Frugal living fact vs. fiction

My Story: Frugal Myths

contributed by Kim in FL

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My husband is in the ministry, and we are living on his income and his income alone. We have been through several rough times together, and we've only been married for three years! Anyway, most of the time I agree with the advice given by people to save money, but other times experience has taught me differently. Here is what I have entitled "Frugal Myths."

  1. Buying your clothing and shoes at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Target, you'll get the best deal.

    Sometimes this one can be right, but most of the time, it's just a myth. Although you can get a great deal of clothing at a decent price, the products tend to be of lower quality and don't last as long. This is most relevant with shoes. What good is paying $30 for a pair of dress shoes that fall apart in three months? You'd be better off buying name brand shoes on sale or at an outlet store. That way, you get maximum value without jeopardizing quality. With clothing, I find that a lot of the "cheap" clothes tend to have a lot of loose threads and tear easily. Once again, outlets seem to be the best way to go.
  2. With groceries and toiletries, get everything generic or at a dollar store.

    Wrong! I cannot stress this enough. I have had many experiences with this particular myth, and I wholeheartedly contest that it is not true. For example, I thought I'd save a few dollars by purchasing inexpensive dishwasher liquid. Big mistake. I had to basically hand wash each dish to get it clean.

    Dishwashers are supposed to create less work for you, not more. When I finally broke down and spent more on name brand dishwashing detergent, I was amazed. The dishes come out flawless and sparkling, without any rinsing on my part. So you see, generic is not always the best deal. I've found this to be true with dishwashing detergent, clothing detergent, fabric softener, glass cleaner, and toothpaste. Sure, I can get a tube of toothpaste for $1, but does anyone ever notice that it doesn't have the ADA symbol on it? For your own health and appearance, you're much better off springing for a tube of toothpaste that is approved by the American Dental Association. They give their stamp of approval for a reason.
  3. Never buy mixes, always make everything from scratch.

    Okay, okay, I can hear the groans now. Let me just say that for the most part, this one is true. But, there are exceptions to every rule. I live in the South and one of the big desserts around here is red velvet cake. Red velvet cake is very expensive to make. This is a particular situation where buying red velvet cake mix is a solution. Also, I believe that if you factor in the cost of eggs and butter, brownie mix is a good buy, too.

Now that I've given you my opinion of what doesn't work, let me tell you what does work:

  1. Cook your meals at home instead of going out. I know you've heard this one before. One very important thing that I must add to this, though, is to invest in a good quality set of knives. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to slice a tomato with a cheap knife. Instead of slicing it, you end up squishing it. Ever tried slicing bread with a knife from a dollar store? I have. I ended up with bread crumbs. Save yourself the frustration and go ahead and spring for decent cutlery. I tend to go with middle-priced items. They're higher quality than the cheap brand, but better value than the most expensive variety.
  2. Did you know that just by changing the time of day you do things, you can save $30? Let's take a look at this. You and your spouse go out to dinner and a movie. Dinner at a casual dining restaurant with tax and tip can end up being about $50 to $75. Then, the movie tickets are $10 a piece, costing $20 total. For your evening date, you have spent between $70 and $95 dollars. Now, let's say that instead of dinner and a movie, you go out to lunch and a movie. Lunch at a casual dining restaurant with tax and tip usually will cost around $25. Movies before 6pm usually cost around $7. So, for your afternoon date, you spend $32. How's that for mathematics? You can eat the same exact food and see the same exact movie and manage to save at least $40.
  3. Making meals at home doesn't have to be a chore if you prepare. Think about what your family likes to eat the most, and if you can make batches of it ahead and freeze them, do it! My family loves homemade breads. We can't stand the stuff in a can in the refrigerated section that they try to pass off as biscuits. Make a double batch of your favorite biscuit recipe. Roll out the dough and cut out biscuits just as you normally would. Load them up on a couple of cookie sheets and stick them in the freezer. Freeze them for a few hours or overnight. When they're hard, collect them all and throw them into a resealable bag. When you want biscuits, just take out however many you need and bake them at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Heaven! If you don't have a good biscuit recipe, here is one of mine:

    Simple Buttermilk Biscuits
    4 cups self rising flour
    1 cup shortening
    2 cups buttermilk or sour milk

    Put the flour and shortening in a bowl and get out a pastry blender or a fork. Using your tool of choice, mash the shortening into the flour until it is in little bean sized chunks. Using a big wooden spoon, stir in the buttermilk or sour milk. (To make sour milk, at 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to every 1 cup of milk.) When the mixture is blended, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead it with your hands exactly 12 times, no more, no less. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Cut out the biscuits into whatever shapes you like. I prefer big "grand" sized biscuits. (If you don't have a biscuit cutter, just use a glass or an empty tuna can. Take off the label and run it through the dishwasher, and there's your biscuit cutter!) Place the cut out biscuits onto cookie sheets. When all the dough has been used, place the cookie sheets in the freezer and freeze overnight. In the morning, take all the biscuits off of the cookie sheets and place them in a plastic bag to return them to the freezer. To bake, just take out however many you need, place them in a cake pan or on a cookie sheet, and bake them at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. This recipe makes three dozen small biscuits or two dozen large biscuits. Enjoy!

    I also will bake brownies and cupcakes. I'll freeze the brownies cut up into squares, or I'll ice the cupcakes and freeze them on a cookie sheet. When frozen, wrap individually. To thaw, remove the wrapping and nuke in the microwave for 20 seconds.

Updated October 2013

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