Frugal Friday, April 3

Four Pillars, writer of the blog of the same name, was disappointed in yesterday’s post.  Since he has also expressed an appreciation for the Frugal Friday series, and since I did not want to disappoint my biggest only Canadian fan, I thought it was time for another update on goings on in theIowa Bathtub Crop frugalosphere.

I start with a follow-up.  Obviously ignoring this post on how to make your own maple syrup, which was repeated as guest post on Not Made of Money and mentioned here in Frugal Friday twice, Frugal Upstate provided an alternate method (with pictures!) that involves getting stuff out of trees and boiling it.  Yuck.

Also somewhat unpleasant was Free Money Finance’s revisiting of his crackpot idea that you can save money by living in a cheaper city.  He actually openly refers to this as his “most hated piece of money saving advice.”  Why won’t he get a clue?  Moving someplace cheaper is not in keeping with the frugal lifestyle.  If you move, you might save a lot of money each month, but you will soon get used to living in the new town.  You will not get to act frugally as you save the money, you will merely save it.  And that’s not frugal.

Our old friend Kelly at Almost Frugal posted a list of 7 Crazy Money Saving Ideas (That Aren’t Really So Crazy After All).  The two highlights are to use the bathroom before leaving work in the afternoon, which saves you money on both toilet paper and water, and to turn off your car’s engine at stoplights.  I’m sure the guy behind you won’t mind.

Saving Advice had a somewhat controversial post about the thin line between being frugal and being a packrat.  I guess it’s all a question about where you draw the line.  The author agrees that storing “that perfectly functional lawnmower you found on the curb” in case the one you already have breaks down makes sense. And she yet frowns on saving old newspapers, butter tubs and loose screws.  Perhaps she would feel better if she read this post about how to use contact paper and wallpaper samples to dress up the cardboard storage boxes that inevitably fill the frugal home.

The group blog Queercents had two posts worth highlighting here.  First, Tamara, who previously clued us into the joys of dating yourself, now lets us in on the hip frugal place to go on a date: to church.

And Nina tells us how to make gift bags from recycled newspaper.  She cites ReuseableBags.com to tell us that “a staggering $5 billion worth of gift wrap is tossed in the trash each year.”  I know I am staggered.  I went over to ReusableBags and read that “each year a staggering $5 billion worth of gift wrap is tossed in the trash.”  So it must be true.  That’s only about $50 per household every year.

But the most useful tip of this edition of Frugal Friday comes from Home Life Weekly, which provides us with another money saving recipe for a household essential that even the most frugal house could not do without.  This time it is bath salts.  Key active ingredient? Something called “Epsom Bath Salts.”

[Photo: US Navy.  It is of the bathtub on the battleship USS Iowa, which is the only bathtub on a US Navy warship.]

7 Comments

  • By abdpbt personal finance, April 3, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

    LOLOLOLOL

    bath salts . . . oh if only there were a homemade, green, cheaper alternative–WAIT, there is?

  • By sarah, April 3, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

    Thanks for this. It reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about recently: the difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation. Homemade bath salts are probably efficient. But what if we just skipped them altogether? Right – that would take all the fun out of it. We wouldn’t be getting a good deal.

    I wonder: when did avoiding having to deal (consume) altogether cease to count as the best deal of all?

  • By Chelsey, April 3, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

    Generally, I think that you give some pretty good advice, but your comment about moving to a cheaper city not being frugal is just plain stupid. According to you, “You will not get to act frugally as you save the money, you will merely save it. And that’s not frugal.” Being frugal is a means to an end. Instead of making several smaller choices to save money, a person who moves to a cheaper city makes one very substantial frugal move. In general, people are not frugal because they enjoy doing without. True frugality, as opposed to being miserly, is about doing the best you can to reduce expenses in one area of your life so that you can better enjoy other areas. I might choose to clip coupons and save on my weekly grocery bill so that I can use my savings to purchase a car in cash. Someone else may choose to drop cable television in order to save more quickly for retirement. Another may choose to move to Albuquerque from San Fransisco so that they will be able to eat pizza on a Friday night. All of these are frugal decisions, and none is inherently better than the other. It all comes down to preferences. Since you claim to be a student of economics, I’m surprised you don’t seem to acknowledge this.

  • By Frank Curmudgeon, April 4, 2009 @ 11:47 am

    Chelsey:

    I’m sorry. I know this can be confusing. I have a strange disorder that makes me embrace the frugal lifestyle on some Fridays. The rest of the time, like now, I don’t get it either.

    I am all in favor of saving money. A person only has so much of it and must allocate this limited resource carefully. But I make a distinction between that and what I call the frugal lifestyle. The frugal lifestyle is not really about saving money, it is about engaging in practices that give you the positive and self-affirming feeling that you are saving money. Sometimes, maybe even often, that feeling is disconnected from reality.

    The idea of using the bathroom at work instead of at home is an extreme example. The cost may be only a modest inconvenience, but the benefit is so small as to be nearly impossible to measure. And yet, for some people, doing this makes them feel good because it is a conscious daily act of saving money. I have nothing against feeling good, but when it comes at the expense of fooling yourself about your finances, I get very worried.

    I think that moving to a less expensive city is so obviously a sound idea that it amuses me that FMF gets so much grief about it. (I think it amuses him too.) Moving across the country is certainly difficult, and not something that I would expect very many people to be able or willing to do. But it could potentially make a big financial difference, and it is something that anybody who wants to save money should consider, if only briefly. However, it does not conform to the frugal lifestyle. First, it is way too inconvenient and doesn’t involve a clever DIY project. Second, once you move, you don’t get the daily affirmation of actively doing something to save money.

  • By Robert, April 4, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

    I think my favorite nugget of bath salt advice is to be sure to use salt that doesn’t have as much sodium chloride (salt) in it.

    I’m hoping someone will come up with a way to save just a little more money by combining the bath salt & homemade maple syrup recipes.

  • By Amy, April 4, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

    The best “crazy tip” had to be to stop buying lottery tickets. I’m not sure what that says about the author (or the audience), but I’m sure whatever it is, it’s unpleasant.

  • By Four Pillars, April 4, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

    Thanks for the link – for the record I wasn’t completely devasted by the Ramsey post – but I am looking forward to the series. DR should provide lots of good material.

    Chelsey – you didn’t get the joke.

    Bath salts? Who the hell uses those?

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