Hall of Fame: BlogHer Features

Cheapwashing: Cashing in on the frugal fad  will be not just featured, but syndicated on 1/23/13.

This calls for a whole new button, folks!!



Featured in Money on 11/27/12

I'm sitting at my laptop right now, looking at a box I have packed for someone to pick up later. The box contains a dozen-plus drinking glasses that have spent years moving from one basement to another as our family moved. They're nice, but I have no visceral connection to them. Therefore, they are going to be freecycled.
This freecycling thing is my latest fixation. Not a week goes by that my husband doesn't come home to hear what thing went that day! My local community is a bustling one, and my offers generally go in the first 48 hours. My basement is growing, suddenly unburdened by excess.
Technically, it is a "loss" of money, unless one is receiving the items. Literal frugality would demand that I should be Ebaying these suckers and getting some profit for myself, no matter how minor. But I won't do that. For me, having the free space in my household and knowing that someone else is going to enjoy the items is worth far more than waiting and waiting to make a few bucks.
That's not to say a truly valuable item shouldn't be Ebayed. There are some fine candidates, and everyone knows someone who’s made a nice pot of money from auctioning. But I’m suspicious of the “No, wait, Ebay!” reaction so many people have to excess stuff.
I must be honest. I think of Ebay like I think of politicians: useful and worth the effort once in a blue moon, but largely a flood of bullshit. And I need less bull in my life. We all do.
Getting rid of excess means not just more space, but more time, too. So much time is spent curating stuff that it’s stunning. And it places a unique burden on women, who still have the lion's share of the housework. _Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century_ (University of California Press) documents the awful effects of clutter in what are, on some level, American Dream homes: “Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.”
So here I am, giving away stuff I no longer need or want. Things that have literally not seen the light of day in years. Sometimes I wonder at the dollar value of what I have freecycled or Goodwilled. I suppose, technically, I am throwing money away. Technically. So is this freecycling frugal for the giver?
I find it hard to agree with that. I’d rather donate or give away unused goods than wait around to possibly-maybe-if-I’m-lucky sell them because I find that the act of freely giving enriches my life. I have more space, it’s easier to clean, I am active in deciding what’s truly valuable. I have more time, since there’s less stuff to curate. Even though I’m not saving money per se, I was sure as hell not saving any before when this stuff was taking up space in the basement!
Freecycling and (thoughtful) donations have become a large part of my approach to frugality. Has anyone else tried these, and how have they worked out for people?

Featured in Money October 2012

So, anyone who’s been near the Internet lately knows what a tough time we’re having a hard time with the Great!  Big!  Scary!  Economy!  And that’s pretty intimidating.  A lot of people are bummed out about it, including me, your savvy and wonderful writer.  The important thing  is to not get bummed. 
What’s this, you say?  Why bring up a giant problem and then tell me to be cheerful?  Ah, but listen to me, I have a pearl of wisdom.
Large problems are always –- always -– made of many smaller ones.  Nothing is insurmountable.  So what does that have to do with our economy?  How can we bring this on home and feel more hopeful?
Little things, my friend.  Life is made of small things, tips, and tricks.  What I’m going to tell you now are a few things I’ve learned about saving money, which makes life a little easier in tough times.

1.) Make It!

Money stays in your pocket when you look with new eyes at your daily routine.  Do you like coffee, tea, sun-brewed mulberry yak juice?  Whatever!  It doesn’t matter!  What matters is learning to make it at home!
You don’t need a fancy brewer, maker, or other gizmo.  Coffee can taste just as nice from a normal coffee maker, and tea is perfectly fine with water from a kettle.  Pro tip:  If you remember to not put in coffee, your coffee maker can be used to boil plain old water for tea, cup-o-noodles, whatever. 
This is just one little example –- think of what you rely on daily.  Can you make any of that yourself?  This goes from food (learning to cook/bake) to beauty products (there are plenty of easy recipes online). 

2.) Re-use It!

One of my downfalls is paper.  I normally have way too much, and believe me the stuff *multiplies!*  One day, I looked around at the piles of paper and decided I’m going to get my money’s worth!  So I started taking notes or writing drafts on the back of old copies.  I started folding duplicate prints or drafts of old papers into little notepads.  This saved me a bundle on notebooks.  I love them, and I love buying new and shiny ones, but you don’t always need the new and shiny!  Think about what you have around –- what can you reuse to meet some small daily need?

3.) Learn to Fix It!

This has got to be my favorite tip.  Learn to sew, fix a book spine, re-string a necklace, replace a screw –- whatever!  You have the entire inter-tubes at your fingertips.  Many cool people have made videos and tutorials on repairing stuff, so you may as well learn to DIY.  It’s not just a money-saver, it’s a whole new cool thing you know how to do.

4.) Sleep on It!

Ah, the pleasures of adulthood -– I have an amazing job that pays me zillions of dollars, and I can just buy whatever I want.  New clothes?  Done!  New computer gizmo?  Got it!  Yep, life sure gets more gratifying once you’re an adult!  HA!  Ah, my sides are splitting.  It’s really not anything like that. The fact is that one of the realities of life -– and best pieces of advice -– is delaying gratification.  Yeah, yeah, sounds boring, like what your parents would say.  But the fact is that you will save loads of money just by giving yourself time to think if you really need the New Thing.  And it’s a good habit to get into.

5.) Save It!

Yep, another boring old idea.  But it works.  One of the best ways to hang onto your green is by not spending it in the first place.  If you have a savings account, other account, piggy bank, whatever, put a few bucks in there on a regular basis. 

What now?  What should I do with all this, you ask?  Just be aware of what you do with your money, and you can start some good habits that will up your confidence and make stressful times less stressful. 

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