Our Frugal Weekend

I haven't written much about frugality here lately. Because of that, you might think it's become less of a priority for me. That's simply not the case, although sometimes it feels that way — even to me. “I'm worried about our spending,” Kris told me early last week. “I feel like it's a little out of control.”

“Really?” I said. We've had a couple of big expenses lately — painting the house, for example — but I don't think our habits are too out of line. The real problem is probably the potential spending we see on the horizon:

    • We need to replace our 15-year-old mattress, for example. I don't sleep well on it, although I sleep fine on other mattresses.

 

    • Meanwhile, I've been pricing new bicycles. I'm not certain I'm going to buy one, but I'm considering it.

 

  • Finally, we've begun to budget for our next big vacation: a trip to France and Italy next year. (Or the year after.)

With these spending goals looming, I suspect that Kris is feeling pinched. Still, after her observation about our frugality (or lack thereof), we've been trying to make smarter choices. This weekend, for example, was filled with frugality.

Home improvement and potlucks
Friday evening, Kris co-hosted a wedding shower — a frugal wedding shower. Kris and her co-workers made all of the food and drinks themselves. Kris made the flower arrangement. They didn't spend money on decorations or games or prizes. “We didn't need to spend a lot to have a party,” Kris told me afterward. “We just had good food and good friends and enjoyed each other's company.”

On Saturday morning, we made a short drive to pick up 40 iris rhizomes, which Kris found on Craigslist for a dollar a piece. As we loaded them in the car, she was almost giddy with glee. “You don't realize how big of a bargain this is,” she said. “I paid $1 per plant. At the iris gardens, these would be $10 or $20 or $30 per rhizome! Plus she gave me eight extra plants.”

Note: I have trouble getting excited about flowers. But when I frame it in terms that makes sense to me — like comic books — I can understand Kris' enthusiasm. If I found 48 comics that should sell for $20 each, I'd be stoked if I could purchase the entire lot for $40.

 

On the drive home, we stopped at the hardware store to buy compost and topsoil so we could build a new iris bed. We also bought a “sweep” for the mudroom door, which should help keep the heat in during the winter. Finally, we bought a gallon of Van Deusen Blue paint. We recently paid to have the exterior of our home painted, but we're going to do the porches ourselves.

During the afternoon, Kris planted her irises while I prepped the porches for painting. In the evening, we went to a potluck barbeque. Kris made a potato salad (using Yukon Golds she had purchased on sale) and we took a bottle of wine. In exchange, we received good food and good conversation.

On Sunday, we attended our monthly book group. This gathering is one of the highlights of our month, and a great example of frugal fun. Most members get the book selections through the public library, and the food is generally home-grown or home-made. Again, we felt like we obtained an excellent return on our minimal investment.

Note: These sorts of activities are valuable not only because they're inexpensive, but also because they increase social capital, that societal glue that makes neighborhoods stronger.

 

We also did a lot of other little things this weekend. Here are some of the other ways we saved money:

    • On Friday, I biked to the grocery store for a gallon of milk. We try to limit our grocery shopping to once every two or three weeks, but we make supplemental trips for dairy and produce.

 

    • I picked peas from the garden. In fact, I picked a record crop — nearly a kilo on Saturday alone (bringing our total for the year up to about 3.5kg).

 

    • Kris picked cucumbers and made pickles.

 

    • We stopped by the Asian market. It has great prices and fun items, but we're rarely in the neighborhood, so we try to visit it when we can.

 

    • I mixed up a large batch of Thai tuna salad to use for sandwiches all week long. Cheap and tasty!

 

 

    • I rode my bike to book group. Kris points out that this didn't really save us anything since she drove her car, but still… (Part of this ride was to help me determine whether I want/need to replace my bike. Answer? Undetermined.)

 

    • I figured out how to retrieve the sink plug from the bathroom drain. I'd been dreading this task (and had even thought of calling a plumber), but it was easy.

 

    • When I confessed that I'd recently pruned my extension cord while trimming the hedges, my friend Andrew offered to show me how to repair it. The job's not done, but will be soon.

 

 

A penny saved is a penny earned
“We had a perfect weekend,” Kris said as we got ready for bed last night. “And it didn't cost a lot.” These days of frugal fun helped us to see that we haven't lost our way, that our spending isn't actually out of control.

I don't want to make it sound like we're frugal angels, though. We're not. Next weekend, for example, we have tickets to see The Decemberists in concert. (Again!) Plus, I'm hoping we can go to Gino's for dinner on Friday; it's been a couple of weeks since Kris and I dined out together.

For me, this weekend was yet another reminder that frugality matters. By making smart choices most weekends, we're able to afford concerts and dinners out on others. And, more importantly, this everyday frugality means that we're able to spend money on those things that are more important to us, like a new mattress or a new bicycle — or a trip to Europe.

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Writer's Coin
Writer's Coin
11 years ago

Nothing beats getting through a weekend without spending a ton. I had a great weekend myself so you’re going to have to forgive me if I steal this post idea from you.

Thanks!

Meagan
Meagan
11 years ago

I’m currently planning a wedding shower myself. I’m trying to do it without spending a lot, and trying to keep everyone happy (35 guests), glad to know Kris’ shower went so well.

deb
deb
11 years ago

Sounds like a terrific weekend! Thanks for the tip on Hulu, I didn’t know they had the Bob Newhart Show. I hang my laundry out too – isn’t it wonderful?

Alan Cordle
Alan Cordle
11 years ago

Which night for the concert? We’ll be there Sunday. (And those tickets weren’t cheap!)

Alexandra
Alexandra
11 years ago

Would you mind sharing your recipe for Thai tuna salad? That sounds delicious!!

Beth @ Smart Family Tips
Beth @ Smart Family Tips
11 years ago

A great read. I’ve found that sometimes the most frugal entertainment is the most fun. A few families gathered around 4th of July weekend for some fun that ended up costing little to nothing. It was a great time spent watching the kids run around, catching up with neighbors, and watching a few fireworks.

friend
friend
11 years ago

J.D., Please buy yourself a new extension cord. Maybe you & your buddy can fix it — but you might be in for a shocking surprise. Please — I would miss you.

Nadia P
Nadia P
11 years ago

What section in Craigslist does Kris use to find flowers? It would be great to know for future flower deals in my area. 🙂 Thanks!

Jeremy
Jeremy
11 years ago

Frugality is a lifestyle change, not just for when you’re in debt.

Oskar
Oskar
11 years ago

Thanks for another great post!

Sound like a great weekend, me and my wife do something we call “zero weekends” i.e. a weekend when no cash leaves our pockets obviously we do eat drink and at times take a drive but we do not buy any new items. This is great not only because we save money but also that we really think about what we have and how we can make the most of that….also usually these are the weekends when we do all these little projects that we have been planning and that were never finalized.

Tracy
Tracy
11 years ago

This is great! It’s little things like this that can add up to make a big difference at the end of the year. I love that you mention Hulu because it has quickly become one of my favorite sites. I know Netflix is cheap, but Hulu is free! I also recommend that people check out their local libraries. Ours has an amazing selection of new movies, documentaries, and TV shows.

Justin
Justin
11 years ago

Thai tuna salad? Need the recipe!!

Karawynn @Pocketmint
Karawynn @Pocketmint
11 years ago

What is ‘Thai tuna salad’, exactly? (I like tuna and I like Thai, so …)

Tyler
Tyler
11 years ago

Participating in groups is almost always a sure fire way to save money whether it be pooling tools between neighbors, going to a potluck for dinner, or using the local library. I also noticed you mention that you’ve been hanging your laundry out to dry. I’ve been trying to do this more frequently as well, but I’ve never been quite satisfied with the results (crunchy socks and underwear, general stiffness of clothes). I’ve tried adding a fabric softener to the mix, but didn’t notice much difference. GRS Readers: Do you have any tips for air drying your clothes that will… Read more »

Sandra Dee
Sandra Dee
11 years ago

Yes, PLEASE share your recipe for Thai Tuna Salad. I always get the spicy thai tuna in a can from the grocery store but I would love to be able to make it myself.

Great post. Very fun to read!

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Tyler (#14) wrote: Do you have any tips for air drying your clothes that will keep them from becoming so stiff as they dry?

I actually don’t mind the stiff clothes. What I mind are the stiff towels. The day after Kris does the laundry is always invigorating when I get out of the shower. It’s like using sandpaper! 🙂

Lesley
Lesley
11 years ago

@Tyler: avoiding the crunchiness is really a matter of having a good breeze while drying. The heavier the item, the more breeze needed. If they’re crunchy after drying, a quick (5-10 min) tumble in the dryer will usually help, no heat necessary.

KC
KC
11 years ago

For air-dried laundry that isn’t “crispy” I put them in the dryer with a softner sheet for 15-20 mins and then hang them out to dry. I then reuse that dryer sheet as it still has some life. This usually softenes clothes enough. Also I think a 15 year old mattress needs to be replaces yesterday. I’m thinking of replacing our 8 year old one. When you think of how much time you spend on it its well worth it. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel with a new once. The bike can wait and the trip will… Read more »

deb
deb
11 years ago

Yes, a quick tumble in the dryer w/no heat will take care of the crunchiness. Throw in a couple tennis balls or those dryer balls and it’s even better. If I want soft towels I dry them to about 2/3 dry in the dryer and then hang (or just hand back up on the towel holders in the bathroom) to finish. Using less detergent helps too. I only use fabric softener in the winter to combat static, instead I use vinegar in the rinse, it gets the soap out better. The vinegar smell will be gone once the fabric dries.… Read more »

Journey
Journey
11 years ago

I need to work on frugal fun. I am lucky where I live has a lot of free events.

shauntck
shauntck
11 years ago

Great article. We’ve had a rather expensive weekend. We’re moving this week and getting together with a lot of friends and family going out to lunch/dinner. We need to figure out some alternatives to going to restaurants all the time. Any ideas?

Also, “the penny saved is a penny earned” just isn’t true! You have to pay taxes on the new income you earn and taxes on the purchases. I suppose this depends a little on where you live… but in Southern California I think it’s more like a penny saved is 1.5 pennies earned 🙂

EscapeVelocity
EscapeVelocity
11 years ago

Since I’m living in a dryer right now I’ve been handwashing some things and hanging them out (I don’t have a washer/dryer in the house)–my solution to the crunchiness problem is basically to machine-dry the towels and jeans, although probably just a quick tumble on air dry after they’re mostly dry would do it.

I didn’t spend much cash at all this weekend but I own two of the three boats I went sailing on so I guess it wasn’t that frugal. I did get taken out for dinner in exchange for one of the sails, though.

MichaelM
MichaelM
11 years ago

We’re doing most of our own repairs on our home (just bought a foreclosure), which means that every few weeks we go plop down $200 at Home Depot. Even though I know we’re saving when compared to having someone come do the fixes for us, it’s still unsettling to see that total come up.

Jill
Jill
11 years ago

What kind of bike are you thinking? If you’re looking at nicer road bikes, I’d try an e-mail to a couple local cycling clubs saying what type and size of bike you’re looking for. A lot of those riders are always looking to buy the newest, fastest, and lightest thing on the market, and sometimes are willing to let go of some of their existing bike stash for pretty good prices in order to justify to a spouse that they’d have the space in the garage for the latest Cervelo, Look, Felt, Serotta, etc.

Linear Girl
Linear Girl
11 years ago

For some items the crispiness of air dried is desirable – cloth napkins, dish towels and dress shirts almost seem ironed without any extra effort. I don’t even notice the stiffness on towels and jeans after the first few seconds so I’m willing to cope with it for the value I derive from air drying. And for the opposing view, please DO fix that extension cord rather than buy a new one. Learning (aka gaining knowledge) is always better than giving in to the fear the maybe you won’t do it correctly. Wiring is not mysterious or fickle, it’s just… Read more »

frugalscholar
frugalscholar
11 years ago

For your mattress–you might try buying a nice featherbed or a memory foam pad. Our daughter is sleeping on our old mattress. We were going to replace and then tried the above. Better than like new. And all our guests have bought featherbeds! (We use the memory foam on our bed).

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

48 comics that should sell for $20 each, all for $40?! I’d be stoked too 😉
Nice analogy.

DeborahM
DeborahM
11 years ago

I’m going to be the Voice of Caution here, i.e. the partypooper. Have you ever considered that this wonderful website might have a “best by” date, and that your peak earnings may be RIGHT NOW? I’ve noticed the trend away from frugality and into exhilarated (key word) spending, and I think your wife has a point. Even if this isn’t true, it’s not a bad thought to dwell on for a while. Mattress – important. Bike – could get a used one. After all, once you wheel it outta the store, it’s “used”. Trip to France & Italy – depends… Read more »

Rich Dad
Rich Dad
11 years ago

Frugality indeed is a lifestyle. Read, “The Millionaire Next Door” by Stanley Thomas and William Danko. Ordinary people creating extraordinary wealth through simple little disciplines.

Nathan Nontell
Nathan Nontell
11 years ago

The Decemberists! I saw their show at Bonnaroo this year and it was spectacular! Hearing “Hazards of Love” live in its entirety might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is definitely worth the money! Have a blast! 🙂

Caitlin
Caitlin
11 years ago

Sounds like a very nice weekend!

Thanks to all the GRS readers for the tips on getting the crispiness out of line-dried clothes. I like the idea of line-drying, but when I was growing up I wore so many stiff, scratchy clothes that I grew to hate it, and I’d like to get back into it to save energy.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
Katy Wolk-Stanley
11 years ago

J.D., My 74-year-old father has been riding his three-speed bicycle back and forth to work and about town since 1965. (He lives in Irvington and teaches at P.S.U.) I have the same embarrassingly named “Hard Rock” bike I bought in college. Keep your bike well maintained and you should be able to ride it for years. I have made a personal policy that if I have to talk myself into a purchase then perhaps I shouldn’t be buying it. And it does sound like you’re “talking yourself” into a new bike purchase. On the traveling though? Frugality is about saving… Read more »

Matt aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Cheapskate
Matt aka Your Friendly Neighborhood Cheapskate
11 years ago

JD: If a new bike will get you riding more, I say go for it! For example, I once had plenty of mornings where I didn’t feel like peddling my mountain bike all day long, so I would drive instead. However, after getting a more “road friendly” bike, I found myself once again biking every day to work. The savings from increased bike commuting alone eventually paid for the new bike.

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

I enjoyed garage sales for the first time in a long while. I now only buy if its something I really need. My son loves to look and found 5 DVD’s for a dollar each. Most of all I enjoyed seeing the strange stuff for sale! My favorites were a Partridge Family best hit CD and a magazine rack with two HUGE ashtrays attached! I think I relived my life thru people Stuff. Great free entertainment and I really enjoyed the time with my son.

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Just a point of clarification: If I get a new bike, it will be because my current bikes (yes, plural) don’t fit. I’ve never had a bike that fits before. My road bike (actually a touring bike) is too big. My mountain bike (acquired used) seems small. But maybe not TOO small. That’s why I’m riding it around the neighborhood lately. I’m trying to see how I feel after using it on a regular basis. So far, so good, so I may not have to get anything new. (Does anybody know how to tell the size on an old Trek… Read more »

Erica Douglass
Erica Douglass
11 years ago

“Have you ever considered that this wonderful website might have a “best by” date, and that your peak earnings may be RIGHT NOW?”

Ha! Amusing. I’d like to offer the counterpoint. Have you ever considered that most websites’ earnings have nothing to do with “popularity”?

I know folks with 1/10 of the blog/list subscribers as J.D. who make 10 times his annual income. Has nothing to do with perceived “popularity”. Most sites only generate a small percentage of their income from pure pageviews.

-Erica

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
11 years ago

Last year you pointed us to The Simple Notebook because of “No Spend Month” and I have been reading it ever since. They do it every July and are currently in the middle of it. Rachel does it to remind herself that no one really needs too many things and to be more mindful of every day spending. This post made me think you need a “No Spend Month”. 😀

Ian
Ian
11 years ago

“(Does anybody know how to tell the size on an old Trek 950? My Bianchi Volpe is 52cm, and is a little big. As I say, the Trek seems small, so I’m guessing it’s 18″. My natural fit is about 19.5″.)” Why not take the bikes into a shop and ask for help with a fitting? Be honest about the fact that you’re looking to buy used, and offer to pay. You also might not need to sell one of the bikes, maybe a new seat or differnt length handlebar stem would do the trick. The Recyclery in SE PDX… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
11 years ago

15 years is reaching the lifespan of a mattress. However for those who have old(er) mattress and want to get some more years out of it, a latex topper is an option. I thought we needed to replace our 7? year old bed, but after purchasing 1.5″ latex topper the bed is more comfortable than it’s ever been.

Brooke
Brooke
11 years ago

I love the crispy towels! I love feeling them relax as you towel off, weird, I know. But I can appreciate the crispiness 🙂 And my first frugal weekend was inspired by a post either here or on the Simple Dollar (sorry, when I first began reading pf blogs, I wasn’t really distinguishing between you and Trent) that a good way to spend a “money free” weekend was to do all the organization projects that were always put off. It inspired a month of “money free weekends” spent organizing, purging, and realizing how much stuff I really owned! Now I… Read more »

katy
katy
11 years ago

Please get a new mattress; don’t be ‘frugal’ with your health. Short story: I had severe neck pain and saw a top NewYorkCity orthopedist . After expensive tests and a lot of wasted time, He had me wear a neck contraption at home. So I hung my chin in a strap; it used levers and pully and he gave he me exercises to do.

He never asked how old my mattress was. It was over 20. I got a new mattress and within days was fine!!!! So, now every 7-8 years we get a new mattress. No problems.

MIchele
MIchele
11 years ago

JD, Kris absolutely scored on those irises. Every year our local Garden Club does a plant sale, just the extra stuff in their yards from years of propogations and splits.

plants range from $2 all the way up to about $7. Just an example, I paid $4 for a lilac that would have cost me $12 from a garden shop. This year I got 15 plants for around $50 that would have cost me 3-4 times that even from a discount garden shop.

I only buy perennials, never pay money for flowers that die at the end of the season.

Tyler
Tyler
11 years ago

You guys are awesome. I’ll give the no heat tumble dry technique a go for next week’s load!

sarah
sarah
11 years ago

I am curious to see what your house looks like since you painted it.

mrs darling
mrs darling
11 years ago

JD, considering Im your cousin I sure dont read this blog like I should. But today Im here and I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed this very personable post here at GRS. I was amazed at the frugality you pointed out in the little things. It made me realize how frugally we live and we dont even know it. I wondered why I dont recognize this stuff in my own life. After thinking on this for a bit I think that it may be that when frugality becomes a lifestyle one doesnt even really realize it. It’s… Read more »

Kevin M
Kevin M
11 years ago

This post got me thinking and realized we had a pretty frugal weekend too: Saturday – went to the pro hockey team development camp (all their prospects get together and practice) scrimmage with my brother and his family. Then we walked around the mall and went to Cabela’s so the kids could look at all the fish tanks. Cost – $0, (well except for the coffee, so say $6). Later we went to eat at Qdoba for our once-a-week meal out of the house. Cost – $17. Sunday – met my brother and family at the local flea market. Nobody… Read more »

Colleen in MA
Colleen in MA
11 years ago

Yes – weekends are where our money disappears quite easily. Weekdays are full of work and brown bag lunches and making dinner at home, but the weekends are about getting out and sometimes we can forget the fun does not have to be proportional to the money spent. I love The Bob Newhart Show too! I keep renting it from Netflix. The thing that struck me was the amount of eating in that they did. They made breakfast at home, made coffee and had drinks at home, had coffee made in the office. Not a lot of eating out or… Read more »

Chris Brown
Chris Brown
11 years ago

Ha ha ha! You really watched multiple episodes of the Bob Newhart show? What a crazy life you live. You know they have new shows on the the new fangled tv box thingy that are also free? I guess Daryl and Daryl and Larry are funny…. the first time you hear that joke. And that chick is semi hot in a messed up 80’s hair kinda way. But, still…….

Marie
Marie
11 years ago

I’m surprised to hear that making your own food for a shower is “frugal”. In my circle, that’s just how it’s done. What other option is there? Catered food? I’ve never heard of using a catering service for anything other than a wedding reception.

It’s always interesting to hear traditions in other parts of the U.S.

Marie
Marie
11 years ago

Forget to ask: how do you hang your wash out and have it come in clean? We’re semi-rural like yourself and cannot hang wash without it getting covered in bird sh*t.

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