Tuesday, January 27, 2009


From Latin frugalis, virtuous, frugal, from root word fruit, value; akin to Latin frui to enjoy. Dating from 1598, if you are frugal, you are characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.

Some brainstormed ideas for living in the economy of resources rather than money are:

Find out your true wage by taking your net wages, and subtracting the hidden costs of working: car (gas, maintenance, insurance, taxes), eating out, new clothing, drive-through coffee, day care, etc. You might be surprised. When I was making $13 an hour, I was really making $5 an hour. It put a $15 cd in new perspective.

Keep track of your expenses for a period of time, say a month to three to six months. Keep track of every last penny--including and especially all of your impulse purchases. You might be surprised what lunch out on Fridays really costs you, or (again) drive-through coffee.

Going car-free, getting by on a bike, your feet, or public transportation. This helps being job-free, plus gives you some good exercise.

Pay off debt, and don't get into new debt. Get rid of credit cards, and don't use your emergency one.

Acquire needed or desired items through the waste stream. This includes dumpsters, resale/reuse shops, freecycle, curbs, the gift economy and the friend economy. It is amazing what is out there, for free, when you radiate good karma and keep your eyes open.

Limit shopping, reduce the number of times each month you shop. Try for once a month, once a week--but cut down. It is amazing what you can forget about buying, and once you get in the habit of NOT shopping, you might enjoy it.

Want what you have. First it might help to declutter and give away most of the stuff you don't have feelings for. Keep what you actively want.

Appreciate what you have. Even if you're a poor American, you're rich compared to everyone else on Earth. There's no rhyme or reason to it. If you feel good with a roof over your head, wool yarn in your fingers, and jars of canned tomatoes on the shelves, then you're lucky. You've made it. It doesn't matter how much money you make or have, but how much you appreciate what you have. If you appreciate everything, you are wealthy in spirit.

Slow life down to a manageable speed. Don't be in a hurry. There's no reason. The journey is the destination. Enjoy it.

As they used to say, Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do without. Ain't that the truth. It's fairly easy to do also. And it saves a lot of money.

Consider living in a smaller house, in a less posh area of town. The smaller the abode and the less attractive the environs, the less money it costs. We have a quite livable 750 square feet, 2-bedroom house, on a quarter acre lot, and we pay $202 per month, including taxes and insurance. We're paying extra, and we'll have it paid off in ten years or less. And guess what! Places that look scary to people who watch the news aren't really scary! It's hype! My neighborhood is as nice as any other. I even have nice neighbors.

Replace disposable goods with durable goods. We've forgotten that disposable isn't really disposable. In fact, it goes to a landfill and stays there a good long time, oozing toxins. That's not good. I don't think our convenience is worth all that, do you? There are things like rags, cloth napkins, hankies, cloth diapers, cloth menstrual pads, and even cloth tp. Most of these things can be made at home, some quite easily (making use of worn out clothing comes to mind).

Reduce your garbage. Don't buy things with packaging. Recycle everything you can. Compost everything you can (kitchen scraps, cardboard, paper, leaves, yard waste). And well before recycling something is not to buy it in the first place, repair it, and give it away. We produce one bag of trash a week, which I guess is good, but I don't know where I'd put the 52 bags of garbage we use each year if I had to be responsible for myself. Since it's mostly plastic food wrappers, I suppose I'd stop visiting the grocery store.

Entertain yourself. There are more interesting things to do than tv, also. Books are cool, talking with other people is really nice, drawing, writing, painting, knitting, cooking, gardening, helping out other people, playing with kids and listening to old people. There's lots to do to entertain yourself, and for free.

Kick the impulse habit. For a month, make yourself a list before you go somewhere, and buy ONLY what is on the list. Make yourself. This includes eating out. Make yourself. Make it a habit.

Feed yourself. Enjoy growing food cooking food, and eating food--and enjoy doing all these things with friends. There's a lot about food to enjoy. Yep, it's as basic as it gets, and it's amazing the pleasures, simple as they are, our culture has forgotten.

Limit exposure to advertising. Anything that makes you want to buy it, stop looking at it. Avoid tv, magazines full of ads, billboards (does anyone even look at those things?), sides of buses. If you need to buy it to be fulfilled, generally you won't be fulfilled even after buying it. Find other things to spend your time and money on than false hope.

Money is what you trade your time for, your life. What you spend your money on should be as valuable as your life, and don't sell yourself short. There's no point in abstracting the value of your life. If the life you're living isn't worth your life, you have options. Getting in touch with yourself, your life, your children, your spouse, your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, your community, your food--these can all bring emancipating feelings.

And yes, it is worth it. Living a frugal life, a life of value that you are enjoying is worth it. It's not about giving up, but what you are getting by switching over your value system. Instead of valuing money, value time--value the quality of your time, your life.


miltonics said...

A most excellent post...

I'd never thought about cloth toilet paper. It's amazing what we're brainwashed into thinking.

One way to deal with packaging is to unwrap the things you buy at the store and leave the wrappings there. It would be a huge expense for the store if everyone did it.

sharqi said...

I never had thought about it either until I read about it. I mean, there are cloth diapers; why wouldn't there be cloth tp? It can't be any grosser than washing diapers every day, can it? Of course, if you're using a humanure system, the tp is composted.

Somewhere (Germany?) I read there is a law that encourages you to leave all the packaging at the store. The design for packaging was altered immediately. Design should include the whole life of the product, especially after it reaches the consumer. If products were designed with that in mind, can you imagine how less waste there would be?