Tennesseetransitions


Frugal Friday- November 14, 2014

As the earth makes it slow tilt away from the sun, my life has begun to slow down. I love it. Perhaps now that Michael is beginning to feel better, and now that the garden is put to bed, I’ll be able to post more often. Because I love that too. I have had conversations with family and friends lately that indicate many of us struggle with day to day expenses, not to mention the big things-like cancer treatments, or… (feel free to fill in this blank with your own money sucker: ____________)

Personal finances are not something that our ‘polite’ society is accustomed to talking publicly about, at least not in the South it seems. So, never fear, I will, even though my parents and grandparents would roll in their graves if they knew I discussed money issues in public. We all depend on money. Whether it’s a weekly paycheck or a monthly disability check, it’s a common denominator for everyone. So, it we can discuss religion and politics, social issues and sex, relationship or health problems, why don’t we feel we’re able to openly discuss finances?

Let me begin this week’s fabulous assortment of thrifty and frugal activities by saying that if I didn’t apply the values of patience, simplicity and frugality to my spending habits, I simply wouldn’t be able to enjoy the “life well spent” that I do. I’m not ashamed to admit that we have a small income, while feeling quite content with the good life we have. I don’t ever feel like I”m sacrificing anything for this lifestyle. The sacrifice for me would be having to go to a job every day. Instead of working to earn money, I work to save money.  Just sayin’.

For example:

Monday: We went to a showing of a documentary at the local university, called “Good Ol’ Freda”. Freda is the woman that served as the Beatles personal secretary for ten years. The cool part was that afterwards she held a Q and A session with the audience, there was a really nice reception with heavy hor d’oeuvres, and I got to have my picture made with my friend while standing right there in front of the Beatles. sort of. Priceless fun, and free!

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Tuesday: I’ve thought for years that I’d like to have a steam juicer but wasn’t willing to pay $70 or more for one. My reasoning was that the payback period might prove to be too long. I can buy a lot of juice for that kind of money! But the wait is over now; I found the perfect steamer right after I completed a major planting of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries in my backyard  Serendipitous? Perhaps. Price? $3.49 at a thrift store- it appears to have never been used and came complete with the users guide. Patience pays off!

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Wednesday: Speaking of those berry beds…I was quite lucky to score a bunch of 4×4 fence posts from Freecycle  that had only been in the ground a year. They too were like new. (I’m still wondering why someone would replace a one year old fence…) Anyway, I’d been wanting to put in more fruit this fall and had hoped to find an attractive looking border with which to surround it. A friend had gladly let me dig blueberry slips that sprouted from his established berry plants, and I’d been babying them in pots in my backyard nursery since last spring. Yet another friend happily let me rake the pine straw from her front yard to use as mulch on the new beds. Win-win-win. No money was involved, but I’ll be able to repay my benefactors for their generosity eventually with fresh berries, jams, and now- JUICE!

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Thursday: We celebrated my grandson’s 16th birthday. We enjoyed a homemade cake with our ice cream, but the store didn’t have the ONE candle to go with the SIX candle. No worries, and lots of laughs! Savings: $2 on that ONE since we already had a box of the little candles…

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Tuesday thru Friday: We enjoyed an out of town guest for a couple of days this week. I took him on a walking tour of downtown to show him all the progress that’s been made since he was last here, we attended a wonderful art show of social and political artworks at the University gallery, and got to see the visiting Buddhist Monks that are here this week working on a sand mandala. What a unique and cultural treat that was!

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We also enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner with our guest and my brother. The turkey breast I bought was on sale and I saved $7 on that one item alone, since I also bought it on Tuesday, the day Krogers gives a senior discount. The meal included home canned green beans, mashed potatoes made from our stored tubers, fresh roasted brussels sprouts, and canned peaches with homemade vanilla yogurt for dessert. We all ate leftovers for lunch the next day, and today Michael and I enjoyed the last of the turkey for our lunch tucked into big fat sammiches topped with slices of red onions and tomatoes, both fresh from the garden. Now I have a small bag of bony parts, broth and turkey bits in the freezer that will make a great meal of turkey and noodles in the near future.

The last night he was with us, I made a large pot of Minestrone Soup for supper. I tried to price it out, but there were too many ingredients to make that possible. Suffice it to say that those bowls of goodness probably only cost just a few cents each since, once again, I was able to use the good food that we grew and put by this summer to add to it. After supper we stopped by two nearby coffee house/listening rooms, where we enjoyed beers and chai teas while listening to free music. The last comment the friend made before leaving was this: “I’m so envious of this peaceful and fun life you have here. I wish I could quit my job.”

Now I’m not advocating for anyone to just up and ‘quit their job’ but I do advocate for finding alternatives to consumerism. Creative use of our resources, whether cooking from scratch or taking advantage of your city’s resources benefit your wallet, the planet, and your connection to what really matters in life.

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Now, why not share your frugal Friday moments with me in the comments below? I LOVE hearing from you! Have a great weekend friends.

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Frugal Friday- Christmas Revisited

Christmas has come and gone again but it’ll be back as soon as I get all the holiday decorations put away, so I thought perhaps it’s not too late to share with you some of the frugal gifts that were given  in our household this year. Maybe  you’ll find an idea that you can use for your next gift giving occasion. Remember I wrote about my intention to give my family members the gift of an EXPERIENCE, rather than a THING? We had a really fun Christmas weekend, eating at  locally owned restaurants and driving to nearby Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN where we spent many fun-filled hours at Wonder Works.

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A good time was had by all, and I think they’ll remember our time together far longer than they’d remember yet another DVD or blouse. I didn’t spend any more money than I normally would’ve, and there was nothing to wrap. However, over the last few years I’ve started gifting them with little things I find at yard sales or thrift shops; things that I think they may need or enjoy, and I always tell them they are second-hand, right along with the wrapping paper, which I haven’t had to buy in many years, since I save all kinds of ‘gift wrap’-from flower bouquet cellophane wraps to wine bags to baskets!  The ‘wrap’ is half the fun! They are always AMAZED at the quality of these sometimes-found gifts and I really enjoy the creativity of wrapping them.

For example, Daughter #1 collects an expensive Pfaltzgraff dinnerware pattern called “Naturewood” and for several years running I’ve been able to find at least one piece to add to her ever-growing collection, often for only a dollar or so. (Psst! If you see this pattern at a yard sale this summer, pick it up for me, will  you? I’ll go as high as TWO DOLLARS for the right piece 😉 )

plateOther gifts included  a beautiful pair of black leather ladies’ gloves, size Small, that I found in an alley on one of my daily walks last winter, and that fit Daughter #1’s tiny hands perfectly, a brand new  turquoise-colored  Kitchen Aid mixing bowl that I found on top of a trash pile on another daily walk, and that matched Daughter #2’s new kitchen colors exactly. She tells me it is now the most used and loved thing in her kitchen. Go figure-that’s it on the bottom…bowl

There were brand new tubes of ‘Silk and Shine’ lip balm for Daughter #3, (that I’d received in a free  bag of socks from a fellow Freecycler). The tubes fit perfectly in a beautiful little purple satin/jewel-crusted  box I’d received as a wedding favor and amazingly, this daughter is positively ADDICTED to ‘Silk and Shine’ so I knew she’d love them. She did…      silk

And last, but not least, there was a brand new ‘gift set’ of Tarot Cards for Daughter #4 that I bought for $1 at a thrift store, then wrapped in a ‘silvery’ scarf which I’d paid 50 cents for. Since Daughter #4 loves all things blingy and all things mystical, it was a magical little gift for her.

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I didn’t intend for today’s edition of Frugal Friday to be all about Christmas gifts, but maybe by sharing these ideas with you, it will inspire you to be on the lookout throughout this new year for your own little finds that will make thoughtful and fun gifts for your loved ones next Christmas. Don’t be ashamed to share with the recipient the origins of your gifts either! If they are as delighted as my kids were with their gifts, they too might be inspired to gift others with found objects, and so on, and so on, until maybe some day Christmas gift-giving will become an acceptable occasion to ‘trade’ things we don’t want for things we love. It’s become an accepted practice now with my family, (but really, do they have much choice?)  and my hope is that it will be with yours too. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of attention and love. That said, it’s lovely to have a beautifully wrapped gift under the tree with your name on it! I dislike waste, whether it’s food, money, or tangibles but this practice of repurposing, regifting, buying used and offering more experiences and time together not only uses fewer of the earth’s dwindling resources, it results in far less clutter (and waste) for everyone involved and it allows me to give freely to my kids while staying true to my values. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun to practice Frugal Friday every day and in every season!

PS About those daily walks: you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve found lying in the streets, on the sidewalks and in the alleys! Either people are extremely careless with their things and are losing them somehow or, in the case of those items that have obviously been deliberately thrown away, they have so much unwanted ‘stuff’ they can think of nothing else to do with it. In either case, I’m irritated by the gross excess and happy if I can find a new owner for it. We lived out in the country before moving to this urban area in 2012, and in my 10 years of daily walks there, I don’t think I ever found anything more valuable than a deflated basketball and a rotten jack o’ lantern! Do you find this to be true where you live? Have we really become such mindless consumers that we throw stuff away just to make room for more stuff?  I’ll take pics from now on of the things I find and share them with you on the pages of this blog. Feel free to share  your ‘finds’ with me too. Surely I’m not alone in this ‘discovery’!



Frugal Friday-November 22nd

You know those thick plastic zippered bags that comforters, mattress pads and the like come in? Do  you save them without any idea in this world what use you’ll find for them, simply saving them because they’re ‘too nice to just throw away’? uh huh, me too.

Monday- Gave my youngest daughter my full stash of those bags for her to use for organizing her clothing and personal items. She lives in a studio apartment and has a VERY tiny closet and no other storage. She put her socks in one bag, underwear and bras in another, scarves and mittens in one, and her summer clothes in the others, hanging only her winter clothes in the tiny closet. Flip flops and sandals went in yet another bag. It even solved her important papers and receipts problems that were scattered everywhere BB (before bags)  Cost-$0      Savings-Sanity is priceless

Tuesday-  This idea occurred to me last month when  I was fighting a HERD of fruit flies so I repeated it this week: I run white vinegar through my coffee pot about once a month to remove lime and scale deposits that build up over time. I poured the hot vinegar after it had done its first job of cleaning the pot, down the drains in the kitchen and bathrooms, which is where a lot of the little fruit flies originate, effectively killing two flies birds with one stone.

Wednesday– Darned my socks! Savings: About $2-$4 for a new pair but I really had fun using a lightbulb as a ‘darning egg’ and it made the finished job much neater. I still have two more pairs to darn so I’m saving a fair amount of money and resources by learning this technique.

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Thursday– Repaired my electric stove burner by applying JB Weld (wayyy better than duct tape ;D) to the broken metal bracket that supports the eye from underneath the burner, clamped it with a stiff little clip I’d found out in the alley behind my house a month or so ago and voila! After setting up overnight, it’s good as new.  Savings: $14.47 plus shipping from Amazon

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Friday– I like to buy in bulk whenever it’s prudent to do so. It saves me money, trips to the store and excess packaging. We’re blessed in our region to have several places that we can buy in bulk; the Mennonite-owned store in Chuckey sells spices and all manner of staples- I’ve bought oats, rice and dried beans in 25-50 lb sacks, at no extra charge to me, that they simply add to their weekly order. I also buy bulk rice at ‘The Stock Pot”, an Asian market close by, and loose tea by the pound at the Indian foods store. Then of course, Sam’s Clubs and Costcos are located all over the country. I mention this now for this reason: we’re entering the season of ‘large popcorn tins’. I’ve gotten several of them from Freecycle, line them with a plastic bag and fill them with dry goods. They provide rodent proof storage and stack well too.

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I still hope to convey to you that the point of these posts on frugality isn’t JUST about saving money. They’re often about saving our earth’s resources as well, and developing a mindset of making do or repairing, rather than always finding our solutions to life’s little daily issues by ‘buying’ a solution. Developing skills and exercising creativity embolden me to try things I might not’ve even considered in the past. I try to remember: New isn’t necessarily better, nor is more.



This ‘n That

This ‘n That  will be a regular feature of this blog-just updates on previously mentioned topics or stuff I think you might want to know about:

  • C.O.O.P. continues it’s efforts to convince our city council to allow its’ citizens to have a small flock of backyard hens. The local newspapers reported our appearance at the April council meeting as ending in a 3-2 ‘victory’ for us. We wish. It was actually just a vote to keep the current wording of the city code, then changing the zoning regulations to match that code. Once the zoning rules are changed, THEN 3 of 5 council will have to vote YES at  3 separate public readings! We have a way to go, but with the positive publicity we’ve  already seen an uptick in requests for us to offer more Urban Henkeeping classes. Stay tuned…

  • One of my beehives swarmed on Saturday, but those that remain seem to be raising a new queen already. I love that they take that ‘leap of faith’ and strike out with their old queen to find a new home-not knowing where their new home will be, nor where their next meal will come from. Seems careless, but is very very fundamental to their survival in nature.
  • The Carver Peace Garden still has 2 extra plots available: 15′ x 20′- $15.00 for the year. Water and tools furnished. If interested, let me know or pass this along to someone that might be.
  • Earth Day festivities at Carver Park include workshops on composting, monarch butterflies, vermiculture and a program about ‘Marakwet’-a clean water project in Africa. It begins at 10 AM, with lunch offered by the Rotary Club at noon, followed by the annual interfaith ‘Blessing of the Garden’ being performed by my own minister, Rev. Jacqueline Luck at 1 PM. After our plots have been properly blessed, those that want to, will begin planting. Come early, stay as long as you like!
  • Yesterday was the first day of practicing ‘bread labor’ (see post from April 14th). I got a lot accomplished and wasn’t tempted at all by diversions (because all of my work was outside). Michael and I prepared our beds and paths in our Community Garden plot, then I came home and planted out all the flower transplants that were getting too scraggly in their tiny pots. Zinnias and cosmos and nasturtiums, oh my!
  • After reading my post about ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’, I have several people helping me fold origami paper cranes to be sent to the Japanese memorial in August. Care to fold a few with us? Let’s have a party! I need 1,000!
  • New research suggests that the more stuff we buy, the unhappier we become. And the more unhappy we are, the more we go shopping. Bummer. I’m happy to report that I’m happy 🙂



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