When I said that I wished to have more readers and comments, I had forgotten that it might mean something more than just numbers. It meant that more people would find my blog and sometimes those readers would be new. They wouldn't really know me except for the their first impression. When the woman who referred to me as a swindler for buying the Arts & Crafts table for $10.00, she said this because she didn't know that sometimes I'll pay more for something then what a seller charges me. A woman last year charged me $10 for a huge box of vintage items and I gave her $20 because I saw the value in what she was selling me. If the table didn't need so much work maybe I would have offered more.
There also was the comment about buying "cheap crap from China" regarding the Liberty of London post. For those that know me well, you are familiar with the fact that I try to live in moderation. 90% of what I bring home is thrifted while 10% is retail. I try to live eco-consciously but pretty things like the Liberty of London line or the lure of Anthropologie and their sale section fills that 10% gap where I step outside of my thrifted, environmentally friendly ways. Because I know my readers don't just stick to buying thrifted things, I also share buying retail items on sale or items that are very affordable. Or just plain expensive, lovely things because we all splurge once in awhile.
If we talk about food, despite my kitchen being filled with organic food, you will find a jar of Best Foods Mayonnaise in my fridge. I've tried the healthy stuff but nothing comes close to Best Foods. I'd even admit it's my least healthy thing that I have in my kitchen and so delicious with avocado or artichokes.
An hour after our house sale fell through I received an email from a reader. She said that she enjoyed my frugal tips but she found it hard to understand how I could rave about eating out in restaurants. She went on to say that all the money that I spend on meals out could be spent on tangible items. She asked me "how does this make you thrifty?" She finished by saying that to her I am a bit of a contradiction.
I had to admit that this hurt to read. I don't have the thickest skin but after all three comments, I realize that I need to not let these bother me so much. Otherwise why have the goal of growing this blog. I can't expect people to agree with everything that I say, that would be boring. A challenging comment can actually be interesting and can get us all thinking. I adore the comments from Christine of Holland every time she tells me that one of my 1970's finds is really ugly.
Since Friday, I have actually found myself writing this post in my head over and over again. What I wanted to share with you all is why I do what I do. Like many people in my generation I grew up without a lot of money. The land we lived on was my grandparents, the house was built (a log cabin) with money loaned by them as well. My dad barely earned $10,000 a year as a school teacher. We thrifted because we had to. What we didn't thrift we bought at K-Mart. We ate out a few times a year. My birthday dinner was at A&W and in those days, a meal out was a huge celebration. We traveled in the summers but only by car and we camped in a vintage tent trailer. It wasn't until my brothers left home that my dad earned a bit more money as an E.M.T. My parents scrimped and saved in order to send me to Norway for a year as an exchange student. They felt that the experience of that year is worth more than anything.
When I graduated from High School I went to community college and really learned the art of frugality. A few years later when I moved to Aberdeen Washington, I took a job in a cemetery because it paid well ($7.00) an hour and because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life thanks to high school. My parents paid a small down payment (inheritance from my grandfather) on a little house (the entire house was only $39K) for me and it was up to me to pay for the monthly payments and take over the mortgage. I was so into frugality at that point in my life that I saved everything I could. I had decided that I wanted the cheapest electricity bill ever and froze during the long winters. I did successfully get my bill down to $18.00 a month. I saw that saving money was more important than my comfort and quality of life. It was almost as if I was so frugal that I lost sight of the important things in life. I spent three very depressed years there. If I had to choose a dark part of my life, it would be my time in Aberdeen, WA. The only bright spot was the fact that I chose to spend $200 to fly to Chicago to visit my brother. It was there that I met Dave and my life changed forever. 14 years ago today I was in Chicago spending the day celebrating my brother's birthday.
When Dave and I married, he was in some debt and we had to live frugally. I knew how to do this though and showed him all my tricks. We sold his house and moved to Wales and the debt disappeared. What he taught me was how to dress well, how to have lovely things in my life and how to enjoy new foods. He really opened up a whole new world to me. He taught me that it was okay to spend money on myself, something I didn't even know how to do. He works for a large corporation and has a good salary. For the first time ever, I was able to really understand abundance. There were fancy company cars and exciting parties in London. We got to attend a Sony Awards dinner in London where I got to see a handful of celebrities. I got a taste for a slice of life that I never imagined. Yet inside I was still a timid girl who was very unsure of herself.
Cerys was born three years later in 2000 and again my life changed. I learned that despite what every conventional book told me, I was going to breastfeed, co-sleep, eat an organic diet, dress her in natural fibers and surround her with natural wooden toys. I discovered Waldorf education and I knew that the most important thing in my entire life was giving this gift to her. Her brother arrived in 2002, and it became a gift for both of them.
Every move after his birth was directed by which Waldorf school we wanted our children to attend. Waldorf isn't cheap unless you are lucky enough to attend a charter school. If our money situation fell down around us, our priority after food would be Waldorf Education. We'd live in a shack if we had to.
It was during this realization of what Waldorf Education meant to me that I realized more about myself and about money. Unlike my life in the mid 90's where I lived in scarcity, I realized that I had choices on where to spend my money. Frugality isn't about living without, it's about having freedom to choose where to spend money.
The three areas in life where we choose to spend our money is our mortgage, Waldorf education and our organic gluten free diet. If our money situation changed we would rent out our house and move into an apartment and alter our organic diet in order to have the money for the school. Everyone who lives frugally gets to make the choice of what their priority is. While my husband's salary is good, after our mortgage (high because we have to always live near a large city), food bill and tuition payment, there isn't much left. We have to pay our bills and what is left over is the reason I live frugally.
Here are things we don't regular do or spend money on:
- fly to Hawaii, Mexico or other popular travel destinations
- buy new CD's and music (I get free itunes card with my business credit card)
- concerts / musicals (although I've been wanting to see Wicked for years)
- hotels (usually free with our family credit card points)
- rental cars
- house cleaners
- ski trips
- movies (the last movie I saw was Nine last December)
- Appliances (most are 2nd hand)
- New Furniture
- We rarely date and don't have a regular Babysitter
Instead we travel by car, stay in hotels for free and we stick close to home. Our music is either free or comes from a yard sale. We did go to Brian Setzer last December but I must tell you the money we paid for it nearly made me sick inside but it was a gift for Dave. He rarely spends money on himself. We take our car with us when we travel so that we don't have to pay for rentals, we clean our own house well sometimes and usually mow our own yard (this rental has a gardener-woot). We rarely go to the movies and instead spend $14 a month for netflix and we make our own popcorn.
We don't buy many new appliances and instead we wait until we find what we need at a garage sale. Right now we need a Slow Cooker. New furniture is easy to not buy since I personally feel that most things aren't made well these days. I'd prefer to buy a solid 50 year old desk for $10.00.
The woman who wrote to me wondered why I spend money on meals out rather than on things that I can keep. It's a great question. I could spend $500 on a new table made with pressed board that will chip easily if something bumps into it. Again I'd prefer to buy a solid wood vintage desk for $10.00. It's about making choices and each of us will have completely different ones. For those that send their children to public school will have $20,000 more money than me to make choices with. Some people are saving for college. We are not. We are investing everything we have right now into the childrens' education. As I watch my daughter flourish here in her new school, I know it's worth every penny. She's a different child than she was a year ago.
I love to eat out, crave it actually. We recently found a Thai restaurant which takes our Restaurant.com vouchers that we traded for airmiles. You spend $50 and you get $25 off your meal. I would eat there weekly if I could, maybe daily. The flavors of their food delight me to no end. It's a taste that just can't be matched at home so I often think about it days after our meal is finished. Because we have to spend $50 it means that we get to order drinks (we normally drink water) and appetizers. I adore this experience of being out with the family and not having to cook at home. To me this is something worth paying for, especially when it is discounted. I'd personally rather have the memory of the meal out than something tangible. Or maybe I should add that I'd prefer to have both.
The key to frugality is not spending more than you bring in. It's really simple math. We could spend half of Dave's salary on clothes if we wanted to and the other half on mortgage and food as long as we paid our bills and had money left in our account at the end of the month. Obviously the more you save the better as long as it's a good balance. When I lived in Aberdeen I saved too much and the balance was thrown off. I was depressed and cold during my three years there. Who cares about my savings account when I was miserable. I couldn't see this then. I just saw dollar signs in my bank.
Right now our money could become off balanced if we don't sell the house in the next few months. Our renters might leave in June and we would be stuck with a full mortgage and our rental here in CA. I have decided that rather than spend money to move out of our rental into a smaller rental, I will earn extra money for the difference. I'm going to double my efforts to bring in money. We'll also have a yard sale, cut back on eating out and spending. It will cost us a lot of money to move so I just had to think outside of the box on how to gain that extra money every month so that we stay in balance.
What is your priority for money? What is your favorite way to spend money? Where is your favorite way to save? I can imagine that many of us will have different answers. I write this blog because I want to share some of my frugal choices and how anyone can have quality items in their life for less. I have an $800 convection oven that I bought for $20.00. I have $200 boots that I bought for $25. I am surrounded by beautiful, quality items that I paid pennies for. I love my life and the balance that I have created.
I can't feel guilty for having abundance in my life because it's the life I have always visualized that I would have. One of the things I want to do is share with people how to save money and how to live the life that they have always wanted. We can all have our fairytale life because it all comes down to the choices we make.