“We are lovers of beauty without extravagance” – Thucydides
I read this amazingly simple and heartwarming quote from a book this weekend. The book is Frugal Luxuries – Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul by Tracey McBride and I really, really, really, can’t say enough good things about it. The idea behind the book is to show us how being frugal and simple in our taste is really an art form. It has nothing to do with being miserly or being a cheapskate and everything to do with living well, even luxuriously, on less. It is about making do with what we have and finding joy in all the simple pleasures of life, being a lover of beauty without the extravagance.
A mental image from one of the chapters has always stuck with since I first read this book over a year ago. It talked about a family living in an abandoned wood shack. A group of charity workers heard someone was living in it and decided to stop by and leave food for the family. When they went inside they were stunned by what they saw. The wood floor was scrubbed until it gleamed and was covered with wood wax. A fire was burning in an old river rock fireplace and on the hearth sat a pot of simmering apples and cinnamon that made the place smell divine. A spool discarded by the cable company served as their table and it was adorned with floor length green and white checked gingham cloth. Simple curtains made from the same fabric covered their windows and hung from willow branches. A garland of evergreen and pine cones hung from the ceiling like a wallpaper border. They sat on fruit crates topped with red cushions and their guests were treated like royalty when they stopped by.
This always struck me as a perfect example of what being frugal/simple is all about…. living well, and being happy with less. Not feeling as though luxury has to equal expensive. Luxury could be that latte you treat yourself to once a week. It could be fresh strawberries, still warm from the sun. It could be reading a book next to an open window as rain falls.
We live in a society that almost always seem to emphasize that a good life full of luxuries requires lots of money. This book shows how this just isn’t so. It also shows how being frugal is an art we can cultivate to improve our lives and simplify them or perhaps even realize that we already have all the luxuries we need and value.
In chapter two, McBride compares the the money attitudes of America versus Europe. She claims that Americans are concerned about cost..the actual dollar amount of a service or product. Europeans are concerned with “time” it took to earn the required amount of dollars. Instead of wondering if they can afford something or generalizing that such and such is a good monetary price, they are mentally tabulating how much of their time is being traded for the goods in question. It is a lot harder to submit to instant gratification when you think in terms of time.
This reminds me of that story of you often see posted on the Internet of the Mexican fisherman who fishes just enough to feed and support his family so he can spend the majority of his time sleeping late, playing with his children, taking siestas with his wife, going to the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. To him that is a full life. Then he meets and American who tells him that he should invest in more boats, put in more hours, expand his business, incorporate, and rake in lots of money. When the fisherman asks why he would want to do all that, the response is so that he could have enough money to be able to retire and sleep late, play with his grandchildren, take siestas with his wife, go to the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. He already had everything he wanted but some people have to do things the hard way.
McBride encourages us to create a money map. It is basically a money plan that allows us to get away from random spending. She likens spending without a money map to choosing random articles of clothing without any consideration for color and style, resulting in a chaotic clash of colors and patterns. Random spending is chaotic and dysfunctional. No matter what budget you are working with you have to have a plan, or money map. She outlines how to do this in the book.
After some information on reducing debt she goes into simplifying your life…”eliminating material and intangible excess, conserving time, energy, money, and thoughts. It is using the resources you possess in a way that will take you toward your dreams, your goals – your desired future.” So again she emphasizes working with what you have to make a better life…not accumulating things to make it look like you have a better life.
Part of living simple and luxuriously on less is learning to value and appreciate simple things. People are what make an object valuable…things are not inherently valuable on their own and we CAN choose what things to value.
“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
McBride shares with us ways in which we can start to value different things like friendship, memories, kindness, levity, learning, observing, wisdom, and family time. She makes a case for each as to why they will enrich our lives more than any physical item we think we need to own.
Other sections of the book discuss practical every day ideas we can apply to our lives like frugal and luxurious food… or humble cookery, frugal clothing, and making a home. The food section has lots of great tips for making meals into feasts and it has little to do with making more food or having expensive food. Her clothing tips were good reminders for me. I am drowing in laundry and I think it is time to downsize every one’s wardrobe. Statistically McBride says we only use 20% of the clothes we have on a regular basis. I also loved her tips on frugal decorating and the personal stories are priceless.
Frugal Luxuries continues to be a real gem with great wisdom and helpful tips and it is one I will likely be reading every year for a refresher on why simple and frugal are the way to go.
Want to teach your children about simple, humble values and lives? Try reading them the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The author or Frugal Luxuries refers to it often.
Added to the Natural Parents Network BlogHop
Yes, the conundrum that most families into natural health and wellness will face. On one hand we have the argument that organic, healthier foods cost more and therefore cannot be justified when we have a modest budget. There is some truth to this no doubt. Organic cow’s milk might cost you $4.99 for a half gallon at the grocery store. The non-organic milk sits right next to it at $2.79 per whole gallon. The raw organic almonds I buy at $12.99 a pound to make breakfast bars with seems extravagant when I could buy Pop Tarts for a couple dollars a box right? Why go buy $15 worth of ingredients at the store to make a good dinner when we can shop the $1 menu at McDonalds?
But then the counter argument is that unhealthy foods and non organic foods will cost us more in the long run. Why? Because food is our medicine. An unhealthy diet will eventually lead to health problems, doctor visits, unpaid sick days, hospitalizations, pharma prescriptions, etc. If you need proof, look at me. My bad choices turned around to bite me in the behind BIG time. I chose bad foods…REALLY bad foods for many years and got lovely colon cancer, $50,000 worth of surgeries, and chemo treatment at $7000 a week for 6 months. Don’t I wish I could go back and buy healthy foods and complain about how expensive it was. ;)
I see both sides of the coin but only one really stands up to tough scrutiny. If we cut corners on a healthy diet due to expense…we may likely be paying the piper later…with interest. But like everything it seems there is no black and white here. Some things we may need to compromise on. How can we cut costs and allow access to better food? Let’s explore some of the ways.
Menu Planning – This is probably the best way to cut costs, good old fashioned planning. It gets really pricey when we shop piece meal and only pick up ingredients for a couple days worth of meals. You also might not know what you already have to work with and that can be costly. It just makes good sense to sit down every month or every two weeks and plan out every meal you will eat. Take an inventory of your frig and pantry to see what you have already and work with that. If you have a 5 pound bag of jasmine rice then plan 2-3 meals each week that incorporate rice. If you have lots of dried or canned beans then plan some meals with beans, etc. And when staples like beans and/or rice go on sale, make sure to take advantage.
Meal planning alleviates stress because you always know what you will be making and that lessens the chances that you will just call out for pizza. And eating raw takes planning cause if I want to use rice I have to allow four days for it to soak! But it is kind of fun to do. If it is not your thing you can also use online meal planners or services. Try Menu Planning Central or the Healthy Menu Mailer.
Also don’t be afraid to eat the same thing multiple times in a week if it saves money. There is no law that says dinner has to be totally unique each night.
Buy in Bulk – Sometimes bulk food werehouses can be a bad deal if we buy stuff we don’t need or want just because it is cheaper. But if you shop wisely they are wonderful. Personally I avoid paying the membership fee at Costco by shopping with my mom. I save money on the fee and my purchases count towards her cash back bonuses.
I like to buy frozen fruit at Costco. I can get a huge bag of frozen strawberries for $7.99. A bag ¼ that size can be found at my local grocery store for $6.99. That is a BIG savings since I can easily go through one bag a week and this is one of those areas where I opt not to go organic due to cost. If I had to pay triple for that amount of strawberries I would not buy them nearly as much and I would not make green smoothies nearly as much so the health benefit in that scenario favors the non-organic strawberries. Same goes with their bag of mixed fruit. But when strawberries are seasonal I buy organic and freeze my own. I just run out pretty quick. :(
Organic Baby Spinach is also a great price at Costco so I stock up on that. Fresh, seasonal fruit is better priced too. Costco it is one of the few places I can find wild caught salmon in our area. They have big bags of baking soda that I use to make my own green cleaners. They also add to their organic offerings all the time. Just don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying cheaper stuff.
You might also look into a food co-op where you join with other people to get bulk food at wholesale prices.
Shop Less – This ties in with meal planning. Frequent trips to the store end up costing us more than if we just plan for one or two shopping trips a month. Of course a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies might mean more trips but the bulk of the shopping should only be done at certain times. The book America’s Cheapest Family discusses this.
Don’t Eat Out – Just stop it already, it is expensive. Make your own meals and save money. Presuming you don’t shop the dollar menu then value meals at fast food places will run around $25 for a family of 5 and it is crap food! That $25 could be dinner for 2-3 nights if you plan well. And don’t waste money on $4 coffees from coffee houses. Yes, it is easy for me to say since I don’t drink coffee but it seems like such a waste. I had to speak with my hubby about this recently and his iced coffee from Dunkin Doughnuts habit.
Make Your Own – Are you buying bottled salad dressing or salsa? Bags of bread? Think about making your own foods and condiments and save money.
Look for Deals – When staples go on sale like rice, beans, nuts, grains, etc, stock up and fill your pantry. Use coupons when you can but do not buy stuff you don’t need or want just because it is on sale. Wasting food is not cool.
If you find you regularly buy certain brand products then contact the distributor and see if they can send coupons. Join their online mailing list to get printable coupons. Pick up Mambo Sprouts coupon books in front of Whole Foods. Look at online sales flyers to see which stores are having sales and even if you have already shopped this week check them anyway, just in case. Don’t go to Whole Foods to buy your almonds when Trader Joe’s down the street has them on sale. If you use Agave Nectar a lot then stock up when they have a sale. I recently found my favorite brand of raw Agave Nectar for $1.99 a bottle! It was an unadvertised sale and needless to say I bought every bottle they had. Which leads me to a little tip: the little natural food sections of mainstream grocery stores often have unadvertised sales. I guess maybe they decide that no one is buying this stuff so they want to clear it out which is good news for me.
Also start keeping track of your purchase in a spreadsheet so you can get a feel for average pricing. This will help you figure out if something is a real deal or waste of time.
CSAs and Farmer’s Markets – Do the math and see if a CSA membership will be a good deal for you, it usually is. BUT if you end up with veggies you don’t like or use then perhaps not. Also check out Farmer’s Markets at the end of the day when the farmers mark down produce to get rid of it. Also be sure to look for local Amish for great deals on organic veggies and eggs.
Eat Less Meat – Meat is the budget killer so try to incorporate as many meatless meals as you can. If you see my sample rice meal plan above you will see only one of the three meals includes meat. That was deliberate. I have been amazed at how much food I have been able to bring home on the average shopping trip since we stopped buying so much meat. If anything we buy fish now instead for 1-2 fish meals a week. Ultimately I would like to see us move to buying sushi only… at our local Japanese grocer.
Eat in Season – Buy according to the seasons for cheaper prices. In the fall buy apples and persimmons and skip the pineapple and green grapes. In the summer load up on watermelon and strawberries. It might also be advantageous to buy a stand alone freezer and freeze some. You can also dehydrate to extend the life of seasonal foods.
Grow Your Own – Even if you have never gardened or think you don’t have the space I bet you can grow at least ONE thing. Pick one item you always buy and see if you can grow it yourself. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or herbs are a great place to start. They can be grown on a patio or at a sunny window. I love this post fro J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly about gardening. He found that for every dollar he spent on the garden, they harvested $1.91 worth of food and the expenses were often one time things like a wood chipper and young fruit trees. That is awesome. Wouldn’t you like to make every dollar go twice as far?
There are lots of ways to reduce costs that I can see. How about you? What tips or somments do you have?
I have wanted to talk about this ever since a discussion started on my dumpster diving interview post. Basically the post discusses how one woman used the concepts of Freeganism to harvest good food thrown away by grocery stores and turn around and give it to the hungry and homeless…to the tune of $30,000. Surprisingly, it was said that this was perhaps a bit selfish….that we should consume (buy) even if we don’t need to so that we are supporting farmers.
Well, I am all for supporting local farmers and supporting earth friendly, sustainable, conscious companies with our money. But I am not for consuming just for the sake of consuming and yes I do realize that this is exactly the trend that our current economy is based upon. Consumerism may make the economic world turn…but self sufficiency is what will preserve the planet…not consumerism.
This fact was clear when I read a new prediction from Gerald Celente. This is the man that accurately predicted 1987 stock market crash, the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse, and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar. The New York Post once said of him “If Nostradamus were alive today, he’d have a hard time keeping up with Gerald Celente.” Clearly this gentlemen and his partners have a their eye on the pulse of the economy but their latest prediction will not leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling. He has said, “by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”
Now I have no opinion on the accuracy of this prediction I can only say that for us it should show what is at the very least, a possibility. I am not about doom and gloom but I am not for sticking my head in the sand either. Can you imagine living in a country where people riot for food, protest any and all taxes, can’t find a job, or live in tent cities because they are homeless? As a spoiled American I can barely even fathom such a thing but the very idea that the current economic model of spend, spend, and spend more could crumble like that shows us that more self sufficiency is needed. And consumerism as it exists now will NEVER heal our planet. Maybe it is time I finally read that book I have meant to read for awhile: The Environmental Endgame: Mainstream Economics, Ecological Disaster, And Human Survival.
Just think about it. If you woke up tomorrow in the world Celente has predicted what would you do? Can you be self sufficient? Do you have economic survival skills? To me it seems that to rely on consumerism to drive the world forward will always be potentially risky. If I woke up in that world tomorrow I “hope” that I would have a home completely paid off, that I could grow all my own food, that I would have a nest egg saved, that I could make or sew anything I need, and that I could open my home to others and do co-housing. I would “hope” that my purchases in the years previous were smart so that I did not need much in the way of material things.
It certainly has given me a lot to think about. Even if none of it comes to pass I think I would be infinitely better off being more self sufficient. It will help me save money that is for sure.
So what do you think about Celente’s prediction? Could it happen and what would you do? Is self sufficieny selfish and is consumerism the way to keep everyone’s head above water?
One of my favorite online stores is Resuablebags and they are having a big sale right now on bags, bottles and other miscellaneous items. Some HUGE deals I spotted were:
Acme Bags Earh Tote for $4.98 (50% off)
A 27 oz Klean Kanteen Bottle for $12.57!! (30& off)
A Klean Kanteen Sippy Cup for $13.97!! (30% off)
If you have been wanting to try any of these great products now would be a great time to buy!
Thanks to Amy for tipping me off to this great sale. ;)
This month’s podcast is an interview with Ginger Freebird who used Freeganism or dumpster diving, to feed the hungry and homeless. In this interview we learn about what Freeganism is, what spurred her to take the leap, and how she has been able to donate nearly $30,000 worth of fresh food to area homeless shelters and food centers in only 9 months.
I met Ginger on Twitter and was amazed by her Squidoo page where she shows, with pictures, what she has been able to accomplish utilizing the totally legal (in most cases) practice of dumpster diving or Freeganism. She has some great stories to tell about what she finds and who she helps. And dare I say she has inspired me to possibly take up her cause after I move to the city this spring. I am just blown away buy the completely fresh, sometimes organic, fruits and veggies she finds thrown in the garbage every week to make room for new stock. Not only has she done some amazing things for the hungry in her hometown but she has made a serious dent in her own food budget.
Ginger also shares tips and advice if you want to get started as well. Just take a look at the picture below to see what you might be missing! Listen in or read the transcripts.