Category Archives: Frugality

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on The Art of Buying in Bulk

I was taught as a child that buying items in bulk not only saved money when you purchased the items on sale or at a discount, it made life considerably easier because you didn’t have to worry about running out of stuff constantly.

I must confess that over the past few years I questioned that teaching. Minimalist gurus preach expansively against the practice and encourage you to buy only what you need when you need it. I watched my friends purchase just enough supplies to last until their next pay periods and questioned them extensively about the practice, hoping for some tips. While some of them touted the benefit of having the ability to switch brands on a whim and keep up with changing needs, I noticed that they all shared a common refrain: they only purchased what they needed at the time because that was all they could afford.

Despite the fact that this raised alarms in my head I decided to try it. I used up my stockpiles and followed the practice for several years. While it does make shifting brands easier and allow you to avoid large stockpiles of items that you stop using as your needs change, I discovered the hard way that it costs a significant amount more than my old method of stocking up. I also discovered that, on many items such as bathroom tissue and basic cleaning supplies, I didn’t switch brands near as often as some claimed to do. In fact, I realized that the primary reason many of my friends switched brands so frequently was due to cost. They would buy what they could afford at the time even if it wasn’t the brand they preferred.

More importantly, I discovered that it’s a pain in the ass to go shopping every single payday, especially when you don’t own a vehicle.

My current job allows me to see the differences between those who buy in bulk and those who refrain. I noticed that the ones who purchase large amounts of items on sale tend to be wealthier than those who do not. It breaks my heart to see a customer forced to count their pennies in order to purchase a single roll of bathroom tissue, especially when I know from my research that they would save money in the long run if they had simply purchased larger packages to begin with. While I know from experience that financial challenges strike all of us from time to time, buying in bulk when money allows simply makes sense.

The Art of Buying in Bulk

Stock up when money is plentiful. Income tax season is an ideal time to purchase stockpiles of things that you know you will use. Bathroom tissue, paper towels, feminine hygeine products, and cleaning supplies won’t go bad just sitting on a shelf so stock up on these items whenever you can take advantage of sales. I make it a habit to take advantage of back to school season to stock up on notebooks, office supplies, panties, socks, and other items that are offered at a discount then.

Keep money in reserve to take advantage of sales. You never know when you will stumble upon a good bargain so it pays to keep some money available to take advantage of these opportunities. For instance, just the other day the store I work at offered a 16-pack of paper towels for a dollar less than the regular price on two 8-packs of the same brand. While we don’t use a lot of paper towels (one roll typically lasts us a couple of months), the dollar I saved is a dollar (or more, if prices go up) I won’t have to worry about earning in the future.

Know what you need and use. Keep an eye on your stash so that you will know when you are getting low on something. This allows you to start looking for sales before the need is urgent. Few things are more annoying than to discover that you’re on your last roll of bathroom tissue or your last sanitary napkin while you’re sitting on the commode. Last minute purchases can eliminate your money savings.

Use caution when stockpiling perishable items. It isn’t a bargain if most of it will go bad before you use it. Watch your expiration dates carefully. For instance, it saves us money to purchase milk in gallon containers as opposed to half-gallon but there are times when we don’t drink it all before it goes bad. To combat this we buy the containers with the longest expiration date and never purchase more than a gallon at a time regardless of price. We also refuse to purchase milk on clearance since we know it will go bad long before we can drink it all. While canned goods can last for years past the expiration date, items like flour, milk, crackers, and cereal have a limited shelf life.

Stock up during clearance sales. My daughter enjoys giving gifts so after Christmas we stocked up on wrapping paper and related supplies when they were placed on clearance for half price. We focused on items that could be used for any occasion but also selected a few things specifically for the Christmas holiday season. We saved the equivalent of several hours’ wages by doing that.

Check the per-unit price. On some items it is actually cheaper to purchase several small containers of an item instead of a single larger one. For instance, the store I work at purchases four pound bags of sugar by the pallet to save money, passing the savings onto their customers. Since the demand is less, they actually spend more to purchase larger packages of sugar. The people I observe buying the larger packages don’t seem to realize that they aren’t saving any money in this case. While occasionally the larger packages can be offered at a savings, it pays to bring a calculator to verify.

Avoid stockpiling fads. Children are fickle creatures. While they may go through copious amounts of a certain item for a time, the day will come when they suddenly decide not to use it any longer. When my children were younger they would go crazy over a certain brand of cereal. I would stock up only to discover a few days or weeks later that they wanted to move on to something else. I ate a lot of super sweet garbage to avoid waste in those days!

Set aside a place to store your stockpile. It won’t save you any money if the items get destroyed before you can use them. I have spaces reserved in my cabinets and on a shelf to avoid this occurrence.

Never use credit to stockpile. The interest charges will eliminate any money you save.

That’s all there is to it. By taking advantage of sales and buying in bulk you will not only remove the need to purchase certain necessities constantly, you will be able to keep more of your paycheck in the end.

Do you buy in bulk? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Grocery Savings

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on Grocery Savings

One of the things I have never done is factor the cost of food into my budget. Our spending varies too much based on bargains, bulk buying, and available finances for us to set aside a certain amount every month.

While some months we barely buy the basics like milk, other months we come across good deals to take advantage of or we use our available cash to stock up on staples. Our grocery store jobs have really benefited us in this area.

For instance, the grocery I work at had several cases of Manwich that were marked down to ten cents a can in order to liquidate their stock before the expiration date last year. Since I am well aware of the fact that canned goods can last for years, I bought a case of 24. I spent $2.40 as opposed to the $24.00 or more I would have normally paid (I can’t recall their everyday price but I know it was over a dollar a can the last time I purchased it).

My chest freezer has a tidy supply of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls–a treat in our house–that I purchased for a quarter apiece along with a nice stockpile of meat that was placed on clearance or on sale.

My most recent purchase was a case of Mac and Cheese. They were nearing their expiration date but since that stuff will last for ages past that I snagged it without hesitation. Katie loves the stuff so I routinely use it as a base to make other dishes when we have it available.

I paid $4.99 for a case of 24 boxes, which equals up to twenty cents a box. The current price for the stuff is 39 cents a box, meaning that I purchased it for roughly half-price. It will take us several months to use up this supply; I expect it to last us for most of the year. Even better I managed to save most of an hour’s wage by buying in bulk when I discovered the bargain.

Do you purchase food in bulk when you run across a good deal? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Beauty of Old Things

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on The Beauty of Old Things

Several months ago my daughter surprised me with an odd request. She had noted that many of her friends and family were giving away their collections of old vinyl albums; could I help her select a record player so that she could play them?

While I am aware that vinyl is making a comeback, the last thing I expected was for my daughter, the Streaming Queen, to want to explore a technology that I abandoned decades ago. She has been so gung-ho when it comes to subscribing to this service or that, taking her music and stuff with her on her phone that I was taken aback.

When I finally managed to stop laughing I agreed to help her. I figured she would quickly get bored and pass the items on to me–and I would selfishly enjoy the nostalgia.

I helped her select a portable record player, get it set up, and showed her how to use it. I instructed her to keep a coin nearby to help with skips and even how to clean the records if they were dirty.

We’ve ended up with a new ritual as a result. When my daughter is at home she selects one of the albums from the ones she has managed to scavenge and plays it for both of us. She gets to expand her mind with older music while I get to savor the blast from the past.

Her friends are rather surprised when they come over for a visit. She likes to pull out her favorite Big Band album and use it as background music when they come over. Considering that most of her friends have never even seen a record player in real life, much less heard such old music, they are usually quite surprised.

Watching my daughter has made me realize the error of my ways. I eliminated my old stereo system along with a huge collection of vinyl, cassettes, and 8-tracks many years ago under the misguided notion that modern was better. While I see no logic in regret, I do see opportunity. No one wants to use older technology any longer. If it isn’t the latest and greatest it’s tossed out with the trash or practically given away at thrift stores.

While I don’t see myself actively shopping to replace my old stereo system in the future, I’ve decided that I won’t hesitate to fish one out of the trash or buy one if I stumble across a cheap offering at a thrift store. I’m always stumbling across interesting dumpster finds so it shouldn’t be an issue to locate a small music collection as I go about my daily life.

If anything, I’ll be saving something from the landfill while reducing my dependence upon the Internet. I will admire the beauty of the past as I carry it with me into the future.

We have been much too quick to discard the old, I’ve decided. For me, that stops now. Do you have any older items that you still use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Cash register

It Pays to Use Cash

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on It Pays to Use Cash

How do you handle your money? Do you deposit your check every payday and then swipe your card when you want to buy something?

Every time you swipe your card in public you place yourself in danger. Not only do you put yourself at risk of having your card information stolen by skimmers, you also run the risk of spending more money. Studies have shown that people who prefer cash over cards spend less money. Even worse, some banks charge you a fee every time you swipe your card. My personal bank charges me a dollar every time I use my bank card as a debit card at stores.

Carrying cash can eliminate this issue. If you withdraw the amount of cash you have budgeted for gas, groceries, lunch, and other extras during that pay period, you eliminate the danger of overspending. You know you have so much money for the week, so you need to be careful with your money.

Paying cash also eliminates any chance that you will fall prey to a skimmer. They can’t steal your card information if you don’t give them access to your card in the first place.

If you’re worried about being robbed of your cash, place your money in a place where thieves won’t look for it. My father kept his stash in his sock; I keep mine in an assortment of places aside from my wallet (no, I’m not going to tell you where). It also helps if you don’t attract attention by driving fancy vehicles or dressing in clothing that indicates you’ve got money. It makes little sense to rob someone who appears to be broke just to get a few pennies. Dressing simpler also comes in handy when haggling for a lower price. Some sellers tend to charge more if they think you can afford it.

While you can’t pay cash when shopping online, you can do this for the everyday purchases you make locally. Food, fuel, and other everyday purchases can be made just as easily with cash as with plastic.

If you are not paying cash for your everyday purchases, you need to start doing it now. Your budget will thank you.

 

How I Budget for Bills

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on How I Budget for Bills

No one enjoys paying bills. I for one hate them with a purple passion so I strive to have as few as possible.

When I moved out on my own decades ago, I really struggled. It never seemed to fail; a bill would come due before payday arrived or my check would be short and I wouldn’t have enough. I would sweat bullets every single month as I tried to juggle my finances.

Eventually I worked out a way to resolve the issue. I would pay all of my bills on the first of the month after saving the amount needed the month before. Since I didn’t want to be broke while I saved up the money, I would work out just how much I needed to save every single week on a spreadsheet.

Now that I’ve got a regular paycheck I’ve been able to build up a cushion in my checking account. Thanks to this cushion I no longer have to painstakingly account for every upcoming bill each payday.

Since I know I will be safe if I spend $25 a week on laundromat and extras, I pull that out of the bank and keep it in my pocket. When the money is gone, that’s it. No more little extras until the next payday. That prevents me from accidentally dipping into my bill money. The rest of my paycheck is left in my bank account until the first of the next month.

When the first of the month rolls around I pay all of my bills manually. Once that task is completed I look at the amount that is left. A portion of it (usually half) is sent to my online savings account while the rest is mine to spend or save as I please.

My financial cushion is kept untouched.

How do you budget to pay your bills every month? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Extra Paydays

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Extra Paydays

Several times a year I end up getting five paydays during a month instead of four. These are always good times; I have my finances budgeted for four paydays a month so the fifth is like getting extra cash.

When these months roll around my co-workers are always excited. They regale me with the ways that they plan to spend the extra cash. Some pay bills, some use the opportunity to reduce their debt, while others simply blow the cash.

I save half of it.

Every time that bonus payday rolls around I send half of the money to an online savings account. That allows me to build up my savings while also giving me a little money to splurge with.

We should all do that with the little windfalls in life. A large income tax refund, a bonus from work, or even those extra paychecks we get throughout the year can be set aside to build savings. Doing this allows us to painlessly save up for a rainy day or a large investment like a home or a vehicle.

This month just happens to be one of those months when I get an extra payday. I’m not only looking forward to having my savings account balance increase, I’m also looking forward to splurging on something special.

How do you handle extra paydays? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Why I Cancelled Netflix

Published / by Annie / 9 Comments on Why I Cancelled Netflix

It was the 1980’s. Dad and I were driving along when I spied a video rental store that had recently opened.

“Why don’t we rent a movie sometime?” I suggested.

“Makes no damn sense to pay to use something when you can spend a little bit more and actually own it,” Dad retorted.

“But you can watch more things for the same amount of money,” I argued.

“And have absolutely nothing to show for it at the end of the day,” Dad countered.

Over the years I’ve tried it both ways. I’ve rented movies, used subscription services…. What could be easier than just paying a few bucks to watch your favorite movies or listen to music?

The answer: actually owning the items in question. When you own the items you can watch them as often as you like. You don’t have to worry about the service you subscribe to removing your favorites or lose access to your whole collection because you happen to be low on money.

Even better, you can sell your copies if you decide you no longer want to keep them or need some extra cash.

Because of this revelation I have cancelled my movie and music subscriptions. I would rather own just a few items than pay to have access to a lot.

Instead of sending money to subscription services, I set that money aside for when I get a chance to look through the bargain bins. Some months I don’t add anything to my collection while others reveal so many hidden gems that I force myself to select only a few.

DVDs

My latest acquisitions.

Minimalism is a good thing but it gets ridiculous when you pay something for nothing. Since most of us don’t live out of backbacks there is no excuse for us to throw our money away when it comes to entertainment.

In short: If you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on entertainment, get something to show for it at least. You can always sell it on eBay when you’re done.

It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on It Pays to Keep Your Stuff

In this disposable age most of us don’t think about the value in using items until they are completely worn out. Rather than keep the old, they buy new even when the item they already own still works.

It makes financial sense to keep things, however. The longer you use something the less it actually costs to own it. Here are a few examples from my personal life.

I purchased a small window air conditioner in 2010. I paid $105.99 for it ($99.99 plus tax). I’ve now used that little air conditioner to cool my home for eight seasons. When I averaged the cost over the eight summers I’ve used it I realized that I’ve only spent $13.25 a year to own an air conditioner. If I had upgraded to a newer, larger, fancier one, my costs would have went up exponentially but this one still works (it’s a bit noisy these days) so I plan to continue using it for as long as possible to reduce my cost of ownership even further.

I purchased a van in 2007 for $500. It needed a new transmission but I was able to get it on the road for $2,000 (that includes the purchase price). I sold that van to a young man in 2014 so that I could write my book The Car Free Experiment. Not including annual taxes and insurance, that means it cost me $200 a year ($16.67 a month) to own that van. To calculate the cost I subtracted the amount I sold it for from the initial purchase expense and then divided by the years owned.

I purchased an iPad mini in January 2013. It cost $344.50 after tax. I’ve had it 60 months, or 5 years. So far it has cost me $68.88 a year, or $5.74 a month to own. It is still going strong so the longer I keep it the less it will cost me.

This is the reason why businesses try to keep their equipment working for many years before they replace it. They know that the longer they keep an item, the lower the costs of ownership.

I want you to think about that. Every time you replace an item that still works you increase your cost of ownership. For folks like myself, who used to replace items like computers every year or so, that money can add up but the longer that you keep an item, the inverse is true.

You can save a lot of money just by keeping your stuff.

Have you ever calculated the cost of owing the items in your life? Please share your stories in the comments below

Monitoring Energy Usage

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Monitoring Energy Usage

Every month my electric company sends me a letter concerning my energy usage. They keep track of your usage over a 12-month period. This letter covers details about how you compare to similar homes in your area, how your usage changes from month to month, and even how your usage compares to that of the previous year.

I must confess that I’ve not paid too much attention to all the information that the letter contains; I usually look at it to ensure that my usage is similar or lower than similar homes (it’s usually a bit lower) for the month and leave it at that.

This month I actually took the time to read more than the little comparison chart on the first page. I discovered that I’ve used 9% less electricity over the past 12 months than I did the previous year!

I had thought that we were actually using more. It seems as if the bills have been a bit higher, at any rate.

As a result of this I plan to start keeping copies of my electric bills so that I can take the time to review them periodically. I would like to see just how much electricity we use over a period of years in this house, and my electric company only keeps records for the previous 12 months. Since I plan to remain in this home for the long haul, that information would show me if I am slowly lowering my energy usage over time or if last year’s energy savings was a fluke.

Do you keep track of your energy use from month to month and year to year? Has the information benefited you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Delayed Gratification

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on The Art of Delayed Gratification

There comes a time when even the biggest cheapskate decides that it is time to bite the bullet and spend some money. I needed a new writing computer whether I liked it or not.

It isn’t easy to wait for something you need while you save up money for the purchase. Every time you see a sale pass you by it burns. I am not immune to that.

I’ve learned to cope by developing a ritual for the process. Every single payday when I set some money aside for my goal I write it down and take a moment to give myself a mental pat on the back. I remind myself that I’m a bit closer than I was the previous week.

When it seems like I’ll never make it I look at the money I have already saved along with a picture of the item in question. I close my eyes and imagine how wonderful it will be to see the item in my home and to use it for the very first time. I look back at the photos of previous purchases to remind myself that I felt the exact same way as I saved up for them as well. While it always feels like I’ll never make it, those photos are proof that I have in the past and will do it again.

When the moment arrives where I have saved up enough money I take a few moments to savor the sensation. Sometimes I will deliberately delay the purchase even longer to enjoy the fact that I actually have the money to purchase the item in question. By the time I sit down to place the order I feel truly rich.

Then I sit down at the computer, look at the item one last time, and ask myself the following questions:

* Do I really want to buy this?
* Will this item meet my needs?
* Have I shopped around enough to get the best deal that I can?

If the answers are yes then I complete the purchase. I schedule the delivery to arrive when someone will be home to sign for it when it comes. When that is done, I prepare a place in my tiny home for it while I wait. I make sure the area is spotless as I mentally plan the unboxing and initial setup.

I deliberately psyche myself up to a feverish pitch before every major purchase. I know that I won’t buy anything large for quite a while so I make the most of the experience. After it arrives I take a moment to just admire it in its packaging. I snap a few photos, take a deep breath, and slowly begin to upwrap it.

This is what I purchased this time: a refurbished desktop computer running Windows 10 with a set of specs that will more than meet my needs. Even better, the system can be upgraded at a reasonable price so that I can keep it in service even longer.

My total price was $325, including shipping. Not bad for a quad-core computer that has 16 GB of RAM. It even has a 2 TB hard drive.

How do you deal with delayed gratification? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Is Your Life in the Black?

Published / by Annie / 15 Comments on Is Your Life in the Black?

I ran into an old friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for several years so we took a few moments to catch up. My friend announced proudly that he had recently purchased a house, showed me his car, and bragged about his high-paying job. He was a little worried about making the new house payment but his wife had just started her own business selling cosmetics for a popular company. Could I attend her party in a couple of weeks?

I must confess that the conversation left me feeling somewhat small. While he regaled me with the size of his paycheck, the square footage of his new home, and other things, all I had to share was that I had written a few books, lived in a small rented home, and earned minimum wage at a grocery store. The little trips I take to help animals achieve a better life couldn’t hold a candle to his latest vacation overseas so I didn’t even bother to mention them.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. Over the past few months even my daughter had told me that she looked down on my simple life; while she was thankful that I had sacrificed higher paying jobs in order to spend more time with her as she grew up she bluntly announced that she might have been better off if I had ignored her wishes and spent more time making money. She would have had fancier things that way.

Was I really such a failure that my own child looked down her nose at my simple lifestyle? The look on my friend’s face when he discovered that I didn’t even own a car spoke volumes.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching since that fateful encounter. I’ve examined my life thoroughly as I asked myself did I make the right decisions? If not, should I start making changes? Should I apply for a job at a local factory where a friend of mine earns almost a thousand dollars a week with overtime? I wouldn’t have the time to write anymore but I would make a lot more money. I could buy a car, save up for a house, buy some nicer clothes….

I was still tormented by these thoughts when the first of the month rolled around. As I calculated my monthly budget and paid my bills I realized something: I could pay all of my bills before they came due. I didn’t have to struggle. I don’t toss and turn at night wondering where the money is going to come from to pay my electric bill. I don’t have to hide a car to avoid repossession until I could make the payment. I’m not driving around on expired tags because I can’t afford to put insurance on my vehicle as some of my friends are doing. I don’t cringe when the phone rings and I’m certainly not in danger of losing my home because I failed to pay the back taxes.

I’m operating in the black. Each and every year my writing business pays to support itself. It has done this from the beginning. For a few years there it also brought in enough money to support my simple lifestyle without the need for a public job. While it may not be able to support me currently it is still earning a small profit.

While far from rich I have enough in the bank to pay my bills without struggle every month. I can afford the things that I need without having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I’m able to splurge on some extras and save up for more expensive items. I even have a small savings account that I contribute to.

And unlike my friend who looked at me askance when he discovered what neighborhood I called home, it doesn’t take multiple jobs to support my lifestyle. I am able to live on minimum wage at my part-time job, which allows me time to pursue my passion of writing. I have even been able to take time off from working entirely over the years and savor the experience of being a stay-at-home single mom without having to sacrifice my morals to do so.

Even better, my simple lifestyle granted me the ability to recover from an injury that would have bankrupted many that I know. It enabled me to quickly regain my financial footing when I was able to start working again.

I may not have a fancy car or a luxurious house. I may not be able to take fancy trips or turn my friends green with envy but the truth is I have something far more valuable.

I have peace of mind. I can go to bed at night without worrying over unpaid bills. I can take time off work to help save the lives of unwanted animals. I have the time to make the world a better place by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

I can afford to pursue my passions.

Do you live in the black? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Wisdom of Experience

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The Wisdom of Experience

I can always tell when Daughter’s payday arrives. She rolls into the house, arms filled with purchases as she hands me her share of the bill money.

I resist the urge to ask her if she opened up a savings account. While I know from experience how unpredictable the world can be I still remember what it was like to be a fresh adult of 18. You are excited with legal freedom, brimming with the confidence of youth. You are so excited to have money of your own that it burns a hole in your pocket as you hurry to spend it.

“I’ll do that next week,” I know she’ll say if I ask.

In the meantime she announces, “Right now XX is having a big sale. Look at my new stuff!”

I stifle a sigh as I examine her purchases, nodding my head as she tells me I should splurge on a new pair of shoes or a couple of bras while they’re on sale.

“Maybe next time,” I put her off. “Right now I’m saving up for a writing computer. My old laptop won’t last forever.”

“You’re just waiting for me to get bored with my new clothes and give them to you,” she counters with a huff.

I glance down at the brand new pair of Converse sitting beneath my desk. In her rush to order them she selected a size too big. Rather than exchange them she had passed them down to me.

I am content with oversized shoes.

“You got me,” I laugh.

The time will come when she realizes that money doesn’t buy happiness. She will look back in amazement at all of the money she spent on passing fancies. She will count her change and wonder how to survive until payday.

Eventually she will look at mom wearing her handmedowns and realize that, while far from rich, that Mother has the bills all paid, money in the bank, and the contentment that comes with having enough.

I just have to wait.

The Longevity Factor

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on The Longevity Factor

We don’t consider the longevity of purchases much in this disposeable age. For the most part we buy the best we can afford without a thought about how we intend to use the item.

Once upon a time as a snot-nosed kid I stumbled upon an elderly couple quarreling about this in a grocery store. Wide-eyed, I watched the man snatch a package of super-soft bathroom tissue out of their cart and exchange it for the cheaper brand.

“There ain’t no sense in spending a fortune on something we’re gonna wipe our asses on and throw away,” he grumped at his wife’s protests.

Just the other day my daughter and I found ourselves facing that situation.

“Look, mom! This facial tissue has lotion in it!” Katie exclaimed as she handed me the box in question.

“Why the hell would I want to pay more for something we blow our noses on and throw away?” I grumped as I handed it back. “Toilet paper not good enough for you now that you’re working?”

“It scratches my nose,” she complained.

“Then use a bandanna like I do. It’s softer and you can reuse them.”

Katie snorted as she placed the box in the section of the cart reserved for her personal purchases.

“I’ll get it for myself then,” she huffed.

The old man smiled from the halls of my memory.

Magic Bullet

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Magic Bullet

The other day my daughter saved one of those Magic Bullet mixer kits from being tossed. She brought it home and announced that we would once again be able to make smoothies.

I had an even better idea. One of our favorite treats in the summer just happens to be milkshakes but due to the price we are rarely able to treat ourselves to one. I suggested that we go to the store and grab some ice cream so that we could make our own.

A few scoops of ice cream, some milk, and a spoonful of caramel later Katie had a delicious caramel milkshake. Some ice cream and coffee later I had a coffee-flavored milkshake. We even grabbed some inexpensive whipped topping to put on top.

Since a half gallon of cheap ice cream costs slightly over $2 in our area, we are now able to make several large milkshakes for half the price as a single small one in a restaurant.

We’re quite proud.

How have you saved money lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

I Hate Planned Obsolescence

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on I Hate Planned Obsolescence

The other day a friend stopped by and announced that he had a surprise in the back seat of his car. Curious, I stepped outside to see what it was.

To my surprise, he had an ancient iMac sitting on his back seat. He explained with a grin that he had been visiting another friend when he saw their neighbors carry it out to the trash.

“I immediately thought of you, so I asked permission to have it,” he explained.

We carried it into the house. It lacked a keyboard and a mouse, but it fortunately still had a power cord, so I connected a spare Windows mouse and keyboard to the machine and plugged it in.

That old dinosaur powered on.

According to my research, this machine (iMac model M5521) came out around the turn of the century, which means that it is almost 20 years old. The hard drive is a bit noisy, the slot loading CD-ROM sticks, but it still works!

The more I played with that old machine the angrier I got. This computer cost someone $999 new. That’s the equivalent of two month’s expenses for me. The thought of someone tossing that much money in the trash just pissed me off, not because they discarded something they no longer needed or used, but because of the fact that this poor machine was obsolete just a few short years after it was purchased.

That’s the way it is with stuff anymore. You purchase a new phone, computer, gadget, outfit, or whatever only to be told it is useless or out of fashion before you’ve hardly managed to break it in, so what do you do? You go out and buy a new one, tossing the old one into a closet or—like this poor old machine—in the trash.

Heck, purchase a new appliance these days and you’ll discover that the lightweight gears and moving parts within the machine will fail within a few short years. Don’t believe me? Go to the store and buy a cheap fan. See how many seasons it will last you before it dies. Next, go to a thrift shop and buy one of those ancient fans with the old cloth-covered power cords. I’ll bet that thing still runs even if it is close to 50 years old. In fact, I happen to know a gentleman who uses an old percolator to make his coffee that is even older than that! He got tired of buying coffee makers every couple of years so he dug out the old percolator his mother used to make her coffee with.

Anyway, back to this computer. After tinkering with it for a while I decided to try an experiment. I’m going to see if I can acquire the parts needed to give this puppy an upgrade and make it useful once again. I want to get it set up with some simple games, configure it for printing, add a word processing program, and let my grandson use it to play and do his homework on.

This isn’t exactly a priority to me so I plan to spend as little as possible. I’m going to ask around for spare parts to upgrade the RAM and search online for a copy of the operating system that I can download and burn to disk. If I get lucky I’ll manage to score a new CMOS battery for it, since the original is long dead.

And piece by piece I am going to turn this ancient machine into something that can be used today, just to prove that it can be done. It won’t be the fastest but that’s not the point. The point is that we spend a fortune on items that manufacturers declare completely useless years before they actually are. We spend hours of our lives each week earning money to buy items like this old computer, only to discard them as worthless a short time later, when in fact, with a little love and a bit of work, they can last longer than Big Business wants us to keep them.

I’ll let you know when I get the old dinosaur running. I will also let you know just how much money I spent turning it into something that can actually be used (paperweight is not an option).

What was the last item you saved from the trash? Please share your stories in the comments below.

To The Simple Living Haters

Published / by Annie / 16 Comments on To The Simple Living Haters

Over the years I have had so many people tell me that I am insane for keeping my bills low and living such a simple life. They have told me that I’m cruel to my daughter by forcing her to live in a small one-bedroom house (despite the fact that she gets the bedroom), and that I am depriving both her and myself of things that we need.

But you know what? Those haters can take a long walk off a short pier. Living a simple, frugal life has saved my ass more times than I can count.

And in recent times it managed to save us from being completely homeless.

As you know, I’ve been unable to work a public job for around two years. But guess what? Thanks to my extremely frugal lifestyle, my books generating passive income, and with help from my friends all of my bills are paid off with the exception of my rent bill (I’m working on that).

And guess what? I’m starting a nice, simple, part time job at a grocery store today. I’m not sure if I can do the work but by golly I am going to try!

The lifestyle that so many have condemned allowed me sufficient time to heal to the point to where I am now able to try working a bit. The lifestyle that so many have declared insane will allow me to work just a few hours a week to keep my bills paid up and continue paying my rent debt down.

The lifestyle that people have declared impractical has once again saved my ass. Literally.

So to all the haters out there who believe that a simple life isn’t worth the effort, you can kiss my behind. This lifestyle has saved me yet again.

I have survived the impossible. Again.

So the next time someone tells you that you shouldn’t reduce your recurring expenses, that you shouldn’t live in a simpler, less expensive home and ditch the fancy stuff, point them to this post.

It is time the world got a wakeup call.

Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale

Hello Everyone!

Once again I have joined the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. To thank you for being such loyal readers, I have listed all of my books at a sizeable discount or for free. You can find a list of my books here.

All you have to do is click on the book you are interested in. When the description page loads, simply choose to purchase it using the sale coupon on the right hand side. While you are there, please check out all of the other books that are on sale as well. You will find a lot of bargains.

Enjoy!

Annie

Cheap Ventilation

Published / by Annie / 8 Comments on Cheap Ventilation

Day by day, my daughter and I are working to recover from the financial blow my injury caused. My daughter has managed to land a part time job at a grocery store and is contributing a portion of her paycheck every week to help with bills. It isn’t a whole lot (they don’t give her many hours, and it only pays minimum wage) but it helps.

In the meantime, I’ve hopefully recovered enough to try some simple part-time work. I’m greatly limited by my limitations (fast food is definitely out of the picture at present) but I’ve submitted some applications at the few places around here that I feel I might be qualified for. Even if I only worked a few hours a week it would help greatly to pay back the money I owe my landlord for back rent.

While I wait, I stay busy writing and working on my skills to improve them for the time when I land a job. I’m busy on another novel for the other pen name I told you about. It’s definitely not high quality reading but if it brings in a little money that is better than none at all.

We’ve resolved to keep our bills as low as possible while we recover financially. For the moment that means that we’ve decided to hold off on installing our little window air conditioner despite the warmth of the days. Instead, we’ve opted for a cheaper solution.

In order to provide ventilation in the house, we open the back door. We latch the screen door and place a small barricade in front of it to deter any potential intruders. While it only stays open during the day while we are awake, the little barrier makes me feel a bit safer. Since our front “screen” door doesn’t actually have a screen, I prop it open with a chair and place a baby gate from my grandson’s younger days across the opening to keep the dogs contained. This combined with the ceiling fan in the living room and a fan in my daughter’s room, allow for a crosscurrent of air to flow through the house.

It’s actually staying rather comfortable in here. I’m honestly surprised. The back porch is shaded due to the trees that surround our back yard, and the covered porch on the front allows some protection from the heat of the sun in the afternoons so the breeze that flows through the house is a comfortable temperature.

To keep even cooler I’ve shifted my primary hangout from the kitchen to the living room. That way we don’t have to invest in another fan. It stays darker in the living room, which also keeps it cooler in here. Considering that we’ve congregated in the kitchen almost since the first day we moved in here, this room is getting used more than it ever has. I’m sure that my poor kitchen is feeling neglected as a result.

Once it gets late enough that I feel uncomfortable, I shut and lock the doors. An open window in the living room and another in the bathroom allow for a smaller (but no less effective) breeze through the home while we sleep.

It’s a bit noisier at night with the windows cracked but that’s better than roasting, though usually before the night is over I shut both windows to hold in the cool air. This house is nicely insulated so the method is quite effective.

The next day we repeat the process, starting with opening the doors. Once I feel more comfortable with our finances I will install the air conditioner.

What are you doing to reduce your energy expenses? Please share your stories in the comments below.

If you would like to learn about more ways to save money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl: How I Live On Practically Nothing and You Can Tooavailable at the following retailers.

The Improvised Pitcher

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The Improvised Pitcher

The other day a friend of mine passed along three bottles of concentrated Cranberry Juice cocktail. I hadn’t had any in ages so I dug through my cabinets in search of something small enough to mix it in that would fit in my refrigerator. To my dismay I didn’t have anything. The only pitcher I had was a bit too big to fit in my fridge along with the other contents.

Disappointed, I placed the bottles in my pantry. I would wait until I used down the supplies in my refrigerator to make a batch, I told myself.

The next day I went over to have a cup of coffee with my neighbors. As I was finishing up my cup, one of the kids reached into their fridge, pulled out a two-liter, and poured the remaining contents into a glass.

My cheapskate mind started jumping in happiness. I had a spot on my refrigerator door that was just big enough to hold that bottle.

“Hey, can I have that empty bottle?” I asked as they went to put it in the trash.

“Uh, sure. What are you going to do with it?”

“I’m going to use it as a pitcher,” I responded.

“Go for it.” My friend handed me the empty bottle.

I took it home, washed it out, and carefully poured the contents of the concentrate into the bottle. I added water, mixed it up, and squeezed it into the one empty spot in my tiny fridge.

I am now enjoying a nice cold glass of cranberry juice cocktail, courtesy of improvisation.

Refreshment never tasted so nice.

When was the last time you improvised to meet a need? Please share your stories in the comments below.