Spending can be so damned easy sometimes. You don’t necessarily have to fall victim to the ever-present shadow of marketing and advertising. All it takes is the ultimate form of advertising (and Madison Avenue knows this well): Seeing what the neighbors are up to. I use the term “neighbors” loosely in this context. The Jones’s here could be your friends, relatives, or the people you pass on the street.
I’m conjuring up today’s theme after personally picking up on some of the desirable things that OTHER people have in their lives. Temptation is a beast. But fortunately, after a few years of exercising some ever-stronger frugality muscles, I think I have a pretty good force-field in place.
Just this past Saturday, we visited a regional park to enjoy their lodge-erific common space, complete with kids play area, tables to eat at, a fireplace, and views of snowy nature just outside. We figured a packed picnic lunch would make for a nice family outing. So there we were, saving money, enjoying our lunch after a trip to the library no less (double frugal bonus), when a bunch of skiers popped in.
Me: “I think it’d be fun to get skis for the family. Be a fun way to get us out of the house in the wintertime.”
Mrs. C: “You remember how fast kids grow, right? This is why we’re not doing hockey.”
Me: “Right. We could rent, I guess?”
Mrs. C: “That’d be better. Now stop thinking about how to spend money and enjoy your lunch!”
Me: “Yeah. I bet there’s a trade-in program out there too for this kind of stuff.”
So right there, we have a couple of options: Buy, rent, or buy-and-replace as the kids grow. The cost of ski equipment ain’t cheap. It’d probably run us close to a grand to do it with any semblance of quality for a family of four.
Before I met my lovely wife (incidentally, before I had a clue), I plopped over a grand for my very own downhill ski equipment. Haven’t been on the slopes since the kids were born. But who knows, maybe I’ll get back out there again…
With that lesson in mind, I’m thinking we’ll probably rent, assuming we pick up cross-country skiing as a family. Or who knows, we might opt to try snowshoeing instead? Here in Minnesota, there’s no shortage of bitter cold days to enjoy these kinds of activities. Remember that Super Bowl a few weeks back? Friggin’ -5F low that day.
Save Money on Media
I’m sort of double-dipping earlier posts on some of these items. Sue me. I’m tired and I need a vacation to think of some new blog topics.
At any rate, in my humble, yet all-knowing opinion, it’s important to your bottom line to consider alternatives to purchasing things like books, music, and news. I used to really enjoy buying (and eventually reading) my own books. When they’re brand-new, books give off a fine wood-pulp-meets-chemical smell that I get to appreciate as the first reader. Ahhh…. new book smell…
Music? Well, as much as I used to love getting new CDs, I still remember how much a pain in the ass it was to get the damn thing out of the cellophane wrapper. Half the time I’d end up cracking the jewel case. Friggin’… Piece of….
Nowadays, I’m happy to be done with wastefully collecting CDs and instead enjoying Pandora and *gasp!* FM RADIO.
Having grown up in a household that always got the daily paper, I started out with a similar habit right out of college. Had to keep up on all the murder, mayhem, and business drama going on. And that was just the Sports section.
At some point in later years (still 20s – I’m not that far gone), I started actually reading the News and Business sections, and came away feeling pretty disturbed about the world outside. That, and I was put off by seriously inky fingers.
Nowadays I get all the news I need from YouTube, courtesy of Steven Colbert and John Oliver. Oh, and I check my phone wayyyy too much for headlines on the Washington Post. No more inky fingers, and no more feeling guilty about not finishing a pile of news and tossing gobs of circulars.
Save Money on Travel
I have some co-workers that seem to have a nervous twitch if they haven’t booked a flight to some exotic location that requires a minimum 8 hour flight. What really gets me is how they have these urges despite having one or more kids still in diapers. Jesus. God help me (and by the way, if you’re still there, there’s a sweet car floating your way!)
Having traveled with twin infants, I can attest to the gauntlet that is air travel. Thankfully, it gets easier as kids grow up and get a little more self-sufficient. Nevertheless, travel is expensive.
Whether or not you use points. The Cubert family (of course!) uses points each year to visit grandparents in Nevada. This is a three-hour direct flight that feels just about the ceiling of our “Travel with little kids” limits.
I mentioned this is in a post last week, but it sure is nice to have a place to stay and child care for the kids, so mom and dad can have some “us” time. The same is true when we hit the road in summertime to visit my parents in Michigan. There’s room for the kids and spoilerific, loving childcare. And bonus, the road trip requires zero points.
The point of all this is that travel is great, but it doesn’t have to be an annual or semi-annual affair to Bora Bora. There are sweet deals to be had on airfare, and if you’re savvy with points you can really game the system. BUT there are “hidden” costs to consider (meals, activities, baggage fees, ground transport, etc.)
Game Night! BYOB (bring your own backgammon)
Just this past Saturday, we had the pleasure of hosting Erik and Gwen from TheMastermindWithin.com and FieryMillennials.com. We had a great time connecting over blog stuff and all sorts of other shit while playing cards. I even nearly got away with stealing Gwen’s drink at one point. I blame the tequila.
Double dates, happy hours, and hitting the town always seem to top everyone’s list when it comes to the weekend. Well, I’m here to tell you that a good old-fashioned Game Night is where the action is at. Especially in cold states like Minnesota.
Just invite your friends over to make THEM go out in the cold (JK Erik and Gwen!) But don’t worry. They’ll appreciate not having to hop from bar to bar, or bar to restaurant, or restaurant to bar, in 10 below wind chills.
Substitutions Apply to MANY Things!
The lesson here isn’t meant to zero-in on just a few excessively overwrought frugal nuggets. These are simply examples that you can springboard from, to other substitutes.
Think about it when you’re dining out: Do you really need the filet mignon, when the burger is pretty good? Do you need a new Tesla Model S, when you could ride your bike and save the planet? (Oh, but how I would KILL for my very own glossy black Model S!!!)
Some things you just can’t make substitutes for: You need decent, durable clothes. You gotta have healthy, organic whole foods (especially when you live in state with a two month growing season.) Just don’t get too caught up in what your neighbors or friends are doing. Simple as that.
This past summer I contemplated an in-the-ground swimming pool, inspired by our neighbor’s recent install. Then I remembered we live in frickin’ MINNESOTA. That’s a pretty fat expense for said two-month growing season.
Stay thirsty my friends, and stay frugal!