Sunday, February 25, 2007

The frugal mindset

I'm not sure that I've said this before on this blog, but a frugal way of life crept up on me. Though the decision to start conserving money as much as possible was a rather abrupt one (we took on two mortgages nearly simultaneously), the ways in which I practice frugality have evolved over time. I don't think I obsess about money, but I do recognize that there are lots of things I now do that have an ingrained and unconscious character about them. At the same time, there is a mindfulness about the way I live that helps me conserve tiny amounts of money all the time. Here are a few examples.

I often eat my lunch, or even dinner off the same plate I put my breakfast on. A few crumbs from my toast and a smear of butter or jam doesn't seem that worrisome to me. I can eat my sandwich off that same plate and fill the dishwasher up a little more slowly.

I save any full-sized sheet of white paper that arrives in the mail with only one side printed on. More often than not, what I need to print out is for personal consumption and use only. So I don't care if there's something random printed on the back. This was even more useful to me when I was in school and needed to proofread term papers before turning them in. Also, unless there's a good reason for doing so, I always print stuff out on the lowest quality print setting. It's called "draft" on my computer. This uses less ink, so I get more mileage out of the cartridge.

I don't like to throw things away that might have some use left in them. Granted, this attitude could contribute to pack-rat accumulation if left unchecked. But I've found that by giving myself a little time to mull it over I often come up with good uses for things that would otherwise be tossed. I also don't like paying for disposable items, particularly when there's a free alternative. Pages ripped from an old phone book work well for cleaning glass in place of paper towels. They are nicely sized and free. They're also the perfect size for wrapping up tampons or sanitary pads, in place of toilet paper. Plastic produce bags can stand in for plastic wrap in many cases. Brown paper grocery bags and newspaper are absorbent enough to drain bacon or other fried foods on. Use the stuff you get for free instead of something you have to pay for. I'm currently saving up wine corks in order to duplicate a lovely large bulletin board made entirely out of used wine corks.

I like to feed birds, but I don't like paying for birdseed. So I actually save crumbs from the bread we slice at home, along with any seeds from store bought crackers that accumulate in the container. When the crumb bag fills up a bit, (and it does so surprisingly fast) I mix the crumbs and seeds with reheated fat saved from cooking meats. When it's cool enough, I gather it into a ball inside some wax paper and then put it in the freezer. Once it has solidified nicely, I unwrap the ball of fat, seeds, and crumbs and put it into a mesh onion bag and hang the bag from a tree outside our living room. The birds cling to the bag while they feed. I love to see them eating things I would just have thrown away otherwise.

I re-wash and re-use my ziploc bags and my aluminum foil until they fall apart. I see no reason to get only one use out of these items, except where raw meat is involved. I now know that heavy-duty aluminum foil is worth the slightly higher price because the extra thickness allows it to stand up to repeated washings. I'm beginning to grudge the use of plastic wrap because I haven't figured out a way to either clean it or store it after the first use.

All my task lists and grocery lists are written on junk mail envelopes.

A cup of tea warms me better than cranking up the thermostat. I routinely dress in warm layers during winter. But when the thermostat is set to just 64 degrees, sometimes I feel chilled anyway. If it's not time to burrow under the covers for a nap, I've found that just a warm cup of tea can take the chill off my bones for an hour or more. I've also left pots and pans around to be cleaned on cold days when I know that my hands are going to need warming at some point through the day. Spreading the cleaning chores out over the day gives me a tool - physical exertion - for keeping warm. In hot weather, I plan physical exertion, especially outdoor exertion, for first thing in the morning or late in the evening.

1 comment:

marci357 said...

I could have written this post! Sounds just like me!

As you can see from all my postings, I'm new to your blog - enjoying it immensely - and reading back from newest to oldest!
Great writing! Thanks!