Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Keep tightening the belt

Well, my taxes are done and I'll be getting two small refunds. Gratefully, I didn't owe anything. Staring at the cold, hard numbers of my slice of the US economy, I now have numeric proof that my income took a bit of a nosedive in 2012. Not that I hadn't suspected, even as I continued to work at a job I've had for years. Gone are the days of tax refunds big enough to finance a vacation; today my refund is cash for gasoline.

My point being, frugality has become a necessary way of life. I have never been a spendthrift, although on occasion I have impulsively enjoyed dinners out, been known to buy coveted yarn I really didn't need, and taken a trip I didn't budget for... It's just getting harder to justify purchasing anything over a five bucks that will not be used daily, eaten over a couple of days or has limited usefulness.

When I am in need of an item I'll search dollar and thrift stores or estate sales before heading to a commercial shopping center. Online shopping is probably the only instance I will use a credit card. Actually, I haven't been to the nearby mall in years, preferring to shop local small businesses. This all sounds pretty hard line but truly other than food or car repairs, most purchases can wait a few days or weeks. The challenge (fun in my mind) is to use resourcefulness to find a cheaper way to accomplish household needs:
  •  Choose what is really important for you; my household no longer has TV but we do have computers & internet. 
  • Simplify needs; get rid of the extra, especially kitchen equipment, clothing or collections that no longer give you joy.
  • Socialize, today we are surprisingly isolated; participate in games, clubs, sports or hobbies. 
  •  Be energy efficient and limit resource waste; try LED light bulbs, hang clothes to dry, use insulating curtains, create rain barrels and compost vegetable scraps & yard waste.
The Reduce/Reuse/Recycle mantra can really make a difference. I have been able to save some money by giving thought to personal essentials and experimenting with the rest. It is surprising what learning opportunities are created by a little introspection; gardening and composting have become a hobby, saving on my electric bill a monthly challenge and I have learned to enjoy a bit of kitchen creativity. The old adage "live and learn" certainly applies. I grew up during a time of plenty and now have to deal with a dwindling economy. Relearning the resourcefulness our grandparents of the Depression Era had will re-infuse valuable skills into our culture and allow making-do-with-less go a lot farther.

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