Getting rid of stuff feels so good!Out with it! Seriously: one tried and true frugalist strategy is simply not to buy things you don’t really need. Another, though, is getting rid of stuff that you no longer need. (Or…ahem…maybe never needed in the first place.)
Case in point: the beloved Pawley Island hammock that has resided in the backyard since I moved into this place. Actually, I bought it in the old house, quite some years before I moved out. Since I was there about 12 or 14 years, I’d probably had it there about 8 or 10 years. That house had park-like landscaping full of mature trees, and so I could hang it between a big old olive tree and a silk oak, one of the messiest trees known to personkind.
Loved loafing in that hammock. Once it came over here, though, I had no place to hang it. Satan and Proserpine (the previous owners) were great at DIY interior redecorating, but they simply did not know what to do with any space not under roof. The backyard had almost no trees. So I bought one of those arc-shaped hammock stands. Like this…
Expensive as all get-out. Took three men and a horse to put it together. Too heavy to move without said three men and the horse. But once in place, it worked fine.
I’ve been in this house for 14 years now. So…that hammock lasted about twenty years before it finally rotted in the sun and rain and fell apart under my weight. No kidding. This: a couple weeks ago. No problem hauling off the hammock. But the wooden stand itself was a challenge.
Thought about replacing the hammock, to the tune of $150. Then thought…why?
Gerardo came by Saturday with his crew. They were happy to take it away. They did deconstruct it (the only way they could get it into their truck). Whether they’ll reconstruct it, I don’t know. But with four guys there, I expect one of them will cheerfully accept the donation.
SDXB used to say that throwing out stuff he was no longer using made him feel lighter. And there’s something to that. In the old house, the thing hung over a patio, so I could walk up to it bare-footed. Here, it stood in the middle of a field of quarter-minus. That’s very fine gravel. It pokes your feet, and if that doesn’t poke your feet, the sharp debris the devil-pod tree drops surely will. So to lay on the hammock, first I had to put my shoes on! Since I’m usually barefoot in the house, shoes are usually lost somewhere. Having to track them down made hammock-swinging more trouble than it was worth.
Hence, the contraption’s near-abandonment.
I’m so glad to get that thing out of there. Even though it served its purpose, it took up a phenomenal amount of room. The dogs would go in behind it to do their business, meaning I would have to climb in behind it to clean up after them. One fewer thing to have to take care of! The yard looks better without the clutter, and now there’s nothing over there for the hose to get caught up on.
Deciding to get rid of the arc stand, which was approaching decrepitude, too, meant I saved a hundred and fifty bucks.
No. Make that more like three hundred bucks. The stand itself was getting pretty weather-beaten and would soon need replacing…and those things cost $150, sans hammock.
There’s no way I’d get another $300 worth of use out of a new hammock and new fancy stand. At the old house, I certainly got my money’s worth out of the hammock. But here, for the reasons above, I’ve rarely used it.
How does that translate into a general Frugality Rule of Thumb?
Well, when something gives up the ghost, delay replacing it. Don’t hurry right out and buy a new one right this minute. Put off a new purchase long enough to see whether you can comfortably do without the thing. Maybe you really don’t need it. Maybe you really don’t want it.
Yesterday I finished cleaning out the bedroom closet. Donated a pile of old clothes, so as to make room for the new shirts I bought and ended up feeling about 10 pounds lighter. Something there is about divesting oneself of junk that improves your mood.
This task led to some reflections on frugality, as I suppose it must for all of us. Whenever you get into a closet or storage shelves, you think about the stuff you bought, how you used it, and how you didn’t use it. And over time, you develop a set of unconscious rules governing what you buy and what you do with it. Hence…
Funny’s Seven Unwritten Rules of Frugality
Don’t buy it if you’re not gonna use it.
This is no doubt the most challenging of the Frugal Rules. The whole (profitable) principle of the impulse buy is predicated on the fact that if you look at something and think “Oh! That’s neat,” you’ll buy it whether you need it or not. To combat this lure, slow down.
SDXB, the all-time Master of Frugality, had a shopping technique that worked to address the “what do you need this thing for” issue. As we perambulated through a store, something would catch his eye. Sometimes this was just an interesting item; sometimes it was something he was shopping for. But rather than grabbing it off the shelf and tossing it into the shopping cart, he would stop and pick the thing up. He would turn it over in his hands. He would assume a contemplative air. He would study the item. Then he would set it back on the shelf and go on about the rest of his shopping.
After he’d loaded up the cart with stuff he knew he wanted, he would return to the object in question. He would pick it up again. He would turn it over in his hands again, inspecting every aspect of the thing. He would stand there (interminably!) and think on it. About half the time, he would buy it. The other half of the time, he would put it down and walk away.
Think of that: he saved about half the money he otherwise would have diddled away on impulse buys. Putting the thing down and going on about your business, then coming back to it gives you time. It gives you time to cool off a bit, so the object doesn’t look so burningly fascinating when you return to it. And it gives you time to consider whether you really want this doodad, whether this is the particular specimen of the desired doodad you want, whether the price is right, whether you might do better somewhere else, whether you can live without it.
So, the corollary of Rule 1 (Don’t buy it if you’re not gonna use it) is take your time.
If you do buy it and you don’t like it, use it anyway.
Probably the second most difficult Frugal Rule. Sometimes we buy things and realize we made a mistake. The reasonable thing to do in that case is to take it back — which you should, if you can. But some things can’t be returned.
Case in point: four fake-feather pillows I purchased awhile back at First Tuesday.
My down pillows, which had resided on the bed for years, had gotten pretty beat up. I decided to buy some new ones and, against my better nature, decided to buy synthetic by way of beating back allergies. (Note that I did not evict the dogs from the bed, suggesting that I wasn’t very serious about this anti-allergy scheme.) I bring them home, stuff them into the pillowcases, and toss them on the bed.
Come bed-time, I try to sleep on these beanbags. Ugh! They were so uncomfortable that no amount of trying to get used to them — and I tried for a couple of weeks — made them tolerable.
Ultimately, I ended up traipsing to Costco and buying four down pillows, making this the most expensive purchase of cheap feather pillows in the history of personkind.
I didn’t throw away or donate the pillows, though. Instead, I’ve stashed them for the use of guests. If one day I get around to putting a twin bed in the spare room, I’ll buy or make some shams and use the beanbags as decorative pillows in there. For the nonce, they’re on the top shelf of the bedroom closet, wrapped in an old throw to protect them from dust.
Use it up, wear it out, make it do
When something starts to show signs of wear, don’t throw it out. Fix it.
Ruby the Corgi Puppy chewed the ends off one of my outdoor wicker rockers. Did I throw it out and buy a new one? Hell, no. I sanded the rockers down and spray-painted them. Again.
These rockers are about 20 years old. In fact, I doubt if you can even buy real wicker rockers anymore — they’re all that weather-proof plastic stuff. Practical, I suppose. Expensive, for sure. And uncomfortable. About every three years, I spray those now-antique rockers with another layer of white paint. In between times, I drag them indoors when it looks like rain.
Similarly, the accursed Samsung washer punched holes in my pillowcases (this was before it ripped two sheets lengthwise…). The cases came with a set, so I couldn’t easily run out and buy new ones. Nor could I afford to: pillowcases are darned expensive. So I embroidered a couple of primitive flowers over the holes.
One of the holes has managed to escape the stitching, so pretty soon I’ll have to buy a new set of Costco sheets. But in the meantime, the patching job extracted an extra year or two out of the damaged sheets.
Buy quality items that last longer
We visited this subject the other day, when I held forth about the pricey shirts I recently bought, which I expect will last several years. Among the pile of stuff I donated yesterday was an Eileen Fisher top that was still perfectly usable. I decided to get rid of it because it makes a Boobless Wonder look even more curiously flat than necessary, even though it still had a fair amount of wear left in it.
I bought that shirt while I was still teaching. Since I moved into administration in 2004, that means the shirt is thirteen years old, and still usable. Yes, I paid a lot for it — though I got it on sale. But it seems to have paid for itself by not wearing out.
Buy something, get rid of something else
If you don’t want to get rid of x, then don’t buy y.
This was the principle driving yesterday’s Great Closet Clean-Out. And as a matter of fact, I got rid of considerably more than the five new items I installed in the closet. About twice as many, come to think of it.
If you have nothing that you want to get rid of, then presumably you don’t need anything new. So…don’t go out and buy stuff you don’t need.
The other day, reader LeShea reported a brilliant idea: using sprinkles jars to store single servings of salad dressing.
This reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’ve made real salad dressing — of late, I’ve fallen into the habit of dribbling on a little olive oil and squirting a quarter of a lemon over it.
I’d bought some heavy cream in a one-pint returnable glass jar. A rather handsome little glass jar, come to think of it. Just about the right size to hold a week or two’s worth of home-made salad dressing.
Not bad. I might not even be too embarrassed to haul that out in front of guests. 🙂
If you can make it cheaper or better than you can buy it, make it
Salad dressing is ridiculously easy to make, and home-made tastes so much better than the commercial stuff, there’s no comparison. The basic principle for vinaigrette: one part sour stuff (lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar) to three parts oil of your choice. Add flavorings of your choice. Or not. The above?
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
about a tablespoon mixed dried herbs (I used fines herbes, but herbes de Provence or anything else to your taste will work just fine.
You can make your own window cleaner far more cheaply than Windex and its knock-offs cost, and it works as well or better. Take a squirt bottle; fill it about 1/3 to 1/2 full of rubbing alcohol. Add 1 tablespoon (or so) of ammonia. Fill the rest of the way with water.
IMHO the best of all money-saving habits is simply to cook your own dinner. Why go out to eat when you can fix far better food yourself for a fraction of the price?
Don’t know how to cook? Not an excuse: Buy my cookboook!
Yesterday I was at a certain dear person’s home, where I spotted a shiny new penny on the floor. When I picked it up and handed it to him, he carried it over to the kitchen trash can and threw it out.
I’ve heard that some people think pennies are so worthless they’re litter, but never watched anyone actually do that. When I remarked on this, he said the copper in the coin is worth more than the coin itself. I suggested he drop them in a can and take them to the bank now and again to be converted into paper money.
“Do you do that?” he asked.
“Sure. One time I took my change to the bank and got ten bucks back.”
“How long did it take to accumulate that much?”
Ahem! “Well, quite a while.”
Point made, in his book.
But well, no. I don’t think so. In what way is letting a container of loose change collect dust eliciting any effort? It just sits there, not asking you to do any work while it quietly accumulates cash. In a way, it’s (chortle!) passive income!
I have two containers. One holds pennies and dimes and one holds nickels, quarters, and the occasional piece of paper money that comes my way. Because I no longer carry cash (I use a credit card to make all transactions electronic), I no longer accumulate much loose change. But back in the day when I did use analog money, I would keep the amount of change I had to haul around to a minimum by depositing all but a few pieces in the change collection a couple times a week. Then every few months, while I was sitting in front of the television in the evening I would organize them into those paper rolls you get for free at the bank or credit union. At my convenience, I would carry them to the bank to convert to paper money or simply deposit them in savings.
A penny saved is a penny earned!
Last week I made a pork roast—mighty good—and still am enjoying meals from it. Videlicet:
a pork roast
onion, cut up
1 or 2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 to 3 Tbsp fennel seed
1 tsp thyme
1 carrot, cleaned and cut up
½ bottle dry white wine
1 large can tomatoes
beef or chicken broth
1 portabella mushroom, washed and sliced, or a handful white button mushrooms, washed and cut in quarters
Peel the garlic cloves and cut them lengthwise to make slivers. With a sharp knife, poke holes in the meat and push the garlic slivers into the holes.
Skim the bottom of a Dutch oven with olive oil and heat the pan over a medium-high flame. Brown the meat on all sides in hot olive oil. As you turn the meat to the last side, add the onion and carrot. Stir around to sauté the vegetables while the meat finishes browning. Add the wine, fennel seed, thyme, and canned tomatoes with juice. Break up the tomatoes a bit. Add enough beef broth to about cover the meat.
Bring to a slow boil and immediately turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and allow to cook until done, two or three hours.
When the meat is almost cooked, heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms over medium-high heat. When nicely done, set aside.
Remove the cooked roast from the cooking liquids and set on a plate. Pour the liquids through a strainer into a bowl. With the back of a spoon, squeeze the liquids out of the vegetables. Discard the spent vegetables and return the broth to the Dutch oven.
Take two tablespoons of room-temperature butter and two tablespoons white flour and mash them together.
Cook the broth over medium-high heat until it boils about a third- to a half-way down. Then, while the broth is still seething, stir the flour-butter mixture (this is called beurre manié) in the liquid, a little at a time. Allow to cook for a few minutes to blend and thicken.
Turn down the temperature and add the mushrooms to the sauce. Allow a few minutes to blend flavors.
Then slice the meat and serve with the sauce. Excellent with potatoes, noodles, or rice.
Cook some noodles or polenta. Slice or shred some of the leftover pork roast and heat it in leftover pork sauce. Add some frozen peas or fresh broccoli and heat with the meat and sauce. Serve with a salad on the side for a complete meal.
Slice some good bread, the leftover pork, and a decent cheese. Generously slather one side of a bread slice with room-temperature butter. Rub the pork slices with mustard or horseradish sauce.
Heat a frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.
Place one slice of bread, butter-side down, in the pan. Place a piece of cheese on it, then place a pork slice on that. Cover with the another slice of bread, butter-side up. Allow to cook until the bottom slice of bread browns and the cheese is starting to melt. Turn and brown on the other side. Serve with a small salad or fruit.
Spaghetti with Pork Sauce
Dice a fresh tomato. Chop one or two cloves of garlic. Chop some parsley.
Cook some spaghetti al dente. Drain the spaghetti in a colander; reserve.
Skim the pan with a small amount of olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and stir around over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Place some of the leftover pork sauce in the pan and allow to heat. Then add tomato; stir to soften and blend, but don’t overcook.
Dish up the spaghetti and serve the pork-tomato sauce over it. Top with chopped parsley.
Shred some pork. Cut up some little green onions. Chop some cilantro or parsley. If you can get a decent avocado, peel that and chop it; sprinkle some lemon or lime juice over it to prevent browning in the air. Slice up some lettuce. Heat a can of pinto beans or refried beans. Get a bottle or deli package of good salsa.
If you still have some of the pork sauce, spoon a little over the shredded pork. Cover and heat in the microwave. If you don’t have the sauce, that’s OK-just heat the shredded meat in the micro.
Prepare some corn tortillas by heating a frying pan or a pancake griddle and flipping each tortilla back and forth on the hot surface until warmed through. Stack on a plate and cover.
Serve the meat, the beans, and the tortillas at table, with the chopped onions, lettuce, cilantro (or parsley), avocado, and salsa as condiments.
Diners make their own tacos by placing a little meat on a tortilla and doctoring it as desired with the condiments. Wrap and eat. Beans can be added to the taco or eaten on the side, according to individual preference.
Cut up leftover pork into ¼-inch or ½-inch cubes.
Get some packaged bread crumbs or (preferably!) zap a slice or two of bread in the blender to make crumbs.
Chop some parsley and garlic.
Raid the pantry or garden for spices and herbs, such as thyme, marjoram, tarragon, cumin, chili powder-whatever comes to hand. Get some leftover cheap white wine.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Stir the pork, spices or herbs, and garlic over high heat until the meat is nicely browned. Add bread crumbs; stir some more to brown those. Stir in the chopped parsley.
Moisten with white wine and place, uncovered, in the oven for 20 minutes or half an hour.
While the meat dish is finishing, prepare some vegetables, rice or potatoes (if desired), and a small salad. 3 Comments left at iWeb site: