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Frugal Update

May 5, 2010

So, now that Terri will start receiving her SSDI checks, all our financial worries are over, right? Right. Right!

Well, maybe not. Are anyone’s ever? Still, the truth is, because we have been so, so good and frugal and creative, and because we’ve been completely paranoid and edgy about spending money, we’ve been totally fine. We’ve actually had “extra” money, money in savings, money for necessities and treatments and updates to DVD players when one breaks and so forth. We are not rich or anything like that (ha!), but we have enough cushion that while I don’t feel secure enough to be lax about things, I have been able to relax just enough to know that we’re not right on that edge.

And I want to keep it that way.

Although I think we might pay a few bills and buy a couple of things we’ve been needing/wanting/putting off, and Terri will be able to consult with her doctor and go to the dentist, I actually really want to change very little about how we’re living, and how we are handling money. I feel like I got a big, huge lesson and reminder: it’s possible to live very well on a small budget, if you have a good attitude and creativity.

  • Grocery shopping: Over time I figured out all the best places to shop for the best produce at the best prices. I figured out what to get at the Grocery Outlet and what to pay “full” price for. I only got what I needed and only what was on the list. I have a whole slew of cheap, yummy recipes, and was reminded yet again that it’s so much better to make nearly everything from scratch. I learned when to stock up and when to buy the minimum needed. Actually, I should say, I remembered how to do all these things, since these are lessons my parents taught me when I was growing up and we had very little money. Still, the point is, we have never lacked for anything. We had good, wholesome, creative, delicious simple meals. We learned to menu-plan. We treated ourselves when we needed a treat. And I don’t feel bad when leaving the grocery store anymore. I intend to keep doing this.
  • Clothing, fun shopping (aka “retail therapy”): I like shopping, but I hate that bad feeling of either not being able to afford what you like, or feeling guilty for spending the money, or feeling like I’m somehow being wasteful. Also, I hate dealing with other retail shoppers and salespeople. Last year I totally rediscovered the joy of thrifting, and garage sales, and Craigslist and Freecycle. When I started feeling like I needed some retail therapy, I headed to the thrift shop (usually on a 1/2-price day), and browsed to my heart’s content. I found this to be WAY more satisfying than browsing at a department store. At a thrift shop, there are ALL kinds of styles and colors, not just what’s in season. And frankly, I can buy whatever I want because even if I only wear it a few times, I’ve only invested $3 or so. I felt free to try out different styles and colors, and play with things a little more. And no guilt! Except for the fact that my closet is miniscule…
  • Making Do, Doing Without: On the flip side of this, I also remembered the benefits of living without until you figure out exactly what it is that you DO need, and then since you’ve made it this far without that thing, you can afford to poke around thrift shops and so forth until you find the thing that you need, at a fraction of the cost. For instance: I have discovered that I really do need a medium-sized glass mixing bowl. I have a huge pottery bowl (which I use for making bread) and I have some lovely, lightweight, high-quality plastic mixing bowls which usually do the job. But I need something for when I have to put something into the oven, or when I need the smooth sides for some reason. However, I know that these sorts of Pyrex bowls are to be had for 50 cents or less if you just keep your eye out, so I’m on the hunt. In the meantime, I’m making do just fine. We’ve applied this to all areas of our life and frankly, we enjoy our things much more because we prize them, and value them, and only buy what we truly need or want. Another habit I really, really want to keep.

We’ve been simplifying in other ways too, with great results:

  • I experimented with “no ‘poo” and while I definitely need to wash my fine hair with some sort of shampoo, I figured out that I only need to wash it twice a week (rinsing well inbetween) and that I only need a tiny bit of shampoo. I haven’t bought shampoo in over a year and a half, and I started out with a partially-used bottle. My hair behaves much better now, too.
  • Instead of using regular cleaners, now I pretty much only use vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and, in very small amounts, ammonia and bleach. I am using up the spray bottles of “natural” cleaners that I have and will refill them with homemade solutions when they are empty. Works just fine, doesn’t bother Terri’s health, and is super-cheap.
  • Although I love makeup, I’ve discovered that my skin does best with a super-simple skincare routine, which is cheap cheap cheap. A bottle of jojoba oil, a bottle of inexpensive natural facial cleanser, and a jar of coconut oil is all I need. Well, and eye cream. πŸ™‚ (makeup is a different story… I am buying much less but I am a sucker for drugstore lipsticks when they are on sale…)
  • And of course, we use the library regularly and only buy books when we can’t find them at the library or we know we want to have it on reference. As book-lovers, this has been a bit hard at times, but then we are so happy when we give ourselves “permission” to buy a book. Feels like such a treat.

As far as my multiple jobs go, now that we’ll have a bit of breathing room, I think the only change I’ll make is that I won’t go actively seeking new clients — I’ll just keep the ones I have and won’t replace any that fade away. But everything else has been working really well for us, and frankly I’ve never felt more confident about our ability to do just fine financially, no matter what our circumstances. I suppose that’s the biggest lesson in all this: it’s completely within our power to take care of ourselves. I was so scared about being the sole breadwinner, and although it hasn’t been a piece of cake or anything, I’ve surprised myself. Terri has been a huge support and a big help in keeping us on track with budget. We’re a good team.

Next project: buying the house! That’s exactly where all the new money will go, I suppose. πŸ™‚

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2010 8:53 pm

    yep, thats exactly where all your money will go.

    after living almost a week here without our stuff, it made me realize how little we actually “need.” it was eye opening. im trying to keep that in mind as we go about our normal lives now.

    also, as for using less of stuff, im definitely trying that out. i read somewhere that when we use products like shampoo/laundry soap/dish soap, etc….the average person uses way more than they actually need to use to get something clean. im on a mission now to make my bottle of dish soap last more than a month. if i can stretch it to 2 months, i might give myself permission to buy the mrs meyers stuff i love so much yet think is kinda pricey. πŸ™‚

    oh, and i meant to tell you in the email that yes i did find the library! the tualatin branch is very very close to my apt. less than a mile. i havent had a chance to go yet though. but im sure as my bedside book stack dwindles, ill be hitting it.

  2. May 6, 2010 4:54 am

    This is all good stuff — and a very good reminder about wastefulness. I’m feeling guilty as I type this because I just used up a large hand-full of conditioner. I’m sure I could do without. Thanks Daphne! I’ll look forward to hearing your house hunting!

  3. May 6, 2010 8:37 am

    Tammie: I know! A person can get by with very little and be quite happy. And, I’ve discovered that you can water down dish soap at least by half and still get plenty of soapiness. I’ve made it a year and a half with buying only 2 bottles (and I’ve only used one and a quarter). And we wash all our dishes by hand.

    Yay for libraries!

    Jodi: it’s amazing how much we can cut back on stuff!! I treated myself to a new bottle of conditioner recently, but only because I’d been ‘making do’ with a bottle of stuff I really didn’t care for, for over a year, and it STILL was not used up. So I just called it, and will use the not-so-great stuff for shaving.

  4. May 6, 2010 9:33 am

    a year and a half! now im really motivated.

  5. May 6, 2010 9:48 am

    T: I have to stop and think to make sure that’s right… we moved into our apartment in December 2008 and I think we started with a new bottle of soap, which I promptly divided in two and watered down. That lasted a long time (I kept adding water). Then I treated myself to some of that Mrs. Meyers you mentioned (it smells so good!), and have been doing the same with that (I just added it to the same bottle I’ve been using). So… yeah, I think it’s been a year and a half and only two bottles. That doesn’t seem right, but I know I haven’t bought any except for the Mrs. Meyers!

    Maybe our dishes just aren’t very clean. πŸ™‚

  6. May 6, 2010 11:28 am

    You are so good! When you find a house though that will definitely be where all your extra money goes. There is always something that needs fixing. Even so, I love having a house.

  7. May 6, 2010 1:45 pm

    I can’t wait to spend all our money on our house! πŸ™‚

  8. May 6, 2010 4:22 pm

    All very wonderful things and I’m glad to hear that you’ll be keeping them up. I think you’ll all be much more contented, plus you can be looking at ways to invest in your retirement too so that you guys can live good then too. I’ve never been happier financially then this past year working the Dave Ramsey plan. Budgeting reasonably and making sure there is money for fun stuff plus necessities and working hard to have extra money each month to give and to put on debt makes us feel wonderful. Rediscovering the joy of the library is just one of the many pleasures, and like you mention, when I do buy a book I feel really good about it. It is a treat, not just a need to be a consumer. Hooray for living frugally and ultimately being much happier!!!

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