Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rumors of my death are at least slightly exaggerated

I'm still here. I've worked 10 hours a day every day of my three day weekend and then spent hours with friends every evening, playing dominos (my darling husband doesn't seem to notice the truest level of my fatigue). I'm not feeling much more chatty than that, except that I would like to state for the record that I enjoy talking about money MUCH MORE than I enjoy earning it.

I shall return.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thoughts on media fasts, simplicity, and the frugality of sleep

Let me begin by saying that school is starting again. I am in the process of radically turning over my persona, my daily schedule, and my budget, and so I am a bit - how can we say it? Off? (The turning over in my mind conjured up images of turning over the soil on a farm, and I hope it turns up the same kind of richness and freshness.)

I've spent the past week putting together my classroom, in itself a haven of minimalism and simplicity. I have my desks arranged simply, have 2 posters on my wall and a few quotes ("To be great is to be misunderstood" and "We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race") and a shelf full of books, and I am finished. I spent more of my time visiting with my colleagues, each in a tizzy over "getting their rooms ready," and chatting about life, love, and learning, trying to listen more than I spoke. It's been a quiet time for me, and a pleasant one, and a good transition with the coming onslought of teenagers which I have begun to look forward to.

And yet, and yet. When I come home from school, I am tired. I am drained. I am not used to being away for 8 hours, to waking up before 7 in the morning. I am not eating like I was at home, and I feel lost with my laundry undone and my dinner not started. So I come home, I do my chores, start my dinner, and I sit. I sit and stare at a wall, read a book, or work on some knitting, but I sit in the quiet. I want the quiet.

And so, there have been 3 days this week that I have not turned on my computer at all. That thought used to give me anxiety - I'd be so behind, I'd have to catch up, I'd miss something - but really in truth it's given me peace. When I had time last night, I turned my computer on, checked my RSS feeds and email, and was ready to turn it back off again. It's almost like breaking an addiction. When I've been away from it for a while, I craved it not more but less. It was a relief, since I'll have less time now, but a surprise. I just found an extra hour a day to read or exercise or swim. And I just found myself some peace.

And this week, what I'm most inclined to do with that extra hour is to sleep. In the afternoon with the sun streaming in, at 8 o'clock at night, whenever that hour turns up, I just want to stretch out and take a nap. I don't want to spend or go out or do anything that costs me money. And I couldn't be happier doing it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The frugality of being a homebody

Lately I've had quite a few posts that involved, in some way or another, not going out. Before people start to think I'm a monk, or that I am extremely self-sacrificial, let me just clear the waters and explain how much I prefer staying home.

Now don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the occasional adventure and it's lovely to have friends over or to go to the park once in a while, and I do all those things and I do eat at restaurants and see movies too, but most days the place I'd most prefer to be is home. In my pajamas. Either in bed or curled up on my couch. Preferably alone and most often with the house quiet (or with a softly read audio book playing). And so, while it would be nice to have some books, a few DVDs (because really, I like movies), and gallons of coffee, I don't require much. Pretty cheap, eh?

Not everyone is made like this, though. My husband for example looks for constant entertainment or stimulation. If I leave to get the mail, he makes a phone call to keep busy while I'm gone. He needs music on his phone to tide him over between the music in his car and the music on his computer. He doesn't mind running errands: the post office, the pharmacy, the bank (all of which give me massive anxiety) because, hey, it's something to do right?

While extroverts thrive in social situations, introverts are drained by them. Now, while it's very possible for an extrovert to be frugal, I wonder if somehow it isn't harder. So, I ask, how many of you frugalites and frugalistas are homebodies and how many of you are socialites?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Money Saving Mission for Monday: Raise your insurance deductibles

Ready for another money saving mission? Don't worry, this one doesn't involve giving anything up, it just involves spending less money.

Check your insurance deductibles. If you have money in emergency savings, and you should, you should be able to raise your insurance deductible.
Insurance is the transferrance of ris, and if you have enough money to "self-insure," then technically you wouldn't need any insurance at all. A totalled car or a medical emergency, however, is probably more money than most of us can afford. It makes sense then to maintain enough money in savings to cover your deductibles: if you have a $1000 car insurance deductible, you need $1000 in savings. The same for your health insurance and prescription plan. By raising your deductibles you will save money on your monthly premiums; be smart about it though, it doesn't save you money if you can't afford to cover the deductible and have to take out a loan.

While you're at it, consider how much your insurance is saving you money. Would you save more money by paying a higher premium for a plan that covers a higher percent of your medical expenses, or vice versa? Do you use your dental or prescription plans enough to make it worth what you pay for them (and can you self-insure against emergencies that would cost you a lot out of pocket)?

So, dig out your insurance statements, or log onto your company's website, and make sure that you're not paying too much. Then you can walk around grinning and telling people that you "just saved a bunch of money on your car insurance"!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Free meatballs at Ikea?

I was at Ikea the other day, helping a friend pick out furniture, and I saw a sign that said:

"Bring in 12 inches of newspaper and get a free meal in the Ikea cafe!"

The newspapers are used to wrap purchases in the checkout lines (Ikea charges for bags now, too, how European), which warms the cockles of my green heart (Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order). Since I hadn't brought my newspapers and Ikea is almost 2 hours from my house (we were in the city for the day anyway), I haven't tried this, but it sounds excellent. I will gladly trade my newspapers for meatballs any day.

Has anyone done this?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Frugal Principles: Do without

It's time for another Frugal Friday, and the last in my prolonged series on how to save with frugal principles. In the most famous adage of frugal principles, Use it up, use less, make do, and do without, "do without" is definitely the hardest for most people - although, of course, it is the most frugal of all the frugal principles. I think the reason for this is very simple: while the other three steps all have to do with creativity, with finding more efficient ways to still get everything that you want, doing without implies deprivation. You don't get to have what you want. You have to give up the things that you want:

Give up cable.
Give up lattes.
Give up going out.

And this is of course very hard for a lot of people. They'd rather a list of 100 ways to "make do" or to get more for their money, then a single suggestion that they do without something they want - even if that one suggestion would save them more money than the rest combined. None of us want to feel deprived, to feel like we can't have what we want. So one of two things happens: we either ignore the doing without part of the equation completely, or we go whole hog - and generally burn out.

The key as always seems to be to find a happy medium, to reframe the question. What are the things in my life that I'd just as soon do without? What do I own or regularly pay for that brings me no joy? What can I cut out without hurting, or while even making myself happier in the end?

But I know, the frugal among you will say "Well, there's nothing. There's nothing more. My life is already pared down and I need to cut back more." So you need to reframe the question again: How can I turn the space in my life into more joy? Can I do without cable if I let myself rent a movie once in a while? Can I do without going out to dinner if I have friends over for coffee more often? What is it that brings you joy about the latte? The caffeine, the foam, or the trip to the coffee shop/break from work? How can you replace whatever you like about it with something else?

So, what are you willing to do without?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Festival of Frugality wrap up

This week's Festival of Frugality is up over at Frugal Homemaker Plus and includes my article on Lazy Green Living.

Lots of great information this week, so be sure to head over there and check it out. My favorite articles include:

The finer things in life
37 hacks to save on electricity
Counting my pennies' 30 day plan


Monday, August 4, 2008

Frugal Mission for Monday: Check your prescriptions

Mission for Monday is a new series I'm going to try out: every Monday I'll give you (and myself) a quick mission to help save money. These are meant to be one time things that take maybe 15 minutes. For newbies they'll probably be great advice; for veterans they might still be good reminders.

Today's mission: Check your prescriptions.

I wrote a post last year about Saving money on prescriptions, but it's been a long year since then, and my husband takes a lot of different prescriptions now, so I recently did another quick search for available discounts. Out of the four he takes monthly, one has a $20 coupon that can be printed 12 times a year, 2 have monthly $20 rebates, and the fourth mails out periodic coupons and vouchers. My savings? At least $60 every month. I'm almost embarassed that I waited this long.

Your task: go online and search for all the prescriptions you take. See if the manufacturer's website has printable coupons or rebates, or at least a mailing list you can get on.

While you're at it, talk to your doctor and pharmacist about available generics. With the $5 generic programs, which most stores will price match, it's a better time than ever to switch.

Friday, August 1, 2008

20 reasons frugal living makes me happy

1. Having more money in savings quells my anxiety about financial emergencies.
2. Having less stuff makes my house easier to clean.
3. Cooking from scratch gives me yummier food.
4. Finding ways to re-use or repurpose things is a fun and creative challenge.
5. Spending less time shopping means I have more time to eat, sleep, and read.
6. Being counter-culture is soooo cool.
7. Frugal living is green living, which eases my conscience and makes me feel good.
8. Coupon shopping gives me tons of free shampoo, toothpaste, and Cheerios which I can donate to the foodbank - and philanthropy makes most people feel good.
9. Saving gas means I have to fill up less often and I don't smell like gasoline.
10. When I slow down, turn off my computer and TV, and stay home for a day, I enjoy things like a cup of coffee on my porch more.
11. Eating out less often makes it feel more special when we do.
12. Less laundry. 'Nuff said.
13. Drinking water with meals and cutting out fast food and junk makes me thinner and healthier.
14. Shelling peas feels more productive and worthwhile than opening a can.
15. Stretching things means I have to run errands less often, and I avoid the driving, the shopping, and the waiting in line (which drives me stir crazy).
16. I like wearing t-shirts I've had since college. Or high school. But those just to sleep in, I swear.
17. Cloth napkins make my table look prettier.
18. Free samples in the mail are like presents when it isn't even your birthday.
19. I have more money in my budget for the occasional splurge, and I can enjoy it more because I know I can afford it.
20. I get to be part of the amazing frugal blogging community.

Please share your reasons!! For more frugal inspiration, check out Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood.