Thursday, August 20, 2009

Free to be Frugal

Growing up, my family never had much money, but we always had just enough, which reminds me of the verse,"Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the
L-RD?" Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my G-d" (Proverbs 30:8-9). I was never without anything that I really needed. This upbringing taught me many valuable lessons, and I am grateful to be reminded of where I came from.

In one of my college composition classes, I wrote a descriptive essay entitled "Poverty" and though I never said so in the paper (which the professor read aloud to the class), I was describing the house in which I lived at the time and grew up in. The essay quickly became one of my favorites...

"I step out of the bright Florida sunshine into the dimly lit house. As my eyes adjust to the semi-darkness, I realize that I am standing in the living room. To my right sits an old beige couch, worn and stained. On the shelf below the television, a lone fish swims in a dingy 10 gallon tank furnished with green gravel, a plastic plant swaying in the current, and algae. On the far left of the room stands a century-old piano adorned with family pictures and dust. I have failed to mention the constant creaking of the ceiling fan overhead.

Entering the hallway, I turn to the right and enter a small bedroom. Inside, the air smells of lavender and moth balls. Turning to my left, I see two parakeets in a small birdcage. The first stares at me with curious peppercorn eyes. His feathers remind me of the sky on a summer day; they are a deep blue with white tips. His companion, however, is not so calm. She squawks hysterically and flaps her wings. I begin to whistle, and the angry queen becomes quiet. Her temper does not take anything away from her beauty. Her wings are a light blue color, as if the sky was being reflected off fresh fallen snow. Turning my gaze from these magnificent creatures, I notice an over-stuffed closet. On top of it, two porcelain dolls compete for my attention. The first displays her beautifully pink Victorian style dress. The second, a ballerina, shows off her favorite ballet position; she is a tall and graceful youth in a white leotard. Despite their vanity, I give them both one last glance of assurance and proceed out of the room.

It is time for me to leave and return to where I have come from. Exiting the front door, I am blinded by the light. Once again, my eyes have to adjust. As I descend the cracked stone steps, I remember the hanging in the blue room: The L-rd is my Shepherd; I shall not want. There is something truly humble about this place. Where poverty exists, humility is present forever. I must never forget that."

Although that was just an excerpt, hopefully you can get a mental picture. The essay is probably one of my favorites because when reading it, even after almost six years, I can still see and smell everything I mentioned. Now, married with a baby, I still don't have much money, but we always have just enough. And my "poverty" has become "frugality".

It was my plan from even before I became pregnant with my daughter to be a stay-at-home mom to my children. Not because I don't enjoy working, but because the thought of someone else raising my small children is unbearable. Of course, I had rose-colored glasses on at the time and I thought it would be easy! Needless to say, it is not what I would call easy, but it is definitely worth it.

In reading 1/2 Price Living by Ellie Kay, I was inspired.She speaks of frugality being a full-time job for a stay-at-home mom, and it is! I love to clip coupons! That has become my Sunday routine. Since I discovered CVS and their Extra Bucks Rewards, I have managed to stock up on shampoos, conditioners, body wash, razors, toothpaste, etc. (and it's name-brand stuff, but I got it for free or cheap!), so I restrain from buying these items unless there's a bargain I can't refuse. My "stash" could probably last for at least a year (maybe two?), even with my husband using it too. In addition, I have oodles of free samples (go to of toiletries that we use for travel or if we run out of something. If we stay in a hotel room, we always take whatever toiletries they are giving away to their guests.

Because milk is so expensive, we used to water down whole milk to turn one gallon into two, and I only buy milk at the stores that are cheapest. We go through a lot of milk because my husband drinks instant breakfast and I put milk into my "Cappuccino Coolers" I get from the grocery store to keep myself away from coffee shops! (They are about $2 for six. Compare that to at least $1.50 each for iced coffees, which is what I prefer.)

Having a baby is very expensive!(Surprise, Surprise!) I get free samples of diapers when I can (just got three in the mail today!) and there are days when we are home when I use cloth diapers to cut back on some of the disposables. And my Pampers and Huggies days are over! When Elisheva was born, that's what she wore, which was easy when we had so many giftcards, but now she wears Walmart & Target brand (just as good as Pampers if you ask me) and sometimes Luvs when I have a coupon. We saved lots of money on formula by breastfeeding, which I recommend. She is still nursing at 9 months and eating solid foods. Unfortunately, I haven't convinced her that homemade vegetables are better than Gerber. She doesn't seem to like texture much, but we're working on that... I do have the food processor and the strainer to make her food. I think it has been a matter of convenience (that's my excuse for buying prepared baby foods!), so I use coupons and buy more when it's on sale. Clothes are not much of an issue because since before her birth, she has been given more clothes than I can count! And when I buy her clothes, they are from clearance racks (and just as cute). I also buy clothes for myself from clearance racks (and sometimes thrift stores) and not very often. Kohl's has awesome clearance prices if you wait for them to go down. I have bought clothes for me, my husband, and daughter there.

I thoroughly enjoy getting good deals. It's not about spending money for me; I just like to shop for things and bring them home... whether they are from the thrift store, the dollar store, or somewhere else is not really an issue to me.

To stretch our resources as far as they can go and still provide for my family is part of being a mother and wife. When it comes down to it, we don't really need that much to survive and to thrive, especially when we have the Messiah dwelling in our hearts and home. My daughter has also been a wonderful teacher to me concerning frugality. As she digs through the full basket of toys and comes out with a smile and a plastic lid or cup, I realize how little she needs to be happy. We could all learn a lesson from her contentment.

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