June 25, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 5

Today is the last day of the series.

Frugality Tip #5

My father taught me to give freely.  Yes, I guess that probably sounds funny as a frugality tip. However, my father taught me that giving to and helping others and sharing what you have is sort of the point of being on this earth.  One of the best parts about couponing for me is that I’m able to give so much to our church food pantry.  One of the most fun parts of getting a good deal on something is being able to buy an extra and giving it to someone who would like it. 

In my experience some of the most giving people are also the most thrifty.  Note that there is a very big difference in being frugal or thrifty and in being a miser or cheap.  Frugal people realize the value in things and know that stuff is just stuff. 

Take away--

  • The next time you see a matchup with a free or cheap item on the list buy extras and give them away to someone who might need them.
  • Clean out your stockpile and donate extras to your local food pantry, senior center or homeless shelter.
  • Share the bounty of your garden with friends, relatives or neighbors.

These five frugality lessons are only a fraction of what my father taught me throughout my lifetime.  He was one of the best people I have ever known, and I will always miss him.  If even one tip that I’ve provided here inspires you to try something new or pass on a learning to someone else, I am proud because it means that in some way he lives on. 

Thanks for reading!

June 24, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 4

Today is Part 4 in the series.

Frugality Tip #4

My father taught me to not be scared of hard work.  While Daddy enjoyed leisure and fun, he also knew how to work.  He once told me that he could push himself to do just about anything that was necessary for him to do.  Sometimes I think of that when I’m faced with a job that seems insurmountable.  I can accomplish it.  I can do it—he taught me that I was capable and that a little hard work never hurt anyone. 

I think that my dad learned not to be afraid of work from his father and his father’s family.  When I go to the family reunion and look around, the older generation isn’t sitting around—they are doing.  No one seems put out or frustrated to be engaged in work.  These are ways that they show love and care, by doing for others. 

When I learned more about the Montessori method of teaching when our oldest daughter was young, I liked the idea of work as being a way to bring purpose and meaning to a person.  Work is a way of being involved in the family unit, to build self esteem, and to learn about the world around you. 

Being willing to work, can not only earn you a salary, but it can also save you money.  I can pay someone else to clean our house (and goodness knows I sometimes want to!!), but it is much more economical for us to do it.  I can pay someone to paint a wall that needs it, but it is a lot cheaper to do it myself.  When I think of the idea of work, I often reflect on Proverbs 31—that lady doesn’t have a lazy bone in her body!  

Take away--

  • If you are in debt or need to reduce your family expenses, look at services that you have hired out.  Try to make an effort to do those tasks yourself.  You can include dining out in this category, too!
  • One thing that I have noticed with retirees, in particular men, is that there can sometimes be a reduced sense of purpose when leaving the work force.  Try volunteering or mentoring as a stopgap.
  • Make a game out of work.  One of the fondest memories I have is of baling hay with my father, sister, and friends.  It was very hard work, but somehow we enjoyed it.  Instead of mumbling and complaining about things you have to do, try and find ways to make them more enjoyable.  Crank up some music you like or reward yourself with something small when you have done a job. 
  • Have a job you need done but aren’t able to accomplish?  Barter or swap out jobs with a friend.

June 23, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 3

Today I continue the series about lessons learned from my dad on being thrifty.

Frugality Tip #3

My father taught me basic life skills and then some.  I’m not sure if it was because he was left to be both father and mother and he wanted to prepare us in the event that were to ever happen to us, or perhaps he was simply teaching us what we knew.  Or, it could just be because he was an excellent father—whatever the reason, Daddy taught my sister and me how to do a lot of different kinds of things.  He knew a lot about building and fixing things, and he tried to pass on that knowledge to us.  One day we might be installing new toilets, another we might be with him on a job site talking about blueprints, another we might be repairing the lawn mower.  Whatever he was doing, he tried to involve us.  I joke that I know how to bat my eyelashes at someone else and coax them into changing a flat tire for me, but thanks to my father, I am perfectly capable of doing so myself if the need ever arises. 

When he couldn’t teach us something himself, he would enlist the help of others.  Because we have such a large family, there was always an aunt, uncle or cousin who could help with instruction.  I have memories of my Aunt Sibyl teaching me to crochet, my Aunt Elma teaching me to smock, my Aunt Bessie teaching me to shoot hoops. 

My dad loved to learn, and he didn’t “dumb down” to us.  On family vacations we would be forced encouraged to do complex math problems in our heads.  Sunday lunch conversation often involved discussions about world history and current events.  We watched more documentaries than we did sitcoms.  When I would come home and talk about what I had learned in school, he would make sure I knew the rest of the story—what the history books didn’t cover and the complexities behind why things worked the way that they did. 

Because he gave me the gift of loving to learn, I not only have some fancy book learning and a nice masters degree on the wall, but I also have something more important--an interest in the world around me.  This has spawned my love of gardening (one of the best money saving hobbies around) and food preservation.  It has also given me the blessing of a career in which I am able to make money for our family while helping others. 

Take away--

  • Don’t ever stop learning.  Read.  Take a class.  Ask a friend to teach you something that he or she knows.  Knowledge is power. 
  • Teach.  Share your skills with others.
  • Don’t dumb down your kids.  Children are much more capable than we make them out to be.  Use big words around them.  Talk to them about concepts and ideas.  Make everyday experiences opportunities for growth and development.  Don’t just teach the boys “boy things” and the girls “girl things”.  It is just as important to know how to prepare a meal as it is to turn a screwdriver. 

June 22, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 2

If you read the blog yesterday, you know that I’m publishing a series about frugal tips I learned from my dad.  I hope that you are able to use some of the information to help your family.  If even a small piece helps someone, it will mean that his memory lives on.

Frugal Tip #2

My father taught me how to shop.  Being the oldest of two daughters with my mother deceased, I filled in as the homemaker of the family.  My father taught me how to go to the grocery store and make our dollars stretch.  He taught me to buy foods in season, to watch the price per unit, and to compare quality vs quantity.  When shopping for shoes, he would raise an eyebrow if I chose shoes that were plastic or poorly made.  Just like his father’s generation would talk about walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, he would talk about having shoes older than me and note that you sometimes get what you pay for. 

When I was a teenager, we had some lean times financially.  It was then that I really started learning how to be thrifty, and I learned about these amazing things called coupons.  Having had a time in my life when we were scraping by helped me to realize that stuff is just that—stuff.  My dad told me just a few weeks before he died that he was talking to a relative and reminded him that “money isn’t everything”.  He knew that.  Sure, he liked to have a little money in his pockets and nice things, but he knew that relationships and time with those you love were much more important.

Take away—

  • If you haven’t already started, try coupons.  My father never really got into the whole couponing thing, but God love him, he tried.  He liked that I used coupons, and whenever he received any in the paper or mail, he would save them for me. Coupon with your family, and ask family and friends to save coupons that they are not using for you.  Share your bounty with them.  Daddy loved the time that I filled his pantry full of free pasta, saying, “Gabrielle, what on earth am I going to do with all of this pasta?  We’ll have to start cooking!” 
  • Review my “Saving Money with or without Coupons” section of the blog for other shopping tips.
  • Shop with your children.  Yes, I know it is harder.  Yes, I know sometimes you want to pull your hair out by the end of the trip.  Yes, I know that people without kids sometimes give snide looks at people with who are trying to wrangle theirs into a cart…but, do it anyway.  Pick a time of day and week that tends to be easier and shop.  Give older children tasks—making the list, picking a vegetable for the meal, executing a supper for the week, etc.  Give younger children games to play—“I spy something yellow”, “Find something that begins with a B”, “Draw a picture of what you would like for supper for me.”

June 21, 2013

Five Frugal Tips My Father Taught Me—Part 1

As many of you who follow on Facebook know, my father passed away late last month.  The hole he left is enormous, and I miss him terribly. 

When I was young, my mother passed away, and my dad took over parenting full time.  He served as both a mother and a father, but not only that, he was my friend.  He taught me most of what I know, and a lot of what I have shared on the blog came from lessons I learned from him.  As a way of honoring him, I’d like to share five of the best tips on frugality he taught me.  I’ll be dividing this up into parts that will be published over the next few days.

Frugality Tip #1

The first and probably the most important frugality lesson that my father taught me was how to cook.  Learning all you can about food combinations, cooking techniques, spices and herbs, and preservation and storage will give you an upper hand in making a delicious, low cost meal for your family. 

Daddy loved to talk about food, and I guess I take that from him.  Before he passed, if I hadn’t seen him, I would call him each day to check and make sure he was all right.  Inevitably, we would talk about what we had cooked or eaten that day.  He liked to tell me about a new recipe he had tried or a different way of cooking something he had made for years.  He taught me how to “taste” a recipe in my mind.  You know how when you are reading a book how you can see the imagery from the book in your mind’s eye?  He taught me how to do the same thing with my taste palette when reading a recipe, and for the life of me I have no idea how to explain how to do that to anyone else.  I think that part of what he taught me was to know and recognize the tastes of ingredients—to try and pick them out in a dish we had eaten and to appreciate the combinations and how they would marry together. 

At an early age, my father had me in the kitchen cooking everything from Sauce Picante to Split Pea Soup.  We loved to share food with others and for that reason I only know how to make gumbo in a batch that will feed about 20.  As a child we would have friends and relatives over often to enjoy good food and fellowship.

Take away—

  • If you don’t already know how to cook, check your local newspaper or agricultural agency for cooking and technique classes.  Locally, many of our farmers markets offer free demonstrations.  Williams-Sonoma stores regularly offer short demos.  Many senior centers have cooking classes for low costs. 
  • Get out your spices and herbs and get to tasting.  Knowing what curry powder, rosemary, and cinnamon actually taste like will help you to know how to use them in recipes. 
  • Learn from a family member.  Older relatives in particular can be experts at taking low cost ingredients and making them taste wonderful.  The added bonus is that a little time in the kitchen with a relative will help to make memories for you and your children.
  • If you already know how to cook, teach your children.  Start young and don’t stop.