Why Be Frugal?

DSC_0687This might seem an odd question from the Frugal Goddess, but it is worth asking. Being frugal means more effort and often deferred gratification. There has to be a pay-off or nobody would do it willingly.

There are really three groups of frugalistas. The forcibly frugal are too poor don’t have a choice. This group  grew much larger in the USA during the crash of 2008 and is still growing. Sadly, the rest of the world has always had a large population in this group. For the forcibly frugal, there is no need to ask why. How is the question. How to feed a family, how to obtain shelter, how to survive.

The middle class frugalista understands the concept of deferred gratification. There are many, even in this over-heated consumer environment, that are willing to do the work to achieve a dream. This group understands the relationship between prudence and success. To be middle class is an exercise in compromise. A person with a moderate income can make choices, and satisfy some desires, but not all. For this group, a consistent frugal lifestyle means home-ownership, college for the kids, and the opportunity to do a few really amazing things like travel to the world. If this type were to go on impulse, all the surplus would be frittered away on trips to the mall, and they would have the debt-load of the average American family. For these frugalistas, frugality really does make their dreams come true.

But it does something more as well. It creates a deep sense of peace. It is well known that money problems are one of the biggest sources of stress in our culture. And that money fights are one of the biggest causes of divorce. Frugal people avoid all of that. And if the parents are frugal it sets a very good example for the whole family.

Though it may seem that we are through, there is actually one more type. The members of the voluntary simplicity movement tend to be very well off. Maybe even rich enough that waste is a mere inconvenience, not a life-threatening disaster. But this group is interested in a green life-style, and in a sustainable solution to the “human” problem. This involves avoiding waste and conscious values-based spending. That is the very definition of frugality. This group has a very different problem from the first two groups. The first group has no problem staying frugal, it is staying alive that concerns them. The second group may have temptations, but a commitment to a greater reward will keep them on track. But, for the voluntary frugalista, it is commitment to an idea of what is right that drives the frugal lifestyle. For them, the answer to the question “why be frugal” is an intellectual one. But, even so, there are rewards other than virtue. The voluntary frugalista gets the benefit of self-knowledge and clarity. This translates to more time doing the things that are truly rewarding, and less time spinning in circles.

Whatever your current financial situation, a frugal lifestyle is worth it.

First Time Gardener-A Follow Up

DSC_0637You might have noticed that my series on being a first time gardener just trailed off. That is because the garden just trailed off…

As you can see from the photo, all I got was a few tiny squash, 3 mini zucchinis, and a handful of not ready for prime time tomatoes.The squash are sitting near a grapefruit for comparison.

But–I am not easy to discourage. This year I have not finished planting, but already have a DSC_0641row of very healthy string beans, three thriving tomato plants, and a large strawberry patch. I will be adding basil, cucumbers, and chilis. Also several types of squash, and I expect the squash to act like squash this year, so I can scare my neighbors and friends.

We figured out that the soil was not rich enough, and the area was too crowded. Both problems have been fixed. So stay tuned for First Time Gardener–the Sequel!

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.

The Frugal Goddess Goes LIVE with a Workshop on Food Waste!

Careful Planning is the Key!

The Frugal Goddess will give her first live workshop—Stop Food Waste Now with the fugal Goddess, in Santa Rosa CA on October 15, 2012.

The workshop will cover how we make bad choices that lead to food waste, how to plan a week’s meals that will really be eaten without waste, how to store what you buy so it lasts, and how to handle special problems with the flow of food through your household and your life.

If you regularly dump your money into the waste bin through wasted food, if you have great intentions on shopping day that lead to nothing but expensive compost, if you have “science experiments in you vegetable bin instead of edible veggies, this might be for you!

The first Frugal Goddess book on the same subject is in the works. There will be an announcement on this blog when it comes out.

If you live in the bay area please go to this link for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/258266 and here is a link to the original post that started the whole project: http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/10/food-waste-why-we-do-it-and-how-we-can-stop/

If You Want to Save Money Take Safety Seriously

Safety is Frugal

The other day I read an article about frugality where a young woman told a story in which her tires were bald and unsafe, but she didn’t want to spend the $400 to get them replaced. She seemed to believe that this was the frugal approach, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

Safety violations waste money whether they are at home, at work, or on the road. Every year millions or maybe billions of dollars are wasted cleaning up messes that could have been avoided with some simple safety precautions that were skimped on. Remember the gulf oil spill? If regular maintenance is good for the wallet, then taking safety precautions is mandatory to keeping you finances in good order.

It is not hard to imagine all the ways that skimping and procrastinating on safety measures can bring hardship. It might even cause death or serious injury to you aor someone you care about. Those bald tires might cost you an accident that totals the car. Or they could cause a deadly accident. Taking care that your equipment is in order isn’t just frugal, it is essential to good citizenship.

So don’t stint on tires, checkups, fire protection, or proper gear for your activities, such as helmets for bicycling. Whatever it cost in money or time to stay save is actually a bargain. So take some time to evaluate in the next couple of days. Make a few lists: home, car, work, hobbies, and any other place you spend time. Write down all safety issues and make sure that everything is in order. Check the batteries in things. Check the fire extinguisher. If there are items that aren’t up to snuff—fix them now. And breathe a little easier.

Get More Flavor for Less Money—Grow These Five Herbs Indoors

Fresh herbs add great flavor to home cooking, but buying them at the market is prohibitive. The herbs come in bunches much larger than usually called for, and only stay good for a few days. But if you have a sunny windowsill you can grow your own herbs for the cost of a pack of seeds. Then you can trim just a few leaves off as needed without hurting the plant. This is clearly the frugal solution.

You will need a bag of rich potting soil, a bag of something called perlite which is added to the soil, and some powdered limestone. You will also need some nice small ceramic pots with saucers, and a few seeds for each herb that you are planning to grow. If you know a seed saver you may be able to get them to give you a few, otherwise you may have to buy a whole pack of seeds for each variety.

Take the potting soil and mix it two to one with the perlite. Add a teaspoon of the limestone to each 5 inch pot and mix well. The pots should be filled to one inch below the rim.Then poke a two hole with your fingers and plant one seed in each hole. Water the pot gently and put in the windowsill. Keep just moist and in a few days you should see your little seedlings popping up through the soil. To get started I recommend you grow these five easy to grow herbs: Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Chives, and Mint. They all like full sun, and to be kept moist but not overwatered.

Try growing these five and see how much money you save and how good they make your food taste. Then perhaps you will branch out and create a whole indoor garden.

Don’t Throw Your Old Clothes Away—Mend Them!

 

We all have them—a little pile of cloths that are still it great shape except for that missing button or stuck zipper. You could go out and get a new one. Or, you could spend five or ten minutes doing a quick repair and save the money for something else. Like everything else, some repairs are easier than others. Sewing on a button is at the extremely easy end of the spectrum. Replacing a zipper is one of the hardest.

The first step is to create a sewing kit. Get a small box, about the size of the old cigar boxes. Gather several colors of plain thread, needles, straight pins and safety pins. Also get small pair of scissors, a thimble, and a very small box for stray buttons. The clear boxes that straight pins come in work well.

Then it is time to sort through and get the things that need repair into a pile, and put them into some sort of container. A basket is nice but a cardboard box will do. Pick out the most important item and decide what it needs. If it is missing a button, do you still have the old button? Get out the sewing kit and find out. You may need to buy a new button. Take the item along if you need a new button, so you can match it to the old ones. Then thread a needle with thread to match the garment and tie a knot at the end. Go through the little holes in the button over and over. When it is on tight, clip the thread and tie another little knot.

If the problem is a straight tear at the seam, turn it inside out and re-sew in matching thread using small stitches along the same place where the seam came out. Don’t make the stitches too big or they will gape when you turn it right side out.

Those two repairs are very simple. But what if the tear isn’t along a seam? You may have to use a patch. This is where some judgment comes in. If the item in question is a pair of comfy jeans, by all means patch away. But if it is a silk business blouse you should realize that you won’t likely be able to use it again for its intended purpose. You may have to replace it. But—don’t throw the old one away just yet. Drop it into yet another container. This last container is the patch and scrap bag.

To do a patch, find a fabric that is about the same weight as the target fabric. Cut a piece that will fit over the tear or hole generously. Fold under the edges of the patch and pin down with the straight pins. Then sew a seam all the way around the very outside edge of the patch.

If the trouble is a misbehaving zipper the whole thing is going to take a bit more thought. I am including a link to show you exactly what to do. But you may be better off paying a seamstress to do it for you. It won’t cost that much and may save you a lot of trouble.

While you are at it you should check out your shoe wardrobe. It is always a good idea to repair your shoes for as long as you can. This is generally a job for a professional. Even if you pay someone you will save hundreds of dollars over time.

So next time you are tempted to blow your clothes budget over a little tear, think again, and bust out the sewing kit instead.

Here are some helpful links:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/09/20/frugal-skills-sewing-can-brighten-up-your-life/ General Sewing Post

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SKGa4St10I Zippers

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrSs_DiJ-ZA Buttons

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CALifgXuP_8 Patches

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