Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Frugal Are You?

Canadian Doomer made a list on her blog of things she and her family do to live a frugal, low impact life on a limited budget- she calls it Radical Frugalism and I'm sure for many people some of her choices are pretty extreme. As the eldest of 13 siblings however, I grew up with a fairly frugal lifestyle myself and have maintained a lot of those habits in my adult life. I thought it would be interesting to compare our choices with hers to see how we are similar and where we differ. Farmgal did a similar list on her blog here. CD's comments are numbered below, my responses are in italics. I've shortened some of her comments ... for space reasons!

CD 1.We are cash-only by choice. ….

We both have multiple credit cards and don’t pay them off every month. It’s one of the biggest areas I’d like to improve on.

CD 2. We live in a (fairly) small space - about 875 square feet - in a "bad" part of town. The apartment has a galley eat-in kitchen, a narrow but long living room, a small bathroom, and two bedrooms, plus closets. We are NOT cramped - although book and food storage becomes interesting at times - and utilities are included in our quite low rent.

We live in a similar sized apt in an okay neighbourhood with great transit access. NO closets! We rent out the second bedroom and currently have a friend staying in the livingroom who also contributes to the costs. Our portion of the rent is currently well below average rent for our area. We pay hydro in addition to rent, every 2nd month- the bills are usually below $100 for 2 months. We are on Smart meters and try to only run high usage items during off peak hours.

CD 3. We drink tap water.
When we drink water which is rarely it’s from the tap.

CD 4. We have one car.Since gas hit over $1.12/litre, we drive as little as possible. Unfortunately, we're finding that this city is spread out in a very inconvenient way.
No car. We both had bikes but mine was stolen this summer and I haven’t replaced it yet. We walk a lot and take transit if necessary. We spend about $50/m on transit. We can get almost everything we need in our neighbourhood but need transit to get to work.

CD 5. I cook from scratch.
Yep, pretty much everything. No pressure canner tho so I freeze a lot. And hot waterbath can of course.

CD 6. My husband carries a packed lunch every day. ...
No lunches- we both get fed on the job for the most part.

CD 7. We don't have air conditioning in the apartment or in the car. ….
Nope. One ceiling fan in our bedroom.

CD 8. We use a slow cooker ....Slow cooker broke and we did not replace it.
We own a slow cooker which I got with a gift certificate last Christmas. I don’t use it much- I prefer the oven (we have a gas stove and don’t pay for gas.)

CD 8. We do not buy "single use" items. I include not only disposable products like paper towel, but items like a popcorn popper, or a 'Smore maker.
We own a hot air popper which I got at a yardsale for a quarter. I love it.

CD 9. We have been using Family Cloth since December 2010.
I live with 3 men who can’t even remember to change the toilet paper roll when it’s empty. Not a chance.

CD 10. I dumpster dive if I see something worth taking. ....
We used to but being hit with bedbugs twice in 3 years has pretty much curtailed that. Toronto is epidemic with them.

CD 11. This spring, we are going to join a Community Garden. I'm feeling quite excitedout that. The waiting list for these is LONG! We tried, and failed, to get one started at our church.
We have a garden in the backyard, and grow in pots on the deck. I get tons of fresh fruit from volunteering with Not Far From the Tree. I also forage on my own which is surprisingly easy in the city!

CD 12. We've been quite radical with eliminating things in the house that we don't use. Less stuff equals more room for food storage...
Us too!

CD 13 We have fairly streamlined wardrobes and don't change with the seasons. If we do really need something (usually just for the kids), we shop at Value Village. I am considering having a Mennonite lady sew me some basic, durable everyday dresses and matching aprons.
I have summer and winter clothes which I switch out. The non seasonal stuff fits in one suitcase, store in a trunk. We shop second hand for everything but shoes and underwear.We both have too many shoes.

CD 14. The kids have minimal toys and maximum books. The toys that they do have are usually classic items - Lego, wooden train and car sets, a few favorite stuffed toys.
No kids but the book collection is huge

CD 15. We buy almost everything in bulk. And we're not shy about asking about further discounts for dented boxes, about-to-expire meat, etc.
We’re just two (roommates buy their own groceries) and have extremely limited storage so buying in bulk doesn’t really make sense for most items. I buy a lot of discounted stuff tho. Dollar baskets of produce are big in our neighbourhood.

CD 16. We love, love, love Freecycle. …
Just joined recently and have yet to take advantage. We use Craigslist a lot!

CD 17. I use Swagbucks as my search engine. I should be earning money for my searches, not Yahoo.
Tried it but don’t find it useful enough. I do tons of online surveys for $ and points. I also collect points for anything I can sign up for and then swap them for points I can actually use. On my trip to England this summer we used points to pay for 6 nights of hotels including 3 nights in prime London. I also used points to fly to Minneapolis to see my best friend - twice!

CD 18. We do not buy cold cereal. Ever.
Ew- why would you?

CD 19. We do not have cable. Actually, we don't even receive the public stations.
We have cable but don’t pay for it. And we download pretty much everything anyhow

CD 20. We don't have cell phones, and our phone/long-distance/internet is bundled, costing us less than $75 $100/month.
We both have cells-we need them for work. Mine is pay-as-you-go and cost me $20/m, his plan is $25. Landline/ld/internet is currently $60 for 100 G highspeed, unlimited calling to North America.

CD 21. We have no personal debt.
See # 1

CD 22. We have a practical gifts rule, and no surprise gifts except for kids. We're not wealthy enough for "Oh, gee, you shouldn't have. Christmas is for church and good food, not gifts.
We don’t have any rules per say but both prefer practical gifts anyhow. The Russian didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas so for him New Years is the day to exchange gifts which means we get to take advantage of Boxing day sales!

CD 23. We are selective about who we give gifts to outside of the immediate family. Most people Everyone will receive something that has been creatively upcycled, carefully re-gifted, or hand-made. Okay, for "selective", read "Nothing" this year.
We buy for parents, 15 nieces and nephews (mine), one daughter (his) and each other. That’s plenty! The nieces and nephews always get books- sometimes new, sometimes secondhand.

CD 24. We rarely practically never eat out - when we do, we recognize that we're paying extra for someone else to shop, cook and clean. The food isn't any better than, and often it's not nearly as good as, what I make at home. We don't go out for coffee, nor do we go out and drink. Okay, we really don't drink. But if we did, we'd have a drink at home.
We eat out about once a week, usually inexpensive places. We also do a potluck style dinner once a week with friends -we all bring ingredients and someone, usually one of our chef friends cook a gourmet meal. The Russian drinks regularly, me not so much but we have a local where we go to socialize a lot. We can walk there.

CD 25. I save the whey from making Farmer's Cheese and use it as the liquid in my sourdough bread.
I don't make cheese but I save bones and veggie scraps, also the water used to cook veggies for stock. What little waste we have goes in the compost or in the worm bin and ends up in the garden.

CD 26. Oh, yes, I make Farmer's Cheese from goat's milk instead of incredibly expensive chevre. I did say I cook from scratch, right? I mean it.
Still don’t make cheese at home. But I did just locate a way to get my hands on raw milk so butter, crème fraise and hopefully cheese soon!

CD 27. We eat a lot of soup. And stew.
Loads. It’s borsht week!

CD 28. We don't eat a lot of meat. We LIKE meat. Okay, we love meat. And if we had our own farm where we could raise chickens, rabbits, goats and pigs, we'd be eating like decadent carnivorous kings. Right now, though, meat is expensive.
I shop around for specials, use a lot of cheaper cuts and buy last day of sale stuff at the grocery store. I wish I could say it’s all local and ethically raised but not on our budget and the Russian is a big meat eater.

CD 29. Sometime in the new year, we're buying a side of pork. ...
I’d love to do this but we haven’t the freezer space nor pressure canner.

CD 30. We buy farm fresh eggs directly from a local farmer, at a better price than I can get at the grocery store.
Just located a source for eggs!

CD 31. We buy "seconds" whenever possible - blemished or oddly shaped produce that does not sell to more picky consumers. And we happily gather windfall apples when given the chance.
All of the above!

CD 32. Because I put up food in jars, I can portion meals well in order to minimize waste.
I do the same with stuff I freeze.

CD 33. We make coffee at home and take it in travel mugs.
I never touch the stuff and the Russian makes a small bodem for himself in the morning. None leaves the house.

CD 34. We don't use napkins - cloth or paper. After a meal, people with messy faces go to the bathroom and wash, unless they're too little. In that case, they have their faces and hands washed.
Cloth napkins all the way! Also handkerchiefs!

CD 35. In addition, no paper towels, kleenex, paper lunch bags, disposable grocery bags, swiffers, disposable baby wipes.
None here either. The odd paper bag that makes it in gets used for mushroom storage and then shredded for the wormbin.

CD 36. Most of my dishtowels have become rags and I'm still using them. Do they really have to look pretty in order to wash my dishes?
Dishtowels become rags but aren’t used for dishes then. I buy new ones about every two years.

CD 37. Cleaning products - dish soap (bought in bulk), vinegar, baking soda, bleach, borax, Ivory soap. Oh, and we have two bottles of drain opener - a necessity around here.
All of the above and occasionally I splurge on Mrs. Meyers all purpose cleaner- the essential oils scents are amazing!

CD 38. Oh, yea, among those appliances we don't have - a dishwasher. Not that we could fit one in this apartment.
Us neither. We do own an apt size washer and dryer which I bought 20 years ago. We never use the dryer- everything gets line dried year round.

CD 39. We don't ever, ever, ever buy bottled water. Ever. We have metal water bottles that we fill and take in the summer.
Nope. I fill my metal bottles with juice.

CD 40. I do not use cosmetics. We use Ivory soap (until I learn to make lye soap), shampoo and conditioner bought in bulk, toothpaste and mouthwash. Mr. D uses deodorant because he needs it.
We use whatever soap is available- I prefer natural ingredient stuff but don’t always buy it. I cannot stand fluoride toothpaste so spend money on the expensive natural stuff. I rarely use cosmetics but I do own some. I also use fairly pricey shampoo, conditioner and I colour my hair at home. (I’m vain about my hair). I also pay for regular pedicures- best $20 I spend a month. The Russian has bodywash and antiperspirant- he’s a dancer and can’t afford to sweat in the costumes.

CD 41. Homeschooling –
N/A, unless you count the Russian. He could use some English lessons.

CD 42. Oh, yes - need I mention that we happily, happily, happily take second-hand things? What we don't need, we pass along.
Absolutely. I've never purchased a single piece of furniture in my life.

CD 43. My "houseplants" - a sweet potato that I hope to keep alive all winter and a baby False Sea Onion/Pregnant Onion (works like aloe vera).
I have many, many plants. All of them I either started myself (lemon trees, avocado), sprouted from someone else or rescued from near death.

CD 43. We are very picky about what we buy. We frequently ask "Do we need this? Really need it?" Then we go away and ask ourselves that for a week. If the answer is still yes, and we could find no substitution, we buy it. We have decided on our family's goals and values, and we analyze everything to see if it furthers those goals.
I'm the same, the Russian is a bit more of a spendthrift but mainly with clothes. I've been slowly replacing all our plastic kitchen stuff with metal or glass but just with what I can find second hand. Most things we want, we try to make ourselves, except electronics but the Russian is really good at repairing things like that.

Overall I think we are very simlar to you - you have some things that are necessities because of children or where you live; we are a bit more lax with our "luxuries". It's great to see it all laid out this!

Anyone got any other frugal suggestions? Anything you refuse to be frugal about?


  1. Awesome list. I'm glad you and Farmgal have done this - I hope anyone reading realizes that frugality *changes* depending on the people in your household, their ages, available resources, etc.

    And it's cool to see that Farmgal, you and I all make book storage a priority.

    We DID buy some new cotton dishtowels. LOL I just forgot to update that one. However, I tend to grab whatever rag is handy for washing.

  2. Five years ago I made a New Years resolution to "Buy Nothing New" (with the exception of socks, underwear and office supplies for my home-based job. i guess those are what I refuse to be frugal about.) It was so much fun and relatively easy, I made the same resolution a second year and now it is pretty much our default approach. We obtain most of the stuff we need at thrift stores, garage sales, through Craigslist and even barter --altho since moving to a farm a few years ago we have needed to invest in some tools and equipment that doesn't always make sense to obtain used.