One of my domestic treasures is an old book formerly belonging to my great-grandmother. It is titled The Complete Home, An Encyclopaedia of Domestic Life and Affairs Embracing All the Interests of The Household, by Julia McNair Wright. Mrs. Wright wrote to help impoverished families economize during the economic crises of the 1870s, known as The Long Depression. She writes in the first person in the character of a delightful old biddy named Aunt Sophronia. She is giving advice to her three young nieces as they embark on adult life.
“Economy will be especially demanded of young people who have no fortunes but in themselves. Are you capable of self-denial and self-sacrifice? Can you be cheerful while others, your friends, make a greater display and have more showy pleasures? Can you be resolute to save a little every year, even if it is a very little indeed? This strength of character which can attain to self-denial, to perseverance, self-sacrifice, is fine capital…”
“Practise Economy as a Fine Art: make a duty and a pleasure of it; it is the mortar wherein you lay up the walls of home; if it is lacking, or is poor in quality, the home building will crumble. Don’t be ashamed of economy: study it, consult about it; don’t confound it with meanness: economy is the nurse of liberality. Meanness is going into debt for luxury: is keeping behind-hand the wages our work-people have earned [in other words being slow to pay obligations such as rent, plumber's bills, the internet bill, the propane, your lawyer, your babysitter, your paper boy, etc].: is making a show and the street and withholding charity: is presenting cake and confections ostentatiously to our callers, and stinting the kind or quantity of our servants’ food.”
In answer to a niece's question about the rules for getting rich, she says:
“All that has been said can be boiled to a very short and simple answer, ” I replied; “and all the difficulty in the work lies in the needful self-sacrifice. The question first is, What do you mean by getting rich? …Will you be content to call honest independence, enough to live upon tastefully without fear or favor, enough to keep away the wolves of debt and want, and to send out from your door, on your errands, the full-handed angels of benevolence, will you call that being rich?”
“…I will give you the rules, which are few and simple, and easily performed by self-sacrifice. Work hard; see and improve all small opportunities; keep out of debt and carefully economize. That is the best that all the wisdom of the world has been able to digest and formulate as rules for getting rich. The matter is simple and lies in a nutshell: have the end definitely before you; do your own work toward it and do it honestly, and don’t give up until you have reached your goal; the same plain, straight, unadorned and yet passable road is open to all.”
You can read more wisdom from this maiden aunt of yesteryear here.
Be sure to visit our Thrift Store post, and get some tips on reselling those finds from my oldest daughter, who is making a decent next egg each month doing just that.
Frugal Baby Stuff:
Clothes: My philosophy is that if you wear it once it's used, so I buy them "pretested" at thrift shops, consignment stores and garage sales. You can get out almost any stain with this recipe:
1 cup Cascade Dishwashing detergent
1 cup Chlorox 2 (color safe bleach) OR Borax (Twenty Mule Team is one brand)
1-3 teasoons of Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
5 gallons of water.
Mix this solution and soak garment overnight. Wash it in the washing machine normally. I use this solution over and over. Occasionally it will lighten a brightly colored item, but since I use it on tough stains, it's an item that was a lost cause anyway- so it doesn't matter if the solution spoils it.
Diaper Wipes: Buy used receiving blankets. Cut them into squares roughly the size of diaper wipes. Hem them or serge the edges, or whip stitch them to keep them from fraying. These work better than diaper wipes because they have texture, and therefore clean better. YOu can use just plain water and toss them into your diaper pail or a bucket near your changing area. Launder them as needed and reuse. If you don't want to use plain water, make your own diaper wipe solution. Here's one recipe:
2 cups water
1/8th cup olive oil (most recipes call for baby oil, and you can certainly use that instead. We prefer olive oil)
1-3 tablespoons baby shampoo or baby bath
drops of essential oils (optional- we like a drop of tea tree oil and a drop or two of lavender)
Soak your wipes in this solution. Keep an extra ziplock bag in your diaper bag for used wipes- or make disposable wipes by soaking paper towels in this solution in a plastic container or a ziplock bag. -Incidentally, I still use those previous tips, the laundry stain remover and the 'diaper' wipes even though we don't have babies anymore. The 'diaper' wipes make great clean ups for when we have to eat in the van while running from here to there and back and again. The stain remover works for almost any stains, including berry picking stains.
The DeputyHeadmistress blogs regularly at The Common Room and less regularly at the cooking blog, The Common Kitchen;I've been married 30 years,am the mom to seven plus unofficial foster mom to two little boys, Mama-in-Law to two, and Grandmama to five blessings under 3, and yes we are very proud.=)
As I have been mulling over my frugal life of late, I thought I would share five ways that can ensure success in the frugal life:
1. Define Your Terms:
The word "frugal" can mean many different things to each of us. My frugal life may seem spartan to some of you and yet be quite lavish to others. Success comes best in pursuing the frugal life when we have a clear cut understanding of why we are choosing to live out this lifestyle. The foundation for why Husband and I choose frugal living is because we base our life decisions on the Word of God and so seek to be good stewards of all God has blessed us with, including our finances. (And no, I do not believe the Bible teaches that all need to be pennypinchers, but I do believe it teaches us to use our financial blessings with wisdom.) On this foundation, Husband and I build our frugal life with consideration of our desire to live debt free and within our means. Our personal health and our commitment to our family also are elements taken into consideration when defining our frugal life.
2. Keep a Positive Perspective:
Frugal success comes from having the right attitude toward the process. Not everyone gets to choose all the details of living out their frugal life, but we do get to choose how we respond and our bias towards the experience. Seeing the frugal life as an adventure and an opportunity to develop character, how to skills and resourcefulness really helps to keep a proper focus.
3. Use Comparison With Others Wisely:
Husband has always said that it is the rare person who can stand alone all the time. In most any season of life, there can be great encouragement found in sharing the path with others that are like minded. Find a friend on a similar journey if possible. Going against the culture and the mainstream of society (which is what living the frugal life does) can be lonely at times. However, books, blogs and even others in your church or community can be great assets to your frugal life. I would also share a caution that comparison with others can be deadly. Everyone has different goals, abilities and motivations for the why and the how of the frugal life. We can learn from and be encouraged by another and yet still desire to or need to walk a very different frugal path. I enjoy following a blog where a young couple have made amazing financial progress by following a frugal lifestyle (and by making many wise business decisions.) More than likely I will never have their monetary reward. That does not however, give me cause for despair or discouragement. On the contrary, I rejoice with them at every new success and am grateful for their heart and financial savvy.
4. Count the Cost:
For most of us the frugal life is not an easy one. That is okay. Easy is not always the best choice. For real frugal success, you need to be able to say no to yourself. Learning how to be content with living within your means and finding ways to make ends meet can make you feel uncomfortable at times. Delayed gratification usually brings much blessing but the process of denying yourself things now for a better later can be quite an adjustment. I confess my thoughts do consider the ease of opening a can of soup for a pot when washing the plethora of pans after making the homemade variety. The washing, drying and folding of plastic bags is one more thing to add to a busy day. Saying no to an item I would love to purchase for my home or seeing an adorable outfit out of my price range for a grandbaby isn't always easy, but it is best for me to do so. If yours is the frugal life, you must be willing to learn to say no.
5. Find the Routine:
After really coming to terms with the reasons and motivations for living out your frugal life, one of the best ways to ensure success is very practical. I am most successful in my frugal life when the things I do become routine. Recently I purchased a new lamp for next to my bed. The old one could only be turned off by pulling the plug. Do you know I still find my new lamp unplugged some mornings? Pulling the plug each night before going to bed had become so routine that I still do this even though there is no longer a need. For me, attaching something new to what I already do or consciously doing something new in the same way and as close to the same time in my day, ensures that this activity will soon become my routine. Right now I know that I need to make bread baking a part of what I do at least one of the days I am home each week. It has not been happening because I have not been diligent to make this a part of my homemaking routine.
Each of us will have a different definition of what it means to live our frugal life with success, but stopping to consider what works well for us and sharing with others is a great way to encourage those seeking this path. What ensures your frugal success?
There are many different options for frugal gift wrap, and readers at this site probably know most of them- recycled newspaper or comic strips, old maps, cloth bags that can be re-used season after season, butcher paper that the kids decorate, or skipping the wrapping paper completely and going for a sort of scavenger hunt, with clues leading up to the final hiding place where the present is, or using part of the gift for the wrapping, such as a receiving blanket to wrap a baby gift.
Sometime last year I was at a thrift shop and bought a roll of old wall paper for .50. It was a huge roll, and it was old enough that it was the kind that you had to apply the paste separately. My intention was to use it for shelf paper, but my husband found it first and has been using it for gift wrap. It's his new favorite. The paper is flexible enough to fold and wrap around corners with ease, but it's thick enough that it doesn't tear easily, and it's not see-through. The vintage pattern (a sort of red on yellow toule print) is striking, and it looked great under our tree, but looks equally pretty for the spring birthdays our large family has coming up (we have so many that I once joked to a single male friend that I calved in the spring, and he pointed out that if he said that, or if he laughed too hard, he'd get hit).
My grandfather and uncle, like most farmers in my area, were old fashioned enough to still use bandannas for handkerchiefs rather than rely on disposable tissues. They stocked up on them, too, so when they both passed on, we had some 20 or 30 bandannas passed down to us. Here are some ways to use them:
Bibs for babies and toddlers.
Cloth napkins, especially at picnics.
Tie around the handle of your suitcase so that you easily recognize your baggage when picking up luggage at the airport after a trip.
Blindfold for playing blindman's bluff
Wet it, fold it, put it in a ziplock bag and keep it in the freezer for bumps and boo-boos.
Follow this guideline for some really pretty wavy (long) hair using bandanas as 'curlers'.
Our middle two girls made families of handkerchief dolls from our bandanas on a regular basis- this probably kept them entertained for at least two years of healthy, imaginative, and frugal play.
Use it as a carrier, Asian style, for small lunch containers stacked together- bring it on a picnic and then use the bandana carrier as a placemat or napkin.
Diaper your child's baby dolls with a knotted bandana.
Wrap a present in it.
Use bandanas as curtain tie backs.
What's in your hand this week?
Updated to add these free Kindle books for today:
Admiring NewSon and Daughter's kitchen cabinets, I was amazed at how well these previously worn and ugly cabinets now looked! NewSon and Daughter recently were able to purchase their first home and it is perfect for a young family just beginning this season of life. With three bedrooms and two and one-half bathrooms, situated in a lovely older neighborhood with mature live oak trees and with one of the nicest yards I have seen in a sub-division, this house was everything and more than what they had been looking for!
Sure, they had some work to do before moving into this new to them house. Ceramic tile was scrubbed and sealed, windows washed, upstairs laminate floors given a polyurethane coating, but all in all, things were pretty much in move-in condition. The kitchen, although not of the larger variety, was well designed and had a nice window looking out at the lovely backyard. There was, however, a bit of a drawback to this serviceable kitchen: the cabinets looked their age (about 30 years I think) and to Daughter were not very appealing. What to do?
Certainly a kitchen re-do was not in order. Yet those cabinets just seemed to be a downer to the rest of the condition of the house. Now, Daughter has learned how to make the best of things that may not be to your liking, and she would with good attitude have made this kitchen a special place in her home, even with these less than desirable cabinets. A busy schedule and a 5-month-old baby were already adding challenge to the moving experience, but both Daughter and NewSon knew that finding the time and making a cabinet re-do a priority after they were moved in might never happen.
With several weeks before the need to make the move to this house from their apartment, NewSon and Daughter decided to take on the challenge of these kitchen cabinets. After some investigation, they discovered that the purchase of a certain primer would eliminate the need to sand the cabinets. This really made the decision easy and off they went to buy paint!
I will not say this was a "simple" process. Two coats of primer and three coats of paint and then a topping of polyurethane as protection took time and commitment. They are blessed to have family and friends close by. To add some character to these rather mundane stock cabinets, NewSon put up beadboard on the sides of the cabinets and added trim to the top section of these cupboards. Of course, they painted all the drawers as well. Because the inside bottoms of the lower cabinets were so worn and impossible to make clean, NewSon used stick tile and created new bottom areas. It looks great and will be easy to keep clean.
Of course, this frugal couple had found a gorgeous stove and refrigerator at a second hand appliance store in the color of black. To make a nice match with these appliances, Daughter choose a beautiful deep red as the color to paint the cabinets. The finished look is classic and sharp and the value of their home has been even more increased.
The stick tile resurfacing of the cabinet bottoms worked so well they added these to their bathroom cabinets as well. These can be purchased to match most any style and provide an excellent surface to keep clean. I am looking forward to trying out this idea!
Some "sweat equity," helpful family, and friends and some creativity has paid off, don't you think?
Any other ideas on how to fashion frugal "new" kitchen cabinets?
Babies are cute, cuddly, and fun--and they have a purpose that goes far beyond those bright eyes and dimples. Our little babies are created for the purpose of enjoying God and glorifying Him forever. All other joys with our children point to this ultimate joy for which they and we live, and all of the sorrows of life with children, here and now, are entirely dwarfed by that promise.
One of the nicest ways to share in the joy, excitement, and expense of a new baby is through the tradition of baby showers! I love them! So many times I am thinking, "Wow! Here we are again, and this is only the beginning. Ten thousand years from now, if God pleases, we will still be telling the stories of God's grace in the life of this little one, and we'll still be laughing, very much as we are now."
I thought I'd share some frugal ideas for special baby gifts, with a sprinkling of ideas on how to especially help expectant parents who are frugal by absolute necessity.
A diaper cake is an elegant presentation for a very inexpensive baby gift--
DIAPER CAKE VIDEO
A diaper cake is made entirely of disposable diapers and rubber bands and then decorated. One of the sweetest diaper cakes I've seen was decorated with plain ribbons and topped with itty bitty baby shoes. A Google image search will bring up many good ideas. (Some people build the cake around a hidden champagne bottle; some roll diapers two at a time. Some tuck surprise gifts in with the diapers.)
One of the nicest baby showers I had was when I was expecting my seventh child. The hostess asked me what I needed most. Diapers. I needed diapers. I knew that I could easily find baby clothes at garage sales for 50 cents or $1.00 an item, as I needed them, so my greatest need was diapers. My friends gave me a Diaper Shower--and I did not buy diapers again until my baby was nearly a year old. Whether using disposables or cloth diapers, the cost of diapers and covers can be substantial, so this is something to consider, whether as a gift, or as a shower theme. (Most moms will need mostly sizes 2 & 3; gift receipts will be very helpful if she needs to exchange sizes.)
I'm not a big fan of registries, but now that most of them are online, it's very easy to learn the new mother's tastes, preferences, and colors early on. It's easy to make notes, and keep my eyes open for a less expensive gift that I think she'd enjoy, even if it's not on her list.
If you go to lots of library book sales or rummage sales, watch for nice copies of your favorite children's books. These can be packaged alone or with a related toy. Some of my favorite baby-themed books are Baby, Come Out by Fran Manushkin, All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, If I Were a Mother by Kazue Mizumura , The Biggest Bed in the World by Lindsay Camp, Rock-a-Bye Farm by Diane Johnston Hamm, Welcome, Little Baby by Aliki, and Where Does the Brown Bear Go by Nicki Weiss. (Sadly, some of these are out of print.)
With sales and power couponing, many baby toiletries are available for little or no money. A selection of baby care supplies makes a great gift in a lovely basket bought from Goodwill for $2-3.
A potentially free option is a coupon for free services--a free meal, laundry, cleaning, playtime in the home with older children while mom recovers, or free babysitting for older children while Mom and Dad go out with baby. If you make the offer, do call the recipient after the baby is born to get your orders, and set up a date and time. In the whirlwind days with a new baby, the mother might forget your kindness if you do not remind her! (And some people who would love the help are shy to ask, even with a coupon!)
Make a lovely card and include a promise to deliver a freezer meal at 38 weeks and then set up a Meal Train for your friend, to coordinate meals for her family for the first few weeks.
Make a portable "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" party with safe, non-messy, quiet entertainment for the big kids in the home. We've used balloons, streamers, stickers, a "Welcome Baby" banner to color and hang, pens and paper, puzzle books, and family-friendly DVDs. Some homemade "I'm the Big Brother/Sister" t-shirts are a great addition.
Know your friend. This isn't appropriate for every local culture, but if you do think it's appropriate ask your friend if she would welcome used baby clothing. When guests are invited to give a used gift, no one feels excluded from the shower due to a lack of money. The purpose of a shower is to provide as much practical help and loving support as possible. At my last baby shower, when the hostess asked about gifts, I told her that I would love some used boy clothing. One of my favorite gifts from that shower was a big bag full of like-new baby boy clothes, which a friend had purchased at a garage sale. I was thrilled with the bounty, and when my friend later shared that she got them for almost nothing when the garage sale was closing for the day, I was even happier!
Mommy Labor Bag. I would choose the very lightest weight, prettiest, and loosest 100% cotton gown, lip balm, ponytail holders, disposable facial wipes, a 12-pack of inexpensive washcloths (for hot or cold compresses), healthy energy drink mixes, a sport bottle, some high protein snacks, a nice scented lotion, cute socks, and a praise music or hymn CD with some of her favorite music.
Another Mommy Labor Treat would be two cheap pillows, each in a fun pillowcase, with a music CD
My friend Elaine once received a wonderful gift--a stack of thank-you cards pre-addressed to everyone attending the shower! It was such a loving gesture, and wonderfully convenient while she was busy with her newborn. (A few unaddressed cards could go along, too.)
Deputy Headmistress suggests a gift package of homemade baby wipes, ingredients to make more, and an estimate of the annual savings!
HOMEMADE BABY WIPES VIDEO
My friend Cassie recommends packing the ingredients for healthy baby teething biscuits in a Mason jar and attaching the recipe and a baby-themed cookie cutter. (I would substitute healthier butter or coconut oil in that recipe and then label the jar, "Keep frozen until ready to bake.")
I missed one of the showers for one of my little boys! I was in Wisconsin, and all my birth family was in Maine. Family and friends threw a full shower for my little guy--with decorations, treats, and gifts--and then sent the gifts along by Priority Mail with a delightful, funny video of the whole event!
Whether as a baby gift, or for yourself, I was intrigued by this idea for a cute, free or cheap no-sew baby carrier--
Frugal living doesn't have to be bare and ugly. There are plenty of ways to beautify without spending a lot, and houseplants are one way that I always come back to. My plants may not always thrive the way I want them to, but they are lovely while they last - and when they suffer from my waning attention, I nearly always manage to save a bit for the next try.
Live houseplants can add a lot to the frugal life:
- Free or cheap decor - A splash of green adds a vibrant yet peaceful feeling to any room, and many blooming plants will thrive indoors as well, especially if placed near a window. With a little creativity, you might be able to get started for free. With a little patience, you can pay just a little for one or more very young plants and watch them grow into large, lush things of beauty.
- Cleaner air - We have all heard of this benefit. Some plants are more helpful than others, so check out the image below for recommendations.
- Food - Try growing herbs or salad greens in your window sills.
- Gifts - Many houseplants propagate easily, making them perfect as a source of gifts for friends and family.
I currently have aloe vera, mother-in-law tongue, and pothos. All 3 are supposed to be very easy to keep, and I've had them for several years. Last year, we raised pineapple tops all summer on the deck, only to lose them in the first cold snap. They were so easy! My next goal: to raise a few herbs in the windowsill, and don't let the kids bring in any cute baby caterpillars to strip them bare while we sleep. Who knew a cute little green caterpillar could grow into a massive hornworm overnight and strip an entire pot of cilantro?
What about you? Do you keep houseplants? Do you have a proverbial green thumb, or do your friends refer to the row of plants in your windowsill as Death Row? What are your favorite varieties, and why? What do you think about artificial plants?
Walking into Costco I find before my eyes the shelving unit with canvas baskets I had seen on my last visit. Noticed as the perfect solution to house old sheets gathered for future toothbrush rugs, I now see this desired item is on sale! Taking a moment to let my frugal senses over rule my excitement, I remind myself this unit is not for me. Perfect size to add to my guest/nursery/workroom and matching my new free to me crib, (I'll have to tell you that story some time,) I say no to my heart and yes to my pocketbook. A grand principle for living the frugal life! Too many other things are on the list for my household budget category. I am glad I have learned to shop at Costco with discipline.
I shop at Costco on a monthly basis and appreciate being able to purchase what I consider to be quality products. With all the news on gmo products, I buy organic frozen corn and tortilla chips here. Also, not one to serve lunch meat on a regular basis, but for birthday hoagies and the occasional easy to prepare lunch, I will purchase their nitrate free meat. Costco's organic spinach finds it way into our green smoothies and salads. The savings on the brand cat litter I prefer actually pays for my yearly membership.
Although to some Costco shopping would not be considered frugal, if purchasing food with some health considerations in mind, I think Costco is a big help. I will also add their cheese and milk prices are excellent and buying spices here can also bring big savings.
One of my Costco shopping goals and how I apply my disciplined shopping at Costco, is to be careful not to spend too much time perusing the aisles with non-food items. I will admit however, that there is a baby swing hanging on a wild persimmon tree in my yard recently purchased at Costco. As this swing was cheaper than those I had seen online, I felt no remorse when this purchase was made. However, I am grateful for my disciplined Costco shopping as not to buy every other item that my grandmother heart sees and knows would just be "perfect" for our yard.
By keeping my budget in mind and learning to appreciate the many items Costco carries without thinking all these items need to belong to me, I find my disciplined shopping at Costco to be a delight!
Do any others shop here? What do you purchase?
I once had five children, five and under, and that status lasted for five days before my eldest turned six. I didn't own my own washing machine until about the time that my fifth baby was born. A couple of my laundry ideas came from that experience.
- I buy virtually all of my clothing from thrift stores or garage sales, and I sometimes find cute, stylish outfits labeled "Hand Wash" or "Dry Clean Only." I wash these things in cold water, in the washing machine, on gentle cycle. I hang light items to dry, and lay heavier items flat to dry. Occasionally, rayon or silk will shrink a very little bit, using this process, but once they are completely dry a warm iron has always restored these fabrics to like new condition, so long as they were washed in cold water.I did lose a cute $1 sweater once, and I had one $1 blouse that needed to have a seam resewn, but I have tried this method hundreds of times, for about 20 years, and I have no regrets. One of the most common reasons for these instructions seems to be, in my opinion, the fragility of the fabrics or decorations, so I wash similarly delicate fabrics together, and similar colors together, and turn anything with fragile trim inside out before washing.The only things that this method doesn't work well for are wool items that would need ironing. These come out very wrinkled and are hard work to restore. I prefer to either lightly sponge them clean using plain water, or I would send them to the dry cleaner.I know that I'm taking a risk telling you this, so don't try this on something that's precious to you, and don't hate me if this method doesn't work for you.
I couldn't afford some of the clothes that I enjoy most if they really needed dry cleaning, so I've been very happy with this method.
- Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder years ago, I was inspired by the idea of a nail on the bedroom wall for each child. During the day, nightclothes were hung on the nail. During the night, daytime clothes were hung on the same nail. And children had just one set of play clothing.We've lived in the country, with lots of privacy, since my eldest children were young, so it has never mattered much to me if a child up in a tree looked a little like a 19th century orphan child up in a tree.My kids always had nice clothes for company and visiting, but every summer they were given play clothes which, by the end of week two, if not much sooner, were significantly less than presentable. For the whole summer, each child had exactly one outfit for making mud pies, climbing trees, chasing chickens, and working in the garden. All the clothes went in one load together for washing a couple of times a week. The stains that those clothes accumulated were appreciated by the children, as a record of fine adventures completed, and I clearly remember some "my clothes are dirtier than yours" boasting from those days. I also remember that at the end of each summer, the children had to be forced to discard these beloved adventure clothes. One year a little girl insisted on keeping a strip of very badly stained cloth from one of her favorites and putting it into a box along with the keepsakes from her baby days.
If the thought of dressing your children like bedraggled street urchins is very unappealing, you might prefer the rule that we had when we lived in the city. Children's clothes didn't go into the hamper without permission. I always used bibs on my little ones, and I didn't wash clothing that still looked and smelled clean. Playing mostly inside as they did, in the city, my children would often wear the same outfit two or three days in a row.
- During the summer, I have my younger children wear sandals without socks, almost all the time. Time is money, and I don't miss sorting socks during those months.
- We hang bath towels to dry and use them repeatedly. At our last house, there was a long, level railing along the second floor stairwell. It made a great place to hang numerous towels to dry.
- Any time an appliance is involved, and I need a new one, I shop on Craigslist. I run a search for whatever I'm seeking and then save the search results page as a quick link in the top bar of my browser. Throughout the day, I can instantly reload the same search results as many times as I like and instantly see the very latest listings. When I see the amazing price, I call the seller immediately, leaving a message if necessary, and I follow up with an email if I didn't reach the seller by phone. (I have used the same trick while shopping at eBay, viewing only the "Buy it Now" listings and sorting the results page so the newest listings show at the top. Saving that results page as a quick link, I can instantly view the latest listings any time--and catch the good deal when it appears.)
- Front loaders use about 40% less water and about 60% less energy, and their enormous capacities are a great blessing to a large family. Last Fall, I bought my oversized front load machines in nearly new condition for $400--and then sold my old machines (which had cost me $100 at a garage sale) on Craiglist for $400.
- When the weather is nice, I hang my clothes out to dry.
- When a dryer is not working efficiently, the expense of doing laundry goes way up. Excess lint blocking machine is the biggest reason for decreased drying efficiency. When installing a new dryer, make the vent as short and straight as possible, with as few turns as possible. This increases efficiency and decreases the chances of lint clogging the line over time.If you notice that it's taking longer and longer to dry clothes, this is usually easy to fix and it often doesn't require buying a part. First. check the vent going out of the house, and make sure that it is clean. Second, check the duct that goes from the back of the dryer to the wall of the house and make sure that it is clean. Third, pull out the lint trap and use a flashlight to look down inside the area where it's housed. If you see lint in there, pull it out using a microfiber or static duster on a wand.If none of those steps fixes the problem, then open the machine and clean out any lint inside the base of the machine. This is the scary part, but it's saved me a service call more than once, so it's been worth it.
Before I ever open any appliance, I like to have a little box with compartments for the screws, and put each group of screws in its own compartment as I work. My little box was 49 cents at Goodwill, and it's one of my favorite things in our toolbox. (I used to let my children hold the screws for me, while they watched me work, because I was right there beside them every minute. But that tradition had to be ended one night about 15 years ago. My small children are always a little less wise and more willing to experiment than I expect that they will be, and that one involved a trip to the emergency room and a skull x-ray. No damage done, but still not the most frugal option in the long run.)
- Use the least amount of soap necessary. If children are doing some of the laundry, be sure that whatever you use to measure the soap is very clearly marked, so that everyone knows how much to use.
- I don't do this, but you can make your own laundry soap.
- AND buy the cheapest soap that works, wash a full load, use cold water when possible, and use the shortest cycle necessary.
How do you save money on laundry?
One of my favorite children's books, long out of print, is Mr. Penney: The Life of J. C. Penney in Story Form by Harry Albus (Zondervan, 1963). My kids have delighted in the story of Jim Penney's amazing success as an entrepreneur, and especially love hearing the story of his childhood. When Jim was eight years old, his father surprised him with the news that he would be assuming all of the responsibility to buy all his own clothes. Jim was initially dismayed and fearful, with no idea how he could possibly do this, but his father assured him that he would figure out a way to do it, and so he did. Even before he was a teenager, J. C. Penney was building businesses, working hard at them, and learning to treat people well in the marketplace.
But I'm a softie. My kids don't buy all their own clothes until age 13, but they do start buying some of their own clothes, with their own earned money, as young as 6 or 7 years old. We don't give our kids allowances and rarely pay for normal work at home, or even special projects for the care of our home, but here are some of the things that my kids have done from ages 6-14 to make money.
- collecting cans and metal recycling
- repairing things and reselling them
- pollinating soybeans
- de-tasseling corn
- crocheting hats and scarves
- finding valuable books to resell
- reptile breeding
- helping in older siblings' businesses
- helping in parents' businesses
- installing flooring
- refinishing decks
- yard work
- repairing clothing
Kids learn to be frugal when they experience the effort and ingenuity of making money, not on a task especially invented for kids, but by looking carefully for a need to meet, or a want to supply, and filling that. I teach my children that business is one of the best ways to apply the Golden Rule. When they create a good product or service and present it in a winsome way, people will want it more than they want the money that it costs, and that's fair and good, all around.
When my older children were small, I used every Friday morning from April to October going to garage sales to find their clothing, shoes, and educational supplies, or rather, to find almost everything that they needed after food and shelter. I probably didn't buy a single Christmas or birthday gift at retail from the time my eldest daughter was one until she was about ten years old--and I had seven children by then.
When I would take all of my children out on Friday mornings 15-20 years ago, people would often ask why they weren't in school. And I would always answer, "Oh! They are in school. This is their economics class." And that's exactly what it was. This is how they learned to save, and shop. Today, most of my children greatly prefer the incredible breadth of clothing selection, low prices, and high quality that can be found in a thrift store over the limited selection, high prices, and lower quality at Wal-Mart or Target.
Children take a lot of pride in work well done, for profit. Every time we enter one of the local pet stores, one of my sons still beams and stands a little straighter. When he was just eight years old, he helped install new flooring in the aquarium section, legally, as an independent contractor. Child labor isn't always a bad thing. He had more fun and still has more joy in this one project than in a lot of the hard work and energy expenditure that we classify as "play." My littlest kids went out under our trees a couple of years ago and spent all day, every day for a few weeks, digging a "mine." They'd come in as sweaty and grimy as any child forced into the coal mines in a previous century, but delighted beyond belief with an interesting rock or a set of old, rusty nail clippers they'd found. And they'd daily measure their progress in depth attained, filled with joy.
There's no harm, and a lot of good in harnessing that kind of energy for the benefit of others in a little free enterprise.
By the way, one of my favorite memories of those early economics classes is driving out to the sales one morning in a big old station wagon packed with children and my two eldest daughters in a rear-facing back seat. As the yellow school pass passed us in the opposite lane, my little five-year-old surprised me by yelling at the top of her lungs, "YOU MEAN OLD SCHOOL BUS! YOU LEAVE THOSE CHILDREN ALONE! THEY WANT TO BE WITH THEIR MOM!")
We haven't mentioned it here yet, but 2 Frugal Hacks writers are part of a blogging group known as the 4 Moms. Collectively, the 4 Moms have 35 kids and counting - 2 are expecting!
The 4 Moms blog every Thursday on a variety of topics related to big families, homeschooling, organization, parenting, and more.
Want some tips save your sanity, avoid cries of "No fair!" or learn how to go grocery shopping when outnumbered by little people? We've got you covered!
The 4 Moms are:
- The Headmistress @ The Common Room (weekly FH contributor)
- Connie @ Smockity Frocks
- Kimberly @ Raising Olives
- KimC @ Life in a Shoe (FH owner/admin)
How many are familiar to you?
There's something very exciting going on now: the 4 Moms have launched their first-ever ebook today!
We compiled nearly 200 pages of our best parenting posts from the past 2 years, added some all-new material and original printables, and put it all in one handy format for you. Of course you can find most of this material on the web, but we made it super easy for you to read all in one place in one pretty format.
We think our book can even save you some money:
Learn why it's not necessary to buy a treat for every child, every time somebody gets a treat. Help your children understand, too.
Make it through the grocery store without filling your cart with unhealthy overpriced junk food that your kids request.
Learn to manage your little ones on outings so you don't require a babysitter when you run errands.
Our official Kindle version isn't ready just yet, but I'm told that the current version converts very nicely.
The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids Answer Your Parenting Questions ebook will cost $7.99, but for a limited number of buyers it will be $3, then $4. Get your instant download and tell us what you think!
Lying on New Son and Daughter's comfy couch and holding my new baby granddaughter, I marvel at God's blessings to our family. At 5 lbs. 12 0zs. and 19" long, our "Grand Girl" is beautiful! Born within two minutes upon arrival at the birthing center, this little girl has already brought much joy to her family.
I cannot but be grateful that Husband and my married children, careful stewards of all the Lord has given to them, did not see putting off the blessing of children to be a frugal decision. I am pleased that my children consider the receiving and raising of a family to be an investment well made.
Thinking back to articles I have read through the years declaring the overwhelming cost of children, I cannot help but conclude the costs so often calculated to my way of thinking are misleading. Both my married couples have made an investment in the purchase of a crib, but then have found other items on sale, on Craig's List, or in consignment and thrift shops. Yes, they also have been blessed by the generosity of family and friends through gifts and hand-me-downs.
The dresser Daughter found on Craig's List now wears a lovely shade of apple green paint. This dresser will double as a changing table just as New Daughter has done for our grandson, Bliss Boy. Family pictures and children's books are used as decoration and New Daughter with her other family far away has covered a nursery wall with thrifted maps and a line and string showing where Bliss Boy's other grandparents live.
Both my daughters are stay-at-home moms. They shop sales, keep a careful food budget, presently enjoy apartment-living while saving for a modest house, and know what it is like to live with one car. Breastfeeding saves on formula costs and baby food can be easily made from scratch.
Homeschooling will be the planned "mode of operation" in how our married children seek to educate their families, but since all were homeschooled on a budget themselves, this does not cause them consternation. Many add college in to the costs of raising children and I applaud those parents willing to set aside their funds to meet this goal, but this is not a necessary parenting expense. We have not provided college educations for our children, yet have educated them wholeheartedly through all their growing up years.
Watching our ten month old grandson holding his two day old cousin and kissing her little hand makes Husband and I all the more excited for more grandchildren! Hmmmm, I wonder what the projected costs of grandparenting are? Well I am sure we no more meet the projected costs of grandparenting than we did of parenting, but there sure will be a lot of love at our house because babies make the frugal life grand!
Remembering back to Valentine's Days gone by, I reflect upon our East Coast days. A tradition we enjoyed in the years when our family was younger was to set aside this particular holiday to serve dinner to friends who attended church with us. The evenings of food and fellowship are precious memories. Even though we no longer can continue this custom due to distance, we still benefit from the experience. The oldest daughter of this family is now married to our Firstborn Son. She has become our New Daughter.
As Valentine's Day so often sparks thought of love, I have been reflecting on this topic. As stated previously, I am not one to consider loving others to be a frugal skill. For my way of thinking, love should be an offering of lavish expenditure. (With act, deed and emotion, not necessarily with finances.) However, I have found that just as I stretch my food budget as new circumstances dictate, my love also stretches to include an appreciation of my loved ones being loved by others.
Now, I am not speaking of married love. This is a unique love to be persevered. Husband and I have guarded our marriage, now 30 years.
What is on my mind is the love of children and grandchildren. How easy it is for us to be selfish and cling to what we think should be ours only. This need not be so.
Recently when Firstborn Son and New Daughter took our grandson, Bliss Boy, back to the East Coast to spend the holidays with his other grandparents, I was asked quite frequently, if this was hard for me. I found my answer to be, "No." Did I miss them? Sure! I miss them when they are home here in Texas and I am not with them! But my love for my children and for Bliss Boy was beautifully stretched as I rejoiced in knowing that his other grandparents were delighting in what brings Husband and I such satisfaction. Every picture New Daughter sent to us of seeing our grandson on his other grandfather's knee or playing on the floor with Grandma was a delight. What joy I experienced to know these friends were too tasting of our grandparenting pleasures.
Now we wait for New Son and Daughter's baby girl to be born in the next few weeks. Again I have heard concerns for our hearts in grandparenting this little one. New Son's other parents are our friends and live in our larger community and attend the same church. Comments have been expressed on the challenge of two sets of grandparents and one baby. The grandfathers tease about who will get to hold this little girl to be born and I am sure we will have emotions to process, but I ask myself, why can't this situation make it all even more glorious?
Can Husband and I not also revel in the joy Grand Girl will bring to her other grandparents? Can our hearts not sing even more sharing this experience with others who will know exactly what we are feeling?
Yes, I think love can stretch wide. I have found great satisfaction in knowing my married children are now loved by their new parents. Double the power of prayer, wisdom and affection means our children are greatly blessed.
This Valentine's Day I am rejoicing in the love that surrounds me. The deepest desire of my heart is that I might be a vessel for the optimum love giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Note: In one of life's many little ironies, a couple days after I wrote the following, my husband joined the ranks of the unemployed. We have five progeny still at home, one with multiple handicaps, and I just learned that the sleep machine my doctor says I need because I stop breathing 35 times an hour when I sleep- well, it's 1500 dollars out of pocket, so we won't be getting it. I have nothing to change in the post below, except I'd make it even more stringent.
In response to this post where I explained that it isn't necessary to live on over- processed frozen convenience foods just because one is on foodstamps, somebody left an interesting comment. The commenter explained that my advice was unrealistic. She said it was necessary to buy convenience foods on food stamps because:
1. She did not have room to store bargain meats, frozen vegetables and freezer meals in the freezer in the top of the freezer;
2. She did not have the time or experience to make any sort of freezer meals.
Addressing the 2nd point first, when I started out married life, I did not know how to do these things, either. I bet you know something now that you did not know this time last year, or five years ago, too. But I was willing to learn. No, I was desperate to learn. Within a few weeks of getting married we had no jobs, no savings, and a baby on the way. That was before the days of the internet so I had to hunt the information I needed down in time consuming, old fashioned ways. I used the library, I used old ladies at church, I used stacks and stacks of women's magazines I'd been given (cool story, but another time). Today's young householders have the internet- they could learn how in minutes. I did not do freezer meals then (I hadn't heard of them yet), but I did not buy convenience foods.
None of us are born knowing everything we need to know. All of us have to learn along the way. I'll address the time issue further down.
As for the first point, If you are buying prepackaged convenience goods for the freezer, you have enough room for freezer meals of your own. If you have a freezer above your fridge, with very, very rare exceptions, you have room for freezer meals.
How do I know this?
I haven't always had a stand alone freezer. When the first Once-A-Month Cookingcookbook came out, our living space was so tight that we used the master bath shower as a broom closet. My husband was military, and when he deployed, I packed up my then three, and soon five, kids and went to stay with friends who had three or four kids of their own. The only freezer they had was the freezer in the top of their fridge, yet, we could fit two weeks worth of meals, meals required to serve three adults and 6 kids, in the freezer in the top of the refrigerator, and the refrigerator was of only average size. If I could do it, most other people could, too.
How is this possible?
The stuff you already have in your freezer is just processed into a meal and returned to the freezer, so it doesn't take up any more space. In fact, it generally takes up less.
You can also package it in tidier packages- bake the chicken,debone it, and put the meat in a square plastic freezer container and the chicken that took up at least 8 square inches of freezer space now takes up 3. Use the bones and simmer a rich bone broth for soup in your crockpot all day the next day (or on the stove if you'll be home, start it in the evening if you are gone all day). Add onion peels, garlic peels, a bit of vinegar, simmer it down until it's really rich and then freeze it in ice cube trays, pop the ice out and store in a baggie- add a cube or two to your soups or skillet meals for extra nourishment and flavor.
What may be unrealistic is that a single mom won't have the time or energy for the full freezer meals. Even though my husband was not in the same country with us at the time I started freezer cooking, I wasn't by myself. I was with a friend and we cooked the meals together. That's not always possible, either.
But here is a cool tip that could be a big help for those who still think they don't have room and they don't have time- if you buy ground beef and cook it the same day you bring it home, or the next day if grocery shopping is too exhausting, you can store cooked ground beef in about 1/4 of the space that frozen raw meat takes, plus, later it defrosts quicker, too. You can store 4-6 pounds of cooked ground beef in the space you formerly took up for one pound raw.
You can cook up a mess of ground beef with some chopped onions and garlic (peppers if you have them), drain it (reserve the fat) and spoon it into labeled ziplock bags (the small, one quart size, and yes, we do reuse these) or other containers- sprinkle different spices in there (taco style spices in some bags, Italian in others, Asian in some others).
Store them flat in your freezer until they freeze, then you can store them upright in a long narrow box (as ramen noodles are packed in) picked up free at the grocery store. Put other things in other ziplock bags- grated cheese; cooked, diced poultry; cooked rice.
You can use these packages of ground beef for:
home-made pizza topping
stir fried rice
enchilada pie or burrito fillings
biscuits and gravy
Pakistani Kimi (An Indonesian dish)
15 minute chow mein (see our kitchen blog, which has lots of shortcut, frugal recipes),
one of the meals listed in the post above above.
If you have a crockpot, you can combine the raw ingredients for a crockpot meal in a single container (ziplock bag, whatever- I roamed thrift shops and yard sales looking for .25 cent freezer containers, and I saved old jars) and freeze it- on cooking day, I put the frozen meal in the crockpot on high and cook it all day. It doesn't take any more time than gathering the ingredients on the same day you cook, it just divides your labor in half.
Make huge pots of vegetable soup for dinner- it doesn't take any more time than spaghetti. Freeze leftovers in jars (leave an inch or so for expansion) and have them again the following week only add one of those ziplock bags of ground beef, barley, rice, or some pasta, or a fresh green veggie for variety.
It's also not true that you can only buy boxed, packaged meals on food stamps because the fresh stuff won't keep long enough. Apples, onions, turnips, potatoes, carrots, and cabbages last more than a day or two. Store them properly and they keep for two weeks or more. Slice the tops off of turnips and beets, put the tops in a pie pan of water, you'll grow a few more fresh greens which you can add to stir fries, salads, or green smoothies.
I realize that we all have different stories, different circumstances, different situations. We won't all be able to save money in precisely the same way- where I once made bread in a clean bucket and kneaded it by hand, now I have arthritis in those hands and I can't make bread that way anymore, for just one example. Everybody's story is their own. But it's not very helpful to tell yourself, "I can't do that because nobody taught me how." Instead think about what you can do instead. And here's a little saying I learned long ago from some little hill woman somewhere:
"'Can't' never could do nothin'"