Enjoy a Romantic Valentine’s Day Without Breaking the Bank

Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate romantic love, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Men in the United States spend an average of $275 on Valentine’s Day, and women spend an average of $150. The question I must ask is this: whom are we trying to impress? The underlying sentiment of the day is wonderful, but we don’t need to celebrate it as a Hallmark Holiday.

The first question a frugal person would ask is who. Who we intend Valentine’s Day with should set the tone for how much we spend. If you are single and don’t have a date it is a good night to stay home. Or, if you are a member of a singles group try their event for people in the same situation. One of the MeetUp.com groups near the Frugal Goddess is having a Singles Awareness Dinner. This “group date” won’t cost any more than the average night out. Or-if you are politically minded, join one of the events raising awareness of violence towards women. Or show your love to the world by volunteering at a shelter. You may have friends that are lonely. You could send them all a Valentine’s Day message. It may be the only one some of them receive. There are lots of ways to experience love.

If you have a date but it is with someone new—now is not the time to shoot the moon with big spending. Just going out on Valentine’s Day sets up expectations that put pressure on a budding relationship. Spending way too much just adds another layer. If you really like your date, try to just enjoy their company. There are many ways to have a romantic evening that aren’t expensive. Try a walk in the moonlight or a trip to a skating rink. The most important thing is to find out what your date really enjoys and do that.

If you are spending Valentine’s Day with your long-term partner you have the easiest time of all—just pick something special you both have wanted to do but have put off, and do it. You know each other very well and have plenty of time. This is also the case where a little extra spending won’t hurt, as long as you have it in the budget. Of course you might be tired on the Valentine’s Day. Why not just have a relaxing evening at home and plan to go out when the restaurants in your area aren’t swamped?

The one time you might want to go all out with Valentine’s Day spending is if you are planning to propose marriage to your sweetheart. That is a big deal and it makes sense to make it special. So—if this is your plan, go ahead and spend!

Whatever your situation the Frugal Goddess wishes you all the love in the world.

Thanksgiving 2010

In the United States tomorrow will be the Thanksgiving holiday, a day we gather together with our family and/or friends to give thanks for our blessings. This has been a tough year for a lot of us, and the economic news doesn’t seem to be brightening. But frugality is about more than just money, and has at its heart a gracious and abundant attitude. The frugal eschew waste and mindless spending in exchange for a measured approach to getting what they need, and sometimes what they want. They know that there is a sweetness in waiting for a desire to be satisfied. They understand the concept of enough.

The View from my Window in Watercolor by Julia Stege

Using that kind of frugality as a guide it is possible to be truly and deeply thankful for the relationships and things that we have even in an imperfect world. It gets easier when the measuring stick of money gets put on a very low rung on the priority ladder. The overall society is obsessed with that particular measuring stick, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be. If you have been walking down this road for awhile, you already have a network for keeping afloat, and perhaps even a bit of surplus, even if it only comes in the form of zucchini.

If you are new to all of this, I would like to say it gets better, as you find your footing in the gift and barter economy. But, just for right now, no matter what else is happening, ask yourself do I have enough today? Chances are that you already have a plan for Thanksgiving Day. That in itself is the sort of thing that can inspire gratitude. Even if is a public free meal, you are still inside, away from the cold, eating a meal in the company of other humans. That is a start. And most of us have a good deal more than that, even if we are unemployed, just lost the house, or whatever. I’m not saying it is fair, just that you will survive. And you still have plenty if you can see it.

So, on this Thanksgiving, I am setting aside the judgments and care to concentrate on the goodness of community, of the giving earth, and of the presence of love in the world. I am sure the rest can wait for a day. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Holiday Gifts the Frugal and Green Way

As we approach the winter holiday season it is time to start thinking about a strategy for gift giving if we want to keep it frugal and green. I really don’t like to squeeze Thanksgiving by leaping into the next holiday too soon, but obtaining gifts the frugal way takes a lot more thought and possibly time than just going out and throwing money at the problem. Money that may be hard to come by for some.

The first step to any gift giving situation is to slow down and think about the recipient. What is your relationship to them? What do they like? Have they mentioned any desires they might have? Do they have any little quirks? The best part of a gift is its thoughtfulness, and that comes from actually giving thought. If you can’t answer anything about the recipient, why are they on your list at all? I know, sometimes a “stray” appears on the horizon at the last minute- the sister’s roommate from school or the uncle’s new wife. People you don’t know but don’t want to leave out. For those people you might do a little gift basket, or a bottle of wine if you know they would drink it.

Once you have the list in hand, it is time to think of where to get the gifts. If you have a special DIY skill, such as preserving fruits or knitting beautiful scarves, take it as far as you can. There was a time, not so many years ago, when that it how the meaning and joy of this season was expressed. Your skill may not be able to run the table on your gift list, but you can come close.

The next step, for those with few applicable DIY skills, or a very long difficult list, is to shop locally. There may be a local economy co-op nearby that can help you find good sources. If not just look around and find the local potter, weaver, or artisan food product manufacturer. Somewhere close by is a craftsperson who would be happy to help. Local businesses make a community stronger by keeping the money circulating at home. The prices may be surprisingly comparable to the big box stores, or they may be a bit higher to reflect a higher quality. But even so it is worth it if you can afford it. That is what sustainability is all about.

Finally, don’t overlook second hand stores. If this is a very thin year for you, try goodwill, or if there are kids involved ask around about local toy drives. Or see if anyone in your community is having an exchange. My local clothing exchange crowd is planning a holiday exchange that includes toys and gifts this year. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot to bring, this is the gift economy.  Even if all you can come up with is one toy per child it is better than passing the holiday without acknowledgement. I know how hard this season can be for many this year and I wish you all the best.

If none of these ideas work for the toughies on your list, think about a book. Or a gift certificate to a book store so they can get their own. I am generally not fond of this solution for reasons explained above, but it does work. Just be very careful of things that may be returned to the chain stores. They are making it harder and harder to return goods, and are rarely the frugal, green, thoughtful, and creative choice anyhow. And whatever you do, keep the plastic in your wallet this year. You will be much happier in January if you do. Here’s wishing you happy hunting and a happy holiday season!

These links may help you shop:

http://www.livingeconomies.org/ Info on local economies

http://www.etsy.com/ Look on the left side panel for a “shop locally” button

https://frugalplanet.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/dyi-should-you-or-shouldn%E2%80%99t-you/ The Frugal Goddesses guide to Doing it Yourself

http://www.thethriftshopper.com/ A few links for buying second hand-You never know what might turn up!

http://www.goodwill.org/

http://www.amazon.com/

http://www.freecycle.org/

http://www.ebay.com/

http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites

http://m.news10.net/BETTER/news.jsp?key=299466&rc=su And a news story about the new return policies

This Year Make Thanksgiving a Simple Celebration of Frugal Abundance

Now that the Jack o’ Lanterns are all put away, it is time to start thinking of other uses for pumpkins-such as pie. Yes! It is time for Americans to start thinking about Thanksgiving. Even if money weren’t so tight for many of us this year there has been a trend towards a simpler easier approach. Gone for many are the days when one person, usually the oldest female in the family, was responsible for producing the entire Thanksgiving table. For those of you who have been in that position it’s a lot of work. Expensive too.

Thanksgiving is Almost Here

In an age when all parties seem to be potluck Thanksgiving is no exception. This relieves the hosts of a portion of both the work and the expense. One person really does have to be in charge in order to pull off a complex ritual meal such as Thanksgiving Dinner, really one the two pinnacles of the home cook’s year. And there may be one person in your crowd that truly loves to cook. But they might not be the same person.

The easiest most frugal way to handle this is to talk it over, pick a place, and assign chores. The family organizer set everything up and make sure that everyone knows what to bring. The host can buy just one item, probably the main course. This will probably be turkey unless everyone is a vegetarian. Each guest is responsible for buying, making, and transporting their dish. And everyone pitches in to clean up. There are some parts of a traditional Thanksgiving meal that have to be done at the very last minute, such as mashing potatoes and making gravy. The best cook can do that, and will likely love it, having been cheated out of doing too much for the rest of the meal. Just remember the true spirit of Thanksgiving is about gratitude and family, not about being perfect. If you are able to pull together your nearest and dearest and stuff yourselves, that is more than enough.

With the holiday only a few short weeks away it is time to get started. What role do you want to play? How do other people feel? You can make this the most fun Thanksgiving ever if you start now. And if you are one of the lucky people that have a great family to share this holiday with, consider inviting someone you know that doesn’t. Some people call them holiday strays. But whatever the name, this is the season of sharing, and it is part of the spirit of frugal abundance to spread the wealth around. Besides, that single friend might just make the best pumpkin pie in the world.

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