The Gift of Frugal Thinking
In 2007, my household felt the full weight of what’s now called “The Great Recession”. With what might be considered by some to be a relatively small amount of consumer debt, we were nevertheless running in the red every single month. There’d been other times in our life when money was tight, and in those years I practiced the basic budget-building practices we’ve all read about time and again. My husband brought leftovers for his work lunches. There were no purchases of coffee on the way to work. Magazine subscriptions and book club memberships were cancelled. We switched to bare bones, bundled cable plan, did away with cell phone plans in favor of pay-as-you-go cell phones, and shopped for much reduced, bundled car and home insurance. Dinners out and even pizza delivery or fast food were simply out. It was time to hunker down in order to get back in the black.
Fast forward seven years, and those debts have been long paid off. So why am I still frugal? My husband hasn’t had a pay raise in that entire time, and in fact absorbed a pay cut for awhile as his employee contribution to our health insurance went up. Speaking of prices going up, the cost of everything from basic utilities to gasoline and groceries has increased quite a bit since 2007. We have two sons in college, living at home and working part time to help cover ever-increasing tuition, my very modest freelance work dried up, and my husband’s car needed to be replaced after almost 250k miles of use.
While that might sound depressing, it isn’t. Why? Because I prayed for help. I’ve got to admit I’m not a “religious” woman, and my answer came in forms I’d never have expected… in fact had I known then what would transpire, I might have avoided it. If I had, I’d have missed out on a precious gift; the gift of frugal thinking. Oh, I still struggle sometimes with longing for the days when I didn’t have to pinch pennies, but my mind now works a little like a computerized cash register. That’s not a bad thing at all. I’ve developed new habits that bring both peace and abundance into our home. Those habits require my time and effort. I understand not everyone has the same time I do, and am grateful for that gift as well.
Thursdays are my shopping day. Before I leave the house, I’ve combed every grocery store sale flier and made a list that involves not only grocery stores, but the drug store and Dollar Tree. Here’s an example:
Cookie Crock Warehouse-
· 10 lb. bags chicken leg quarters @ $5.90 x 2
· Boneless pork tri-tip @ $2.97 per lb.
· 16 ounce pkgs. Special Value frozen vegetables @ 99 cents each X 6
· 58 ounce Sunny D fruit juice @ $1.19 each X 2
· Coupon items of BBQ sauce and large tub margarine
· Blueberries @ 99 cents per 6 ounce pkg. X 2 for cobbler
· 20 ounce packages Jennie-O 93% lean ground turkey @ $2.99 each X 2
· Canned cat food @ 10/$5.00
· Dry cat food with coupon
· Price fresh eggs
· Boxed cereal @ lowest price per ounce on sale
· Canned chili if on unadvertised sale
· Chicken boullion
· Steak sauce
· Flour tortillas
· 2 gallon zip top bags
Spencer’s Fresh Market-
· Seedless red grapes @ 99 cents per pound
· Green cabbage @ 3 lbs. for $1.00
· Limes @ 6 for $1.00
· Humbolt Organic milk @ $2.99 of ½ gallon carton
· Eggs (if I didn’t get them at Albertson’s)
The stores are all within a 2 mile radius, and even with a necessary ladies room stop, it’ll take me about an hour to do all of my shopping. Staying close to home means I have to fill my car’s tank with gasoline only every 6-8 weeks. With such low mileage, car insurance is kept to a minimum. Every 4-6 months I buy white rice, pasta and any vitamin supplements or over-the-counter medicines in bulk. If I needed potatoes, Cookie Crock has 5 lb. bags on sale for 99 cents this week, but I have plenty of potatoes, carrots, celery and onions on hand at the moment. Every week our 93 year old next door neighbor, who still volunteers at the food bank and Farmer’s Market, drops off two bags of less-than-perfect produce. I cook meals for him and his wife every week. It’s a great arrangement than benefits us both.
Frugal thinking isn’t only about food, though. On our small strip of
coastline, summers are usually cool and foggy. This year we’re in severe
drought and we’ve already had some seriously hot spells. The house isn’t air
conditioned or well insulated. Recently I shopped very carefully online to get
some hot weather clothes for my husband and me. We’re both hard to fit, meaning
thrift stores aren’t usually an option. For $120 (shipped), I bought 6 tank
tops and 2 pairs of cotton sheeting capris for me, 2 pairs of men’s twill shorts,
and a few Hawaiian type shirts for my husband. For another $20 he found himself
a nice pair of leather sandals that fit him. We’re now set for the next few
summers at under $150. California
Hobbies and entertainment are also covered by frugal thinking. He loves to go bird watching, and in our area that’s essentially free. In fact, he leads groups regularly. I’m an avid reader; I get free books in exchange for honest reviews. We both like to make beaded jewelry, and with very careful purchases, we can make boutique-worthy gifts for every woman or girl in our extended family at a fraction of the cost in any store. Those baubles also make terrific, affordable wedding gifts for a bride and her entourage! We love to go antiquing, but almost never buy anything. It’s just fun to have the time out together.
It’s not always easy. Health problems have brought on almost constant fatigue and (mostly) low grade pain. There are some days when I’m so tired or hurting badly enough that I want to cry. Then I’ll pray for an attitude adjustment, because I know that compared to so many in this country… in this world… I’m incredibly blessed.
If you’re reading this blog, have small children and work full time, much of what I do could sound overwhelming. I’m in a different season of life, and it might not be for you. Yet, if you’re worried about finances or are stretched too tight for peace of mind, I’d encourage you to ask for help. Do what you can and be open to creative ideas that will work for you and your family. Odds are good you already have habits that benefit the bottom line, and if so, I hope you’ll share them with other readers of Angie’s Frugal House. No idea is too simple or too small. AT the ripe old age of 52, I’m still learning new things every day!
Elise made the necklace our daughter wore on her wedding day. Her gift to the bride.