The Temporarily Frugal Life
Now, it is that week between Christmas and New Year’s and there is a lot less money left in our pockets than days left until the next pay-check. I will have to be frugal. We have some left-overs from holiday meals and plenty of rice to make stir-fried everything. We were careful to stock up on some of the food basics – we have a second refrigerator out in our garage – so we should be able to avoid the lure of the single-item grocery store trip which never ends up with us purchasing just that one item. We have lots of cheese and milk and eggs and potatoes. You may have different “food basics” than I do, but what I mean to make clear is that earlier in the month I put some thought into what foods we needed to stock up on to make it through this last week of the year.
In all honesty, it’s not like I am only frugal this one week of the year. I already water-down my shampoo and the liquid soap at my bathroom sink and tear my fabric softener sheets so that one sheet can soften four loads of laundry. I will keep turning off lights in rooms we aren’t using and keep the thermostat low and only wash full loads in the dishwasher – which won’t help with this week, but will make the next pay-check go farther in January when the bills start rolling in. While those are good frugal things, they won’t save me any real money during the last week of the year.
In my life, my best chance of being frugal this week lies in staying home as much as possible. If you’re young and/or single, this advice might not work for you, because you might save more money by visiting all your friends and relatives, watching the DVD’s they got for Christmas and enjoying their heat, lights, hand-soap, toilet paper, and (of course) helping them clear away the holiday left-overs. But, over the years of raising a family, I have noticed that if I don’t leave home I don’t spend as much money.
A look at the calendar shows me that I can stay home Wednesday and Thursday and then again on Saturday. So, if I must mail something or put gas in the car I should do it on Friday when I need to put in some volunteer hours at our local museum and will already be driving the car. To be smart and frugal I need to feed my family meals that don’t require me to go to the store for ingredients – use up what is in the ‘fridge and pantry. For entertainment I should be watching movies that we already have on DVD, some of those old favorites, and I can pop some popcorn right here at home and make up some tea (hot or iced) to wash it down with. If I get antsy I can get started knitting something for my daughter’s birthday next month using yarn I already have.
If I take the camera out in the fresh snow and snap some pictures I can print out some personalized cards for those unfortunates with end-of year birthdays. I can use some of my Christmas gifts – find free down-loads for my Kindle, print photos for my new picture frame, enjoy that box of chocolates, and indulge in some luxurious pampering with my bubble bath and manicure set. Finally, if I allow the books and movies and games and family members and computer-access and warm beverages I already have in my home to keep me entertained and happy this week I will be more likely to leave my car in the drive-way and not burn gas unnecessarily or risk accidents on the icy roads.
Tonight I have a pot of hot tea on the stove – it costs much less than soda pop and is easier on my teeth and stomach. I used some spices in a small pan on the stove to make the whole house smell wonderful. Supper was a casserole using left-over ham from Christmas and some of the cheese and potatoes I had made sure to have on hand. For exercise I used some free-weights we keep here at home and moved around the house – including the stairs. My entertainment today has been talking with family members, reading, answering e-mail, and watching some comedians on YouTube.
Being frugal doesn’t have to be depressing. Usually, I find it uplifting to realize that I have it in my power to make smart decision and save money for my family. I like mending our clothes so that we don’t have to rush out for new things. I like making our own food so that it is fresh and healthy. I like checking on YouTube for ways to make things or fix things using the supplies I already have on hand. Doing this makes me feel like I am a valuable member of the family – and society as a whole.
Some people call it being “green;” to make do with what you have and re-use and recycle, but my grandma taught me that it was just the way good people had of being responsible. How do you feel when you repair something instead of throwing it away? What odd things do you save to use later? Do you think it is just a normal part of life or do you consciously choose to make “green” life-style decisions?
If you haven’t already, please see Part One: When I am Frugal, an earlier blog post.
Tags: cheese, Christian, entertainment, family, food basics, frugal, gifts, grandma, green, life, paying bills, penny-pinching, pictures, planning ahead, printing, re-use and recycle, recipe, saving, saving gas, saving money, temporary, writing