Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Recent Outgoing Mail Art, June 2014
When you've made a commitment (at long last, for me) to live within your means, that's when you really learn the value of money.  Everything you now spend your money on has to fit into the context of your life, because this money is all you've got.  So you become uber-discriminating, you question every purchase, you spend your few resources wisely.  For me, I've made that into a game, a personal challenge on the order of "How little can I spend this week or this month?"  "How much money can I have left over before my next social security deposit (so that I can buy something special, or even save it for later)?"  Before the advent of credit cards, this kind of thinking was gospel.

Even though I've really never had any money, as mentioned in my last post, it wasn't until recently that I became truly frugal.  It's impossible to see the connection between money and intrinsic value and life energy when you're spending all the time.  Even if you have a lot of money.  When you really think about how much value something is going to add to your life, or whether that item is just a throwaway or an unnecessary bit of entertainment that's gone as soon as it's spent...well, it makes you take a real critical look at what has meaning for you.

A couple months ago when I wrote about my lack of drive to make art, I mentioned feeling that I didn't have any desire.  Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.  I still don't feel desirous of anything.  I can say with complete honesty that there isn't anything that I really want that money could buy if I had it.  And that's a good thing.  Yet I don't feel like there's anything missing in my life.  It makes life really simple.

In terms of stuff I need, and I'm really careful not to turn wants into needs, here are some things that I do ~
  • I buy a lot of stuff at the dollar store (actually Dollar Tree -- and incidentally, the one in Fortuna, one of four in Humboldt County, is expanding and will be the 2nd largest in the county come July) ~ household cleaning stuff, household plastics, kitchen tools, office supplies, some bath and beauty things, candles and other minor decor items.  Some folks don't like to shop here because they think only down-and-outs shop here.  Hello, I guess that's me.  But there's a reason why Dollar Trees are expanding and proliferating everywhere -- and that's because most of the day-to-day items we need to live life are vastly overpriced in other stores, and fewer and fewer folks are able to afford to shop those other places.  Most of the goods they sell at Dollar Tree are exactly the same as what they sell elsewhere, anyway.
  • I buy all my clothes at thrift shops (except underwear and shoes).  Over the years, and going back 30 years, most of the clothes I've loved the best came from thrift shops or flea markets.  Hardly used, cheap, and I wear them until they wear out.  Sales in regular retail places are just come-ons as far as I'm concerned.  When the retailer is marking clothes up 100% over what they paid for it and then give you a 10 or 20% discount, that's not a savings.  You're still getting ripped off.  As are all those poor third-world people who made those crappy clothes in the first place.  So buying used clothes is a vote against supporting sweat shops as well as saving you a bundle.
  • I also wear men's clothing nearly exclusively (excepting jeans).  They're far better made than women's clothing, come in better colors, last eons longer, and way more comfortable for me.
  • Even though we have Safeway and another chain grocery in Fortuna, it's cheaper for me to drive in to Eureka a couple times a month to do most of my food shopping at Winco.  We're fortunate to have one in Humboldt County.  Winco is worker owned and has cheaper prices, by far, than any other market.  Often half the price of Safeway (which I occasionally go to as necessary between trips into Eureka).  What I save on food costs driving in to Eureka more than covers my gas expense.
  • And when I'm in Eureka, I'll go to Costco for the very few things I need there.  It still pays for me to be a member even though I only buy basics ~ a few food items but usually just vitamins, toilet paper, sponges, that kind of stuff mostly.  I'm always the person in line with just one or two items, while everybody else has their cart chock full.
  • I shop Eureka Natural Foods for most organics, although Winco has a few organic items.  I would prefer to be able to support the local farmers market but it's a money thing ~ our farmers markets are way more expensive than Eureka Natural Foods.
  • Most other things I need that are cheaper locally than buying online, I buy at K-Mart or Target.  I always keep the receipt until I'm sure whatever it is works for me, fits, etc. and I'll return it if it doesn't work or I've changed my mind.  I can't afford to be throwing away money on anything that doesn't work out.
  • I have to say, I probably know the least-expensive place to get anything here in Humboldt.  I know where to go to buy each thing I need.  I know that organic cane sugar is cheaper at Winco than it is at Eureka Natural Foods.  I know that Miranda's Rescue in Fortuna has way lower prices on clothes than Tailwagger's Thrift Shop in Eureka, but that Tailwagger's is cheaper than American Cancer Discovery Shop, also that Tailwagger's has 50% off sales storewide every Tuesday and Thursday.  I know that Tuesday is Senior Discount Day every place in Eureka where that's offered, so I go to town on Tuesdays almost always.  I know that K-Mart has a better selection and way lower prices on small electric kitchen goods than Target.  And on and on...

Another thing ~ I'll use something until I simply can't any longer, until it can't be repaired any more, until I absolutely have to replace it.  I hate having to replace things, because they don't make 'em like they used to.  "New and Improved" never is.  It's never better and it's always more expensive.  I've had a small table lamp for over 30 years that I've rewired numerous times; I still love the thing.  I once gave away a perfectly good but old Hoover upright vac to a friend ~ long story ~ but eventually needed another vac so I bought a new Bissell, which turned out to be such a crock and such a hassle to use that I gave this new vac to said friend and got my old Hoover back.  I've even mended polar fleece socks before having to replace them.  I'll find a way to jury rig a fix to anything before having to buy a new one.
As far as treating myself goes, I actually do it often.  I'm really easy to please.  A frequent treat is a large decaf mocha from Jitter Bean, locally owned, way better and less expensive than Starbuck's.  Once a month maybe, I'll have Mexican food with a friend or alone, either in Fortuna or Eureka.  And I bake for myself at home, frequently.  What else do I need?

I guess the point is, when you've ceased to pay attention to what's going on in the world, when you've become immune to virtually all of the information and communication that's floating around in the world, 99% of which is marketing and advertising, when you've become focused on learning who you really are underneath all the stuff you've been told about who you should be, life gets really simple.  When you realize how little you really need to be happy, that's when I think your true life really begins.  This is what's so for me, anyhow.


ileneharris said...

Interesting Post. As usual. When the Dollar Tree opens their new store here in Firtuna, at the old Healthsport location, they will have tripled the former DT size as well as now providing cold storage and freezer food items. My cousin's daughter gave a taco party for friends in the Los Angeles area and everything was purchased at a Dollar Store including fresh produce. Who knew that was even possible. And by the way, Tabitha's Thrift Shop sells their clothes for 99 cents...

Dotti said...

I always knew I was poor...but living rich. Nice to know there are others out there. Hugs to you!

PamelaArtsinSF said...

Hi Connie -- I love Dollar Tree -- just went to one with Leslie in tracy -- but we don't have one here in SF. No fair.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a great post! I just found you through Irene's blog ~ The Green Stone Woman.

Your post has really inspired me.

Thank you ~ FlowerLady

Lynn Bishop said...

Just a few hours ago I said to a friend, "It's weird but if you gave me $1000 today and told me to go spend it, I have no idea what I'd buy. Maybe a glue stick?" and that was it. I couldn't think of anything I "need" or anything I want. I, too, am not desirous. It's actually sort of nice.

Judy Sall Fiber Art said...

Great post, Connie! We have Family Dollar and Dollar General here, and Big Lots... kind of makes me remember the old 5 and dime stores when we were kids... a little bit of everything, and reasonably priced. I don't do a lot of thrift store shopping, but I wear things until they fall apart, then I use them as rags when I can. We are home much of the time, so why should I care if there is a hole or ragged edge? My biggest splurge is for wild bird seed... I have several feeding stations, and thoroughly enjoy watching them.

Anonymous said...

Bravo!! and excellently said. I could go on gushing, but we are keeping things simple, right? ;-)

Maggi said...

Another fascinating post.

lei said...

Wow! I've been on a spending spree this past week. You've given me much to ponder. Thank you!

john said...

Applause! I shop at the Dollar Tree store as well. I actually have found many items there to use to create my art. I have enough clothes in my closet to last me the rest of my life. I did buy shoes at Penny's because I needed them, but I did that using a coupon and on sale. Applause one more time, my friend!