Frugality Tip #254: Leave Home Early.

November 15, 2008

How many times, while speeding to this appointment or that event, have you passed a garage sale or store liquidation, too pressed for time to stop?

Yeah, me too.

Tip of the day: Give yourself enough travel time to and from a destination so you can make such stops, or run other fuel-saving errands. Take the time to check out that funky consignment store you’ve always said, “Gee, I wish I had time to stop and check out that funky consignment store!”

It’s really that simple, and since today’s Saturday and I need to go outside and play, that’s all I’ve got for you today.


Learn Skills for Cheap Thrills

November 9, 2008
Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Learn to use a real field compass, and to read a topo map.

Bored, but too broke to hit up the latest chick flick? Challenge yourself to learn a new skill each week. Pick something that will save you money, augment your fitness goals, aid in survival or preparedness, or all of the above. Bring a friend on board, or even plan an outing with friends to attend a workshop or simply learn together.

Skills I’ve really enjoyed, especially in the company of friends, include knot tying (get your mind out of the gutter), survival fishing, making snares, identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival signaling and old-school orienteering.

Geocaching with a GPS unit is another great way to get friends and family out of the house and on the trail.

Household frugality skills that have become rusty for many of us include bread baking, intensive gardening, soapmaking, candlemaking, knitting, basic home improvement & maintenance, and medicinal herbs.

Many community colleges or county recreation departments offer inexpensive classes on the above topics. Online resources and printed guidebooks can allow you to learn a new skill in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee.

Learning with friends is the way to go. In my old home city, my girlfriends and I took turns planning outings in which we’d either learn something new, or attend a lecture or reading that broadened our own horizons. In addition to learning something new, you learn more about the people in your immediate lives. A favorite activity was an outing to a rock climbing gym, when one buddy earned my respect for the hard-earned skills she’d built in a few short months of training.

Another was a CPR class I took with my family before we embarked on a three-month boating trip through Alaska’s inland passage, by way of Canada’s San Juan Islands. (After that, I learned to suture pickled pigs’ feet and administer insulin injections into oranges, woo hoo).

My general philosophy is to make preparedness and self-reliance a natural part of my life. Never be ashamed to admit you know how to field dress a rabbit, make glue from pine pitch or change the oil on your Subaru.

Building good skillsets benefits your self-confidence as well as your self-reliance, and makes you more interesting at social gatherings. You may be tempted to demonstrate bushcraft firestarting at your cousin’s wedding reception next summer, and I’m here to let you know that that’s a bad idea. Knowing how to use your emergency suture/fishing kit to fix the bride’s bussle, on the other hand, will make you the belle of the ball.


Frugal is Fashionable Again!

November 5, 2008

And to this girl, who shops for clothes by the pound rather than by the price on a tag, that’s a good thing.

Our economic climate isn’t much of a shock. So many Americans were living on overextended credit, and “keeping up with the Joneses” became “keeping up with minimum loan payments” in no time. I’m not smug about it, either, because for years I struggled with the burden of credit cards and the consequences of falling for dangerously deceptive promises of easy-to-land loans. I’m still working hard to keep the bills paid, but at least I’m working at something I love, even if the pay’s less. I’ve simply trimmed the fat and reduced the obligations that have stressed me out.

Frugality has become as much a source of psychological relief as a necessity in my world. Gardening, careful grocery shopping and strengthening self-disciplinary skills have allowed me to stress less about out-of-the-blue emergency expenses, and reduces the guilt I feel when I splurge on a night out with friends or family.

Two of the biggest challenges to living a frugal lifestyle include social pressures and convenience. I live in a medium-sized city with lots of fun stuff to do, and lots of friends who are always putting out the call to meet at this bar or that restaurant on any given night (or morning, or lunch hour). None of my friends are gazillionaires, but most have a meatier paycheck than I do. Many would offer to pick up the tab, but I hate not pulling my own weight, no matter how often my friends convince me I’m doing so just by being present.

Lately, these same friends have been confiding to me that they’re in deep financial dook. So-and-so is regretting the purchase of the shiny, gently-used luxury car she bought, even though on paper, she SHOULD be able to afford it with no problems. But, having sat down and examined her expenses, she realized that all the lunches-on-the-fly, dinners out after an exhausting day at work, twice-weekly trips to the bars with friends and frequent weekend getaways–even lower budget ones ones–add up.

“I don’t have time to make lunch every morning, or dinner every night” is something we all hear and say. Well…that’s a load of crap. At least, that’s the “EUREKA” I had when I began planning meals, and building a grocery list based on foods that meet the following criteria:

  1. Can be prepared (if not cooked) in 20 minutes or less
  2. Is healthy, with few unnatural additives
  3. Is inexpensive, and if possible, based on easily stored foods
  4. Revolve around a core of ingredients that work with a variety of recipes and cultural styles
  5. Make excellent leftovers

Most of my new-favorite recipes will feed and please friends and fam for less than seventy cents per whopping serving. Seventy cents is actually quite posh, and usually indicates the locally-raised, natural meats I buy from area farmers.

I highly recommend learning how to safely store food. Doing so will provide you with a surplus you can fall back upon in hard times, really hard times, or full on SHTF scenarios. In the short-term, it will save you money, even considering the cost of food dehydrators, vac sealers & supplies, buckets, mylar and oxygen absorbers. (love the Red Dawn music on that last link, heh) Want to learn more about food storage? Check out the Mormons’ preparedness information. Say what you will about Jesus Jammies, but when it comes to preparedness, nobody does it like the Latter Day Saint crowd.

I expect that my friends and I will spend more time planning potlucks at one another’s homes, and less time holding each other’s hair over the toilets at downtown bars. Fortunately I live close to great hiking trails (both urban and semi-wilderness) and I enjoy stalking good books at the local Goodwill. I’ve discovered that my beau can cook as well as any of my favorite local chefs, with the right (cough) motivation, and I’m not that bad, either.

And thankfully, I live in a town where the person sitting next to you at the Opera is as likely to be wearing jeans as she is to be wearing a designer dress. (This USED to bug me, until I learned the value of being able to enjoy some culture in times when my weekly paycheck was lower than my IQ).

Another thing I’ve had to ratchet down (speaking of jeans at the Opera) is my clothing budget. Find a local thrift shop, or see if there’s a Goodwill outlet near you where items and clothing are indeed sold by the pound. This is where I’ve found some of my favorite jeans, workshirts, tee shirts, jackets and housewares. On occasion I’ve found items of value to market on eBay or Craigslist. (Avoid used shoes unless they’re hardly worn or will be hardly worn; shoes broken in to another person’s podiatric problems can cause foot, knee and back problems in your own bod). It takes work, and you have to battle serious bargain shoppers and resellers at “The Bins”, but it will pay off if you have a few items in mind and some patience. Oh yeah. Take hand sanitizer! Hoo, boy.

There are a great number of frugal living websites out there. Check them out! Sooner or later, I’ll post a few tips that have worked for me, and maybe some recipes, too. And feel free to leave your own in this post’s comments!