August 21, 2012

Drought 2012 - The News Isn't Good

In 2007 to 2008 we experienced our first “Rainy Day” in a long time in this country.  It came in the form of a profoundly severe economic crisis.  It was this Rainy Day that those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II would have said that we needed to be prepared for.  There was a lot of heartache during that timeframe and it was in the fall of 2008 that I learned that I would become one of millions who would be unemployed in 2009.  We went into crisis or Rainy Day mode to get debt reduced and some money in the bank so that we could live only on my husband’s income.  Hence, this blog, The Path to Frugality was born almost 3 years ago in September. 

I have noticed something in the past year and it is that people believe that frugality is for “weird” people.   From 2008 to 2011 frugality was the trendy thing to do but as people got tired of feeling deprived (when they really didn’t need to feel deprived), they headed back to the stores with their credit cards.

Well, another rainy day has arrived and if you haven’t been getting prepared, you need to start preparing your family now.  It’s not just with food, but you need to get money into savings to prepare for job losses, rising costs of everything.  Yes, everything.  We live in a cause and effect economy and if you have a shortage on corn, everything that has corn as an ingredient will cost you more.  The same goes for meat in which corn is used in feed.  There is also a trickle down effect on jobs.  Farmers aren’t going to be able to purchase new farm machinery which will lead to manufacturer’s of those machines laying people off, which will affect communities as those workers will not have money to spend in the community and so on and so on.

This new crisis of drought goes one step further beyond the rising costs of food, gasoline and other commodities.  It is shortages.   Yes, it is the shortages that are costing us more at the grocery store.  The news has reported that the average family of four will spend $615 more next year in groceries due to the drought.  Also it was reported that the total number of cattle in the U.S. is the smallest number in 60 years due to ranchers selling off their herds because they can’t afford to feed them.  Those ranchers are now getting $150 less per animal. 

One poultry producer reported that they are paying $9 for a bushel of corn which is the highest they have ever paid for corn (up a total of 40%).  It takes about 12 weeks for a chicken to grow to the point of being butchered.  We will be seeing poultry at record prices in a short time.

On this site I have given numerous tips over the past 3 years on saving money.  Other sites that I follow do a very good job of money saving advice.  Frugality is going to be the way of life for many of us and that is, as Martha Stewart would say “A Good Thing.”  It’s not bad or shameful to be frugal, instead it is being mindful of your resources and it brings freedom.  What kind of freedom?  Freedom from worry.  If you are prepared, you don’t worry about your future as you know you have a sense of security because you can weather a job loss or a loss in spending power.

Continue to take care of the resources you have.  If you need a new couch because it is worn, sew a slipcover or purchase a slip cover if you can’t sew.  Learn to fix things on your own where practical.  Avoid purchasing what you can and put as much money into savings as possible.  As you are saving if you do come across a great deal on food, then stock up. 

Continue to make your own cleaners.  If you run out of your favorite laundry detergent, try making your own own laundry soap to save money or mix your detergent with a generic brand. 

Search this site for other money saving tips or check out my blog roll and look at the other blogs that I follow for ideas.  I can guarantee that if you put your head in the sand now, you will regret it in 6 months.

August 16, 2012

Staying the Course . . .

To borrow the phrase from President George W. Bush, we should stay the course and keep on doing what we are doing.  No time for slackers.  Sometimes we get tired and sometimes we feel the pressure to slack off on frugality and spend some money when we really shouldn’t, but we get back on track.  So we go from Slackers to Trackers in this frugal journey we are on.

Recently I was helping in my friend’s store for a morning and a woman came in and said she needed some more makeup foundation.  She had said that she had squeezed everything out of the tube that she could.  I said have you tried cutting off the bottom and opening up the tube to get the rest?  She looked at me and laughed.  I realized that she thought I was making a joke but I wasn’t.  We frugal people are different from the rest of the world.  We are the ones who get the last bit of foundation, lotion, shampoo or whatever out of a tube or bottle.  I have always been amazed at how much is left in a tube of foundation or a bottle of lotion when you cut the bottom off and use a Q-tip to get the last bit of product left in the container. 

When you are on a tight budget, being wasteful is not an option.   As a rule we shouldn’t waste our resources.  Being wasteful is being disrespectful of the hard earned money that paid for the item.  Think about that.  When you are not getting the last bit of something out of a tube, you are being disrespectful to yourself. 

When I am in the kitchen my favorite frugal tool is a rubber scraper that I use to get the last bit of peanut butter, mayonnaise or anything out of a jar or can.  You would be surprised how much peanut butter can be scraped out of a jar with a rubber scraper.  Many times it is enough for two sandwiches, which is always worth the effort.  

Several years ago our landlord asked my husband if he would help him clean up another apartment after a tenant had left it quite messy. His wife had told me that the woman was confronted about the mess and was told that she wouldn’t get her deposit back.  Her response was that cleaners were too expensive for her to buy.  This, of course, was laughable, but I’ll never forget what the land lady had told her – that a generic bottle of dish soap (about 75 cents at that time) would have cleaned everything in the apartment.  It’s funny how some things stay with you.  Our land lady was right.  You could put a small amount of dish detergent in a bucket of water and clean everything in a home from floors to counters to mirrors.  That has always stuck with me.  So, in a pinch you could take a cheap bottle of dish detergent to clean your house.

One night last winter I was home alone for dinner.  I looked in the fridge and along with many items I saw 1 hardboiled egg.  I made a white sauce and added some cheese to it.  I took the egg and chopped it, and added it to the white sauce.  I then poured it over toast points.  This is one of those use it up kind of meals and it is something that appeals to me.  It wouldn’t appeal to the rest of my family though, but it tasted oh so good and it took me back to memories of my childhood when my mom would take small bits of this and that and make them into casseroles.  Frugal cookery means you need to learn how to create dishes from odds and ends to serve your family or yourself. 
I am not a picky eater, so I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch as does my husband.  I think that with the advent of the Food Network and many cooking shows, we have gotten away from basic cooking skills and we feel that every meal must be a gourmet treat.  Not so.  Good food does not have to be expensive due to expensive ingredients.  Use up what you have and create meals from those leftovers or on sale items.  Get a cookbook that was published in the 1950’s and you will find recipes for good home cooking that calls for basic ingredients. 

For my next post I am working on my thoughts on the Drought of 2012 and how it will affect us.  Here’s a hint:  If you are frugal, you will be able to maneuver your way through what is coming.  If you are not frugal, you still have time to change.

August 12, 2012

Thank you Grandma

I draw much of my frugal inspiration from my maternal grandma.  She was born in 1900 and raised a family during the Great Depression and died in 1985.  Grandma left me with many tips of how to live frugally.  Though many were never spoken, I learned these tips by watching her.  Here are a few:

Don’t spend money unless it is necessary.  Use up what you have on hand.  Grandma would carefully unwrap presents and save the wrapping paper.  Then before she stored it away she would iron the paper on low heat to take out the creases and restore it to near newness.  In fact, many times she didn’t use tape to wrap presents.  She would simply fold and wrap the paper on the box and keep it in place by tying the package with a ribbon.  That is what they did when she was a kid as they didn’t have scotch tape. 

How many times do you run to the grocery store for 1 item?  Grandma lived on a small farm in the country and you just didn’t run to a store for 1 thing.  In fact, you didn’t go to the store unless it was absolutely necessary.  So, she managed and she managed very well.  If there is one frugal tip she taught me it was not to run to the store for 1 thing but to see what you could substitute or just make do.
When you open a package of a block of cheese, don’t take all the plastic wrapping off.  It is the touch of your fingers on a block of cheese that causes it to mold.  Always hold it with some of the plastic wrapping on it when you slice or shred it.  If you do have cheese that goes moldy, cut or shred the moldy piece off and go ahead and use it in cheese sauces or casseroles. 

When you are laying out a pattern onto some fabric, keep your pins pushed into the base of an old candle such as a votive candle.  The wax makes the pins go into the pattern and fabric easily. 

If you are frying potatoes for supper and there are more people coming than
expected, Grandma would take a few slices of bread and tear them into pieces and fry them along with the potatoes.  Don’t knock it, it was very tasty and stretched the potatoes.

Grandma always saved the grease from frying bacon and used it to fry her potatoes, eggs or even in cooking green beans to give them a bacon flavor.  She knew just the right amount to add as her food never tasted greasy.

Grandma only made simple old fashioned cookies:  oatmeal, sugar, and molasses. She wasn’t into fancy kind of things.  She had variations for these cookies such as making oatmeal molasses cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, adding some orange peel and a little juice to the sugar cookie recipe and even some stale Rice Krispies and Corn Flakes to the cookie dough.  Nothing went to waste.  If something was stale such as some potato chips or bread, it was put in the oven to make the chips crisp again and to refresh the bread. 

If you want to save money, find someone who has lived through the Great Depression or World War II rationing and you will glean the very best advice ever for saving money and living on a budget.

August 05, 2012

Do You Have Dreams?

When you live on a frugal budget, you may think you cannot afford your dreams. I always thought that I traded being at home and living on a frugal budget in exchange for living my dreams. 

Last week I spent some time thinking about all the things I want to do. I began to think negatively since we are living on less money than we were 4 years ago when I was working a full time job and the money isn’t there. Then, during one of my many walks this week, I started to think how wrong that thinking was. I shouldn’t forget my dreams. Dreams are important.

So what are my dreams? I have some short term and some long term. Here are a few of my short term dreams:  To transform my home and really get down to re-decorating it. I want to travel to Prince Edward Island and to the Smokey Mountains which are the locations of two of my favorite books – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery and Christy by Catherine Marshall. 

What are my other dreams? To travel to England and Normandy, France to visit World War II sites and to build a Victorian style home from scratch. 

The one constant in all of my dreams is money. That is the problem or should I say, the challenge. Yes, the challenge is to find a way to fund my dreams. I have come to believe that if I think I will never have the money to do something, then I never will. I may have to tweak my plan, but I must at least try.

Now, I may never get to Normandy, France but I can at least try to go to Prince Edward Island. I would love to build a Victorian home from scratch using old house plans, but I don’t think we will ever have the money to do so. But, I do live in a small Victorian type cottage home and I can put some money into making it look like an old Victorian home.

If you truly want something and you put that as a priority, you will find the money that it takes to fund that dream. So, when I am enticed to spend money on clothes that I really don’t need, I need to remind myself that that is money that I could put towards my dream trip to Prince Edward Island.

Three years ago when I lost my job my only dream was to be home full time and be a homemaker. This still brings me great joy. Three years later I find myself working a small part time job (5 hours, three Saturdays a month, at our public library). This job gives us a little extra money each month and doesn’t take me away from being a homemaker. It won’t totally fund my dreams, but having the mindset that I will never be able to afford my dreams, won’t work either.

Every day get into the mindset that you can have the dream that you long for, it may just take some time to save for it. It may not be exactly what you want, but you may be able to bring part of it to fruition. I may never be able to travel overseas, but I can at least try to save the money to do so. It may take 10 or 15 years, but it can happen or perhaps I may decide that I would rather do something else. At least I tried.

Never give up on your dreams even when you are living on a limited budget. You may have to give up some things such as only having one car, living in a smaller fixer upper house and making all your own clothes. Set that money aside for whatever it is you long to do or buy, but don’t ever let money get in your way of dreaming.

What are your dreams? Spend some time this week thinking about your dreams.