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Frugal Females Today

Updated on October 21, 2017
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As a Baby-Boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Penny Pinch

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How to save money like the "good wife" in The Good Earth.

When I was a young woman, I read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. The good wife in the story struck me, the way she didn’t spend money on something new if she could fix what was broken. Instead of throwing things away she recycled and refurbished. She “made” money for her husband by not “spending” money. The husband in the story became a wealthy, respected man because his wife knew how to save. Since I read that book, I have never been the same. I have always thought that if I could just save money for my husband and family, it was the same as earning it for the family.

Today is no different. I have had part-time jobs but still feel that saving is earning. I am sharing here my many methods of saving.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Budget!

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The Good Earth By Pearl S. Buck

Published in 1931. Dramatized family life in a Chinese village before World War I.

Starts with Wang Lung’s wedding to a woman he has not met. His only concern is that she doesn’t have pock scars on her face. O-Lan is not a pretty woman but is faithful all her life to Wang Lung. Through her self-sacrificing industry and thrift, Wang Lung saves enough money to buy land and improve his circumstances. She bears three sons and three daughters for Wang Lung. She is so hard-working that she gives birth in the morning and is back out working in the field with Wang Lung in the afternoon with the baby on her back. Throughout the book it is O-Lan who makes Wang Lung who he is. At the end of her life, he realizes all that she has done for him and finally that he loves her.

Because of the way the wife sacrificed and helped her husband buy land by not spending money on things she could make or repair herself, I was changed. I remember I was a young woman when I first read it and it made a profound effect on my life. I said to myself, “I’m going to be like that for my husband someday,” and I have always strived to be exactly that. Hardworking and thrifty. My husband calls me “pioneer woman” because he thinks I make my own clothes and canned foods like the pioneer women.

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Saving is Earning.

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10 Steps to Changing Your Economy.

It has been years since in knew what “extra” money was. It seems like no one has a disposable income like they used to. Most are just like me; getting by from month to month and trying not to go over-budget. I have a few ideas and suggestions to changing your family’s economy to help: to become the good wife in The Good Earth.

TV and movies

We got rid of regular TV and cable 4 years ago. Why pay the price they are asking when you can get Hulu Plus or Netflix for just $9 to $18 per month? This what we did and we haven’t missed the regular TV broadcasts with the unreasonable commercial barrage every 5 to 10 minutes. All you need is Internet access.

If you really don’t want to get rid of the cable or dish you have but you notice that the price has been steadily going up over several months, call and complain. Tell them you are considering another company or canceling altogether and they will offer a savings package. They really don’t want to loose valued customers and will cut your bill by nearly half if you call them.

Coupons/Sales

Don’t buy anything at full price if you can hold out for the sale. This is difficult for the most part. I have clipped coupons I never used because the item was just too expensive, even on sale. However there are some sales that are cyclical in nature. I know, for instance, that there will be a sale on back-to-school items in August, and Christmas décor in January; summer clothes will go on sale in August and September; winter clothes and coats will go on sale in the spring, March/April. I can hold out for these if I plan ahead.

Books

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Blackberry Jam

Books

Many people I have talked to, are resisting the Kindle and Nook on the principle that they don’t want to give up the comfort a new book brings. However, an added incentive is that digital books cost nearly half (or less sometimes) than the print books. Some classics are even free. With the cost of print and shipping, that was enough incentive for me to buy one.

As a grandmother, I was afraid that I would loose something reading a Kindle to my grandchildren. What more charming picture is there than a child on grandma’s lap enjoying a good book together? The Kindle just doesn’t look and feel the same. However, I must say, I was wrong. My grandchildren love having me read from the Kindle and even want to turn/swipe the pages for me. They have me stop at the pictures and swipe them to make them bigger before we can move on with the story. They get such a kick out of it that I don’t feel deprived as a grandma at all.

If you have children or grandchildren, you need to get the Kindle Fire. Children’s books are in color and it’s just not the same without the color. That’s my recommendation.

Could be valuable!

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Sell Your Used Books

Take a day to eliminate extra books. I know, this is where I had the worst problem. I LOVE my books. However, I read them, loved them, and haven’t opened them again. Why am I keeping them? For show? It was time to pass them on to bless someone new. If you don’t want to sell them in a garage sale, you can easily do this on Amazon.com. Look up the book on Amazon and then press the “sell yours” button on the right. The site will allow you to create your own store page with as many or as few books as you feel like listing. The site tells you how much similar used books are going for and you can set your price accordingly. Then when they email you to let you know that your book sold, you have 2 days to wrap it and send it to the address listed. Every two weeks Amazon will send the money earned to your bank or paypal as you wish. It’s a win-win. Someone new gets to love the book you loved and you get paid.

Garage Sale

Photo by Denise McGill.
Photo by Denise McGill.

Garage Sale

If you are like me, you probably have a garage (and several spare rooms) filled with things you thought you needed and so never got rid of. Well, now is the time. When the fall and colder weather come, you won’t be able to have garage sales. So make time to have them while you can.

Make a schedule so that you don’t kill yourself trying to do everything in one day. One Saturday work on closets, clearing out what just isn’t needed or used anymore. Good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t used it/worn it in a year, you probably aren’t going to use it/wear it again.

The next Saturday, tackle the kitchen. Pots, cookware that is usable but not needed by you should go. Appliances you got as gifts but never cared for, salad bowls you never pulled out of the cupboard (I mean, how many salad bowls does one family need?), canning jars you don’t need or use, extra baking pans, trays, cake forms, etc., all must go.

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Make a schedule. Create a goal list.

The following week, take a Saturday to go through the garage. Clean up and take pictures of those things you want to post on the Facebook site if you aren’t going to have a regular garage sale.

Take a Saturday to clear out any extra rooms you are using as a “stash” room. There should be plenty to get rid of there.

Even if you have postponed clearing out he debris, there are Facebook pages where local people are selling items to local people. These pages are the best. I can’t tell you how many things I have gotten immediate responses for on Facebook Homegoods page. Go to your Facebook access and search for homegoods or local sales with your hometown in the name. Most towns now have a page like this.

Sewing and mending

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Learning to sew is much easier that you would think.

To me, this is elementary. My mom taught me to sew when I was a pre-teen. However, over the years I have met many women who weren’t as fortunate as I was. So I started teaching classes at the local Adult Community Education School. I’m sure there are similar schools in most towns across the United States. If you don’t know how to operate a sewing machine, learn. It really is easy. And sewing and mending your own clothes and children’s clothes saves a bundle. Fabric isn’t cheap as it used to be, but many times you can find excellent used clothes at swap meets, thrift stores, and second-hand stores. Sometimes all these clothes need is hemming or simple mending. You don’t need to know how to alter patterns or create costumes to handle mending. You may even be able to find a nice second-hand sewing machine there, if you don’t already have one.

I sewed my clothes and my children’s clothes for decades, saving thousands of dollars in so doing. I usually got the fabric half price as remnants (that’s the end of the bolt of fabric, usually a small piece) or close-out fabric. I got many of the patterns from thrift stores and even inherited a few from my mother (patterns from the 50’s). Often someone will buy nice/expensive fabric and patterns but get discouraged by the process and donate all of it to a thrift store. I’ve gotten the best fabric for dresses that way.

You just have to keep your eyes open.

Beware.

Sign I created on Photoshop.  copyright 2014 Denise McGill
Sign I created on Photoshop. copyright 2014 Denise McGill

You can find some great buys, but you can also get sucked into buying what you don’t really need. Beware.

The problem here is that we have a bad habit of buying what we don’t need because it is a bargain. You don’t want to fill up your garage after going to all the trouble of clearing it out. Be strong. If you are going to a yard sale for a specific item, be sure to only get what you absolutely need. Like fabric, sewing machine, patterns, etc.

Fresh Produce

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Photo taken of fresh produce at Clovis Farmer’s Market.
Photo taken of fresh produce at Clovis Farmer’s Market. | Source

Gleaning the fields

This is very Biblical and still happens today. If you live in a rural farming community or near one, you may know a few farmers. They should know where and when to glean. Biblically speaking, gleaning is picking up what the harvesters left behind. In today’s farms, many crops are only picked to a point and then left to rot. Here in California tomato fields are treated that way because it is only profitable to pay the pickers 3 or 4 times. After that the tomatoes are allowed to rot and then plowed back into the ground as a “manure crop” to return nutrients to the earth.

For about two weeks there are acres of tomatoes ripe for the picking. Farmers usually do not begrudge families to come and glean enough to feed their family. What makes them jaundiced is when they discover the same family selling the tomatoes or other gleaned crop on the side of the road. This is stealing, not gleaning. So to properly glean, you need to know where to go and get permission from the owner of the field, as well as promise you are going to use the produce yourself and not sell it later. For many years, my children and I would take boxes and bags to the tomato fields, onion, pepper, beans, and sometimes peaches, and pick enough to cook and can tomato sauce for the winter.

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Ask around. Some one will know where you can go pick for the family.

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It pays to know farmers.

One dairy farmer told me that field corn (a crop fed to the cows) doesn’t pollenate properly without some sweet corn planted near it. He planted about 10 rows a mile long of sweet corn in the middle of the field corn and invited church families to come pick it before he brought the harvester in to chop it all up for the cows. I was amazed at how few families came out to pick free corn. Our freezer was full of corn for months. And it was so good.

Also I found by asking around there are often private families who have trees they don’t feel up to managing and will give away as much fruits and nuts as you can carry. One elderly lady we knew from our church called us every year to come get the English Walnuts from under her tree. The tree produced boxes and boxes of nuts each year and she just couldn’t give them away fast enough. All we had to do was pick them up for her.


Gleaning Apricots

Photo of my great-aunts gleaning apricots in 1926.
Photo of my great-aunts gleaning apricots in 1926.

Canning

Canning is a very old process of preserving food. It makes sense to preserve the extra in the summer to last through the winter. Some things must be pressure canned because they don’t have the acidity to keep out bacteria. Tomatoes and tomato sauce does not need to be pressure canned but it does need to be heated to boiling to kill bacteria, then sealed. Most cookbooks contain instructions for canning. If you haven’t done it before, you may want to freeze any extra you have picked or gleaned. However, most people only have so much freezer space.

Get a book on canning. You have only to buy the canning jars (upfront expense) and follow directions. The jars can be used over and over again for years to come (savings). My husband still complains when we run out of the home-canned tomato sauce for spaghetti, and we have to buy store spaghetti sauce.

Canning Jars

Drawing of canning jars in ink.  Copyright 2014 Denise McGill
Drawing of canning jars in ink. Copyright 2014 Denise McGill

Jelly and Jams

Another gleaning source are canal banks and riverbanks. Many places have wild blackberries for the picking. Beware, because blackberries have a mean thorn and usually wasps love to nest in the brambles. I have been stung on more than one occasion, but discovered that if you smash a ripe berry into the sting, it takes away the venom. Blackberries and wild plums make the best jams. Wash them, pit them and boil until the juice begins to thicken. Pectin will make this process faster, and also comes with recipes. I find pectin to be a little too pricy sometimes so it can be replaced with a cup of apple juice and longer cooking time. Also you will need sugar according to the recipe and your taste.

I have included my suggestion for a great jam and jelly cook book full of recipes for you to try. There’s nothing like home preserves. There is something really rich about the flavor. The ooh’s and aww’s you get from family will be well worth the effort. Plus it saves money.

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Frugal Female (and male) comments wanted

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      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      I learned a lot from The Good Earth. I imagine I would have been a frugal person anyway, it's in my DNA, but this book really moved me to be the best.

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