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Frugal

I spent the afternoon altering pants for my “foster mother” Lynn, who is battling cancer and finds herself with fingers so tender she can’t hold a needle.

Lynn found these pants at her favorite thrift store. Two pairs of corduroys, brand new from all appearances. Total cost: $6.

Not that I needed much teaching, but Lynn taught me a lot about stretching a dollar. She’s how I learned to appear well off on a poor to middling salary. How we sent our kids to private schools and small liberal arts colleges with next to no loans.  It isn’t hard. It’s just a matter of stuff, or really of understanding how little stuff you need, and how much stuff that you do need can be gleaned from other people’s discards. So we do a lot of thrift store shopping, home-making of food and clothes, dumpster diving and other staples of a frugal lifestyle.

I’ve never been one of those people that hunts down bargains. (Talk to my brother in law, who once drove 30 miles to buy milk at $1.59 a gallon. In his defense he bought enough for everyone, and I mean everyone.) I don’t clip coupons, mostly because they tend to be for name-brand extras that I don’t use anyway.

We make a decent living. Yes, we’re trying to put two kids through college with cash (one down, one to go), so that takes every dime of discretionary money, but the point is, we have discretionary money. If I buy an extra skirt, it’s not going to put our mortgage in arrears.

Here at the start of the holiday season, it’s important to remember how your consumption affects the planet. Think about every plastic toy, every extra tchotchkie, every brand new candy dish that you buy for your mother-in-law because you have never had the slightest idea what to get her. Every single thing you buy that you don’t need ends up in a land fill, depletes the precious resource of fossil fuels, and adds pollution to the air, not to mention that you’re running out of storage space. Give your loved ones things they’ll use, not just piles of empty promises. Resist the pressure to buy more and more and more.

It isn’t hard to be frugal. In fact, it takes more effort to spend money. Go to the store, go to the mall, stop off on the way home. Even entering all that initial info for “one click shopping” on line is often more effort than I’m willing to put in for something that I don’t need.

Which gives hope for everyone. If you’re not naturally frugal, and you’ve got money to spend, you can still avoid the beast just by remembering that shopping is a pain in the ass.

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