Being frugal can be a temporary state to get through a financially hard time, or a chosen way of life. Either way a frugal person has to be creative in figuring out how to do more with less - you can look at this as a loathsome chore, or an adventure! As with most things in life, it is best to have a goal, and a plan to get there. Why do you want to be frugal? To save money for a new home, be a stay at home mom, retire, pay off debt, start a business, send a child to college, be free to volunteer, have more to donate to church or charities, and/or to be a good steward of all that God has blessed you with, the reasons are different for each family.
Deciding to live frugally can be a hard adjustment for families, perhaps one spouse is not on board with the plan, children have been used to getting what they want when they want, extended family and friends think you are crazy! It is best to start with small changes and slowly add more as time goes by and before you know it frugal living has become the norm for your family. As Dave Ramsey says, "Live like no one else, so that you can live like no one else!".
Getting started, get a grip on how much money is coming into your househould each month, how much is going out, and how it being spent. Once you have done this you can begin to look at ways to cut expenditures - how much are you spending on food, entertainment, clothing, eating out, services, gas, loan repayments - what can you cut back on or elimate? Perhaps you purchase a latte twice a week at $4/cup, eliminating this adds up to a savings of $208/year, reducing your grocery bill by $25/week adds up to a savings of $1300/year, dropping the land line because you have cell phones, saves approximately $45/month or $540/year, just making three small changes saves over $2000/year - imagine how much more you can save by making small adjustments here and there. An excellent resource for the frugal soul is, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn - it is, in my opinion, a must read for anyone wanting to live frugally. (check it out at your local library :D).
Food is a large expenditure for any family and reducing costs in this area will make an impact on cash available each week, so how do you reduce costs? Cook from scratch and avoid convenience foods. Potato chips cost about $3 for a large bag, weighing no more than a pound, if you were to purchase potatoes at this price a ten pound sack would cost you $30!! Do you need gourmet coffee or will the $5 - $6/can of coffee suffice? Can you incorporate store brand foods in place of name brand? Make a decision about how much you will spend for an item and then stick to your guns. For example, we like to spend no more than $2.00/pound for hamburger, and $1/pound for chicken, we watch for sales and when the price is right we buy a LOT and load up the freezer. A good cook book to use in a frugal kitchen is More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. Cook books from the 1950's and 1960's generally have recipes that use basic ingredients, look for them at used book stores, flea markets, and garage sales, and of course the library has tons of cook books for your enjoyment.
Clothing - look at garage sales and thrift stores first, you may not always find what you want, but you can certainly find some items. Garage sales are a great place to find clothes and toys for little ones, and at a fraction of the cost of new, and if you take care of them you can resell them in oyour own garage sale for about the same price you purchased them for. Only purchase what you really need, avoid the "latest fashions" as they tend to go out of style as quickly as they came into style.
Other frugal ideas, use the library rather than purchasing books, change your own oil, grow your own food, learn how to can and preserve, repair items rather than replacing them, cut your own grass, ditch the gym membership and walk or jog in your neighborhood, when pratical walk or ride a bicycle to run errands, depending upon what you are purchasing it may be better to buy used rather than new, stay out of the grocery store, use a wash line, eliminate newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and most of all save your money so that you can avoid going into debt to purchase needed items or repairs.
Being frugal not only stretches your dollar, it stretches you. Out of necessity you become creative as you figure out how to accomplish a task spending the least amount of money and using items that you already have around the house. As you incorporate more and more frugal ideas into your daily living you will be able to manage better on the income that you have, and hopefully move ever closer to accomplishing your goals in life.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
First the definition of simplicity from my Oxford American Dictionary - simplicity - being simple, to be very easy - this hardly seems a correct definition of a Simple Life Style does it? When we say that we want to live simply what do we really want?? Freedom from a demanding job, a long commute, telephones, TV, people, clutter, debt??? Well the list could go on and on because a simple life means different things to different people, and defining it is not that simple! Often times our quest for a life of simplicity is more a quest for contentment.
If you google Voluntary Simplicity 244,000 web pages are found for you to peruse - and I am sure that each page has it's own idea about how to live a simple life, and why you should live a simple life, some would be based on religious reasons, to be apart from the world, frugality, environmental concerns, anti-consumerism, anti-capitalist, self sufficiency,vegetarianism, just to name a few.
Searching for a simple life is nothing new, people have been doing it for centuries, in this country we can start with the Pilgrims, they fled religous persecution, and wanted to start anew, many religous groups, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Anabaptists all came to America in part to start fresh, to be away from the influences of the world, and to live simply. Move on down, a few centuries, Henry Thoreau, writer of, Walden, or Life in the Woods, was seeking the simple life, and his writing have inspired many to want to live in a "cabin in the woods". Move forward to the 1930's, Scott and Helen Nearing, famous for their self sufficiency and ascetism, lived in rural Vermont, grew almost all their own food, built all of their buildings, and lectured around the world. The Nearings co-authored Living the Good Life: How to live simply and sanely in a troubled world - the Nearings were members of the communist party. Move forward to the late 1960's and the "back to the land movement" started, hippie communes started, (most failed because communal living is not so simple), and the need to be in rythm with mother earth. Today two reasons seem to send people on a quest for the simple life - religion, and enviromentalism(a religion of it's own??).
If you would like to see a community of people who are living a "simple life" because they want to minimize their carbon footprint, you can visit http://www.dancingrabbit.com/, a diverse community of people who want to live sustainable and socially rewarding lives - this is definitely not a community based on Christian values.
Scott Savage, author of The Plain Reader, Essays on making life simple, is a Quaker, living in SE OH. Scott has completely turned his back on life on the modern World - he and his wife no longer drive, preferring to use a horse and buggy, no longer use electricity, and home school their children, just to name a few things that they do. Scott has quite a following - after all he has made a radical change to living the American Life. You can subscribe to the monthly(?) publication of The Plain Reader newspaper, but there is a limit of 5000 subscriptions, as Scott and his helpers hand set all of the print, and use no electricity at their printing press. You will not find Scott on the internet - he is true to his goal of turning his back on technology and calls himself a Neo-Luddite.
Others feel called to simplify because of their faith, in removing all of the clutter of the world they can be closer to God and free to serve Him. St. Francis of Assisi gave up everything to live the Gospel life, and although he lived in great poverty, he was a spritually rich man. Franciscans to this day strive to live simply, it is hard to do when we live in a country of plenty.
Ultimately I think living a simple life is all about finding contentment - we have a need to create, to produce, to feel useful, and getting back to the basics often fills this need, how satisfying to bake bread, to grow food, to paint a picture, to write a poem, to build a house, to be a little bit self sufficient. When we remove the clutter of daily living, and focus on God, we truly see and appreciate all that our Lord has given us in creation, and know that we are truly Blessed.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
On Monday evenings I go to hand quilt for 3 hours with several ladies, we are making quilts for MCC Relief Sale in September were all of the quilts will be auctioned to benefit MCC. All over the state groups of ladies come together to hand quilt these beautiful items, they truly are a labor of love. There are so many benefits to this activity, most of the ladies I quilt with are much older than I am, one is 91, most are in their 70's, and all come out to work on this worthwhile project, and while giving of their time and talent, they receive good fellowship, and a goodwill feeling of a job well done. I find these ladies admirable, almost all volunteer in a thrift shop whose sales benefit MCC, some participate in other quilting projects, and all are active in their church community, and all are very generous with their time and talents. I really enjoy my Monday evening fellowship with these ladies, we younger folk could learn an awful lot from the older people in our communites.
Spring is upon us, and so it time to plant the garden. Husband, Dave, does all of the planting, he likes everything to be very organized, and all plants must be properly spaced, and lined up like soldiers on parade - this makes for a very nice looking garden. So far, potatoes are in, we anticipate about 100 plants to come up, peas are planted, and the onions are in. Cabbage will go in shortly, then green beans and corn. Dave started 48 tomato plants, they will be ready to plant out by the end of the month, and we will then plant some peppers. We plan to do pumpkins, but this year we are going to wait until late June to plant them, in prior years we have had pumpkins all ready in mid August, and by the end of the September they are rotting on the vines, and we think that we probably planted too early.
In the middle of winter it is nice to start thinking about what will be planted in the spring, what seeds we want to start in the house, where we will plant things, and once the weather breaks it is wonderful to get out and start working in the gardens. In August I will spend a lot of time canning, and freezing the bounty from our garden, such rewarding work, and the food will take us most of the way through to the next years harvest. There is nothing like opening a jar of home canned tomatoes in middle of winter and breathing in their wonderful tomatoey aroma and in your minds eye you are immediately transported back to a warm summer day in the garden!
Sometime during the night on April 10th our chickens had an intruder visit and wreak carnage on the flock. Whatever came in, dug underneath the fence, then proceeded to kill 5 chickens out right, two completely disappeared and are presumed dead, and two managed to survive. The two survivors were so traumatized that they did not leave the chicken house at all, and stopped laying altogether - and who can blame them??
Well fast forward two weeks, the chicken house is completely cleaned out, repairs made, and the new flock all settled and moved in. Fortunately my brother-in-law and wife also keep chickens, they had more than they needed and were willing to sell us 10 new hens. We went to pick up the hens, popped them into some large cardboard boxes and transported them back home, none the worse for wear, the hens moved into their new home and promptly started laying eggs. We now have 4 barred rock, 3 rhode island reds, and 3 black star chickens, a mighty fine looking flock if I do say so myself. There is nothing as lovely as a fresh brown egg!!