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They say Living Well is the Best Revenge

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Denninmi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-05-11 07:21 AM
Original message
They say Living Well is the Best Revenge
OK, I think with all that is going on politically, economically, socially, and environmentally, it's pretty obvious that our society and our planet is facing tough times, to put it mildly. I've been thinking a lot about my own situation lately financially as well as how I feel like I'm being impacted by the trends around me. In a nutshell, I'm basically cash poor but I am lucky enough to be in a relatively affluent household with a lot of savings, so the wolf isn't at the door just yet. I know that I am infinitely better off than so many people, and I try to always remember to count my blessings when I'm feeling a little down. What the future may hold for all of us is anyone's guess at this point, but I'm trying to find ways to make it better.

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is frugality. I fight my own inner demons with that one -- it's so tempting just to cruise through the drive-through on the way to work and pick up a drink or even breakfast, when I could have just gotten up 10 minutes earlier and made it at home much cheaper. Or, I will sometimes go the the little lobby convenience store in the office building where I work and buy a single serving bottle of pop for $1.50 when I could have brought my own 2 liter to work at a much lower per-serving price (but, then, I am supporting the cute Korean family that runs it by patronizing their store -- I'd rather help out a mom and pop operation than a corporate behemoth).

Economically, these are still challenging times. Everything goes up but the paycheck. Gas is $3.599 here now. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan just announced ANOTHER rate increase -- this will be the fourth time in not quite 2 years that my health insurance is going up -- at least this time, it's 7 to 9 percent, not the 36% they hit me with in 2009. Had a fuel oil fill yesterday, THAT bill won't be pretty -- the idiots haven't been out since early December, and the tank was about 3/4ths empty -- I'm on the "keep full" plan - if they came earlier, it would have been a cheaper rate per gallon -- my sister lives next door, and they've been at her house in January and February topping her tank off, they forgot me (they have the WORST customer service, and they also frequently mix up our accounts).

At least I got my income tax refunds -- I filed by mail about 3 weeks ago, and I got both my Michigan and my Federal refunds now via electronic deposit - I'm surprised it was so fast. Going straight to pay off a credit card!

I've also been doing other little projects -- rewashing ziplock bags (who knew it would work out so well), stocking up on bargains when I find them (yesterday, 34 1/2 ounce "bonus size" bottles of Ajax dishwashing liquid were 10 for $10, the 11th is Free at Meijer, resulting in a final net price of $0.89 a bottle, which is really cheap for dishwashing detergent -- not quite as good as Dawn, but Ajax is definitely better than many of the other brands). I've been stocking up on cheap meat (bought 3 big turkeys when they were 49 cents a pound). I'm definitely expanding and refining my gardening efforts this year, planting more of my staple crops like potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, corn, and devoting less space to things that either don't grow well here (okra) or that we don't use much of (say, kohlrabi or turnips). I've also been going through my house and my pantry in particular trying to find creative uses for things that need using up -- found a whole bunch of plastic containers from things like cottage cheese that I'm going to use in my greenhouse to start transplants for the garden. I also found some older foods that haven't been used but are still good, and am putting those front and center to use them up. A while back, my oil pan got a small hole and leaked -- the car isn't under warranty, and the cheapest quote I found to fix it was about $850 -- I fixed it myself with a 70 cent silicone cupcake liner as a gasket, a 15 cent threaded bolt from Home Depot, and a $5 tube of high temperature silicone sealant.

Finally, I'm trying to "give back" or "pay it forward" or whatever you want to call it to help those I can in ways I can. I've been taking excess eggs and produce from my garden (not so much this time of year, of course) to a couple of neighbors. I've been canning, freezing, and preserving as much as I can to give to my sisters and my niece for their families. Been also taking extra eggs and produce (once again, in season) in to work to share with my boss and the other paralegal I work with.

I read a lot of online message board and sites devoted to politics, as DU obviously is. I've come to the conclusion that the far right is all about fear -- the live in fear of the "other" that doesn't look, think, and act exactly as they do. And, they want to instill that fear on all of us in many ways -- they seem to want us to live in social fear, in economic fear, in political fear, always waiting for things to get worse. One way to NOT let them win is to refuse to play the game. I remember the passage from Solzhenitzyn's "One Day In Life of Ivan Denisovitch" where Ivan, despite the fact that he was in the Gulag in Siberia and was sentenced to hard labor under grueling conditions, was assigned to lay bricks, and he decided that one thing they could NOT take away from him was his pride in how skilled he could be at building a true, straight, and sturdy brick wall, so he really got into his work and made it a good day. I feel like that at times --- if I refuse to let them bring me down, it becomes a small victory for the day. I believe in an episode of M*A*S*H, the character of Hawkeye Pierce once said in answer to the question of how he could survive in that environment of carnage and despair that "I can cry or I can laugh. I choose to laugh." That's how I feel.

So, I pose these questions -- what good, frugal ideas have you come up with to stretch the budget? What kind of little victories have you had that made you feel like you won one battle in the war (mine was yesterday, when I found 34 cent cucumbers and a bag of 4 peppers for 80 cents on the discount rack in the produce aisle at Meijer)? What are you doing to enjoy life without spending a lot of money? What are your financial plans? How do you think you will be able "live well" on less and still enjoy life? Please share your thoughts, opinions, ideas, as well as your practical tips and solutions. TIA. Solidarity and Peace.

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Sienna86 Donating Member (505 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-05-11 08:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. Wonderful post
And I chose to laugh also. I applaud your creative solution to fixing the leak in your oil pan.

My recent changes on the homefront: 1) not eating out, to include coffee, 2) kids bring sack lunches to school (my lunches are so much healthier than soda and Funyuns...), and 3) making meals from scratch. With teenage boys, the grocery bill is a large chuck of my budget.

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beac Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-05-11 11:28 AM
Response to Original message
2. Growing some of our own food is the biggest change I've made in the last two years (with
much help from DU's Gardening forum, of course!)

When buying things online, I always Google to see if there's a coupon or promo code out there for the site and/or the item. More often than not, there is.

I'm really trying to use only natural and organic household products and toiletries, so I will wait for a sale and but several months worth at a time. I've also found that vinegar and baking soda can handle just about any cleaning job, and at a much lower cost to my wallet AND the environment.

I hear you on the heating oil! It's been BRUTAL this winter. Definitely a budget-buster. We live in a rental, thus we have no option to change heating methods, so we just keep the thermostat WAY low and bundle up. We also got a programmable thermostat and set it to go even lower overnight and then to warm up to a tolerable level by morning. It's nice when we go out of town b/c we can set it to stay at don't-freeze-the-pipes level while we're gone and then to start warming back up a few hours before we get home.

I saw a good post on online "coupon cutting" last month at Young House Love: /

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grasswire Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-05-11 02:34 PM
Response to Original message
3. frugality becomes an avocation

I have to tell about the TV show called extreme couponer or something like that. I saw one episode last month. People work at couponing as if it is a job, and it does provide significant savings. Some people apparently do it and then donate all the free stuff to the food bank. The examples I saw showed grocery store bills reduced from $2000 to just a few dollars, all through the couponing.

Of course some people are OCD about it -- one man had something like 175 years of stick deodorant in his pantry.

Now, if I clipped and used all the coupons in my weekly newspaper, I would save only a hundred bucks or so. But if I were to call manufacturers and say "I'm thinking of trying your xxx product line, do you have any coupons to send me?" then you will get the really good coupons.

Just one aspect to frugality.
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Curmudgeoness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-05-11 04:42 PM
Response to Original message
4. I applaud your efforts, and I try to do the same things.
One thing that I have done is stay out of stores. I rarely buy anything that is not necessary. My motto has become "know the difference between want and need", and you have no idea how many people use the word need when it is really just a want.

I have everything that I need at this point. I do not need another trinket or knick-knack. I usually go to thrift stores for clothes, and the great advantage to that is that you will know how the item holds up to washing and wearing. How many new items have I washed and found that they look terrible even though they are new.

When I do need something (or at those times when I want something), I shop at local stores, even if they are more expensive. I can justify paying more since I am not spending a lot of money on waste. You are right, helping out that nice couple who run that store is not a bad thing, although I would balk at paying that price because I am not thinking ahead.

The more you think about everything you buy, the more you will find savings everywhere. Good luck.
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silverweb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-06-11 02:43 PM
Response to Original message
5. Water.
Water is becoming more precious than oil and I live in a place that has virtually none of its own. I've always been conscious of it, but didn't think I could cut back any more than I'd already been doing.

I rent my little house, so installing grey water plumbing is not an option. For some years, I've run the washer for full loads only and collected the rinse water for the garden (such as it is). I also flushed the toilet only when necessary ("if it's yellow, let it mellow...," etc).

Recently, the toilet started leaking from the tank, where old seals are corroding. I put a container under the slow drip (less than a gallon every 24 hours) and added that to the garden water. Then I got smart.

I shut off the water connection to the toilet completely and drained the residual from the tank. No more leak! Then I got two big buckets. I don't have a dishwasher but use a dishpan in the kitchen sink, so I started emptying that water into one of the buckets when it needed changing.

Now I just rotate buckets and use old dishwater for flushing -- fill in the kitchen, empty for flushing; no extra time or effort involved at all. When I discovered that one bucket was good for 2 flushes, I felt a rush of absolute triumph.

What a coup! It makes me ridiculously happy that now virtually all of my fresh water gets used twice. I couldn't believe how fast the kitchen bucket fills, even when I think I'm being very conservative in my water use, and that has made me even more conscious of being careful.

Maybe I'll get the toilet fixed at some point so I can turn that water back on when I have "company." Or maybe not. Maybe it will be a good object lesson.

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japple Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-06-11 06:27 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. When we were in a drought situation a couple of years ago, I
did the same thing with water. Since I have a well, it is very important to me to conserve and recycle. Putting a bucket or dishpan in the shower to catch the cold water while you're waiting for the warm is a huge water saving. We used dish rinse water to water our flower bed and whenever I canned/pickled, I always save the water for plants and flower beds
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silverweb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-07-11 02:40 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. Yes, I forgot to mention the shower water.
I keep a separate dishpan in the shower for that purpose (and for soaking feet).

Another thing is frequency of showers. Since I work at home, I only do a full shower/shampoo when I'm going out or expecting company, generally about twice a week. Otherwise, a sponging at the sink or a very short rinse-off shower (on hot days) is perfectly adequate.
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lizziegrace Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-06-11 06:52 PM
Response to Original message
7. Besides putting in vegetable gardens
Edited on Sun Mar-06-11 07:07 PM by lizziegrace
and canning or freezing the harvest, I try to buy what's in season from local farmers. That is also canned or frozen.

I live in an old antebellum with a well and oil heat. Conserving heat is huge. 27 windows are all covered with plastic in the winter. Even with storm windows, when the wind blows, the plastic heaves. The best plastic is 3M and I buy the patio door size and extra rolls of tape from Amazon. The price beats any local store (only Ace carries 3M here) and I can buy it as I have the funds. Some of the plastic never comes down, as those windows aren't used.

I shop at Goodwill for clothes, get canning jars from Craigslist (3 dozen quart jars for $6) and reuse zipper bags. Cleaning supplies are cheapest at Dollar General and vinegar and baking soda are great for boosting laundry detergent and keeping drains running freely.

I'm trying to figure out how to make rain barrels from trash cans but the very old round downspouts are posing a challenge.

In the summer I turn on the air only when it's stifling out. I put a small window unit in my room since my asthma and heat and high humidity don't get along.

Everything that can be composted is and what can't be is recycled. I put out one can every 2 weeks.

Clothes are line-dried since my dryer turns everything blue, which is a blessing in disguise. Saves electricity.

Still trying to remember to turn off all the power strips unless the appliance is in use...

It's looking like I'll have to move this summer. I'm making $10k less than I was 10 years ago and the kids are moving away for grad school. Unless I can find a roommate, I can't continue to care for this beautiful old lady.

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northoftheborder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-08-11 11:57 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. What a beautiful house; looks big, maybe a large family will be it's next occupant, if you move out!
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