How Katie Saved $480 in A Single Repair

You guys remember my daughter Katie, don’t you?

She’s the reason I started writing. My dream was to become a SAHM for her, despite the fact that I was single.

Katie moved out in December 2020. She lives with her husband (a Marine) in California.

She is doing quite well, and has remembered many of the lessons I taught her a a child.

One of those lessons was to fix things yourself when it was financially feasible.

The other day, when faced with a $600 auto repair bill, Katie did a bit of research and learned how her and her husband could do the repair themselves at a massive savings.

This is her own story, written in her own words.

Katie’s Repair

The worst feeling a car owner can experience when starting their vehicle is when the check engine light comes on. This happened to me, and my heart sank. I immediately began wondering what it was. And I was frustrated because I had just got this car, granted it was used, but still.

Now after seeing that light I immediately went to AutoZone. When my husband and I arrived, we borrowed the engine light reader. Two codes popped up, one being about my battery not producing enough power, aka dying, and the other about my throttle body sensor being messed up. We then had my battery tested; sure enough it was going bad, so we got it replaced. Luckily AutoZone will do free replacements if you buy the battery there. But the check engine light didn’t went out.

Fast forward nearly two months and the light is still as bright as ever. But now we knew what the problem truly was. Having a small scare while driving, I knew it was time to finally fix this issue. So I did what many of us who aren’t fluent in cars do and I called a mechanic. I had found one that had amazing reviews with both price and how well they do. So I told my husband I was going to call for a quote. Well I called and I was absolutely shocked at the quoted price. I was quoted nearly 600 dollars for this fix. 600 hundred dollars I didn’t have at that moment, and it was 600 dollars I did not want to spend on a car I had gotten nearly 2 and a half months ago.

I then was on a mission to learn how to fix this issue myself. Once my husband found out what I was quoted, he said if I had found what items I needed and the process of fixing it, he would help. So now both me and my husband were determined to fix this without going to a mechanic who was overcharging me.

After a bit of researching, I found everything that I had needed, and the price was a lot more reasonable. To replace a throttle body sensor in a Ford Fiesta, you need to replace the whole throttle body. The throttle body piece, including the sensor, was around 103 dollars after tax, and to actually remove the piece itself, I needed a special tool called a T-30, which is essentially a star shaped screwdriver. Now while my husband did have this tool, it was really short and would’ve made removing the throttle body a difficult process. So I found some longer T type tools for around 12 dollars. So all together I paid about 120 dollars, also including a random pack of gloves I got so we wouldn’t get any dirt on the new throttle body.

Gathering supplies
Unboxing
The part causing the problem

Now luckily my husband did pretty much all of the work, I was just the one handing him tools, but all together it took us around 30 minutes to replace. Going into this, we had planned for me to replace it, which after watching a few videos and reading some tips about it, I was fully confident in it. But my husband finished his work early that day and offered to do it for me.

Now after a fix, typically you need to clear the error codes. But since I don’t have a reader at home to clear the error, I plan on keeping an eye on it, and running it through about 10 cycles. This means starting the car, letting it warm up and driving it. At some point during these drives the light should turn off. Now I’m not worried about the temporary light due to seeing an amazing improvent in how my car idles. Before it was idling very rough, and would almost die when I would first start my car, but now it idles perfectly fine.

All in all, I saved about 3/4th the price I was quoted, and it only took about 30 minutes to fix. If you are experiencing car trouble or a check engine light being on, go get the codes read, which both AutoZone and O’Reilly’s offer for free. And see if you can fix it yourself. You might end up saving a lot of money in the long run, and even learn a new skill. 

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If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

You don’t need what you think you need

Imagine if you will a simple life. You have clothes, food, and housing. You are content.

But then company comes. It’s an old friend or maybe a family member. The Who doesn’t matter. What matters is that they own something you’ve never had. Maybe it’s an appliance, a gadget. Perhaps it’s a piece of jewelry or a piece of fashion. It could even be a new song that they play.

Suddenly, your life isn’t so content anymore. That something new has sparked a desire in you to possess the new thing.

But if you’d never encountered it, you wouldn’t have ever dreamed of wanting it.

That’s the way with so many things in our life. We don’t know that we want it until society shows it to us and tells us that we want it.

And it happens every day. Whether it be friends, family, television, social media, it’s all society trying to program us into living and being and buying and owning what THEY think we should own.

How do we tell the difference? And how do we break the spell?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

How to Spend Less Money

How to spend less money with one simple step.

Prices are getting kinda high these days, and the signs are such that this frugalista is paying attention.

It’s time to cut our spending, folks. We need to tighten our financial belts in order to hedge our bets as we move forward.

There is a lot of financial advice about how to do that. Eat out less, buy this or that, even don’t buy this or that.

Remember the latte and avocado toast advice?

Yeah, me too.

But you don’t really have to deprive yourself if you want to save money. The key to conservation is to become aware of your spending.

It’s so easy to spend money. When we swipe a piece of plastic to pay for everything, it doesn’t even feel real.

It does when we pay for it, though, doesn’t it?

How to Start Spending Less Money

Take a small notebook, one small enough to keep with you. While you can use your phone, I find that the ritual of writing adds to the effect.

Whenever you buy something, write it down in that notebook. Create a code for needs, wants, etc. Then, at the end of each week, tally up how much you’ve spent in each category.

Don’t worry about spending less. Just make it a point to write down every penny you spend.

That’s it.

In time you will find yourself not buying things because you don’t feel like pulling out your notebook. You will also look at how much you’ve already spent and decide that you’d rather not spend any more.

Sometimes you may even want to spend more by buying in bulk.

And sometimes you will make it a game to see how long you can go without spending money.

Anything goes. There is no right and wrong way. The key here is to become more aware of the purchases you do make; logging each purchase not only does that, it gives you a moment to ask yourself “do I really need this?”

So if you want to save money, start by carrying a tiny little notebook.

Your wallet will thank you.

Do you know any other quick money-saving tips? Please share them in the comments below.

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If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Use it Up For Minimalist Living

Minimalism teaches us to only acquire the things we will actually use. But what about the excess we already own?

The things we toss will eventually end up in a landfill. If one of our goals is to reduce our ecological footprint, then we are defeating the purpose by adding more trash to the problem we are trying to solve. Plus, the things we choose to keep will eventually wear out, forcing us to replace them.

Why spend money replacing items when they wear out if we already own an excess?

It’s stupid, folks. It’s stupid to throw things away that you know you will use up in time just to follow the advice of an influencer.

Because you know what? Keeping those items and using them up costs you very little, if anything. Tossing that excess and buying more costs you a fortune over time.

Remember: it’s not what you spend, it’s what you keep that counts.

For instance, right now I own 10 pairs of jeans. I don’t need 10 pairs of jeans. I only use three pairs a week at the most. If I followed the advice of minimalist influencers, I would toss or donate seven pairs of those jeans.

But here’s the thing. Most of them were given to me as handmedowns. They cost me nothing to acquire and nothing to store, since I have plenty of room in my closet. Since jeans don’t last forever, they will wear out in time, so it would be stupid for me to toss that excess.

I will wring every last drop of wear out of them instead.

I will wear them on weekends. When my current batch of work pants develop too many holes for my job, I will replace them with the worst of those ten pairs of jeans. Then, when I run out of jeans that I can wear on the weekends, I will head to the thrift shop or a discount store and replenish the three pairs of jeans that I need.

I do the same thing with my shirts and other items. I wear them until they cannot be worn any longer and throw them away. I’ll buy more when I get low.

When my old washer decided to develop a glitch, I replaced it. I didn’t throw the old one away. It still works a bit. The timer is just dead, so I fixed it so that it runs nonstop while it’s plugged in and I use it for my nasty items. I’ll toss it when it completely dies.

This is how you not only survive poverty, this is how you build wealth for the future. You don’t just toss something because you have an excess. You use it up.

If you are tired of being broke, stop tossing perfectly good stuff away and replacing it with new! Because it doesn’t matter if the color is last season or it’s not part of a trend. What matters is that the item does the job.

So ignore the corporate shills telling you to buy their new stuff and throw your old stuff away and the minimalists who agree with them.

Their goal isn’t to help you. Their goal is to line their own pockets with your cash.

For more quick money saving tips, check out my book 400 Ways to Save A Fortune. Your wallet will thank you.

The Wise Love Thrift Shops

How to save money like the wise and wealthy do

Thrift shops have a tattered reputation, a reputation that reeks of poverty and desperation. But thrift shops are one of the best kept secrets of the truly wealthy.

How else do you think they build and keep their wealth?

The wealthy know that companies include an insane markup on certain brand name items.

But why pay more for new when you can pay almost nothing for used?

You see, the truly wealthy are incredibly frugal. I’ve seen them sift through trash bins to search for a good deal.

It’s the poor and middle class who always insist there is “status” associated with buying new.

But the truth is this: wealth isn’t about the stuff you buy. It’s about the money you keep.

I’ve seen people so poor that they couldn’t pay their electric bill who owned Rolexes. And I’ve seen people who dressed as if they were homeless that had millions.

You can find everything from high end luxury items to everyday stuff at thrift shops. If you treat it as a game, it’s fun to look around at the bargains. And when you find something you’ve been looking for, it’s an absolute delight to rack up the savings when you take it home.

You have to watch what you buy and where you buy certain items. Electronics and appliances should be bought at shops that offer at least a small guarantee, because few things are as frustrating as taking something home to discover that it doesn’t work.

You also don’t want to buy something that you’ll have to repair before you can use it. While there is nothing wrong with good intentions, it is a waste of money to buy something you have to fix if you never get around to actually fixing it.

You can even follow current home decorating trends with thrift shop finds. I’m noticing that more and more of the featured spaces in decorating magazines have thrift shop finds that they bought, cleaned, and put into use without any additional work. They tend to focus on older, solid wood items for that like shelves, tables, and things.

So if you like to save money and you want to do it like the wise and the wealthy do, head for the thrift shop instead of the big box store.

Your wallet will thank you.

If you would like to discover more ways to save money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl. I used the tricks in that book to live on a budget of $500 a month in order to be a stay at home single mom.

How to Save Money on the Things You Need

I love squeezing pennies. They shit the prettiest quarters when you do it right. One of the main ways I save money these days is by buying in bulk.

Most people don’t buy in bulk. They look at the list of things that they need and buy the smallest, cheapest container of each item that they can.

And every time they do that, they literally throw money away.

The other day I needed a single pound of ground beef. When I went to the store, I discovered that it would cost almost $5 to buy that single pound of meat.

A 10-pound package costs $29.25, so guess what? I bought 10 pounds of ground beef that day.

You see, by paying $30 for 10 pounds of ground beef, I saved $20. How? I saved $20 because I know that, in time, I will use 10 pounds of ground beef. If I had just bought a pound whenever I needed it, I would have spent $50 for the same amount of meat, so by buying the larger pack, taking it home, and freezing it in 1 pound packages I saved money.

When you buy things in bulk that you use, you do have to spend more money upfront, but the savings is worth it. I spent 40% less on ground beef than I would have normally, for instance.

It’s the equivalent of receiving a 40% return on your money, in investment terms.

The next time you’re out shopping, look to see what items you can buy in bulk to save money.

It will save you a fortune.

If you want to know more about saving money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl. Within that book I share the variety of ways I saved money in order to become a stay at home single mother while raising my kids.

Given the way prices are rising, you may need all of the help you can get.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Phase Two, Engage!

It‘s been over a year since Katie left the nest. I’ve used the time to not only come to terms with the fact that I’ve entered into another stage of this adventure called Life, but to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I’m not about to just rest upon my laurels, after all. That’s not the stuff that I am made of.

The first thing I did was take complete stock of my circumstances. I’ve come a long way! I’ve more than tripled my income since 2019. I’ve gained a bedroom and a bed which feels heavenly whenever it is time to sleep, along with some other items to increase my comfort level.

Quietly, I began to make plans. I didn’t speak of these plans, not even to you. Instead, I considered my options and formed a basic game plan while I engaged in the mindless tasks at my job.

Yet I did form a plan. To start, I knew that I not only needed reliable transportation, but I also needed to increase my credit score as well. This will allow me to take the steps needed to build my wealth even further as I move forward. I invested in a new car to accomplish that.

Once that was sorted, I crafted an office area in a private spot, invested in some books to build both skills and knowledge, and got to work.

I wrote in a post several years back that, after spending my life exploring frugality and life on less to achieve the goal of being a stay at home single mother, that I wanted to explore the other end of the spectrum, a life where frugality is a choice and not a necessity. I want to see how far I can go now that my maternal obligations have been discharged.

The basic preparation phase is complete. I have launched the next phase.

Forgive me for not sharing too much of my goal. While I’ve discussed it in the past (many of you should be able to work it out), I want to hold it close for a bit longer while I position myself to make this goal a reality. I will share more as I get closer.

For now, I am exploring options for long-term employment at a simple, yet less physically intensive, position. I’m not sure what the results will be, but the income from a public job will allow me to maximize my savings for a major purchase that I am planning. While I could do it without working a public job due to my royalties and investment income, the journey would take longer. I can reduce the time span by working a public job as well as pay into Social Security for my eventual retirement. I’m not sure if Social Security will exist by that time but I’m willing to take a chance.

At the moment I am taking advantage of the weather in my area. With the use of creative ventilation combined with some fans, I hope to keep my electric bill low for a few months in order to maximize the money I can squirrel away. I want to have as much down payment as possible in order to minimize my monthly payment when the time comes.

I’ve also began to teach myself how to cook. Every meal I can prepare at home is more money saved. It will also be far healthier than I could get at a restaurant. It will also give me creative food ideas as we continue to have shortages of one thing or another.

One of my investments has been an Instant Pot. It allows me to pressure cook cheaper cuts of meat to my desired tenderness while saving time. Given the price of meat these days, it has already paid for itself in the short time I’ve had it.

I have also began to rework my yard a bit. I wanted to pull my car off of the street to reduce the risk of it being hit, since I live on a narrow street. This will also allow me to avoid being snowed in; the snowplow drivers seem determined to plow anyone in who parks on the street in winter. I’ve had to miss work in the past or call for a ride after discovering that they’d blocked me in with piles of snow.

I removed a piece of fence so that I can save money in another way: washing my car at home. Commercial car washes are not cheap; I’ve no desire to give them money if I can avoid it. I’d rather stick the savings back to get closer to my goal.

While I will continue to invest in books, I have set a limit upon my purchases. I tend to buy several at a time based upon subject, so instead of running the risk of buying a mountain of books that I never get around to I refuse to order more until the current round is completely finished.

Every penny I can conserve will take me closer to my goal. My challenge is to maintain a higher standard of living than I allowed myself to enjoy in years previous.

I will keep you posted on my progress as I move forward. So far, my simple efforts have taken me $2,000 closer to my goal. I’m curious to see how well I do.

What goal are you currently working on? What stage are you at? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Cheap Thrills

After months of waiting until our schedules matched up, my friend Lady M and I finally went shopping.

It’s a thing with us; we probably enjoy the anticipation as much as the shopping trip but first we discuss it, then we talk schedules. When we both have a day off together, we excitedly decide which town to hit.

We are quite serious when it comes to thrift shopping.

We both decided to sleep in today so we only hit two thrift stores and a flea market but we made every moment count.

Even when we don’t buy we have fun just looking.

Lady M’s husband always laughs as we return with our purchases. He hates to shop, so I suspect that he’s relieved that his wife has a shopping buddy. Today he told me about a yard sale he’d spotted while we were gone. They were selling laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies for good prices, among other things. I checked them out after I left and sure enough, they had some good deals. I picked up a couple of items before I headed home.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to have fun. Sometimes Lady M and I never spend a penny but we always have a blast.

Do you have a buddy that you like to walk the cheap side with? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Facing The Frugality Trap

Frugality is the art of resource conservation. In the financial arena, it’s the art of reducing expenditures in areas you don’t care about so that you can allot the savings to areas of your life that you do care about.

In our society, however, once we become labeled as “frugal,” people tend to lose their minds if you spend money for anything other than the basics. Frugality is lumped together with “tightwad,” “cheapskate,” and other derogatory terms to the point where people cannot conceive of the fact that a frugal person can spend money and will willingly spend in the areas of their life that they deem important.

I’ve spent the last few decades living an extremely frugal life. My goal was to work at a physical job as little as possible in order to spend as much time as I could being a mom to my children. In order to fulfill that objective, I reduced all of my expenditures to an extreme degree. About the only thing I would allow myself to spend on was on the computers and devices that allowed me to work from home and generate enough money to meet our living expenses.

Very few people noticed that fact. I didn’t advertise it, and since I kept the items I purchased for several years it slipped beneath the radar for most of my physical acquaintances.

My life has changed now. My children are now grown so I find myself in the position where I can work away from home as much as I desire in order to attain my new goal of a comfortable retirement, or at least a comfortable life until Covid or some other thing decides to end my time in this world.

In order to achieve my goal I wanted to maintain a simple existence, minimizing the amount of mental overhead and physical clutter while having the ability to travel with a minimum of fuss wherever I wanted to go. While my town is eminently walkable, I found I did not want to invest the time it would take to walk to the type of jobs I had decided to work. I wanted the monotony and security of a factory job. It would have taken several hours out of my day to walk to and from those positions since the public transportation options available in my area are riddled with imperfections.

I needed a reliable vehicle. Before I seriously began to shop for a vehicle to meet my need, my daughter offered me her old car. She had decided not to take it with her when she moved to California and it met my immediate needs, so I accepted her offer and purchased the vehicle.

Being an older vehicle (22 years old), I knew that, in time, that car would need to go to the shop for repairs. In order to avoid walking to work, I needed to acquire a secondary vehicle as a backup.

I did not want the headache of maintaining a second vehicle. Not only do cars need to be driven regularly in order to avoid falling into disrepair from disuse, they require extra space to park them along with the myriad needs that all vehicles require.

I prefer simple.

I realized that if I invested the money in a brand new vehicle with a very good warranty plan that I could limit myself to owning a single vehicle. If I arranged for said vehicle to have a “loaner” plan, I would be able to meet all of my transportation needs without issue in the event that my vehicle needed to be in the shop overnight, an essential need since that was the problem I wanted to solve.

For months, nothing stood out. Every vehicle I investigated lacked something on my mental checklist. If I was going to spend such a large amount of money on an item that would depreciate in value, I wanted to spend that money on a vehicle that would meet all of my needs. This vehicle needed to be a hatchback (this would allow me to haul the supplies from my stock-up trips home easily along with any larger purchases). It needed to easily handle winter driving, and since this was going to be the vehicle I owned for several years, it needed to possess a myriad of safety features. I also decided that it needed to possess features designed for maximum comfort because if I was going to spend so much money on a single item, by golly I would check off as many boxes on my “ideal vehicle” wish list that I possibly could because F it; in our current age I could die tomorrow so I may as well enjoy today.

One day I came across an advertisement from Cronin Hyundai in Nicholasville, Kentucky that indicated that they may have a vehicle that met every item on my list of features. I called them, explained my needs and received confirmation that yes, they had vehicles in stock within my price range that met my specifications. By the end of that day I had purchased a Crossover SUV with an extended service plan that I can only describe as “Apple Care” for cars, a service plan that would eliminate vehicular headaches for 10 years or 100,000 miles. The way I drive, that translates into almost a decade free of having to deal with the things I would rather not deal with. While I did take on an auto payment, it is well within my budget and easily affordable on both my current and projected income for the life of the loan.

This purchase was not only logical, it eliminated a huge concern that had been weighing upon my mind. It also met my need to have some sort of long-term payment plan on my credit report in order to boost my credit score even more. I have plans to utilize that in the future, and simply paying off my credit cards every month was insufficient for my plans.

It threw my inner circle for a loop, however. In their eyes, frugal folk like myself do not invest in new vehicles. They buy old cars, drive them until they drop, then move on to the next one. While that works for many, I realized that, for me at least, I would have ended up spending more money than I would by purchasing new. It would have also endangered my employment choices for the future because attendance is key when one works at a factory. You will get fired if you are late or miss work, after all.

I almost didn’t make this purchase. Despite the fact that the vehicle met every single criteria I had set, even my personal notion of frugality protested. It had been drilled into my head that frugal people buy used vehicles. Logic won out, however. Every person that I know (including myself) that purchases a used vehicle invariably encounters that time when their vehicle requires repairs; they not only face the financial headache of paying for repairs along with their financial obligation, they struggle to get to work while their car is in the shop. Even if I had paid cash, I would have been in the same position I was in with my current vehicle, rendering the financial expenditure moot.

Due to my decision, I now find myself dealing with questions from those who cannot conceive of the fact that frugal people do indeed spend money. While my family is overjoyed at the fact that I finally opened my “moldy wallet,” others who do not know my true financial situation are not so supportive. Their comments and questions have ranged from “midlife crisis” to demanding financial specifics that I have no desire to answer.

How does one handle this situation? Do you simply smile and ignore the snide remarks and invasive questions or is there a polite way to tell people that your finances are none of their business? While I did take the step of not advertising the purchase, it is rather difficult to conceal a new vehicle when your friends see you driving said purchase or notice it parked in front of your house.

Have you ever made a purchase that didn’t fit in with other’s preconceived notions of frugality? If so, how did you handle the invasive questions and snide remarks? Please share your stories in the comments below.

One Rule For Comfortable Finances

It’s nice to not worry about money. I’ve spent my entire life focused on reducing my financial footprint out of necessity so I find my current situation novel.

Even so, there are rules that I still follow. Ten percent of every paycheck is placed in savings, and despite encouragement to do otherwise, I still keep my recurring expenses as low as I can keep them. After that, I’ve been allowing myself to splurge a bit on items that I know I will use and enjoy.

Even with allowing a loose rein on my spending, I still spend less than I earn at my public job, so my net worth is increasing. In time I will figure out where I want to invest the excess, but today is not the day.

I follow my rules for a reason. I have learned through hard experience that Life can be unpredictable. One never knows the future so it is always best to be prepared. The absolute best way to prepare for challenging financial times is by keeping your recurring expenses as low as you can keep them even during times of plenty, because it is a lot easier to come up with $500 dollars a month than it is $5,000.

That said, it can be tempting to upgrade your lifestyle when your income increases. You may want a nicer (or bigger) place to live or even a shiny new car to drive, yet while you may be able to afford them at your current income level, that is no guarantee that you will continue to afford them in the future. For all we think we know the future, next week or next month may mean that we have to work for minimum wage just to survive.

I am keeping that firmly in mind as I move forward. I have seen too many people burden themselves with higher rent/house payments, car payments, and even boat payments only to have an injury or job loss send them into a tailspin.

I have preached this rule for over a decade now. I learned my lesson during the Great Recession. When you keep your recurring expenses as low as you can keep them, it allows you the flexibility to go with the flow as financial circumstances change. It can even allow you to work less if you desire. I used this rule to be a stay-at-home single mother for years, and I’ve also used it when I worked as a single parent, because it allowed me to work at jobs that are easily acquired so that I would never have to choose between my job and my kids. I had to accept a low wage at these jobs, but for me the tradeoff was worth it.

Whatever your current income, remember that times can change. You may have a really nice job today, but that does not guarantee that you will have a nice job tomorrow. It pays to keep your recurring expenses low just in case.

It also pays to allow yourself some time to adjust when you find yourself suddenly flush with cash. When you do not allow yourself time to adjust to the windfall, you can wake up one morning and realize that you’ve spent yourself broke. Lottery winners do this on a regular basis.

Don’t be them. Resist the temptation to spend yourself broke each week because you happen to have money in your pocket and more scheduled to come. It is much better to have money left over and the knowledge that you will be okay should hard times come.

Do you keep your recurring expenses low? How do you do it? Do you have any advice for the rest of us? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Thoughtful Spending

An interesting thing happens when you realize that you have achieved your financial goals. You look around and want everything. This commonly happens to lottery winners. It’s the primary reason that they quickly spend themselves broke.

This is why I decided to purge before I allowed myself to spend. The reminder of how easy it is to accumulate too much serves as a counterpoint to the desire.

Even so, it became more and more difficult to resist the urge. My daughter has watched me pass up the things I’ve wanted so many times that she is actively encouraging me to cut loose.

But I do not want to be that person.

I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following the path of others. I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following their advice to spend and spend. I achieved financial freedom by focusing on my mind and my business. I refuse to step backwards.

That said, I could feel the urge rising as the kid persuaded me to window shop and browse online. I would catch myself ready to place something in the cart and realize that it was only a passing whim.

That was why, instead of buying like mad, I invested in a small notebook instead.

Every time I see or think of something I want, I write it down. I don’t worry about how outlandish the desire; anything that pops into my head is dutifully noted. At night before bed I pull it out, review the list, and make a point of adding to it. Then I close my eyes and visualize how my life would change if I added this thing to my possessions.

An amazing thing happens when you allow yourself to mentally spend money. Your mind begins to visualize the clutter. I could see myself wondering where I would stick things. I could even see myself using an item for a time before throwing it away.

I do not want to be that person.

That was when I began making my gratitude list. I started making entries about all of the things I already had that I was immensely grateful for.

On the top of that list was my freedom.

Everything I have added to that giant wish list pales in comparison to my freedom.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the urge to buy things. That said, in most cases we feel the urge to buy not because we truly want something, but because we have been programmed to believe that these things will somehow make our lives even better.

But what can be better than freedom?

The next time you feel the urge to buy-buy-buy, go out and invest in a little notebook instead. Pick one that makes you feel wealthy. Add a nice pen to that, and go home.

Start making a list by asking yourself:

What do I want?

At the very top of your list, write:

I want my FREEDOM.

Every time you feel the urge to spend, pull out your luxurious little notebook and jot it down. Then ask yourself: Will this thing take me closer to my freedom?

The answer will change your life.

As for me I’ve yet to spend much. Aside from honoring my promise to buy the phone, I am still purging. I do treat us to meals out on occasion, since one of the things I wanted to achieve with my freedom was the ability to do just that. I lack the skills or the desire to cook much, so this provides us with some healthy variety. Even better, it allows me to do something to help my local businesses survive the pandemic.

As for the rest, I am still thinking.

How do you deal with the urge to spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

How to Acquire a Cheap Car

Shortly after the near-miss flood, Katie announced that she’d become tired of walking to work in the rain and wanted to buy a car.

I watched her scroll through posts and eye the selections at local lots before I made a suggestion: “why don’t you ask around at your job? Surely someone knows of a car that you can pick up cheap.”

It took three days. A gentleman at her work had an older one. He’d parked it, intending to fix it up but the task was proving to be more time-consuming than he could manage. If she would reimburse him for the new set of tires he’d just purchased, the car would be hers.

“It needs a lot of work,” he warned.

Years ago, a mechanic told me that any car that would start and run was worth at least $500. This car would not only start and run, it had a brand-new set of tires.

I encouraged her to go for it.

True to his word, the car did need some TLC. But the tires and battery were both brand new so she practically got the car for free. We drove it home and went to work.

One day was spent sorting the fuses. It took several hours and an entire package of the things but I managed to get the windows, door locks, and a range of other things to function once more. Katie spent that day scrubbing the interior.

I am far from a mechanic so I recommended that we have the car inspected. We used his advice to create a list of repairs, sorted by urgency and skill set and got to work.

You can do an amazing amount of auto repairs if you are willing to learn from videos posted online. While I lacked the equipment for some of the jobs, I saved her a small fortune on the things I’ve fixed so far.

Even better: Katie no longer has to walk in the dark for her early morning shifts. She has a car that will take her wherever she desires now, and will soon have it in good enough condition to weather the cross-country move she’s planning in the future.

She doesn’t have a car payment. The car is even old enough that the insurance cost is negligible, so her bills haven’t went up that much.

At first some of her friends called her crazy for following her mother’s advice. They told her she wasted her money on a clunker. But then she pointed out that their expensive cars, complete with car payments, were costing them far more in repairs than her vehicle was.

The critics fell silent when they realized she was right.

We have been programmed to believe that newer is better. We will bypass the older, “uglier” car in favor of the new and shiny as a general rule. Yet if one is willing to do the work (or hire it done as money allows) you can save a fortune by purchasing one of these unwanted vehicles. Provided that the frame is sound, everything else can be fixed.

The thing that most don’t understand about used vehicles is that, unless you can afford to buy one that’s still under warranty, you will inevitably spend at least a thousand dollars that first year as you work out the kinks, so why not spend that on an older vehicle that costs less in taxes and insurance, skip the payment, and enjoy the cost savings?

I learned that lesson the hard way after I financed my first vehicle. Trying to repair one when you’ve got a payment and full-coverage insurance can be almost impossible if you’re in college or work a low wage job. After that first mistake, I made it a rule to buy old, fix them up, and drive them until the frame died.

This one lesson has saved me a fortune.

While I do believe that it is better to avoid owning a car if you can, that can be a challenge in many parts of this nation. I see no point in giving money to finance companies if it can be avoided; older vehicles solve this problem nicely.

If you already own a car that is paid for don’t trade it off for a newer one. Fix it up and you will have something that will last for many years.

The Freedom of Frugality

Frugality is essential during economic upheaval.

Over six months have passed since Covid-19 reached the shores of the United States.

Thanks to frugality, I haven’t had to worry about it much.

I spend my days at home. I’ve no need to chase money at a public job; my savings combined with my royalties and investments have provided more than enough to live comfortably.

This would not be the case if I had allowed my expenses to keep pace with my income; by keeping my expenses as low as possible during the rich times I was easily able to save enough to live on even now.

The economy will become even worse as time moves on. While I no longer bother to keep a close eye on it, that much is obvious.

If you have not adjusted your expenditures downward, if you have not began to reduce your spending, I urge you to do so. Once the spiral starts, everyone will be affected.

I warn you now through the looking glass of experience: I have lived through challenging economic times in the past. Those who try to continue living as if money will always be plentiful tend to be the hardest hit when their incomes dry up.

I won’t bore you with a step by step tutorial; I’ve written several books on the subject should you realize the truth of my words.

As for me, I am taking this time to focus upon something other than the death and misery and terror around me. I’ve ceased using social media and rarely bother to even check the news.

My friends know to tell me if something important happens.

Have you began to reduce your expenses? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Importance of Ingenuity

As I repaired my mother’s quilt, it became obvious that I would have to re-quilt it. The thread she had used to quilt it initially had disintegrated in places; to skip that step would defeat the entire purpose of repairing it.

I had a problem with completing that task. In order to quickly quilt it, I needed to use the machine but I didn’t have a quilting guide that would allow me to get the stitching somewhat straight. I headed online, determined to purchase one…

…but then I caught myself. Was there a way to make something that would work? I asked myself. My goal is to limit, and eventually eliminate my reliance on corporations. Thrift shops are closed, so the hope of finding a used quilting guide was slim to none, but could I make something instead?

A paperclip and some creative bending later, I crafted a device that allowed me to do what I needed. I crafted a quilting guide using an item I already had.

I came extremely close to buying one, not because I didn’t have the skills to make something that would work, but out of sheer habit. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to buy the solutions to our problems. I’ve been conditioned to that as well. I can remember during my childhood how those around me secretly made fun of people who solved problems and created items using the stuff they already possessed. That experience affected me more than I realized, and I suspect that it’s affected you as well.

I remember my grandfather getting secretly teased for using old leather belts to make hinges and clasps for doors and gates. I remember my aunties getting teased for knitting and crocheting scarves and hats for Christmas.

“Too cheap to buy something so they’ve got to pass out that nasty handmade crap,” I remember overhearing one person say.

I remember wondering why store-bought clothing seemed to be made funny until I got older and realized that they’d altered the construction process to accommodate their equipment. I remember the commercials and movies that defined those who made things by hand as being extremely poor or eccentric.

And now I realize just how deep that programming, the programming of generations, runs within us all.

A paperclip. That’s all I needed to devise something that met my needs. In time, I could fashion a piece of wire clothes hanger to make a larger one if I wanted to quilt in wider gaps, and I don’t need to buy anything to make it; I’ve got everything I need to make one right here.

I want you to think about that the next time you stumble upon a problem and immediately think to head online or to a store. I want you to think about how you have been programmed to buy the solutions to your needs.

I want you to think about that, because the marketers are being paid to program us to buy stuff instead of making it ourselves. They want us to buy because that is what makes them rich. That is what allows them to hole up in the Hamptons while they order us to work in contaminated factories despite the risk to ourselves and our family members.

They don’t care if we catch Covid and die. They don’t care if the processes they use harm us or the earth around us.

We have literally became sacrifices upon the altar of their Money God, and only we have the power to stop them.

All we have to do is stop buying their stuff.

I’m not going to say that it’s easy. We have a lifetime of programming to overcome, and even this eccentric old woman is struggling. But if we just stop and think about things, perhaps we can devise solutions that don’t involve giving them our money, and every time we do that we win.

A paperclip became a quilting guide. A plastic milk jug or butter bowl can become flower pots. A bit of string can turn a recycled jug into a hanging planter. An unwanted lid can catch the water from those pots even.

An unraveled sweater in our closet can be used to create socks, hats, mittens, scarves, bed coverings, or a number of other items. A sheet can be turned into a dress, a curtain, a quilt backing, or any number of things. Belts can be used for lightweight hinges or converted into pet collars. Even old computers can be brought back to life and used to surf the Internet.

There are so many things we can do with the items we already have, but they don’t want us to know that. They want us to buy everything we need and toss that old stuff instead.

It’s reached the point where I honestly wonder if the Minimalism movement has been hijacked by the corporations. Think about it: if we reduce our possessions to the bare minimum by discarding or donating our excess, what will we have to do when the items we keep wear out?

We have to buy new, that’s what we have to do.

I am proud of myself for devising a solution to my quilting dilemma. I solved my problem by using something I already had, and I didn’t give the corporations an extra penny, since I already owned the paperclip in question. Now I am looking around my home with fresh eyes as I ask myself what else I own that I can repair or create using the items I already have.

Have you ever considered the value of making things yourself? Have you ever solved a problem by creating something instead of buying a solution? Do you have any tips to share that will make it easier? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The 40 Year Old Quilt

I didn’t even know my mother was working on a quilt back then, but one day I arrived home from school to discover it upon my bed.

It was her very first quilt, and she’d made it for me.

I’ve cherished that quilt over the years. Even as it became tattered, I kept it. Eventually the holes from where I’d cut it during my childhood (and my children had repeated my childish mistakes) became unsightly, especially when combined with the decaying threads of her stitching, so I placed it in a box and stored it away.

Mama’s quilt before

People told me to throw the quilt away. One person offered to buy me a new bedspread if I would toss that old quilt, but I refused. It was a piece of my Mama, and my Mama died when I was 22. I don’t have much left that belonged to her, and this particular quilt was priceless to me.

I remember cutting that hole when I was just a child. I was terrified and hid the damage from Mom until the day she died.

“Hey. Mom, look what I found!” Katie held the quilt up in her arms when she stumbled upon it’s hiding place. “It’s getting in sad shape,” she noted as she inspected the damage.

I’m a different person now from the woman who stored it away. Old me would have never even considered it, but as I held that ancient quilt in my hands I decided to repair it. I would openly display the repairs, just to show the world that I loved my mother enough to fight to keep a piece of her in my life.

So that’s what I did.

I selected bright, colorful pieces of fabric from my stash and went to work. I worked on it during the evenings when I was too tired to think of sewing masks. Some nights I hand-stitched the patches in place using Sashiko-inspired stitching, other nights I patched it with the sewing machine.

As I worked, I grew more in awe of the love my mother put into making that quilt, her very first quilt. She must have had trouble assembling it, because some of the machine stitching had been whip-stitched back together by hand. She’d apparently tried to hand-quilt it, gave up, attempted to machine quilt it, and repeated the process until she finally finished.

And on top of all of that she’d embroidered the flowers of the months upon the blocks, placed the flower representing my birth month in the center, and added my name and birth date to it.

Most of that stitching is gone now, but I can still see it in my memories.

I ended up re-quilting it because the thread she’d used to quilt it had disintegrated. I deliberately used black thread to contrast with her white so that I could see where hers ended and mine began.

The back side of one of my patches.

I finished it tonight. As an added touch, I appliqued the G.I. Joe doll pants to the month of January, the month when he was born.

Grandson’s first pair of hand-sewn pants, appliqued in place.
The January block.

I am quite pleased with how it turned out. In time, I will learn a bit of embroidery so that I can add the names and birth dates of my parents, my children, and grandchildren to the relevant blocks. This will allow the quilt to become a family keepsake for when I leave this earth.

We’ve become so conditioned that we don’t think about repairing old things anymore. We use them up, toss them away, forgetting the memories associated with them. “If it’s old, it’s no good,” so many believe.

I disagree. I believe that age makes things worth more than the modern, heartless, disposable alternatives our society has embraced. And when something is created by hand, it comes from the heart, and this alone makes it priceless.

Have you ever considered repairing a piece of your history? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

My Katie managed to score a day off from work yesterday, so we had the rare treat of sipping coffee together as we started the day. The conversation turned to brainstorming, since a relative had called to request some masks for herself and her son; she wants to pay and I don’t feel that it’s proper to accept money from her.

As we worked out a solution that would make everyone satisfied, Katie turned somber. “I know you’ve got a lot of masks to make, but if you get time would you mind patching one of my shirts? I love it but I can’t wear it now because of the holes.”

“Let me see it,” I grumbled good-naturedly.

At some point my daughter had acquired a camouflage button down Army Surplus shirt. While it was well-made, the years had made themselves known in the form of two holes that had appeared in the fabric. Katie wanted to patch the holes but she didn’t want the repairs to be too obvious. Fortunately, she had recently picked up some mask fabric in similar colors, so I offered to use that to make patches. She readily agreed.

I spent the remainder of the morning stitching those patches upon her shirt. She was so delighted that she made plans to wear it today:

Close up of Patch #1
Close up of Patch #2

While the images above make the patches seem noticeable, when she dons the shirt you can’t even see them unless you know where to look. I was quite pleased at the fact that I was able to repair that shirt using bits of fabric that I already had on hand.

Once that task was completed, I settled down at the sewing machine and worked on the masks. After a while I decided to take a break. I felt grubby so a bath was in order. Just as I began to relax in the soothing warm water I received a phone call from Middle Daughter. She had picked up some more fabric and was on her way to my home.

I didn’t even get to soap up. I climbed out of the tub and quickly toweled off, barely managing to pull up my pants before she arrived. She displayed her fabric finds, looked through my fabric stash, gushed over her excitement at being able to have Mommy make her some more masks (“I want to wear a new one every day!”), and asked how soon I could have them done.

“Let me finish my current batch, okay?”

“But Mommy! I want to wear a new mask! I like showing off your masks! No one else has masks as pretty as the ones you make!”

I ended up compromising. I would cut out the material for a single mask and whip it up along with the current batch, but she’d have to wait a day or so on the others. At 2 am this morning I’d just finished up, so, knowing that she was excited, I snapped some quick photos and sent them to her:

One side of Middle Daughter’s Mask
The opposite side of Middle Daughter’s mask

So my butt is tired today. Once I publish this blog post, I’ve got to finish up this current batch, arrange to ship the ones to my elderly relative, and start the batch of masks for Middle Daughter. At some point, however, this old woman is going to attempt to take another bath. I didn’t even get to soap up during yesterday’s attempt.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Shoe Patch

A few years ago the kid bought this cute pair of “boat shoes.” I liked the shoes so I watched her enjoy them because I knew that, in time, she would get bored of them and pass them to me.

One night I noticed she had tossed those shoes in the trash can, so I fished them out.

“Why are you throwing away your shoes?” I asked.

“They’ve got a hole in the toe,” she responded. “I wore them out so I knew you wouldn’t want them.”

I examined the shoes carefully. One little hole had formed upon a single shoe, right where the big toe rests. Deciding that they would still work for running around the house, I added them to my collection.

That was a year or so ago. The other day while I was wearing them to mow the yard I noticed that the other shoe was developing a matching hole. Since the original hole was growing larger, I realized that it was time to make a decision. I checked the soles to discover that they were still well-secured and in good shape and then headed for my sewing kit.

Two tiny scraps of denim later and I’d repaired those holes. It was a challenge to sew on the scraps with a straight needle, but I’m happy with how they turned out. Not only did I use what I already had to repair them, I used up stuff that most people would have thrown away to save something else that most people would have thrown away. Even the thread was something that most would discard – it’s so old that the spool is made out of wood!

I’m rather proud of the fact that I repaired those shoes. I saved them from going into a landfill far before their time despite the fact that they were engineered to be used during some trend and then discarded.

To my surprise, I am enjoying the fact that I am able to do things like this. With every stitch, the joy I felt at doing my part to defeat the consumerist programming we have all received was immense.

Think about it. What do we all think when we find a cute pair of shoes that we like? We go out and buy a pair for ourselves. What do we do when those shoes fall apart if we really like them? We toss them in the trash and purchase replacements.

I did neither. I fished those shoes out of the trash. I wore the heck out of them, and then I repaired them so that they will last even longer. I’ll wear the soles off of those things for sheer spite, because fuck the corporations who have programmed us to buy-buy-buy. Fuck the corporations who are now spreading fear over our food supply because they got caught allowing sickness to spread in their factories for the sake of their millions. Do you think they care that the Coronavirus could possibly contaminate our food supply? You can bet your bottom dollar that they don’t.

I spent my entire childhood believing the lie that we’re supposed to buy solutions to our problems. I spent my entire childhood watching my father complain when he had to repair things due to lack of money. To him, it was a shameful thing to wear patches on his clothes because he considered it a sign of poverty.

Well guess what, Sunshine? We’re all going to be struggling for money before this is over. Well, the average person will. I’m not so sure about the millionaires. If we continue to listen to their lies, we’ll continue to buy their stuff and they’ll continue to weather this in the Hamptons. Oh, they’ll complain because they can’t afford to hire their private jets as often but I really don’t consider that to be struggling, especially since so many of us are having to rely on food banks just to eat these days.

Every penny that we can avoid giving the corporations, every penny that we can keep for ourselves will not only help us weather this storm, it will slowly add up until it begins to hit their pocketbooks. All of those bailouts that the US government is giving to the major industries won’t do a bit of good if no one buys their stuff once this is over. It will only delay their inevitable collapse.

I am now looking at this as a challenge. I now look around and ask myself: what can I do to prevent making the rich even richer? What can I do to show people that we’re throwing too much perfectly usable stuff away? What can I do to counter the programming?

And it’s apparently working. My youngest daughter hauled in a pattern and some fabric so that I could make her two pairs of pants yesterday. She’s remembered that, while initially more expensive to make, that the clothes I make at home not only can use the fabrics and patterns that she prefers, that they last a lot longer than almost anything she’s been buying at the store. Her friends are admiring the purse I made her a while back and realizing that they can make their own purses out of the fabrics they choose while building in features that make them more durable than one can find in a store. Even business owners are contemplating the financial impact of paying over $1 each for cheap disposable masks over having a seamstress construct masks that will last for the long-term.

I know. As they’ve seen how well the kid’s masks are holding up, they are starting to come to me for quotes.

I don’t know how this is going to pan out, folks. All I know for certain is that our current state of affairs is not sustainable. We’ve reached a choice between buying their disposable crap or conserving our funds just to eat. I see no point in letting the rich get richer while we go hungry.

I’ll start on the garden when this rain stops. I’ve already planted a few items in salvaged containers that I’ve repurposed to get a head start, and Dolly Freed’s logic of raising rabbits for meat has become oddly appealing. I don’t know if I’ll go that far, at least not here, but I’m going to keep my options open as I monitor the situation.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

~

While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Reframing Your Circumstances

“Here you go, Mom!” Katie dropped a stack of tee shirts on the kitchen table. “Cut these up so we will have them ready. I don’t know when we’ll be able to get more towels or toilet paper at the store so we may have to switch over soon.”

“Okay,” I replied as I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the table. The older she had gotten, the more she had grown to prefer using disposable paper products. We had been debating their use intermittently over the years. I wanted to go with cloth to reduce expense and our environmental footprint. Katie wanted the convenience of disposability. To see my modern child actively encouraging me to switch to cloth after arguing against it for so many years speaks volumes for the times we currently live in.

And I have a confession to make. I’ve never in my life experienced a time when we could not buy things like paper towels and bathroom tissue. Aside from my switch to family cloth before my move here, the only time I’d ever had to experiment with alternate sources of paper towels and bathroom tissue was when visiting the homes of friends in the mountains. Back then, quite a few people lacked access to indoor plumbing. While almost everyone had running water, outhouses were common, and within the outhouses of older folk you would see corn cobs, stacks of newspapers, and the occasional catalog (typically a Sears catalog) in lieu of the bathroom tissue that is ubiquitous today.

People thought I was insane when I switched to family cloths and menstrual pads. Even I thought I was going a bit overboard when I did that but I wanted to experiment so I did. Now I’m beginning to wonder if we all might have to switch.

That frightens me. The thought that our world has changed so much that things I’ve grown up with, things I’ve taken for granted may no longer be available scares me in a way I cannot explain.

To prevent myself from going insane (I’ve got people who used to make fun of me pestering me for advice now!), I’ve had to start reframing how I look at our current situation. If we look at this a bit differently, look at this from another angle instead of thinking about the fact that we are doing these things out of necessity, I believe it will remove at least some of the feelings of deprivation and make this entire situation a creative challenge.

But how do you reframe the fact that the shelves are growing rather empty at the stores? How do you reframe the fact that things you took for granted are disappearing?

I thought long and hard about that during our last shopping trip the other day. I stocked up even more than I’d planned, spending $200 on canned goods and other shelf-stable items as I felt the fear mount at the sight of the empty shelves. The kid must have been feeling the same emotion because our cart was overflowing by the time we dragged it home. Our freezer is stuffed and the canned goods have overflowed my pantry. I’ve placed the overflow on my living room shelf to compensate for lack of storage. I’ve not attempted to garden in the back yard, so based upon my failures in the front yard I am concerned. Will I be able to grow enough back there to supplement? What will we do if I can’t?

Reframe, Annie. Reframe this. This is just another challenge. You can handle a challenge. You are one of the foremost frugal living experts in the United States. This is your time to shine. You can do this. You can not only figure out a way through this, you are going to do whatever it takes to show others how to get through this time as well. So stop whining, reframe this situation into the puzzle that it is, and get back to work.

If I was concerned at our dependence upon Big Business before, I definitely am now. Based upon how this plays out (Trump’s “absolute power” and “LIBERATE” tweets are NOT HELPING!), our current situation may become the new norm. So how do we get through this?

It dawned on me that the more we can reduce our reliance upon the major corporations – the more we can reduce our reliance upon mass manufacturing, period, the better off we will be. But how do we do that?

Our primary needs at the moment are food and shelter. Most of us have enough clothes to get by for a while (you haven’t thinned out your wardrobes, have you? Please tell me you’ve not thinned down your wardrobes), so as long as we can pay the rent (or mortgage) and keep food on the table, we’re in good shape. So what about the rest of the stuff that we take for granted – like bathroom tissue and paper towels?

I don’t believe my grandparents ever bought paper towels. As far back as I can recall, they would use recycled cloth for towels that they would wash and re-use until those towels fell apart. My grandmother would sew repurposed fabric into potholders and thicker towels to handle larger messes. I just grabbed a handful of repurposed fabric to use before the kid persuaded me to switch back to paper.

When you think about it, using repurposed clothing as hand towels, cleaning rags, and family clothes is actually better on the environment. The damage is already done with those; they were made, they were sold, and they were used for their intended purpose until they reached the point where they either wore out or went out of style. If we cut those items up, converting them into rags or family cloths, we can not only reduce the burden on our landfills, we can reduce our dependence upon the corporations. If we reduce our dependence upon the corporations, it won’t affect us if they go under near as much as it would otherwise.

Even better, by reusing the things that we already own instead of buying disposable stuff, we can significantly reduce the amount of money we need to live on. I don’t know about you, but cutting costs is high on my priority list at the moment. “Da Corona” (as people jokingly refer to it here) caught me a bit flat-footed financially. I’d planned to go back to work come spring and had budgeted accordingly since I quit my job last October. Because of that I don’t qualify for unemployment like so many others are fortunate enough to do. While I do make a few dollars each month from my book sales, it’s not enough to make me feel secure. Since this old bat is in the age range where this stuff becomes seriously deadly, I’m pinching my pennies as tightly as I can in order to wait this out. I like living too much to risk it.

“Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.”

Unknown

That is the mantra I am chanting as I go through my days. That was the mantra I chanted when I realized that I am spending more of my writing time plopped upon my bed instead of at the kitchen table. I needed something to place my laptop on to allow it to breathe since overheating can kill a laptop. My first instinct was to order something online, which I immediately rejected. The less money I can spend, the better.

As I pondered the issue, I noticed the boxes that our latest pet supply order had arrived in. The cardboard was rather sturdy; all I needed was something flat and firm to rest my laptop on. I grabbed a roll of tape from my bin and got to work.

A bit of cutting and a few strips of tape later and I had my solution: a “board” made out of layered cardboard that was large enough to work as a lap table. It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever created but it works.

Laptop on stand.

I could dress it up with some paint or fabric but I decided against that for now. I want it to look rough; that way people will know as soon as they see it that I did not purchase a solution to my problem.

I want the world to know that I made it myself in order to encourage others to get creative as well. The less we buy and the more we make, the better off we will be. The more we repair and the less we replace, the more money we will have in our pockets moving forward. I am embracing that whole-heartedly.

For instance, not only is the laptop stand handmade from recycled cardboard, the laptop is a handmedown. It was gifted to Katie several years ago (thank you again!) and she eventually passed it on to me when she upgraded. This laptop is close to seven years old, which means that it is a dinosaur in our consumerist society. I installed an SSD in it that I found on clearance, added a lightweight version of Linux (Linux Lite, for the curious), topped it off with a keyboard protector to extend the life of the keyboard (that came with a matching cover for the trackpad), and placed it into service. With a bit of love, this machine will last for years, especially since the operating system I selected uses a fraction of the resources that Microsoft Windows does.

Big Business will not like my solution. They want me to buy their stuff rather than make something using stuff I already have but you know what?

We don’t need to buy their solutions. Purchasing their solutions may allow their employees to make a few pennies, but it also allows the CEOs and investors to quarantine in their mansions. I may not be able to do much about income inequality, but I can fight back with my personal choices.

This old woman is choosing to use what she has instead of buying new. I hope that you will do the same where you can.

It takes but a bit of effort to cut old clothes into rags and use them instead of paper towels and bathroom tissue. It takes but a bit of creativity to repurpose cardboard into a lap desk. Bits of cloth scraps can be pieced together to create larger pieces of fabric even. I’m currently using tiny squares of cloth scraps from my mask making to create a quilt even:

Tiny scraps of fabric that ended up being 1-inch finished quilt squares.

You don’t need as much as you think you need, my friends. You don’t always need to buy a solution when you encounter a problem. If you learn anything from me moving forward, I hope you learn that.

As for me, I need to conclude this post and get back to work. I want to make sure that the kid has enough masks to get through the week without getting bored. I also want to craft a few extra for another friend, who generously gave one of the masks I made away to an elderly lady that had crafted a mask from a paper towel. She is my hero, so I want to make sure she not only receives a replacement mask to stay safe, but that she has a couple of extras to give away if she discovers anyone else in need.

I may not have much but I intend to help my fellow man where I can. As for the corporations who believe money is more important than human lives, fuck them. I will avoid giving them my money out of spite. I don’t care how much money the government gives them, they will still collapse if we stop buying their stuff in protest. Even better, we will weather the economic fallout of this pandemic far better than those who continue to support them.

I think I’m going to enjoy the challenge of growing a garden this year. I believe that I will enjoy removing my financial support from a food supply system that doesn’t care whether their workers live or die. With every spade of dirt that I shift, I am going to remind myself of that. I will remind myself of the lives being lost to feed the machine.

I hope that you will join me.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Stitch Rebellion

As our governor began to list the dead yesterday evening, chants from the protestors outside drowned him out. He sighed, explained that this wasn’t about popularity. He would save as many lives as he could save, despite the protestors campaigning for him to let people die by reopening our economy.

It reminded me of a parable I read in the Bible ages ago. There was a shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the single lamb who had wandered off. Preachers tend to use that parable to illustrate how the Christian God cares so much that they don’t want to lose anyone. Considering that our governor is trying to save lives, is deliberately challenging a society that says money is more important than human life, that parable seems to match this situation.

What would the shepherd in that parable do if his flock were in danger of dying from coronavirus? I pondered that for a long while last night. I do believe that that shepherd from the tale of old would do whatever he could to save as many sheep as he could – even if the sheep weren’t happy with his choices, especially if the wolves were whispering that they needed to endanger themselves, even endanger others rather than obey the shepherd.

To me, this is about so much more than Coronavirus now as I think upon the situation. We have corporate CEOs and other rich people who are upset because the economic shutdown is endangering their yachts and their summers in the Hamptons. They don’t like the thought of losing money so they are campaigning to eliminate restrictions, even at the cost of human lives.

Even now, as medical workers die, essential workers are falling ill and dying as well, and neither their employers nor the organization who was formed to protect them give a shit. They are expendable; we are all considered expendable in the money-making machine that is our current society.

At least it’s out in the open now; at least we know what the major corporations think about us. We are just fodder for their money machine. We need to work their jobs and buy their stuff even if it kills us because they need money to quarantine on their yachts.

These were my thoughts as I continued to rearrange my living room to make a home for the sewing machine. As I tidied, I stumbled upon a ripped sheet that I’d intended to reuse as scrap along with a pillowcase with failed seams. Rather than continue to use them, I was going to recycle them and replace them with new. I wadded them up to place them in my scrap bag.

But then I paused. What if, instead of scrapping them and buying replacements, I patched them instead? I’ve got quite a bit of random fabric scraps here. Both kids have given me their discards and I’ve quite a few mask scraps as well; what if I used the true scrap to repair these items and keep them in service?

I grabbed a leftover piece of tee shirt from the scrap bag, pinned it beneath the tear on my sheet, and started stitching. I initially began to stitch by hand but as I worked I grew angry. We have been programmed to believe that it is wrong to repair items; if something isn’t shiny and new and perfect, if it doesn’t match the decor in some fancy magazine, it is wrong. It is wrong and we are wrong if we don’t do what the corporations want us to do. We should toss our old crap and buy their new stuff, even if we can repair it because that’s what keeps them rich.

I grabbed a colorful spool of thread from my box, a spool of thread my kids picked from a clearance pile when they were small. Deliberately selecting a random, mismatched bobbin, I stuck that sheet upon my machine and went to work.

I vented my rage upon that patch, deliberately experimenting with random stitches as I sewed. When one bobbin ran out, I grabbed another and kept sewing until that patch ended up being a statement of rebellion.

Because fuck the system that says everything must be picture perfect. Forget the system that says we must toss our old stuff and replace it with new. Why not go back in time, to how the Japanese would continue to layer new fabrics upon old items for years in a method called Boro?

This is what the patch looked like after I vented my rage:

The backside of the patch. This won’t show when the sheet is on the bed.
The top side that will show. I went wild playing with the stitches as I vented my frustration upon the patch.
The patched sheet back in action. To my surprise, my patch gave Katie a giggle. She thinks it’s a great idea.

I know it’s not perfect but you know what; it works. It works, and it’s one less sheet I have to purchase from some stupid corporation who thinks money is more important than people. This sheet was purchased at a thrift shop at least 15 years ago and if I have my way, I’ll patch it from now until Hell freezes over, just because I can.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that we need to toss things that aren’t perfect, but why not embrace the imperfection instead? Why don’t we go back to the ways of our ancestors who used to repair things instead of throwing them away? We can not only help our environment by keeping things out of landfills and reducing consumption, we can save money and quietly protest the corporations who want us to toss our old and buy their crap instead.

So instead of tossing that shirt or that sheet or whatever it is into the rag pile or even into the trash, take a good long look at it instead. Can you repair it and keep it in service instead?

And remember: this isn’t just about sheets. You can keep your car running, like my friend who ordered the mechanic to replace the motor in her truck instead of taking his advice to purchase another vehicle. You can keep your old computers in use instead of buying a new one. You can take old stuff and make it into something different when you get bored. You can even recycle leftovers into a completely different meal. You can do this in so many different ways, and each time you do that you make this world a better place.

If you happen to have something that you’ve somehow patched, repaired, or recycled around your home, please share your story in the comments below. Let’s show the world that this is a good thing.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!