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Friday, February 11, 2011

Little Luxuries

There are eyes upon me when I go to the grocery store. There are eyes upon me whatever I do, watching how I spend my money, wondering, questioning, perhaps even judging. No, I'm not kidding. Just today, I bumped into a friend outside the grocery shop. She wanted to know why I was there- "I thought you weren't going grocery shopping for the next month or two?"

I put myself out there as someone extremely frugal. People all over the internet and all over my community know that. It doesn't bother me too terribly that they're watching my every move, but when I do something that seems non thrifty, I've gotten some bemused "scoldings" from friends of mine who said "We saw what you bought the other day" with a little finger wagging.
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Today, for example, I wonder what my friend thought when she saw me walking home from the local Mom and Pop's with a package of disposable diapers hooked on to my stroller, two bottles of Coca Cola  in my shopping bag, and my sons and I sharing a store bought treat. Was she thinking I'm a hypocrite? That I talk about the pitfalls of shopping a corner store, extol the virtues of cloth diapering, and claim to make everything healthy and from scratch, and yet she sees me not following my own dictum?
While I know intellectually that I don't need to justify myself to anyone, and that I'm accountable only to myself, my spouse and my bank account, I just got inspired by today's event to post about little luxuries with which I allow myself to indulge, and why. Maybe next time you see someone frugal who may at first appear to not be practicing what she preaches, you'll note which small luxuries you also include in your life, and why.

Little Luxuries

I'm a big believer that you should make the best life for yourself that you can afford, while still living beneath your means. I also think its terrible to get yourself into a situation in which you resent being frugal, so many times, little luxuries cost just a little bit of extra money to bring a large amount of satisfaction into your life, making you more emotionally available to be as frugal as necessary.
Lets start with my luxuries today.

Disposable diapers. I cloth diaper, like 99% of the time. My stash isn't gigantic, but it works for me. There are times though, that I realize that my stash won't be enough, like today when my 16 month old, Ike, has a stomach bug and is going through diapers so quickly that I can't keep up with the laundry. In addition to all that, the diarrhea gave him a very painful rash. I bought the cheapest package of disposable diapers that I could buy and will be using that until the tummy bug is gone. Now I don't have to deal with extra laundry on top of an extra cranky baby, and I can just focus on what he needs to do to get well. Additionally, disposable diapers are so absorbent that at the moment, they have the added benefit of  keeping his painful rash dry. I feel justified in having bought disposable diapers today.

Coca Cola. No, we definitely don't buy this often. But cola syrup, one of the main ingredients, works as a stomach soother, an anti nausea and an anti emetic. I lived off of this during the early part of my pregnancy with Ike and it kept me from puking up my guts like I did when I was pregnant with Lee. Today though, I bought Coca Cola for Ike, and fortunately, once he started drinking some, I didn't need to clean up any more vomit from the floor, the bed, me, etc. (6 times in the past 24 hours was more than enough!) I probably should keep a bottle in my house for the future so I don't need to make a trip out just for this.

Treats at the grocery store. I don't buy treats at my house. Treats at home are all healthy ones made from scratch, using basic ingredients. We don't stock pretzels, potato chips, fruit roll ups, raisins, gummy candies, Doritos, peanut chews, or anything remotely similar in our house. The one exception to my rule is that I will buy one cheap treat for the kids when we go to the grocery store. I give them the option of the cheapest treats, make sure there's nothing supremely unhealthy about it, and split it amongst the three of us. Today we got a small bag of potato chips. Other days we've gotten a relatively additive free peanut snack.
Why do I get these? Because Lee and Ike request it and will behave themselves in the store if they know they'll get a treat at the end. I could always leave them with a babysitter instead of taking them along and then I'd prevent this, or I could let them have melt downs in the store, but the treats cost me less than I'd pay a babysitter, it teaches them about sharing, and it isn't a battle I wish to pick because of the reason mentioned next. And being as I go grocery shopping very infrequently, this little amount doesn't add up quickly at all.

Random treats here and there. My kids will eventually figure out that they're growing up without a lot of money. That's fine with me. What I don't want my kids to feel is that they're growing up without. Feeling like you're lacking something is a surefire way to build resentment. Which is why I do get my kids treats here and there. And we do so frugally. We pick out a relatively non expensive treat. Like every once in a while we'll get a soft serve ice cream (2 dollars) and share it. (So when you see me in the central bus station eating ice cream with my kids, you don't have to tsk tsk me. I don't consider this to be hypocritical at all. Its part of my overall frugal strategy.) Or my husband will pick up a little something for my kids from the dollar store. I want my children to feel that they can have whatever they need and that we're able to afford to splurge on them as well.

Birthday bashes for kids. I throw nice birthday parties for the kids. Cheaply. Not as cheap as I possibly could. I could make something tiny that would cost pennies if I wanted to, but it makes me feel good as a mom to be able to make my kids feel special for a day. So instead I make a larger party, but still keep the costs way down.

Birthday celebrations for me and the hubby. My husband and I share a birthday that's coming up really soon. We usually go out to a nice restaurant one time a year to celebrate, but I'm thinking I want to do something different this year. Suggestions welcome. I think I may just get sick thinking about the money being wasted on garbage if we go out to eat like we usually do. I'm not sure...

Quick cooking foods. 5 minute couscous, instant rice noodles, canned beans, instant mashed potatoes. These definitely aren't among the cheapest of the foods I can buy, but I purchase them as a backup for days that I haven't the energy to cook or prepare lunch for my husband to take to work. While not dirt cheap, these foods are still cheaper than buying takeout. (Not to mention healthier.) I try not to use these too frequently.

Olive oil. This makes my foraged edible weeds taste so much yummier. I probably use a tablespoon at a time for each batch of foraged greens, and probably spend less on the olive oil than I would have spent on store bought greens to replace what I forage.

Meat, cheese, fish. You absolutely don't need these to survive, so any of these are luxuries. Sure, we could live off of rice and beans, but it would get old quick. Instead, I just try to buy these things on sale, buy the cheapest types that I can, and don't use them too frequently or in large quantities. Pretty much we have cheese once or twice a month, fish every week or two (including cans of tuna), and meat (chicken usually) for two to six meals per week (out of the 21 meals each week).

Butter. Butter makes everything taste good, and its a good source of fat soluble vitamins in addition to having other health benefits. I buy this, but try not to go through it too quickly. I usually buy 1-2 sticks per month.

Healthy oils. We're a soy and canola oil free house, and that means I spend more money on healthier oils. Health is paramount, which is why I feel this luxury is worthwhile.

Spices and condiments. Yes, by the pound these end up being some of the most expensive types of food. But as they make everything taste better, especially frugal foods, they're worth the money. You don't use so much at one time, so these last longer than other food, making them worthwhile.

Variety. I get bored of the same food over and over. I need variety in my food for my emotional wellbeing. Because of this, I sometimes spend a little more on food so I can get variety. I just make sure that the foods that I'm getting are as low priced as I can get them, even if they aren't the cheapest foods available. And I make sure that the more expensive foods get eaten more rarely. That's why I'll buy beef on sale, even though its sale price is more than the regular price of chicken. I'll also buy mushrooms when they're on sale. This luxury is worth it for me because it makes me be able to emotionally withstand a very frugal lifestyle.


Stay at home mom. I'm listing this just because I know so many people would consider this a luxury, but I don't. Its a financially wise move for us because I am able to save infinitely more money via staying home than I am working out of the house. Childcare here is expensive, transportation is expensive, and most jobs here pay very little. All I'd gain from working out of the house would be exhaustion, and maybe a few hundred dollars a month. A few hundred dollars a month that I'm easily able to save because I'm a stay at home mom. But I don't consider myself a stay at home mom anyhow- I'm a part time work at home mom, doing what I enjoy most- writing about frugality, and making money for it!

So, there you have it. I owed that explanation to no one, but wanted to post it anyhow. We live below our means, spend less than nearly anyone I know, and are in a relatively ok position financially despite our income and despite these occasional splurges. Next time you see me or anyone else doing something you might consider to be wasteful with our money, remember that everyone has their little luxuries, and often its these little luxuries that nourish us emotionally so that we're able to withstand the occasional harshness entailed in extreme frugal living.

Do you ever see frugal people doing seemingly hypocritical things? What do you think inside your head? What would be your reaction if you saw me walking down the street, disposable diaper package and a bottle of Coca Cola in the shopping bag, and sharing a bag of chips with my kids?
What are your little luxuries? Why do you allow yourself to splurge on those?

(Sorry for the delay in posting. First I was dealing with a sick kid, but when I finally wrote this up, my internet was down, so I could only post it now.)

Linking up to Frugal Friday.


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