Tuesday, April 26, 2011

8 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Frugally Fatigued

Living frugally is a lifestyle choice, plain and simple. There are various ways to live frugally and simply and you can take it as far {or not so far} as you want to.  For some, living frugally is a means to an end, something that is only temporary until a debt is paid off or major purchase is made. For other people, living frugally is a matter of necessity -- the result of a job loss or change, an illness, a new baby, an unexpected expense. For others, it's a more permanent thing, a way to balance and prioritize. No way is right or wrong, per se. Like so many lifestyle choices, it's a personal decision that only you can make. You know better than anyone what will and won't work for yourself and your family. 

No matter where you fall on the frugality spectrum, just about everyone who tries to have a more thrifty and simple lifestyle are prone to burn-out and fatigue. If you don't stay focused, it's easy to fall off the wagon and go back to old, not-so-thrifty habits.  Here are just a few ways you can sabotage and sink your frugal efforts. Trust me, I've learned from experience. 

1. Don't have clear, specific goals.
In my opinion, living a frugal lifestyle is pointless if you don't have clearly-set goals. For example, if I'm going to stand over a toilet and rinse a dirty diaper with a homemade sprayer as many times as I already have, you'd better believe that I have good reason why I'm going to the extra trouble. I'd rather use the money we'd spend on diapers to pay off our car. I'd rather save the money for my family's emergency fund. Heck, I'd rather spend the money on something I actually want instead of wasting it on diapers. 
Why go to the trouble to cook from scratch, use homemade cleaning products, cloth diaper the baby, sew for your family, grow a garden, or any other frugal practices if you don't have something to motivate you?  Just having extra money isn't enough. Be specific. Ask yourself: What are you going to do with that money?  How will it benefit you and your family? What is going to make your efforts worthwhile for you?

2. Forget your limitations and overwhelm yourself.
You can't do everything, no matter how hard you try. I'd like to sew clothes for my kids, cook homemade meals every night, bake bread, get crafty and decorate my house, build up my emergency food storage, create a beauty routine using homemade facial masks and exfoliators, scrub down the bathtubs, balance the checkbook, create works of fingerpainted art with my son, plan a month of dinners, and organize my closets, all while finding time to go out on a date with my husband and write the the great American novel. It ain't gonna happen. At least not all at once.

To be successful at living frugally, you have to find a balance. It's all about give or take. You don't have to do everything. Consider the "season" of your life right now. What are your priorities?  Right now, as I'm trying to figure out how to juggle two kids, I'm cutting myself some slack. The house doesn't look perfect; it's just barely good enough. We've been eating out a little more than I'd like to admit, but it keeps me sane for now. I'm still doing a lot of the things I did before I had the baby, but I'm also scaling back a bit. Am I still living a frugal lifestyle? Of course. I'm just adapting.

3. Take on an "all or nothing" mentality.
I'm a perfectionist, so this is huge one for me. I'm constantly trying to overcome an "all or nothing" mentality in various aspects of my life. Let me speak from experience, it doesn't get you anywhere and it certainly doesn't make you productive.

For Christmas last year, my husband gave me a pasta maker -- one of those ones you turn by hand, straight from Italy. I love it. If you've never had homemade pasta, you're missing out. Plus, it's super-frugal -- all you need to make pasta is eggs and flour. I was determined to start making all our pasta from scratch (since you can make big batches at a time, dry it out, and store for later).  Yeah, that didn't last long. Granted, I'll still make homemade pasta from time to time (it's ridiculously good in lasagna), but not all the time.  I've made these types of concessions for a bunch of things: I'm pretty good about making homemade bread lately, but sometimes I just pick up a loaf at the store. I'm using cloth diapers all day, but I use disposables at night (it's just too hard for me to do all the cloth stuff at 2 AM). I'm taking a break from the homemade laundry detergent now that I'm doing a load of diapers almost daily. Not doing everything perfectly all the time isn't a cop-out -- it's being human .

4. Neglect and deprive yourself.
Again, I write from experience. It's so easy to get wrapped up in doing things for everyone else that you forget yourself. Playing a martyr won't make you feel better. That's why I think it's crucial to give yourself an allowance, or as Dave Ramsey calls it, "blow money". This is an amount of money in your budget that you can use to buy whatever you want. Every month, my husband and I give ourselves an "allowance" -- he spends his, more often than not, on the latest video game; I usually spend mine on books, clothes, or I save it up for a bigger purchase. {That red Le Creuset set will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.} Treating yourself goes a long way in keeping you from feeling deprived, which makes living frugally a lot easier.

5. Forget the old adage "Time is money."
Sure it's cheaper to churn your own butter (especially since the prices have gone up lately), but is it worth your time?  One of the keys to living a frugal lifestyle is to figure out how much your time is worth. I first came across this idea of figuring out the hourly worth of frugal tasks in The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. She explains it like this:
"Many people think of their hourly worth in terms of their gross pay and presume that any effort that provides a smaller hourly yield isn't worth their time. On the other end of the spectrum, some people spend all their time doing things that provide very small economic yields (and that they dislike doing), while forgoing activities that save a greater amount of money."
She goes on to explain how she figures out how much her tasks really are worth:
"I often time how many minutes a job requires to determine how many times I could, in theory, complete the job in an hour. I then calculate how  much money a job saves. I multiply the times per hour by the savings per job to determine the hourly value. For example: A 10-minute task saves $2. The task could be done six times an hour. The hourly worth is $12 per hour."
Now I'm not saying you need to get a stopwatch out, time yourself, and do the math for every frugal activity you do. But, it's a good thing to keep in mind. Go back to the homemade pasta I mentioned earlier: it's time consuming and it probably only saves me a dollar or two each time I make a batch. My hourly rate is probably not very high. But since I enjoy doing it and the results are superior to the store bought kind, I'll make pasta occasionally, but definitely not as part of my frugal routine.  Everyone has a different hourly rate because everyone has different priorities, strengths, talents, and resources.

6. Be the only one on board in your home.
This one doesn't need much explanation. If you're going to cut back when no one else is willing, you won't get very far. Same goes for budgets, spending, and goals -- if you're not the same page with the people in your household, especially your spouse (if applicable), you will find yourself frustrated and not nearly as successful. This is where clear goals come into play -- if you can explain that you're doing all the frugal things for a specific reason, you'll more than likely get some cooperation.

7. Keep it boring. Keep it tedious. Don't learn anything new.
To quote the author of The Tightwad Gazette again, "Frugality without creativity is deprivation." {If you're interested in the book, you can read my review here. I have mixed feelings about it.}  I'm constantly on the lookout for new tips, tricks, ideas, recipes, and techniques to help me save money.  I approach saving money as a challenge. How can I reuse this? How can I make do with what I've already got? How can I bypass this extra expense? Call me crazy, but if you get creative, it can be kind of fun. Really. You know that feeling when you find a really good deal for something you want and/or need? That's how I feel (to varying degrees, of course) about doing all the frugal things I do. Plus, it's extra rewarding when those efforts pay off, like when a debt is gone, when a big purchase is made with cash, or when you feel the peace that comes with living within your means.

8. Feel sorry for yourself that you have to do all of this.
It can be easy to start feeling sorry for yourself when you see others splurging on things you want, when you see how conveniently some people seem to live (Quick aside: Dave Ramsey says, "Don't even consider keeping up with the Joneses. They're broke!"). It's easy to feel sorry for yourself when you have to go without certain things. If you don't find some aspect of a frugal lifestyle enjoyable or stimulating, it's going to be hard to stick with. It's kind of like a crash diet. Sure, you can eat cabbage for every meal and lose weight, but you won't stick with it.  Same goes for living frugally: if you treat it like drudgery, something you -- poor you -- have to do, you'll be miserable. Who wants to do anything that makes them miserable? 

Don't get me wrong -- I don't get giddy over homemade cleaners (or do I? Anyone who's read this blog for any amount of time knows my fondness for baking soda and vinegar). I don't dance around the kitchen because I get to make another loaf of bread. You won't find me sighing with contentment as I dump yet another load of diapers into the washing machine. That said, the way I stay consistent is that I focus on the positive aspects of these tasks. I focus not only on the money saving benefits, but also the health, environmental, and family benefits, among others. I still get tired, I'm certainly not perfect, but I keep going. When you change your attitude, you can give the smallest tasks meaning. Just doing that will go a long way in helping you live a frugal lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lovely Links: 'Just in Time for Easter' Edition

I haven't done a lot in preparation for the Easter holiday. My hands have definitely been full (literally -- the baby wants me to hold him all the time now). We are going to decorate eggs this week at Grandma's annual Easter party and we're in the process of making and decorating the Easter sugar cookies (a process spread out over the course of a couple days). 

Easter really is a beautiful holiday -- both in the celebration of the arrival of spring and in the celebration of the greatest event in human history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anyway, here are a few links I've come across to make the upcoming holiday even nicer.

Egg-cellent Homemade Dye
I actually posted this last year, but I thought I'd mention it in case you missed it.  Homemade Easter egg dye is so simple to make, whether you're using the food coloring that comes in a box or if you're using natural sources (as in, food and herbs) for coloring. I prefer going with the artificial coloring since we don't eat the hardboiled eggs -- I like the bright, vibrant colors. But both methods will give you nice results, so skip the storebought kits and whip up your own dye concoctions. Also, don't forget to save the water after boiling your eggs -- the minerals from the eggshells are great for houseplants!

Tutorial: Peeps Bunny Bunting and Door Hangers -- MADE
I think Peeps are gross. As kids, my brothers and I always got them in our Easter baskets, but we usually ended up giving them to our dad.  That said, there is something sort of iconic about the design of the Peep. I thought this craft was cute and it looks super-easy to make (a big factor for me since craftiness certainly doesn't come naturally to me).  Plus, you only need a 1/2 yard of felt, some brown fabric paint, and some ribbon -- hooray for cheap crafts!

Hot Cross Biscuits -- Joy the Baker
Last year, I mentioned Pioneer Woman's recipe for hot cross buns, the traditional pastry served on Good Friday. As much as I would love to make them this year, I just can't muster up the energy or find the time to make them. These biscuits, on the other hand, seem doable. As Joy put it, they're "the totally lazy version of hot cross buns."

6 Good Things to Do with Your Kids for Easter -- Life as Mom
This link features some great ideas to help keep the focus of the holiday in its proper place.  I'm definitely intrigued by the Empty Tomb Resurrection Cake. Again, I don't think I'll have the time or energy this year, but I'll definitely keep in mind for next year.

His Sacred Name - An Easter Declaration
A beautiful message for this beautiful time of year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Make Cloth Wipes & Solution

In the month before I had my baby, I was busy sewing up a storm in an attempt to distract myself from the ever-increasing discomfort and to keep me from going crazy with anticipation. One of the things I sewed in preparation for baby were these homemade wipes. (Note: post about cloth diapering a newborn coming soon.)  

Even though using cloth diapers saves a lot of money in the long run, the start-up costs can really add up.  You can buy wipes from the various cloth diaper companies, but I figured that I could probably make my own. I mean, how fancy do wipes need to be? As long as they get the job done, right? What's better -- I just reused some old fabric, so they were basically free.  Even though I made these weeks ago, I wasn't going to post about them until I'd actually tested them out. Well, we've been using them for the last couple weeks and I'm happy to say that they've worked out quite well. Plus, they're super-simple to make.

To make your own wipes you'll need:
  • Flannel material - the amount you'll need will depend on how many wipes you want to make. I used a couple old, standard-sized receiving blanket and got about 20 wipes out of it, with still some fabric to spare.
  • Thread, fabric, scissors/rotary cutter, ruler, sewing machine

The flannel receving blankets I used for this project were similar to the one I used for the homemade nursing pads (which, I might add, are doing their job well). The blankets were great when I used them with my first child, but they've since gotten faded and stained. This is why I don't feel bad cutting them up.

I cut the wipes into 6" x 6" squares using this handy-dandy ruler I got for my quilting class. You don't need one of these, of course, (any ruler will work) but it did make it go by really quickly.

Next, I did a zigzag stitch with my sewing machine as close to the edge as possible. This will keep your wipes from fraying in the wash. I've washed these wipes a lot already and haven't had any problems with fraying. They've held up really well.

Trim the excess fabric from the edges, cutting as close to the stitching as possible. That's it. Homemade wipes that work.

Before you use these on baby, you've got to wet them down. I mean, I guess they'd work dry, but I'd feel bad rubbing dry material on his cute baby bum. There are a few ways to do this -- the way we've been doing it is with the spray-bottle method.

When it's time to use the wipes, I simply give a wipe a few sprays with a spray bottle filled with wipe solution. You can find a bunch of wipe solution recipes online, depending on your needs (like if you want an anti-fungal solution or one with lotion for dry skin). For a list of recipes, check out this link.

To make your own wipe solution, you just need a combination of oil, soap, and water. The oil helps the wipes move comfortably against baby's skin and keeps it soft; the soap cleans away the pee and poop; the water dilutes the first two ingredients and helps clean the diaper area. If you want, you can also add essential oil to your solution if you want certain aromatherapy or antibacterial benefits.

Depending on what ingredients you use, you'll have different amounts of each ingredient. Here's the recipe of the wipe solution we've been using:
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons baby soap/shampoo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix the shampoo and oil, then add water. Pour into spray bottle.  I love how fresh it smells. It seems to do a good job cleaning the diaper area, too -- we haven't had any problems with diaper rash yet.

I'll admit right now: using homemade wipes isn't as easy as using the disposable kind that come in packages and containers. Kind of like cloth diapering. Sure, it isn't as convenient, but it's not that bad and it doesn't take that much extra time. For me, the trade-off of saving money and sending a little less trash from my house is worth the few extra seconds it takes to use and wash them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another Hiatus Explained

Well, he finally came! (Nine days overdue, I might add.) And let me just say, he was totally worth the wait. My little Jonah is a week old today. He's absolutely perfect. Life is truly a miracle.

Anyway, I'll be back on Monday, April 18th, with a new post. Probably about some aspect of cloth diapering since it's a big part of my life right. A really big part. But don't worry -- I've got stuff besides diapering to write about.

So, until then...I hope your April is a lot more spring-y than ours is right now. The forecast here is highs in the 40s, with a mix of rain and snow. Still, I love spring, even when it's fickle.
Related Posts with Thumbnails