Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Frugality In Relief

It's funny, but when I mention our shoe strategy, some click away because 3 pairs is austere and extreme.

Another handful leave, wondering how a generous 3 pairs could be considered frugal at all.

What works for me may not work for you. A $60 grocery budget can be filled with double-coupon cereal or bulked with organic oats.

Which is more important--what actually fills our shopping carts, or our common commitment to live within budget and belief?

When you rub a leaf with crayon, details fall away. Here are the highlights of our consumer strategy:
  • Prayerfully consider if something is a want or a need.
  • Walk each other through a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Brainstorm creative solutions before spending.

  • Buy food based on sales and seasons, not solely by menu or whim.
  • Delay household purchases unless they are on sale or secondhand.
  • Plan ahead so that the above is possible.

Shoes or spices, this is our method of frugal shopping. Tell me what works for you.

41 comments:

Heather said...

Beautifully said Meredith! You have a way with words as well as a way with decorating and hosting and parenting...

It always surprises me when I read your comments and see the attitudes that some take. I am just grateful for your willingness to share.

Every family has to make the choices that are right for them. When I get a glimpse of your choices it helps me consider other options or see that what I am doing really is the best path for us. Thank you for your example of encouragement and the open hearted way you share your life.

Heather

Kim said...

Oh no, not another comments issue. ((hugs)) Keep doing what you're doing, Meredith! You inspire me with every post whether I comment or not.

Jen - Balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

Oh my - now I need to go read the comments. :)The Lord just blessed me with a "want" purchase, although some would have said I "needed" that chair. Every person views spending through their own lens. :)

Meredith@MerchantShips said...

Oh, no--no fighting in the comments. Just a few emails that interested me because the reactions were exactly opposite!

It makes me think and reconsider what I post here. What if my husband's boss were to read that post in isolation? What would he think of my husband that we choose to live simply in some areas?

In the larger context of our spending goals, the details--take 'em or leave 'em--belong to us.

Zenzi said...

Thank you!

Camille said...

My friend's daughter is in the 2nd grade and her teacher did an "economics" class with the class simply focusing on distinguishing between a want and a need. I thought this was a beautiful, simple, necessary strategy to teach our children from a young age and was impressed that this teacher implemented such a lesson in the classroom.

Everyone's wants and needs are drastically different. I'm happy with 2 pair of flip flops and a nice pair of loafers for winter. My sister has a closet full of shoes in every color. I have bins full of yarn and knitting needles. Just the beauty of humankind.

Workin' MAMA! said...

Meredith,

I have done wayyy better at going the extra mile in saving money - buying second hand- and coupling my needs with my wants (does that make sense?) - When it's 'cents-ible' I make it happen -

For ex, we 'wanted' another refrigerated to hold the sodas, juices, eggs, and frozen meats especially - Our refrigerator in the house was overflowing with food. Instead of buying new, we went to the salvation army and bought a 60 buck whirpool regular fridge - with freezer on top - Did that 8 years ago and it works like a charm still... It would not have made 'cents' to run over to SEARS to buy a 500 buck fridge -
We could have, but we didn't 'need' to, when another works like a new one...

God's wisdom does come into play on helping a fam prioritize needs and wants - Family meetings are commonplace here - What works/what surely doesn't...

I appreciate you sharing your choices with us - It helps us gather our thoughts and re-examine our ways - Never thought the concept of frugality would ever land in my lap - but in the last few years, and sudden changes -
It's just the right thing to do -
A 'cents-ible' option to consider...
thank you girl...

latrice

Workin' MAMA! said...

Oh, P.S. - I 'want' the VIKING gigantic stainless stove - 6 burner - I would do some serious damage in all the bake-offs and bake sales at chuch I see in a given year ---

woooo-weeee! Do I need a Viking?
If you ask me, Yes!!!
Ask my hubby, he'd better say YES!!!

lol!

nighty-night -
latrice

Betsy said...

I agree that this is beautifully said. The thing about frugality that seems to get pushed aside is that it's a choice. A lifestyle. A plan to live purposefully. And, you said all that. Thank you!

Antonella said...

Beautifully stated.
And I second Working Mama:

"I appreciate you sharing your choices with us - It helps us gather our thoughts and re-examine our ways"


thanks for the inspiration you give us all

Edi said...

When my first child was born I bought a recommended book on getting my dd onto a schedule. Everyone I knew that used this method had success. But I didn't. I couldn't figure it out - I did EVERYTHING just like the book told me to do - and it didn't work. I'd re-read the book trying to figure out whey it wasn't working.

Later I realized it was b/c there is no book for real-life living...no guide to follow step by step and get the same results someone else got because EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT!

And I see frugality and simple living the same way. Everyone is different - no way is the only way of doing something - what works for you might not work for me - but that's OK.

I read various blogs and books etc. about the topic...some things I'm already doing, some things I'm not interested in doing b/c they are too simple, or too radical or just not right for me and my family. But I enjoy the topic and enjoy reading about how other people put it all together.

Incidentally I have more than 3 pairs of shoes b/c that works for me! Almost all are bought from the thrift store - so probably all my shoes together cost the same as one good new pair.

Sandy Toes said...

60.00???Wow...that would be very tough but I know it's possible. I have been more careful at the store and if I go less...I spend less!
sandy toe

Jennifer said...

I wrote an article on my blog last week about how frugal living is not a competition. Each family is different and within each family there will be different seasons. A season that you can be ultra frugal and then a season where you order take out and dry your clothes in the dryer. No one should feel guilty if they are doing the best they can under their own circumstances.

Roxie700 said...

I believe like you Meredith, that being frugal is a personal matter. We all have different goals. For my family our goal was to pay off our house. We were willing to do without big vacations, new cars, etc. I am so proud to say that we reached our goal this last month. We now own our home. Free and clear. Our new goal is to rebuild our savings for retirement. We lost a lot this past year in our 401K...so we need to rebuild.
I love to read what you share about your goals. How your family does so well on a normal budget. Thank you. Roxie

rowena___. said...

meredith, since finding your blog the one thing i've become aware of is that the choice is not about how frugally we can live, but how mindfully we can steward the resources we've been given. that shift in my thinking has gone a long way toward helping me be a blessing to my family, regardless of how much or how little we have in the bank. i am truly grateful for your wisdom and your willingness to share your thoughts with us, and i hope those of us who benefit can be a blessing to you in some way as well, perhaps by our encouragement of your efforts.

Victoria said...

I love that you acknowledge that everyone has to find what works for them!!! I have never thought you push your ways (3 pairs of shoes) on anyone and I appreciate that about you.

I love living within our means due to the peace it brings within our home. I cannot stand paying full price for something, it brings me actual physical pain, but more than that, not having to argue with my spouse about money is priceless! :)

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

I'm a wiley shopper but not a frugal shopper. My closet is FULL of shoes! However, 95% of those come from the thrift store (heels that I only wear for a few hours anyway); & I've had some for years (thank goodness, our feet don't gain weight!).

I've lived by a drawn-up budget sheet for years. My bills are paid on time, my credit paid off each month, and a little is put into savings. I also allow myself an allowance each week to spend how I wish -- coffee, lunch, movie, yard sale. Then there's my "Fluff Spending"!

I have a special jar where I sometimes throw my loose change, incl (here in Canada)loonies [$1] and toonies [$2]. Twice a year, I count it out, and my SAH, penny-pinching girlfriend and I go on a thrifting trip to the city (refer to one of my recent blogs.) We have a wonderful girls day out, go somewhere special for lunch & get some great bargains. We are not allowed to spend our "fluff" money on groceries or necessary things for the house (ie vacuum bags) but must be spent on indulgences for us. We work hard at budgeting and balancing; our twice a year fluff days are like jam on our bread - we could eat it plain & enjoy it, but it sure tastes better with the jam!

martha said...

Please don't worry about your readership. You are the inspiration and guide on your own site.

Of course, I find this easy to say since our philosophy and practices are so similar.

the cottage child said...

We really try to keep the spiritual benefits of frugality in mind, along with the practical. Frugality not only means well bought, but also not being wasteful. It's not more frugal to spend $40 a week at the grocery store and throw away half, than to spend $200 and use every bit, or use part for food stores. To me waste is a spiritual issue. The amount we spend has to be proportionate to our needs.

We also have worked toward a habit of prioritizing our goals. We have goals of building a house in 2-3 years, homeschooling next year, growing both our family companies, and doing overnite camping trips around our area. No vacation. For possibly 5 years. But you know what, except for the beach, my kids don't want to go to any of the places we have in mind, anyway. They're too little. I could take on a client and earn enough to get us somewhere, but it wouldn't be frugal. There would be no value in it (it sounds exhausting actually!). We buy wine and coffee, small bits of good cheese and top-notch produce but not poptarts, chips, or other processed food. And we eat at home, except for the occasional take-out pizza. If we want ice-cream, we either leave something else out, or make it at home with ingredients we have. We also plan our meals, and have our grocery lists categorized according to musts and maybes.

Sorry, I hope it doesn't sound like bragging, I'm just trying to express what's truly worked for us. Frugality doesn't even have to mean buying everything second-hand. It does require a vision for reworking, repurposing, and reusing. And sometimes enjoying what you have in appreciation of simple provision.

Meredith, your site has the sweetest spirit. Thank you so much. It keeps some of us on track, you know, virtual accountablity never hurt anyone!

songbirdy said...

To me being frugal is a continuum. There are 'frugal' things I do today that I vowed I would never ever in a million years with my ... you get the point... do!

But now, not only do I do them, I do them with grace, style and we simply LOVE that choice and all that it brings to our family.

To me, being frugal is not about being the simplest, the cheapest, and having the most for the least. Its about stewardship, and I know I've ranted on my blog about that subject ;) .

By being frugal where I can, I can give my children luxuries, or things I perceive as luxuries. Not only that, but we appreciate true value and joy at the blessings we have been given.

I can think of many times where I choose deliberately to do something *not* cheap!

=^..^= Kitty =^..^= said...

I work full time in an office. I have two pair for work (exactly alike) and one pair for all other. All my clothing is switchable and is basically black. I wear these clothes all the time. Although my work clothes tend to be quite expensive, I've been wearing the same outfits exclusively for four years...another type of frugality. All my items are washable, even my winter coat.

Over the years, I have found that taking care of lots of clothing is way to time consuming. A load is a load is a load. Three loads a week is my limit.

Viva 3 pair!!!

Biteofpunkinpie said...

What works for us...

1)husband is a teacher at a super preppy private school. there is certainly a 'keeping up with the joneses type feel'... we keep up by waiting for a sale to get new shoes, buying khakis and slacks at goodwill. waiting for target to have their 2/$10 polo sale. you wouldn't believe (wait, yes you would) the high end slacks w/tags still on them that we've found for him

2)i'm working on losing weight and treated myself to jillian michael's 30 day shred video. i haven't been able to find reasonably priced weights that are the right size, so i've been using large tomato cans for 2 weeks now.

3)i've turned a hobby (got my first sewing machine for Christmas) into a means of gift giving. a throw pillow for my stepmom's birthday, an apron for a new bride. shopping the clearance racks for fabric and being gifted upholstery samples & thread means i can give gifts for $5 and under.

Biteofpunkinpie said...

p.s. one thing i love about blogging is the community it builds and (for me) a new sense of 'keeping up with the joneses'. "meredith from merchant ships got an amazing deal on linens at the thrift store? i bet i could too!" or "the nester made that beautiful decoration from stuff she has lying around? i wonder if i have any cool stuff like that"

Kim said...

No, not fighting, but you do have a semi-anonymous person who likes to nitpick in that other post. *sigh* Why people waste their breath on petty things is beyond me. Maybe I'm just getting old. lol I haven't got it in me to take every issue I disagree with to task!

On a frugal note, the older I get the more I examine my past foolish purchases. I have given away and sold so many things that I thought I'd use and didn't. Shoes, clothes, decorations. It makes me less enthusiastic to purchase things now. My church wardrobe consists of about 4 outfits that I rotate, so I wear each about once a month. Sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious about that, wondering if people are thinking, "Oh, she's wearing THAT again! Doesn't she ever buy new clothes?" and I think to myself about how many outfits I thought I'd wear, but rarely did once I had them home, and how much money I could've saved had I been more careful. And I think about the people in other cultures that live with less and think nothing of it, and I feel a bit better.

The same goes for my children. I have bought so many things that were rarely worn. They were good deals and I would have thought they'd wear them, but, like me, my children rarely picked them. They'd wear the same handful of outfits (I keep right on top of the laundry) and some things would stay stuffed in the back of their drawers or closet until they were outgrown.

And kids' shoes, oh my! How many pairs rarely got worn, although I got good deals on them? Especially when they were really little.

One thing I've learned as my children get older is that they are like me and have their favorite outfits and that's that. So I try to buy less now so I give away or sell less. It's a hard thing to balance and I don't know if I'll ever get it right. But hopefully, I'll spend less in the process.

Tasha said...

Meredith,

Thank you for continuing to share your frugal strategies.

I would imagine there are many a mom who read the post on your boundaries for shoe shopping and silently wish they had all the money back they had spent on numerous pairs of shoes and also wish they were dealing with the picking up and finding of only 3 pairs of shoes. : )

I figure those who question your frugality in one area or another are just wanting to focus in on "your thing" so they aren't forced to examine "their thing."

I love that you share the things that work for your family. I have begun to use several of the practices that you have shared. On my own I would not have thought of most of them.

I think your blog is a type of Timothy ministry. You take what works for you and pass them on to your readers. That is what the Bible tells us to do.

I appreciate your blog and the time you put into sharing your ideas.

Right now what works for us is to shop sales for rock bottom prices, use coupons to get things for pennies on the dollar and plan my meals around those items. I use the Grocery Game and The Coupon Mom

Just this week I went to Walgreen's. I used coupons to get Contour and Breeze2 diabetic meters for free. Each transaction for the meters spit out a catalina for $10 to use on my next purchase. I used the catatlina towards a hair dryer (our old one is barely blowing air). The hair dryer transaction cost me $4.08 of my money and it spit out another catalina for $10 to go towards my next purchase. In the end I bought 3 diabtic meters for $2.55 total (they would have cost $220 retail)plus I received $30 in catalinas. I will donate the meteres to a doctor who will give them to patients that need them. Rolling catalinas at Walgreen's (Register Rewards) helps save money on other items and allows me to donate more things.

I look forward to reading other people's frugal ideas.

Tasha

Michelle said...

Very eloquently put. This is how I budget also...I'm just not able to put it into words as well as you just did!!

Love the leaf rubbings...makes me miss my little boys...who are now 11 and 13. Have a great day...

Blue Castle said...

I really enjoy your blog and all the ways you share about your frugal approach to life. 3 pairs of shoes is the perfect amount, for us too. My boys have tennis shoes, sandals and cowboy boots (I know, not frugal, but they were gifts). It's the perfect amount. I have to admit I have slightly more pairs than that, but I am often frustrated by the fact that I seem to "need" as many as I do. I visited Haiti quite a few years ago, and it humbled me to see how little those people live with.

Nancy said...

We are not created from a cookie cutter. We are all individuals, so our choices will be too.

You have a way of sharing that is so wonderful.

KW said...

I'm a new mom and I love the money-saving tips on yoru blog! Thanks for sharing.

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Yes- perfectly put.

Steph

Becky said...

I'm not even sure I have a strategy for frugalness. I ponder on every purchase before I make it. I also adhere to my budget.

I see I have some work ahead of me - to develop something I can follow and refer to.

Thanks, Meredith!

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Great post. Frugality, wants, and needs truly do look different for all of us.

I think the problem you occasionally encounter stems from the fact that we tend to put other people's blogs up on some virtual pedestal and assume that if they are doing something, then maybe we should be, too. How many times have I seen other bloggers mention attempting to make their own weekly grocery budgets as small as a certain other blogger's? There always seems to be a certain air of despair if they can't manage it.

We're all different, and just because something works well for one blogger doesn't mean that it's 1) a challenge to the rest of us to do the exact same thing, 2) meant to make anyone feel bad, or 3) anything close to what will work for our own families.

Community is about sharing, and that includes the blog world. We're all just sharing what works for us.

Sandy said...

I def. don't pray about if it's a want or need (maybe I should) but I def. weigh it out in my mind - before I purchase. I also try to buy in season. And I really don't menu plan because I buy the meat on sale. Works for me!

Happy Wednesday, Meredith! :)

Autryville said...

I have 4 children and we 6 have 3 pairs a piece. It's one of my few frugal habits, but I'm working on it!

I have so much to learn about being frugal, and I love your advice and your blog. I think someone has already mentioned that a problem that seems to be arising in the frugal 'blogosphere' is a sense of competition. There are popular sites dedicated to being frugal that I just can't visit anymore. Whether is their pride in frugal living showing through, I'm not sure...but I feel so welcome here. A feeling of "Yes! I can do this!" And the 3 pairs of shoes is only the beginning for me, Lord willing. Keep up the great work in encouraging so many!

Michelle in HI said...

Perhaps because I've spent so many years living abroad, I have always taken frugal blogs as sources of inspiration rather than as guidelines or mandates for how to specifically live my life.

Living in Hawaii now, there's just no feasible way I can approach the low grocery bills that many others achieve, just as I'm sure most could not get away with our frugal summer-only wardrobe, non-existent heating bills, or one-car lifestyle. But I love hearing about how others make trade-offs, think about purchases, and prioritize their family's budget. That, I think, is quite universal. Love your blog, it is definitely one of my favorites!

Roxanne said...

To me, frugality is the discipline to make financial goals and limits and stick to them. Not a contest to prove how little we can exist on.

A person that saved for 7 years for a European vacation is more frugal than the person who put one weekend in a cabin on their credit card.

Cosette said...

I'm a new reader, and just wanted to tell you that your blog really resonates with me. I deeply appreciate reading that there is another mom who integrates spirituality into the simple choices of life. What a great reminder to live like a whole person.

http://damselindisdress.wordpress.com

Lyn said...

Personally I don't find your disclosure of 3 pairs of shoes odd at all. Presently I have two. Now books, well that is another story. ;)

The last several years I had gotten into couponing but rarely do so now. As I age and deal with health issues I find it more simple, less time-consuming and healthier to eat foods God created vs. processed stuff. That doesn't mean organic because our budget can't accommodate that right now. I figure any real food is healthier than fake food.

In general I don't spend much on non-necessary items which helps to afford me a modest life at home full-time. I feel like Kim in that it gets tiring to buy things only to have to deal with them as clutter later on, so I'm trying not to accumulate.

What matters is that we are being good stewards of what we have or are blessed with.

kitchenstewardship said...

What a lovely post! Thanks for reminding us it's not all about the bottom line. I wish I could be more frugal with WORDS like you are. My posts always seem to get too long... :)

Amy said...

Really really well said!!

Karen said...

I am so glad you wrote this post! Sometimes I get fixated on the things that you write about, or even feel jealous of your sale finds -- but it's not about the things!

What I admire about you most is how you share your hospitality and kindness and that's what I want to imitate the most, not the shopping!