For Some Frugal Fun Try Playing Some Homegrown Music with Friends

Music is Good Frugal Fun

It seems that in many cases things we do ourselves for entertainment are more frugal than things we pay to watch others do. Do it yourself pastimes are almost always more fun than being a mere spectator too. Take music for example.

I love concerts and clubs, but some of my fondest musical memories involve garage jam sessions, singing by the campfire, and impromptu dueling guitars popping out at a dinner party. I know that you all have experienced something similar. Playing music with friends is free, it’s fun, and it builds community. At community meetings it breaks tension and brings people together. It would not be a big stretch to call it therapeutic. It may be true that professional musicians sound better technically. Maybe your skill level isn’t as high as you would like and you feel embarrassed. Don’t let that stand in your way. In a casual home environment no one cares about that. They will be having too much fun singing along even if they are out of key.

So next time you are sitting around bored, pull out that old guitar or keyboard and noodle a little. Learn a few songs that most people know the words to. If you don’t play an instrument but have always wanted to, figure out what instrument you would like to learn and look for a used one. This is one of the items with a small up-front cost leading to years of pleasure. Then, next time your crowd gets together for a potluck meal, bring your instrument, and encourage others to join you. You may find yourself getting more popular overnight, and everyone will have a great time. There is no down side to homegrown musical fun!

Frugal Abundance: Daily Rituals add Luxury to Life for Free

Sunday Morning

What is a Ritual and Why is it Important?

A personal ritual is anything that you do just for yourself that makes you slow down or stop completely and come back to your centered self. It can be done alone, as a couple, as a parent and child, as a family, or as a community. It can be daily, weekly, or seasonal. It is generally free or very inexpensive. That is why it is frugal. Money may not be distributed equally, but time is. Taking your first cup of coffee outside in good weather to drink slowly in the backyard while you watch the birds is a ritual.  Baking bread, getting your nails done or doing them yourself, walking to the park with your toddler, or having a drink with your pals every Friday at the same time can all be rituals if you do these things mindfully and allow the break in the frantic pace of life, with all the attendant obligations.

Rituals Should be Enjoyable

Whatever rituals you have incorporated into your life, they should be things that you truly love. Your rituals may even look like work to other people that do not have the same temperament as you do. One person may relish a five mile run, another a slow “getting ready” with time to do hair and make-up. A third person may rock out with loud music. The only two questions are “do you love it?” and “does doing it break the time sickness and bring you back to you?”

Rituals can Create Connection

The couple who takes breakfast together each day, or the family that has a traditional Sunday dinner are on to something really important. When we rush through our days without breathing we lose each other. Stopping and taking the time to do something together on a regular basis that involves giving each other our time and attention is really one of the only ways to enjoy true intimacy. The form of the ritual is completely up to you and your companions. The fact that it happens and happens regularly is what counts.

If You are Forcibly Frugal, Rituals can Help You Reclaim Your Life

In this economic climate, there are many people who feel displaced. Losing a comfortable economic place in the world can be very disorienting. But, one thing you still have and still control is time and your relationship to time. Being poor is hard work, and by definition keeps you from the type of comfort that money can buy. But—you still have twenty-four hours to fill. You still eat something every day, and likely have coffee in the morning, even if it is now made at home. If you can slow down enough to change your mind set you will notice that the sun is shining on the tree outside your window just so, and that you are still truly alive. You are still you. As long as you are alive your circumstances may change. In the meantime, what small thing can you do each day that will make you smile?

When I went through my own crash in late 2007 and early 2008 I though the world was ending. But, each day, no matter how bad it had been, I would pour a glass of (cheap) red wine and stop doing anything else. Sometimes we would sit outside and listen to the boom box. Other times it was a fire in the woodstove and curling up in my chair. It could just as well have been tea instead of wine. The important thing was the turning off of the day in favor of complete relaxation. The total cost of this exercise was near zero. You could do the same thing and if you do you will soon feel the results in the form of greater happiness and less stress. This is your life, no matter what.

The Gardener in Winter

Not as Barren as it Looks

This is the first time The Frugal Goddess has discussed gardening. It may seem odd to bring it up in the dead of winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. But, as any good gardener knows, there is much activity beneath the barren surface. Now is the time to plan, and having planned, to prepare. Are there fences or gopher control systems that need repairing? Soil that needs attention? Is the potting shed in good order? And, most importantly, have the seed catalogs come in?

Sitting by a fire on a cold winter evening with a nice cup of tea (or glass of Zinfandel) and a pile of seed catalogs is a great pleasure. That is one of the wonders of gardening. Each year we can invent ourselves anew. But let us not stop with catalogs. In many places there are seed banks that rely on community participation. In this tough economy we rely more upon our neighbors, and seed sharing is a terrific way to be neighborly. But it goes even deeper than that. By sharing seeds you are part of a long lineage of people who have carefully preserved the food-wealth of our species. This is perhaps the greatest wealth we have. So, as you plan this year’s garden, take a minute and imagine all the tillers of soil that have gone before you down the long years of our history. And may your garden grow in great abundance.


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: Info on local economies Look on the left side panel for a “shop locally” button The Frugal Goddesses guide to Doing it Yourself A few links for buying second hand-You never know what might turn up! 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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