to shop prices.
When I think of what I have saved over the years, it amazes me. Some things may seem silly to you, but the 4 dozen nice cloth napkins I've used for roughly 25 years, has no comparison to what I would have spent in paper napkins in that time frame. Yes, I said it, 25 years. See, not using the dryer saves more than just the cost to run that dryer. The money spent on paper napkins doesn't even count the cost in trees, fuels to cut, transport, process, package and to transport again.
I'm not an environmental nut. I do think that if you are bothering to try and be fugal and/or thrifty, that we should look beyond our noses to the larger picture. Think dominoes, the chain reaction that happens when you think through the long term costs, globally.
By Zoek from Western CO
Living frugal can be a very simple, yet rewarding change in your lifestyle. I used to think that meant eating rabbit food and living in bamboo huts. Me, in a loincloth? Never! But it's actually very easy to do and you don't have to give up the things you love.
I started small, with hanging clothes to dry on a line, recycling, thrift store shopping, cutting down on energy consumption. It didn't make a huge difference and I started to doubt that I could keep it up. Then, I discovered the world of frugal living via the internet! There is a surprisingly vast wealth of tips and knowledge to be found here. I decided to try some of the suggestions, and I haven't looked back. In fact, some of the ideas I gained from the web pages I visited have inspired me to look at everything now with an eye for repurposing or repairing.
We've all had a beloved dog or precocious child scratch the top of our beautiful coffee table. With regret, we throw it out and search for a new one the next time we head out to Wally World. I used to do it, too. Then I saw a photo of an end table refinished with a deep, dark cherry red finish and I thought to myself, "I have to try it." Of course, I didn't want to experiment on one of my own possessions. A short time later, when a neighbor was putting out a small wood table for the trash - you got it! I snatched that mother and slapped a few very messy, drippy, uneven coats of stain on it before I realized there must be some technique to doing this right. Once again, my compadre Mr. Internet came to the rescue and I found that I needed to apply it, then wipe off the excess. You live and learn, I guess, but imagine my surprise when I sold it in a yard sale a month later for $20! The stain cost me $8, the clear finish coat was $10, and the paintbrush was $1. I still had enough left to do every piece of wood furniture in my house, and since I sold that table - it was FREE!
Two summers ago, I began to be interested in gardening and organic foods. Buying fresh in the grocery store was getting so expensive, and I figured growing it at home wouldn't be so bad. I bombed my first attempt by not doing my homework (my kids must think me a hypocrite!) and planting all the wrong seeds, in all the wrong places, and in all the wrong times. I grew a gigantic patch of hardy weeds, not even suitable for livestock fodder. My wonderful neighbor Bob schooled me in the techniques of planting a garden to feed my family. I brought in some lovely yellow squash, gorgeous tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, although very small, and one cute little sprig of basil from my garden this past year. And I found that gathering seeds for next year's planting was easy too. I kept seeds from watermelons, pumpkins, peas, sunflowers, beans, etc. and dried them on wax paper. In my (finally) useful saved egg cartons, I placed the dried seeds in napkin pieces in the cubbies, then affixed labels to toothpicks and poked them into the sides. The herbs I have decided to grow in small planters in the window to keep the insects from enjoying my harvest.
There are many things you can do to scrape by on a budget. Clip coupons and sign up for online savings, save candle wax to melt into jars, buy roasts when they're on sale and slice into chops or steaks, make your own beauty products like natural masks, lip balms, and milk baths, color in chips in wood furniture with markers or colored pencils, frequent yard sales, have your own yard sales; and look to the web for inspiration. Get your family involved. There are so many ways to save, and it's easy. Make it fun, too.
By Ree G. from Hilliard, OH
My first career was as a musician. Despite some good breaks and a substantial amount of business success, music was basically a hand-to-mouth existence. So I learned to manage on the little money that I had.
I also got bitten by the environmental bug. I accepted the goal of reducing my personal impact on the environment as much as possible. "R" number one is Reduce, so I learned to do without. It's amazing how much stuff you actually don't need when you look at it objectively. I don't have a garage full of trinkets that I don't need, want or use, because I never bought them in the first place.
"R" number 2 is Reuse. When you used something a second time, you reduce your environmental impact by 50%. Using a shopping bag twice has far more environmental benefit than a lot of people produce in a lifetime. I shop at garage sales, Goodwill and the local ReUse Centre regularly. Buying a jacket from Goodwill or a book from the ReUse Centre reduces the impact on the environment by 100% because these items will not go to landfill.
"R" number 3 is recycle. I'm not a fan of recycling because it requires absolutely no change in lifestyle. In my opinion, recycling doesn't work. It's too easy to put garbage into the blue box and expect someone else to deal with the problem.
Today I am a stay-at-home father, freelance writer and part-time college instructor. I don't have to live a frugal lifestyle, but I do. I have a young daughter who has to live on this planet for the next 60, 70, 80 years or more. She may choose to have children and her children might have children. I would very much like future generations to have healthy air to breath, clean air to breath and unpolluted land to live on. Besides, I'm cheap!
Richard from Oakville Ontario Canada
I think some people get discouraged with frugal living because they don't realize that not all tips are right for them. Frugal for a stay-at-home mother of four will be different than frugal for a childless career woman, for example. You have to sift and choose what works best with your lifestyle and circumstances.
By SusannL from St Cloud, FL
I call this "the 10% rule". Whatever you are using, try using 10% less: 10% less laundry detergent, 10% less shampoo, 10% less toothpaste, 10% less hamburger in your casserole. Chances are, you won't even notice that 10% is missing -- and saving a penny here and a penny there DOES add up!
By Becki in Indiana
I think anyone living on this earth should be at least somewhat frugal, but not be too extreme. The book of Genesis in the Bible tells us we have been freely given goods from God, and we should obviously use them wisely. However, I also feel it's possible to be TOO frugal, and either make things a god, or sacrifice time, which is a negative tradeoff. This can cause stress in our lives and gives us wrong priorities. The bottom line is that, Yes: we should live frugally, but No: we should not become slaves to a frugal lifestyle to the point where life becomes "I have to." There's a delicate balance!
As my mom said, "Your time is worth something, too." Before I engage in any frugal endeavor, I ask myself, "Will it be worth the time?" This can expand to "Could I find a substitute in the dollar store or the discount aisle that would work just as well and also save me time?"
For example, we all know there are numerous home recipes for cleaning products. We can keep them simple and use things like vinegar and baking soda, OR you might be lucky enough to find a comparable cleaner in the store (preferably without chemicals) for a dollar or so, which is all ready to be used. Time is definitely a factor to be considered in frugal living!
It's important, I think, to try to keep frugal living as simple as possible. I'd mentioned vinegar and baking soda, which can be used in numerous ways. I try to buy in bulk when I can; the bigger the containers, the better. This really can save money, if you use the product often enough. The less clutter and "extras", including things used in frugal recipes, the better we feel in our homes.
Thrift stores, rummage sales, and garage sales can be gold mines. I've come across hobby items, large pots for container gardening, cheap plants, and even brand new items still in the boxes (great for gifts!). I've bought things like a microwavable potato chip tray, a crepe baker, and mini donut molds, all for next to nothing. Some I've been pleased with; some I've resold or donated to the thrift store. I know I wouldn't buy such things brand new, but frugal living has taught me it's not all about just saving money, but enjoying what we have (or find!) and sharing with others. It allows us to sample and savor more of life's little enjoyments and the simpler pleasures. It reminds us that life is not all about money. Frugal living should be simple and uncomplicated, and never cause us stress.
Helen from Belle Plaine, MN
I was lucky that I was offered a house, but we had very little by the way of furniture etc... I discovered the joy of Thrift Stores, Ebay, Freecycle and Car Boot (Yard) Sales.
I now grow my own fruit and vegetables, keep chickens for eggs and have rediscovered the arts of dressmaking, knitting, home baking.
We go on camping holidays or to festivals for our holidays.
We also make use of our local resources such as the library, swimming pool, museums, nature reserves, galleries, local farms and parks.
We have a wonderful life now and I wouldn't change it for the world, we have a beautiful home that looks like we have spent a small fortune on it but it's all been donated or purchased very cheaply.
I've learned so much on this journey, I appreciate what we have so much more than before, we repair, reuse and recycle as second nature and not only is this good for us as a family but it's also great for the planet too.
Scarlet from UK
Pack a lunch. Hop the bus to work. Drive a modest car. Walk when you don't have to drive. Hang your clothes on the line.
Perhaps not, someone might think you're poor.
It's strange the attitudes that surround thrift today. Little respect is given to the idea of getting by with only what one needs, and indulging only on special occasions. What's more, pity is showered on those who don't already have everything they've ever wanted. Too often, the goal is simply to acquire. More. Better. Now. Sophisticated advertising campaigns feed the myth that delayed gratification is a symptom of not valuing yourself as a person. "Because I'm worth it," is the slogan that springs to mind. But really, people deserve better. And so does the planet.
Until recently, artificial economies have bolstered runaway consumption, but now the bills are starting to roll in. Consider the numbers. As University of Toronto philosopher and Globe and Mail columnist Mark Kingwell wrote earlier this month, while per capita disposable income has risen 130 per cent in the last 40 years, personal consumption has outstripped it, rising 140 per cent. At the same time, personal saving has declined two thirds and consumer credit per household has risen 150 per cent. Over the years, crutches were created to "keep up appearances" so that people could have as much, if not more, than they did 40 years ago even though there's significantly less money in the bank accounts. Housing is a prime example. Because many people can no longer save the money for a down payment on a house, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation relaxed rules so that it's possible to get a mortgage without a down payment. Dismissed is the possibility that perhaps a person who can't save $20,000 shouldn't buy a $400,000 home. And though the ideal world would make home ownership possible for all, there's something worthwhile about encouraging a person to earn the privilege. And as the recent U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis has shown in painful relief, everyone pays eventually.
There is indication, though, that a shift is in the works. Forty-five years after Rachel Carson's book 'Silent Spring' launched the environmental movement, the push to halt environmental destruction has gone mainstream. People are embracing new ideas, and new ways of living. Recognition is being given to the idea that the land, the oceans, and the atmosphere are not trash dumps. Conservation is being seen in a new light.
And perhaps, some day, so too will thrift.
Rocky2 from Agassiz. British Columbia, Canada
Love what you are doing, being frugal, is such fun! Stay focused on living frugally. Don't give up, saving money in today's world takes time, but I feel my time is well invested. When sitting down to watch a television program, I cut and file coupons, or look through the newspaper for other money saving offers. I am passionate about saving and talk to friends and family to find out what ideas they can share in living frugally. I never fail to read the ThriftyFun newsletter. If I don't have time, I move them from my email inbox to a folder created just for the ThriftyFun newsletter. Have fun saving and remember to share with others!
By Bobbie G. from Rockwall, TX
Cut those expenses in half, redirect your disposable income, decrease your stress, change your spending habits, live a thrifty fun life well below your means and budget now to be financially free later. Recently I have been trading thrifty and fun ideas with many families that are struggling to regain control of their money and allow it to work for them instead of always working for it. Most of these ideas, we learned in school. But when applied to our grown-up lives, they can and will make a difference.
Try to remember why it was, and is, so nice to go visit good ol' "Grandma"; worn comfortable furniture, fresh local produce, homemade meals, real tea or coffee, photo albums, time to read and plenty books to choose from, family art on the walls, comfy quilts/afghans, real sugar, places to hike, sled riding, ice skating, bible studies, mushroom hunting, wood to whittle, picking wild flowers, clipping coupons, picnics to enjoy, kites to fly, people to chat with, board or card games to play, crafts to make, cakes to bake, photos to take, leaves to rake, habits to break, birds to watch, and not to forget, those local events; fairs, cook outs, fishing holes, quilting bees, church potlucks, softball, pool parties, campfires, and family reunions. So here is a large list of things that each of us could/can change in order to be more like the place we remember and save lots of money in the process.
Staci from Amanda, OH
I went out into the world and started supporting myself at age 15. At age 22, after a disastrous teenage marriage, I became a single mom and learned frugality out of necessity. I learned to swallow my pride and accept "handouts" to keep my child fed and clothed. I remarried at 25 and have now been married more than 20 years. The main thing I have learned, I think, is compassion. While I grumble at the rising costs of gasoline, etc, I am not seriously in danger of becoming homeless or of going hungry... but so many others are. Perhaps because I was once there myself, I feel that I cannot turn my back on those in need.
One thing that I feel passionate about is donating school supplies to families who cannot afford to buy them for their children. I vividly remember when my son (now almost 30) was starting kindergarten and I was barely scraping by as a newly single Mom. I literally burst into tears in the school supplies aisle of K-mart when I realized that there was NO WAY I could afford to buy the required supplies, even at that grade level, unless I skipped buying groceries or paying the rent. I vowed then and there that once I got back on my feet, I would try to spare other Moms from having to experience that. So now I buy all the "loss leader" school supplies at all the stores for several weeks leading up to the start of school, and donate them to those in need.
I also purchase clearance items all year long and make up Christmas "goodie bags" which I deliver to our local County Home each December to the destitute, mostly elderly residents. I use coupons and my finely honed bargain hunting skills to fill a grocery sack with non-perishable food items, which I drop off at a local food pantry roughly once a month.
There's a quote I love from Mother Theresa: "Not all of us can do great things -- but all of us can do small things, with great love."
Lucky One from IN
Being super poor isn't that bad.
After graduation, most people go out to a big fancy dinner, spend lots of money on graduation gifts and have a big job all lined up. Nope. Not us. For dinner, we enjoyed Hamburger Helper from the $1 section at the grocery store (with free meat from my parents' farm). I gifted my husband a small $15 cooler he can use when he commutes to university this fall, and he is still working at the same part-time job, probably for the next two years.
In a way, it's a blessing to be poor. We track every cent we spend, we always communicate about our finances, we don't buy frivolous things, our house isn't full of "stuff", and we find creative ways to entertain ourselves. We use cloth diapers and eat simply. We have a garden and I only buy books at yard sales. Being poor has forced us to manage our money better and think ahead.
True, we can't have the nicer things in life. We buy furniture at garage sales and I'm a freecycle.org frequenter. But my husband is able to get an education. Since our income is low, we are receiving financial aid for college, plus extra grants for gas and books. Somehow, it all works out and we are able to pay for the things we need, and in the end, it's hard to put a price on education.
Now that I think about it, my family was pretty poor when I was little. At the time, I didn't even notice. I had everything I needed, including a loving family. Someday, when my husband has a real job, it will be nice to be stable and upgrade our couch from a brown hand-me-down to something that actually matches. But until then, I'm thankful for what we have.
Carrie S. from Yakima, WA
I have discovered through trial and error that you can cut in half the amount of shampoo, conditioner, dishwasher detergent, washing powder, fabric softener, etc. and it still does a good job. Experiment with it until you get an amount that is satisfactory to you.
By Richardson, Georgia
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Here are questions related to Living a Frugal Lifestyle.
I am in a pickle here. I already do so much to be frugal, water down the dish soap, reuse the jars and plastic tubs, wash in cold, turn of he lights all kinds of stuff. But due to an unforeseen situation making a lot less money than I planned and there are 2 of us and children on the weekend. Any frugal tips would be appreciated. Thanks.
Kathleen from Export, PA
Mix powdered milk with fresh. you don't even know the difference. When I was 10 til 12, we had to go on welfare. My mom mixed 1/2 quart milk and equivalent of 1/2 quart mixed powdered milk. With prices of milk these days I started doing it again. Adjust for flavor.
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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 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
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), I was inspired to submit a piece I wrote a few months ago.
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