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Friday, January 17, 2014

Frugality isn't all how-to and do

This past week's posts have been filled with how-tos. And frankly I'm about exhausted by all the how-tos. But I wanted to get them out there, for anyone else needing the information.

A lot of what we read on these frugal living blogs is how to do something you normally do, but for less. This information is all helpful. But in reality, most of our frugal living is not activity-oriented.

When I think of all the things that I don't do, that wind up saving us money, the list looks something like this:

1) I sometimes don't get around to replacing a burned-out light bulb for a long while. (Sorry, girls, that bathroom light bulb will eventually get changed out.)

2) Some weeks, cooking is not-so-creative and meals look like this -- breakfast: oatmeal, lunch: peanut butter on bread, dinner: a huge pot of soup that winds up feeding the 5 of us for 3 different dinners.

3) I keep myself out of stores, and save, save, save -- no coupons required when you're not shopping.

4) Old and worn towels take up life in the rag pile. I don't even cut them up. Large towels are great for wiping down the car, after a wash. Medium size towels make great mop-heads for my Swiffer. And the washcloths and fingertip towels are the perfect size for cleaning up kitchen spills.

5) I probably only get one or two professional haircuts per year, some years, not at all. The in-between times, I take a small pair of scissors and trim up every few weeks. And this takes me less time than driving to a salon -- about 10 minutes. (A note, I have thick and curly hair. A self-haircut doesn't show ragged edges on my type of hair.) 

6) In summer, we sometimes skip a week of mowing the back lawn. Our mower is rechargeable electric, so this does result in less electricity used.

7) We stick with our ancient technology gadgets, like our phone. It's tethered to the wall, no portable phone for our house. We've had this phone for about 25 years, and it still works, so why replace it.

8) We've accepted hand-me-downs for probably 75% of our furniture. We didn't have to do anything to fill our house, but open the front door.

9) In the flower gardens, I plant almost all perennials or flowering evergreens. Plant once, and they come back year after year. Plus, I've learned to embrace the color green.

You see, what we don't do easily saves us as much money as what we do do. Maybe it sounds like we're lazy. But I like to think that we're just very busy, and don't have time to do everything.

How about you? Do you think that you save more money in the doing, or in the not-doing?


  1. I save money by trying to weigh my options when needing something - can I repair a broken item or just replace a part, modify something so it still has a use, etc. I try avoid the knee-jerk reaction of just running out and buying a new one, as this is usually the most costly. I prefer to find a replacement at a garage sale, thrift store or estate sale in good working order. Older usually does mean sturdier in my book. The better the replacement is, the longer it will be before I have to repeat the process again. We always have a mental running list of things we are looking for, otherwise garage-saling is just code word for "junk and clutter collecting".

    1. Hi Valarie,
      I so agree!
      You're right, the knee-jerk reaction does seem to be, go out and replace something that just needs a part or adjustment. And it's not just costly to do that, but those replaced items often wind up in a landfill somewhere.
      Older does mean quality craftsmanship, in so many things. Our hand-me-down furniture is well-made and classic in style. And a hand-crank food mill that I picked up in a vintage shop, has survived many years of use in someone else's kitchen, and will do the same in mine. In contrast, I went online and found reviews for the same manufacturer of a similar food mill, and the consensus seems to be that the new models fall apart easily, while the older ones are well-built.
      One last example, 19 years ago we bought a Maytag washer and dryer. My husband was doing some reading on our models, and it appears that we bought ours in the last years before Maytag was sold, and the quality began to suffer. We've had to replace a couple of small parts on each, so far, and will continue to repair/replace parts ourselves, as long as possible. These machines could easily last 30 years, maybe 40.
      Thanks for your comments, Valarie!

  2. You know that my husband and I have just this past year begun to turn our finances around. We have a large debt and we're helping a family member pay her bills. My husband and I had a very honest discussion about our spending last summer. And he and I both agreed that I needed to stay out of the mall. I used to meet friends for coffee at the mall 2 times per week, and I'd wind up spending about $50 or so on items that I just had to have, each time. Now, my girlfriends come to my house, or I go to one of theirs. We have coffee and chat for a bit, then help each other out with various projects. (I got help sorting through my closet last week. All done in one morning!)
    Anyway, this is my long-winded way of saying that I am saving a minimum of $100 each week, by not going to the mall. That is over $5000 a year. We've paid off one of our cards already, and are working on the other three.

    1. Congratulations, Kath! Getting one of your credit cards paid off is an achievement to be proud of!

      I especially like that you and your husband had a discussion about this together. It sounds like you are both on the same page. This will take you far in your journey towards financial freedom.

      And what a great thing that you and your friends are helping each other out with projects!

  3. Our home is filled with second-hand furniture, as well. But it has come from many different family members, and has such a mis-matched look. How do you make your furnishings look like they all go together?

    1. Hi Jacqueline,
      Maybe this will help. Our furniture is all mis-matched, too. We have contemporary, traditional, light, dark, painted, stained, antique, new.
      I dislike the matchy-matchy look, anyway. It looks like I walked into the furniture showroom and just said, "yes, I'll take the whole set". It shows no imagination or design vision. I prefer the look of pieces acquired over time, the way old, large estates have acquired pieces. There's a story behind the acquisition of each piece, and that makes it interesting.

      Now, to make it all work in my home, I group all the pieces by color and style. Our family room has a very traditional look, so I've put the darker and more traditional pieces in there. In the family room, we have a turkish rug, black leather sofa, a pair of chippendale chairs, and some painted black furniture (yard sale finds and hand-me-downs painted to look like they belong together).

      The living room, by contrast, has a lighter feel. I've put the contemporary and light-colored pieces in there. In the living room we have an off-white sofa, off-white loveseat, and distressed white-painted coffee table.

      Not everything is perfect, but on the whole, our home is looking like pieces belong where they reside.

      When I've needed to, I've recovered seat cushions on chairs, and painted some wood furniture, to make the pieces fit in. These are inexpensive projects which give you a lot of bang for the buck. You can do a seat cushion in under a yard of fabric and upholstery tacks, small nails, or a staple gun. This is a 30 minute project, tops. Painting wood furniture takes more time, but smaller pieces can be done with just a small can of paint, depending on how many coats of paint the item needs. Then change the hardware, and you have a "new" piece of furniture, custom finished to suit your interior.

  4. Great post! I am not interested in decorating, fashion or sports - so I'm quite certain that NOT doing those things has saved a ton. I sure wouldn't want to decorate my house, or dress myself or participate in/watch sports at great expense just because a lot of other people think I should.

    1. Hi Anna,
      Very wise! It sounds like you know yourself well, and pursue what matters most. With just sporting events alone, you save a fortune by not buying tickets to major events in town. And you free up your time to pursue activities that make a difference in your life! That's intentional living.

    2. Just have to mention here... I'm a HUGE football fan - sorry... I can't help myself. A friend of mine used to have tickets and she'd drag me to the stadium now and then, but honestly... I vastly prefer watching the games from home. At the stadium there's just so much chaos that you can't really see the plays, and you don't have the benefit of the announcers telling you the details.

      Anyhow... I heard on the news that the average price for tickets to the game on Sunday against New England is (take a deep breath here) $650!!! Holy Moly!!! I'm trying to imagine spending that kind of money on one ticket to... well, to anything! Maybe a trip to Hawaii, but to a football game?!? No wonder people are in debt up to their eyeballs!

  5. Maybe you aren't lazy--just smart! :)

    For Jacqueline, above--I also have a lot of mismatched furniture. I haven't tried painting it but that's a solution I see a lot. I'm a fabric sort of a person--coordinating colors in throws, pillows, window toppers, etc., seems to bring together the look of a room. That doesn't necessarily mean expensive (except for my 15 foot wide picture window, sigh ...). I used bandanas for window toppers in my son's bedroom and placemats clipped with those clippy-things to a curtain rod in my bathroom--and no, you can't tell!! There are lots of online resources for ways to pull things together in your home inexpensively.

    1. Hi Kris,
      That's it. I was just being smart when I didn't get around to replacing the burned out light bulbs! ;)

      The windows are a hard part for me. I still have a very long wall of windows with nothing on them. I have vowed to at least get some wood or cane blinds on this window by summer.

      I wish you had a blog, Kris, and I could see pictures of what you've done! The bandanas in your son's room sound cute, but still manly!

  6. I love, Love, LOVE this post!!! Probably no surprise there. It often strikes me that people pay a HUGE price (both in terms of money and mental health) just to maintain their internal pictures of themselves. We are often under the illusion that we're doing it for other reasons - to impress other people, to be "virtuous", bla bla bla... but when it comes right down to it, I think we're all just scared of being called lazy. But as you've pointed out in previous comments - perhaps we should try to turn that equation around and use words like "rest" or "leisure" instead.

    I try to take a cue from my cats, who seem to feel that sleeping in a sunbeam is a perfectly adequate way to spend the day - and guess what... it's free! So, embrace your inner sloth, I say! :-)

    1. Hi Cat,
      That is pretty funny, yet illuminating, that a cat can spend the afternoon lounging in the streak of sunlight on the floor, and not feel the least bit guilty that they're not up and about stalking mice, catching mice, storing up mice for the winter, making sure that no other cats have found their own mouse-hunting spot, etc. As humans, we work way too hard to "get ahead". Ahead for what? It seems to me, that most people don't even know the answer to that question. Getting ahead is good, if you know to what purpose you are working to get ahead.

  7. We have a fair amount of hand-me-down, garage sale furniture here also. However, I've gotten to the place that I won't keep trying to make something work. If I can afford it, I will modify or buy something new that really fits the bill of what we need. No need to be aggravated every day if I can avoid it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I can understand how you feel about trying to make something work, that just simply doesn't.
      For us, we've been given so many hand-me-down pieces, that we've been able to pick and choose to a certain extent, and pass on the rest. That has left us with what we like most of the hand-me-downs. There are still a couple of pieces that we'd like to replace, but we're okay waiting a little longer.

  8. Definitely in not doing I save the most. There are things that save me lots of money such as finding a piece of furniture for free rather than buying a piece to fill a need. But it's the little things such as cutting my own hair, which I was going to share a how-to on this week, and not turning on a light when I can get buy that save the most. Of course not shopping saves the most as you can imagine.

    1. Hi Lois,
      Just think of all the time (not to mention money) that you save by not actually shopping for furniture. It just seems to come to you! And you bless others with your gift to remake pieces!


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