The New Frugality

I thought I’d be updating yesterday, and kept so busy with farm chores, a run to the feed and seed to get six bales of hay, unloading that hay, and making some signs, that I was just worn out! Of course, that extra time gave me an opportunity to think more about what I wanted to say in this post, as it’s been brewing for awhile.

You may know that I used to work in IT, and in March of 2009, my position was eliminated by my employer – there were many of us who lost our jobs, about 20% of the total workforce, it was rumored. It’s turned out well in terms of the big picture, because it’s meant that you see what is here today – our farm – and I couldn’t be happier about that. But, I think it’s worth noting, for anyone who might be pondering whether or not this would be the life for them, there are sacrifices that must be made. It’s not easy going from having a reliable paycheck every week, to trying to figure out how you’re going to pay a medical bill, or pay for new tires on your car, or how to afford that tractor you’re dreaming about!

Like many folks, we are always looking for ways to save money and cut our consumption. Any “expendable” income we have goes back into the farm, and we like it that way. I’ve adopted the Depression Era saying “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without” as a sort of personal mantra over the past couple of years. George subscribes to the idea, too. It means squeezing the last bit out of the toothpaste tube. It means any leftover food either gets consumed by us, the dog, or the chickens. My clothes – most of them are pretty old, with few exceptions, and what I do buy is often second-hand. It only makes sense, because I rarely leave the farm. I don’t have a lifestyle that requires fancy duds any more.

Two weeks ago, I got my second haircut of the year – I hadn’t had one since March. Now that may have been tripping over dollars to pick up dimes, and I will probably make a point to get my next haircut sooner than seven months from now, because my hair was in bad shape, and a lot of the length had to come off. I also do my own haircolor here at home, which saves a considerable lump of cash. I am often sporting roots (including a lot of grey) for weeks before I get around to it, but I do eventually DIY-Dye it. I’m hoping that I’ve finally found a color that is going to last more than three weeks (like the bright red I used to feature in my ‘do) so that my time and money are not wasted on frequent upkeep. The goats are really not critical when it comes to these matters. 😉

We try to make do and “go shopping at home” whenever possible. Often, we’ve been able to repurpose materials we’ve had on hand when looking to complete a project.

For instance, we’ve needed some signs for the end of the driveway telling folks that we have eggs for sale. We had an old piece of plywood that had been cut and painted as a shelf by the previous residents, which we had removed. I cut two pieces off of it yesterday, broke out my brushes and acrylic craft paints, and went to work. I’m not going to claim any mad skills as a sign-maker, but hey, I was able to create them at no cost, and got to use some of that paint up before it solidifies! George and I decided that they should look rustic, anyway. Hopefully it brings us some more egg sales, because we usually have about a 3-5 day backlog in the fridge right now, and we’d like to be more on top of things than that, particularly considering that our girls are still ramping up, with only more eggs to come!

I’m going to be trying my hand at making mayonnaise today. We have our own personal stash of eggs, so why not? I understand it’s tastier than the store bought stuff, and when we saw the price tag on Hellman’s had gone up to $5 for a 16 oz jar, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to buy it. We also started buying our cheese only in block form – I’ve been slicing and shredding it as needed. When you look at the price per pound difference, it’s preposterous to pay the manufacturer to do those tasks for you. Plus, the cheese gets dried out – so we have a fresher cheese experience, on top of saving some money.

I de-stashed my craft supply cabinet a few years back, but you wouldn’t know it! I still have quite a bit of stuff in there. And now with our son, I’m actually grateful for my pack-rat tendencies, because it means that we have the opportunity to do craft projects together, like Dr. Frankenbirder here, and the money’s already been spent years ago (when I still had a job!) He and I had a blast creating this crazy bird, and it’s sitting on top of his electric chord organ (which I found secondhand a couple of years back) in his room now.

Those of you who’ve known me for some time know that I used to go to estate sales, rummage sales, thrift stores, and the like several times a week when I was still working. It was like therapy to me. But now that I’m doing something I love to do (but not earning a paycheck from it) – I don’t have the time or resources to do that. In fact, I’ve eyed a lot of my vintage clothes, accessories, and housewares that I do not see a use for here on the farm and have pondered whether or not to put them up for sale. There are lots of things I do use – my starburst clock, vintage lamps, all of my Tiki bar stuff, and several kitchen gadgets, plates, and glassware – but those ten fondue pots? Maybe I could make do with one. Or two. (Hey, I might want two kinds of fondue at once.) Maybe the rest should get donated so that I have more space in the basement. Unless, of course, I find some crazy use for them, like starting seeds, or the like. Then they’ll get repurposed!

It would be unfair to say we don’t spend money – but it’s a matter of being very choosy about how to spend it. We’ve tried to stop being mindless consumers, so that each purchase has a purpose and meaning.

My hands have been getting really cold as I open up the animal buildings on some of these mornings, but I need dexterity to be able to open locks, latches, and water containers. So I decided a good solution would be fingerless hand warmers. I know the very basics of knitting (I can make you a lovely scarf) but haven’t the time right now to advance any further. Fortunately, there’s a website out there called Etsy, where folks can sell their handcrafted items, and I found exactly what I needed there, at very reasonable cost. These should work out well for keeping my hands warm during chores, and during goat walks, while still allowing me to perform the necessary tasks associated with those chores. In fact, I wore them last night, and I think I might want a second pair strictly for use here in the house. They’re quite cozy! I love the idea of supporting other individuals hand-crafted efforts, too. It seems like everything in our lives is primarily available from a factory setting – even our food – and I really like breaking free from that whenever possible. Maybe I read Laura Ingalls Wilder too much as a kid, but there’s something about the pioneer spirit that’s always appealed to me.

I’ve always liked getting a deal, even while I was still working. But I tended to take money for granted sometimes. I don’t today – one dollar means quite a bit more to me now than it ever has in the past. I think that’s good – it makes me appreciate things more thoughtfully, and consider my purchases more wisely. I don’t think I’m alone in that mindset, particularly in the economic times we are in. I’ve heard statements ranging from “Our country hasn’t been in this bad of economic shape since the Great Depression” to “There are several key ways we are actually worse off than things were during the Great Depression.” Whatever the case, times are tough, and I think adopting many of the values that folks held during those times are beneficial. Honestly, it’s a mindset that I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of, moving forward, even if the economy improves. I like being a tightwad.

Do you have any frugality or thrifty tips you’d like to share? I know I’ve only introduced a very eensy portion of the ideas out there in this post, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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