Why don't I buy my clothing new at the mall? Why don't I accrue credit card debt and pay monthly interest? Why don't I go grocery shopping every other day in a typical grocery store like everyone else? Why don't I just buy new furniture from Macy's like this?
These are questions I often ask myself. Each financial decision I make is truly not the norm. Some people have asked me why do I thrift and why am I frugal? I've been thinking about this during the last couple of weeks only to have the answer given to me on Saturday. Ironically I was thrifting when I picked up this book collection at a yard sale.
My parents were very much into self-sufficiency as I have talked about before. They wanted to live off the land as much as possible. Growing up in their home I didn't really know how different they were from other families. I know I was a little proud to live in the only log cabin in our small town. My father bought a kit from a magazine and built a small four bedroom log cabin. I can still hear the kids in awe when the school bus pulled up in front of our property and they had set their eyes on a partially built log home. Maybe they were thinking fondly of their own Lincoln Logs waiting for them when they get home. It did just look exactly like Lincoln Logs except the real logs were lighter in color.
My parents had the Foxfire Set of books on our book shelves next to their large collection of Mother Earth News.
I read through most of my childhood but never did happen to pick either of these up to browse through. Instead I lived through it as my parents tried projects from both Mother Earth News and Foxfire. There was the root cellar project where my parents bartered a back hoe to come out and attempt to dig a hole in our horrible orange clay soil. I only remember tidbits of it but I do know that it never worked for some reason and eventually it caved in. It used to scare me to think about being trapped in it. My dad filled it in and moved on to another project such as drip irrigation for our olive orchard.
There were also the solar panels that heated our hot water heater. And during the winter when the sun's rays weren't as strong my father set up our wood stove to heat our hot water heater. We also had a huge walk in pantry that held jars and jars of dried food. My parents were extremely frugal. I think my father earned about $10,000 a year as a teacher and then less when he became an EMT. Sometimes I found myself resenting our frugality as we had to shop at a smelly, sweltering Goodwill in Chico, California, a half hour away from where we lived. We would drive past the mall and I could only look longingly at it wishing for new clothing. Obviously I got over the need to buy new.
Each of these small unspoken messages from my parents and the books and economic times of the 70's that influenced their life, definitely had an affect on my future. While I don't necessarily live off the land as much as they did, I wish to. We won't mention the fact that I'm about to move to a city. I will still try to live a self sufficient lifestyle when we are down in Santa Monica. Even in a rental. I may not need to know how to do hog dressing as Foxfire book number 1 has instructions for, but I will take these influences and do the best I can.
During these economical times, this lifestyle really focuses in on the power of the frugal dollar. I'm hearing stories from friends about family members asking them for money. But giving someone money who has financial troubles can be like sticking a band-aid on a leak in a large dam. What some people need is not necessarily money but the skills and knowledge to stop spending and shift to a frugal lifestyle. We like to think we deserve a big house and a fancy car but if we can't afford it, do we really deserve it? We live in a fixer upper in a neighborhood full of fancy, beautiful houses. And while I sometime do wish I had a perfect house that didn't need every-last-thing-repaired-or-painted, I'm grateful that we are living within our means.
Educating ourselves on frugality is probably one of the most financially smart decisions we can make at this time. Crack open the Tightwad Gazette books and newsletters, subscribe to Mother Earth News (only $10 at the moment) or read it at the library. Start a food pantry, cut out the lattes and start sharing your frugal stories with your friends. This is our time to shine in our frugality and it is our job to share this important message with anyone we can.
My favorite books that center around Frugality:
The Simple Living Guide by Janet Lurhs.
The Tightwad Gazette (book 2 is my fav)
Carrots Love Tomatoes (companion planting in the garden)
Stocking Up (book on canning)
Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan (make your own cleaners)
Naturally Healthy Babies and Children (great for those doing natural parenting. Make your own remedies for children including how to make a super simple electrolyte recipe)
Make Your Own Groceries (a bit pricey so hopefully you own a copy or can borrow one)
Practically any book from Storey Publishers
Frugality isn't about being poor and limiting your spending. It's about making financially smart choices on where you spend your money. We chose to send our children to a Waldorf school which isn't free for us nor cheap. But it is an investment in our children that to us is priceless. By making the choice to send them to Waldorf means we have to sacrifice that money elsewhere. This is why I buy nearly all of our clothing 2nd hand. We also choose to eat an organic diet and instead we eat out far less than your typical family. Once I clear up my addiction for curry food or can somehow replicate the recipe for Chicken Korma that our local curry magically creates, we will eat out even less.
I remember reading Amy's books and thinking that she sometimes went too far. There's no way I would buy an unmarked can for a surprise meal at the dinner table. I like to know what I am eating and that includes cans with proper labels. She also didn't travel. When I read her books in my early 20's I couldn't fathom not traveling as that was a huge goal of mine. When I deposited my paychecks I would actually put half of it into a travel savings account.
What I later realized is that we can each be frugal in our own way and still make smart choices. Some might disagree with me that I pay for the children's education when free education is available. Or that other might want to eat a non-organic diet because they can save so much more money on their food. All of these decisions can be good when it's a thoughtful choice. I even choose to have a cable bill and tivo fee because I save so much time and stress from the machine recording my favorite shows. What is not to love about a Season Pass? I used to sometimes want to take a bat to the VCR because it failed to tape a show or it missed the last five minutes or I taped the day before but not the day it should have. To me the value is truly there even if it seems like a luxury item to others. I guess tivo would be one of my vices. What are yours?
Finding these Foxfire books on Saturday were a sweet, gentle reminder to be grateful for my roots. As we move into Thanksgiving week in the US, I will send some grateful thanks to my parents who taught me how to live richly in a frugal lifestyle. What are you thankful for in regards to your frugality?