Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Motherly Advice.......Is Extreme Frugality for you?

At the heart of many of my posts here, is the desire to save money, time and energy. I think that's why you visit me, right?

I'll share something that I'd like to throw into the mix.
I've done some interesting reading over the last few years. The world wide web is like one long endless magazine in that respect.
In combing the net for money saving, time saving, sanity saving ideas, I read one blog post that cautioned against 'money saving' over all else. I wish I could remember where that was, but I didn't think to save it at the time.
That was a light bulb moment for me.
Many of you who read my blog, do so to share and indulge in ideas to save money. We all want to save money for different reasons, but everyone's budget is finite, right? No matter how much you have, you need to manage it effectively.
I've read a few blogs and been involved in online discussions that advocate all types of what I would consider 'extreme frugality'.
Whilst extreme frugality might be admirable, I think we have to be careful not to lose our essential self in the process.
Tried and Denied
Here are some of the ideas I've tried, that have been denied further inclusion in my routine, for one reason or another...
In terms of looking after self, the much touted money saving Bicarb and vinegar for the hair in one online discussion, didn't work for me at all. Lovely shampoo and conditioner and having my hair looking just so, is part of who I am. So in taking on that bit of frugality a few years ago, I lost a bit of 'me'.
Still on personal care, the deodorant 'crystal' that's a solid piece of a combo of mineral salts, and totally looks like a piece of Boho décor comes next. Sit it next to a scented candle and a dreamcatcher and nobody would be any the wiser. You use this by rubbing the crystal on clean, wet armpits straight out of the shower. It does not prevent you perspiring like a modern anti-perspirant deodorant, but theoretically, it prevents bacteria growth, thus, supposedly, preventing odour.
Well. Not here in 35C+ heat and humidity, it didn't. I stank like a pole cat after about an! So, being that I love smelling nice, this one didn't work for me where I live. Possible in a cooler climate, it would work like a charm.
Making soap was one I put off for years. But this was one that was a resounding success. It probably doesn't save us a great deal in terms of personal use, although there were definitely savings. But it saves us literally hundreds of dollars in ready made bespoke gifts! That was an unexpected benefit!
Here's my fantabulous recipe and instructions for making the most sublime and silky Goats Milk Soap.
I've had my flirtations with the Miracle Cleaner for my bathroom surfaces, and wasn't enamoured. My bathrooms get pretty dirty thanks to a husband who is out on building sites daily. That said, I adore it as a general purpose cleaner, and tint it pink when I make it. It's an absolute staple. For bathroom cleaning, I make a different concoction. You can find my recipes for favourite household cleaners and fresheners here.
I'm also fine with NOT making every single food item from scratch. I've learned that it's truly okay to use some convenience foods when and where required. The world will not cave in. Here that means pre-sliced Colby cheese, although I'll grate Tasty for cooking and for toasties.  I'll make my own spice mixes like Moroccan, Italian and Thai, but I buy curry pastes. Well curry paste...Korma paste does me for pretty much any dish that calls for curry paste. I amp up the sour/salty/sweet element for Thai dishes with other herbs and flavours like fresh Coriander (Cilantro) or Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Leaves which we grow. I'll make my own fried rice, but now have no qualms about keeping a sachet of pre-cooked brown rice in the pantry for a quick version if I've forgotten to pre-cook my rice the day before. See, it's about finding your savings sweet spot, isn't it.
Also Tried and Denied were home made sanitary pads, home made toilet paper replacements (for number ones only I hasten to add!), home made toothpaste, and home made hand cream. Those things were all effective, but not sustainable here. However, if we ever found ourselves in the position of needing to use them due to geographical location or financial necessity, I can honestly say we'd give those particular ideas another try.
These ideas all exceeded my personal limits for money saving strategies.
I respect those who want to employ them, but they just were not for me.
What works for you?

 Of course, much of what works for me, will not work for everyone else either. Some of you tell me this. It's a delicate balancing act between money saving, and just destroying your soul and making everything that is pleasurable in life, a trial.
The truth is, we all need to feel that there is reward.
That reward might be a family holiday for some, whereas for others, the mere act of having money available for an emergency is an absolute priority.
For others, it truly is 'can I pay the rent or the utilities bills this week', and believe me, I've been there too, and I know for a certainty, that my views on extreme frugality tips, had they been available then, would have been very different.
What's your reward?
Make sure you have your reward firmly fixed in mind, and balance what frugal measures will make that happen, without destroying who you are in the process.
My reward these days, is the supreme satisfaction of knowing that I can roll with the punches. When the finances are stretched for whatever reason, thanks to my ongoing frugal efforts, we barely see it as a blip on the radar. This also means that when we are flush, we don't see any need to spend up because our Quality of Life is maintained, no matter what. 
There is no Feast or Famine in our home.
Life is always a feast.
A feast for the eyes thanks to a clean and welcoming home and garden, and soft, worn decor.

A feast for the ears thanks to plentiful trees and birdsong and gentle music.

A feast to our fingertips, courtesy of lush and lavish home made furnishings of soft mohair, velvet, chenille, silk and wool.
A feast for the tastebuds thanks to delicious home grown and home cooked meals and treats.
And we constantly inhale contentment and abundance, with home grown French Lavender, Kaffir Lime leaves, and herbs like chives, basil, oregano and mint growing abundantly in pots and in our garden.
What more do we need, as human beings?
Does extreme frugality have a place in your life?

I do not follow any Extreme Frugality Bloggers.
My frugal blogging friends, some of whom you see listed at right if you're on your desktop screen, are sensible and practical in their methods of frugality. I like that. It's real, it's sustainable, it's achievable.

 Whilst I admire the Extreme Frugality bloggers enormously, I feel that some of their strategies would be truly soul destroying for me, and for my family. 
I've also wondered whether they must continue to offer extreme frugality solutions to remain in line with their blog themes, and ponder how many of those things are sustainable, even for them.
In that vein, we also have to accept that where we live, and what we are able to grow, barter for, buy inexpensively and in bulk, and be comfortable with long term, may vary enormously.

What are your limits,  and what are you willing to do to enhance your life whilst remaining true to your financial goals?
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  1. I associate the frugality in my life as avoiding being wasteful. I was raised by parents who did not waste resources, be it money, food, water, electricity or whatever. That is my comfort level with a frugal life. I do understand some are in a position where extreme frugality is necessary and I admire what they are able to do. I feel like some extremely frugal bloggers see it more as a challenge. Anne

    1. Anne, I know what you mean. Becoming frugal is a great way of avoiding waste of any kind. I agree that many bloggers see it as a challenge. I just wondered how sustainable those measures really are. It's interesting. Thanks for the comment. Mimi xxx

  2. I sometimes read extreme frugality blogs out of curiosity more than anything. I can see that some may be in a financial position to need to do some of those seemingly extreme things. We've never had to worry to the extreme that I've read on some blogs but I'm glad the information is out there.

    1. Stacey, I like reading them sometimes. For me, though, I'd prefer to read something inspiring and uplifting and reading about someone who eats from bins, or picks roadside weeds to supplement their diet (as much as one mans weed is another mans stir fry, or eats nothing themselves so they can feed their husband well, makes no sense to me. I'm sad if that is the case, but cannot see the relevance to my life. I suppose you're right in saying it's good the information is there for those who need it. The world is made up of many different kinds, that's for sure. Mimi xxx

  3. I find my money is never enough and my expenses should reduce when my daughter moves on Saturday. I won't be able to change mum's attitude which costs me so much financially etc.

    I couldn't do many of the things listed by those who are extremely frugal. However, there often less costly alternatives and I search for those. I don't like shop in most charity shops. Growing up almost everything was reused or repurposed and I lived for 20 plus years putting my children first. I suffer badly from allergies and the old clothes and books set my allergies off. Now I buy carefully and truly appreciate new items although if I can find a used alternative I do buy it.

    1. Dear Suzan, it sounds like it's a complex matter there. I've been there, done that when my brother and his daughter lived with me for many years after her Mum passed away. There's no easy solution. I like that you've found your own frugal path, and I know that not everyone enjoys shopping at charity shops. Some are nicer than others that's for sure. If you've found a way to be frugal, and be content, that's a good solution. Mimi xxx

  4. Mmm good points. I watched a show on extremely frugal people which included a woman who kept every container and tin, we're talking margarine and tuna tins not pretty things that could be repurposed easily. Another character on the show was a man who taped up his shoes and lived at home with his mother rather than co-habit with his partner and their child because it was cheaper that way. Yeah, I think that's called freeloading? A man who has been eating roadkill and rodents and hasn't bought meat for eons. Look, it's interesting but I personally wouldn't do any of that unless there was no other option.
    My version of frugality goes like is important so save be careful with it and save it on everything within reason. I don't buy anything without researching options and as a result I have ended up with great furniture, clothes, shoes, handbags, beauty products, books, household items, garden items, children's items, sporting gear all for a fraction of their retail price. I once did a spreadsheet of what I was saving and within a few months the tally was at $3,000. I stopped doing it because I didn't like being a bean counter but it exemplified that over a lifetime this is the way to go. I don't feel like I miss out on anything in fact I feel richer for being so resourceful. I feel a certain type of contentment knowing that I am in control of my spending and lifestyle choices. People will say 'why don't you just buy this or that' and I say 'because I prefer and like to make or bake.' You can have it all if you focus on it and try different ways to achieve the same end which has an added bonus of savings in the bank. Thanks again for your blog. Janiebabe x

    1. Janie, your best comment there was 'I feel richer for being resourceful'. Yes! Resourceful, I understand. Choosy, I understand. Using money wisely...that I understand. Unmitigated penny pinching for the sake of thanks. We recently watched "All the Money in the World", the movie that tells the story of the John Paul Getty kidnapping. What an eye opener. I remembered the incident as I was about 14 at the time. Whilst on a practical level, I understood Getty's reasoning, on an emotional level he was beyond cruel. Likewise, I think Extreme Frugality just for the sake of it, to prove something, is worthless to the rest of us. I just wondered about some bloggers, who seem to have access to the internet, a computer, a good camera, and photo editing software, blogging about Extreme Frugality. Something doesn't gel there for me! Gotta laugh. The internet lets everyone have their say, doesn't it. Including me! Lol...Mimi xxx

  5. I do enjoy reading about extreme frugality, because I find it useful to mine their blogs for information and ideas. Do I practice it? Not necessarily. My energy and ability to move about well is finite and I have to prioritize if I want to be most effective. The more extreme blogs have helped me to prioritize, though, and I'm now much more critical over what I buy and bring into the house- even free things take up space and will take my energy to clean and maintain, so I think before I buy and accept. I've definitely found that to be a helpful aspect of the more extreme thinking.

    I do like trying new things to see if they work for us. Making crackers was a big ol' nope. They were tasty, but too labor-intensive to be something I'll do on a regular basis. Making my own bread worked back before my daughter was born, but doesn't actually work well for us now. Cloth diapering DID work well when we were doing it, and I do make my own jam now! I find no shame in rejecting the things that don't work well for me; like you said, I can always try again later if the need arises. Sustainable is the key, and I find what works for me and say 'Not for me!' to the rest. :)

    1. Stephanie, that's an interesting take on it. Interesting to read, but not to enact. I understand that. A bit like reading a fictional novel. I like what you say about those blogs helping your priorities and making your more selective. That's a good lesson too. I too, have been down the path of starving the supermarket of our dollars by making EVERYTHING from scratch. Some things worked, others, like your crackers, were a no from me as well. I think many things are a 'stage of life' choice too. Maybe when I have nothing else to do, I'll go back to making my own crackers. Yes, sustainability is key. You're spot on there. Mimi xxx

  6. I think my frugality comes in batches. There is a limit and I have realized over the years you just can't do it all. If you try you will get discouraged and exhausted. You have to pick and choose. Like you I have tried some things and failed (I love your underarm deodorant story). For instance, I don't like making my own laundry detergent. I think bottled detergent works better for our laundry. So I find a sale and stock up (same with deodorant).

    I have been hanging laundry on the line this very hot summer a lot but when my sister comes next week I'll be spending time with her instead. Well she also complains when she gets a rock hard towel too! ha ha

    Gardening and putting up is a lot of work but so satisfying. No one will bother you in the garden because they think you will put them to work. Then now we get to enjoy the harvest season. This winter I will forget about the hours I spent putting fresh veggies in those jar.

    My frugality not only helps us stay within our budget but funds our fun activities too. That said, now that we are eating better I need to get a hold of our grocery spending. I'm working on that this week.

    1. Vickie, this is a key point. We all have a finite number of available hours, and we have to be selective in choosing how we spend them. There is not point in trying to do it all, as you say, and giving up because it's just. too. hard. I love that you said that your frugality is your fun. It is for me too. When it's not fun, life becomes a drudge and I think that's bad for your mindset, no matter what. Find joy in the task. That is the key :)

  7. Mimi you have written far better than I could the reasons I love your blog! You are honest about when you take shortcuts, and what you are not willing to do even if it would save you money.

    I read a few money saving blogs, and what I appreciate most is feeling like what I'm reading is real. Like you saying that sometimes you forget to cook the rice for fried rice. Thank you! I sometimes forget to take meat out of the freezer, and we don't have a microwave so I can't thaw it quickly. At which point baked beans on toast becomes dinner. And although my kids are quite excited to have that for dinner, I feel disappointed in myself for not being organised. Reading your blog reminds me that it's ok to sometimes just accept a situation for what it is, and not get too hung up on it.

    I haven't made soap before and would love to make goats milk soap as I gather it is good for eczema sufferers. Do you buy goats milk powder in bulk? I have only found it available online in NZ, and it is around $30/kg, plus postage. Which must be around $25 AUD. Is that roughly how much you pay?

    We had a baking day today, we now have cupcakes, banana cake, and gluten free brownie. And I've taken out the meat for tomorrow night lol.

    Thanks for the reminder that saving sanity is also important when saving money!!

    Jen in NZ

    1. Jen, that's the thing. I can only write about my life and where I am NOW. I've done my hard yards, and lived my own version of Extreme Frugality, and thankfully, that's instilled some good habits in all of us here. But we are now at a stage where we can choose our battles and what is fun for me, may be torture for someone else. You'll find your own sweet spot Jen. Now. That soap is to die for. And I cannot vouch for its efficacy as far as eczema goes, but it can't hurt! I don't use goats milk powder, I use long life goats milk from the supermarket. My method is based on that. It's not that expensive for the result you get. This soap is great for everything including replacing expensive facial cleansers. Absolutely something worth a try. Good on you for baking and remembering to defrost the dinner for tomorrow! Love, Mimi xxx

  8. I consider myself to be frugal, but I do not practice extreme frugality. I weigh up the time a task will take, the energy it will take and the costs involved before deciding whether to make my own, buy readymade or go without. One thing I will not do is wash out bags like sandwich bags to reuse them. To me, the time taken to wash them and dry them out completely is not worth it. I have recently started baking bread again. I actually enjoy baking bread, like the taste of it and the family love it but I keep a loaf or two of ‘shop bread’ in the freezer in case I am sick or very busy and don’t have time to bake. This reduces my stress levels and bread making remains a pleasant task rather than feeling the pressure of ‘I must bake bread or we will have no bread to eat’ when it becomes just another task that needs doing.

    I had a break from making homemade washing detergent then went back to it. I can’t bear the smell of many commercial washing powders/liquids and I am really happy with the homemade powder, but once again, I do have a small box of commercial washing powder to use in emergencies in case I run out of the homemade and have not had a chance to make more. Once again, this reduces my stress levels considerably.

    I buy in bulk and shop specials and think hard about buying ‘stuff’ and bringing it in to the house. I think I do well caring for my home, garden and family frugally. I could practice more extreme frugality if I absolutely had to, but it would negatively impact my mental health, so I do not do it ordinarily. Balance is very important to our mental and physical health and well-being. Extreme frugality would put too much stress on me, plus would probably cause a mutiny amongst the troops at home!

    I really enjoy reading your blog posts Mimi. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    1. Debbie, you are a sensible woman after my own heart. I knew someone once who not only washed the ziplock bags, but also the tin foil. Whilst I admired her tenacity, I could not see what that was saving her in the long term. However, I did not know her financial situation intimately, so perhaps it was sheer necessity. I know what you mean about the fine line between 'pleasure' and 'work'. And yes. I could do Extreme if I had to. Thankfully those days are behind me. And you too, hopefully. Great comment Debbie. Mimi xxx

  9. Really interesting post, Mimi and I LOVE your honesty. It is so refreshing. I am trying to cut down our budget as much as we can, but I am learning about what works and what doesn't work for our family. It has to be fun and seen as a fun challenge, or it loses its appeal that's for sure. Thanks for a great post. Love, Bridge

  10. I am with you 100% except the deodorant crystal. I had no choice but to switch to it because I was allergic to everything else 25 years ago. At the time we lived in Florida and I made the switch in the summer. I felt exactly like you said which was sweaty and stinky. But, it got better as time went on and 25 years later I would not switch. I have read since then that your underarms need to kind of detox from the aluminum and chemicals of commercial antiperspirants. So I spend about $4 a year for a crystal and I am good as long as I don't drop it and break it. Mainly this info is for anyone wanting a more natural alternative because you have to be patient with it. Hubby uses the crystal too and never stinks. One thing we really do like is since we travel a lot in the US and have a vacation house we can leave one in the travel toiletries bag for years and it never goes bad and we never have to pack one since it is already there.


I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx