My Frugal Life: Common Sense About Money

My immigrant non-schooled Mom and jack-of-all-trades Dad supported a family of 5 with no-nonsense and common sense when it came to money. Dad worked at whatever job he could find (and was never without work) and Mom stayed home to attend to the house, the huge veggie garden, a few chickens and us kids.

My parents are gone now (God rest their souls) and I'm almost a senior myself. I've much to thank my parents for because they were my mentors and taught me much. I'm trying to pass on the things I learned to those who want to listen, learn, and sleep easy.

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  • Look after the nickles and dimes and the dollars look after themselves. A dollar here and a dollar there for non essentials (like Tim Horton's coffee on the way to work, a can of pop and bag of chips from the lunch wagon at work, a beer on the way home from work on Friday night). It all adds up.

  • Pay your house mortgage off as quickly as possible. This is the single most expensive part of everyday life. Refinance if necessary and make the mortgage pay-off a priority of life.

  • Adopt the attitude that if you can't afford something cash, you can't afford it. You just have to save a little longer.

  • Stay away from credit cards unless you can afford to pay off the balance each and every month.

  • Pay your household bills on time and avoid interest charges.

  • Never give into impulse buying and don't compare what you have or don't have with others. Remember that by nature, we tend to think that we're worse off financially than the next person when it's not true at all. We're all scratching along and nobody tells all.

  • Treat yourself once in a while to a fancy dinner at home. Spend a few bucks on a good cut of meat, buy a bottle of wine, put out the good dishes, and make the family meal an occasion. It's much cheaper than going out.

  • My personal favorite is to start January 1st every year completely debt free (except for the mortgage). Every last household bill is paid by the end of the year so that when January 1 rolls in, I feel like a queen. I might only have $200 in the bank, but it's mine.

  • The single most greatest thing that I learned from my folks is that food in itself isn't expensive at all. Budget on everything in life; the house, car, vacation, clothes, entertainment, big screen TV and stereo equipment, snowmobiles and boats, pets, etc., but never on food or friendship.
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  • Be happy with the small wonders of the world that we only have to open our eyes to see and don't cost a cent. A hike in the woods, a day of fishing, a walk to the park to see the kids having fun on the swings. It's refreshing.

I can go on and on and on, but it all comes down to common sense and maintaining the balance of what's truly important and what's not.

By mlina from Amherstburg, ON

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml

March 4, 20100 found this helpful

Food in of itself isn't expensive! Milk 4 bucks a gallon, eggs 2 bucks a dozen, wheat bread nearly 3 bucks a loaf. I could go on. Sorry, but I don't call that inexpensive.

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March 4, 20100 found this helpful

I do think these are great ideas. Yes certain foods can be very expensive I see that I don't think a great meal has to be expensive like chicken alfredo I rather make it at home then spend 12 dollars a plate a olive garden.

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March 4, 20100 found this helpful

TXBetty - Guess it depends on how you look at it. I could make a decent meal for my family of 4 out of a dozen eggs, a gal of milk & loaf of bread - and have bread & milk left over. For that same $9 you might be able to feed 2 people fast food or a frozen or pre-packaged meal,with nothing left over! I know, it nearly kills me to spend that much money on basic food staples, especially when there were 6 of us at home. But it didn't bother me so much when I compared that to what it costs to eat out.

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March 5, 20100 found this helpful

I think you are absolutely right about going out by staying in. You can have the best of everything for about 30% of the cost. Your own cooking is also better as you know how everyone likes everything.

Take it in turns around the family though, even the worst off can invite folks round for pancakes! and its nor fair if Mum and Dad do all the entertaining.

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March 7, 20100 found this helpful

Where do you live, TXBetty? Texas?

I live in Colorado and milk now is 2.19/gal, eggs can be had for 97 cents/doz if you don't mind medium, but you are right about the bread. I shop at KingSoopers and Walmart, though when I lived in Oregon it was WINNCO and Fred Meyer's [Kroger/KingSoopers].

It is hard when those basics are the price you quote; I always have to cut back then. I do make bread when it gets too high. I get a 1 pound package of instant dry yeast granules and refrigerate rest of package in jar or plastic container with lid [lasts over a year] about every year for $2.40 and keep both white and wheat flour on hand and make a basic milk bread recipe when I do make bread. I'm sure it's not more than about 50-60 cents a loaf, not counting electricity and if I have stuff like seeds around, I throw them into bread.

I notice that in Colorado Sara Lee has the lock on the baked goods market in most stores and take up a lot of the shelf space and I don't care for their products: too gummy and soft and uses high fructose corn syrup, so if I can't get a good whole wheat on sale, I make my own.

I also make my own hamburger buns [white flour with pinch of wheat germ I keep in fridge for baking] and they are to die for. Makes for the best home made hamburgers. Everyone is home at meal time when I cook those.. the instant yeast makes baking so much easier and faster.

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March 7, 20100 found this helpful

In Pennsylvania milk is close to $4.00 a gal. Eggs almost $2.00 a dozen, bread over $3.00 a loaf (white bread not even wheat), orange juice almost $6.00 a gal. How is that inexpensive?

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March 7, 20100 found this helpful

OMG. Where do you people live that things are that expensive. Do you have an Aldi's? I can get milk for 2.35, eggs for 99 cents and breat for 79 cents.

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March 11, 20100 found this helpful

Thanks for sharing. I also have lived frugal all my life,proud of every dime I saved. I still have a veggie garden all the time. It saves money & fresh food is the best in the world, very good exercise & therapy, good luck.

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March 13, 20100 found this helpful

Just a note about food prices. They are not the same everywhere, even when you are talking about the same company. For example, the Walmart in my town has prices that are consistently higher than the Walmart in the next major town from us. That town is larger and has more competition, thus cheaper prices. Ditto for Aldis. Most companies do this. It seems unfair, especially since the next major town has jobs that pay better. It might seem easy to shop out of town, but the drive is over an hour of highway time each way, so most shop closer to home due to time and gas constraints.

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March 28, 20100 found this helpful

The same companies don't even have the same prices at their stores in the same town. A few years ago or news did an investigational piece about how the same grocery store can have such a wide range of prices depending on the location & demographics of their store. Stores near upper class neighborhoods charge more than the poorer neighborhoods.

If there are not many stores around a lower class neighborhood, the store that is near charges more because they can get away with it since there are more people who will not have transportation to go to a better price store. The stores (Food Pyramid,Walmart,Target) within a 4 mile radius of my house all charge more because we are near a huge shopping mall-I go to other stores rather than give them my business.

When I 1st moved to Tulsa, the economy was still bad from the oil bust of the 80s, but strangely enough the groceries cost more than they did in Arizona where I came from. But now when I go to visit my mom I am always surprised at the higher cost of food there because my mom lives in a small but quickly growing area & the stores know they have the people over a barrel when it comes to choices-pay their prices or drive over an hour to the next nearest town!

I would say I can't imagine paying $4 for a gal of milk, but the last time I got some it was $3.49,so we are getting close. It makes me so mad to think about the people who can barely scrape by! If these corporations would find ways to curb their waste & stop paying huge bonuses & wages to their top execs, maybe the savings would trickle down through the growers & suppliers to the rest of us. But I don't think it's going to happen, because people have learned to be greedy & they always want more.

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October 2, 20120 found this helpful

I too learnt frugality from my parents, but in the opposite direction. Both my parents were spendthrifts and gamblers and we never had anything while i was growing up. I've learnt NOT to do what they did, so they DID teach me how to live frugally too.

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