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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Karmic Bank Accounts and Thoughts on Retirement Living

My frugality is so deeply ingrained that I get a thrill not only from saving myself money but also from saving other people money. In fact, I started this blog when Friend-of-Frugal-Son asked me to help him save money on groceries. Well, said friend was premed and didn't have time to read the blog. He's a doctor now, by the way, and working at Walter Reed in Washington DC.

We recently hosted a Roommate-of-Frugal-Son. He was a guest at a wedding in our town. I suppose he lamented the $200 a night hotel rate and Frugal Son offered up our house. Happy to do it! I told him that in addition to saving him (a young fellow in his 20s) $400 for the two nights, I had made a deposit of $400 into my karmic savings account.

We enjoyed having our guest. He was not around very much for one thing. It was nice to chat now and again and to hear about his adventures at the wedding events.

It occurred to me that a young guest--or even roommate--would be a cure for some of what ails many of the elderly. My own mother --an extreme extrovert without a lot of "alone" interests--has been miserable in her widowhood. She lives in a large community in Florida with many activities, but the activities are skewed to those in their early 60s--the age of my parents when they moved there. She is thinking of moving to an independent living community near my brother and his family. That is probably what she will do. However, that involves leaving her Florida cohort, which is, perforce, growing smaller.

I suggested that she think of moving in with one of her children (with the houses modified for separate quarters). She was horrified. A roommate? That would be even more out of the question. I think these things are coded "poor" for members of that generation. 

Of course, if you present the issue of a lonely elder to someone of Asian, Serbian, or XX (the list goes on) descent, he or she looks at you in astonishment.  Of course! 

And of course when we told our guest that fancy weddings (rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, service, shuttle buses to reception, with various luncheons in the interim spaces) were a relatively recent "tradition," he was shocked. 

Like many people my age, I'm thinking about retirement living in all its senses. What the new "traditions" will be. At the moment, it seems easier to keep working.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Acts of Kindness in the Frugal Life

Frugality is so much a part of my life that I . . .just do it. I always tell people that I am the "cheapest person who ever lived," which is not really true, but good for a laugh. I am always amazed by the gifts of kindness that come my way on my frugal adventures.

Here are a few.

1. Sephora. Miss Em has had a gift card from Sephora. She got the card when she returned an unwanted gift before she went to Serbia two years ago (did you know that Sephora will take ANYTHING back? Good to know). Although we pass a mall with a Sephora every time we go to New Orleans, we are mallophobic, so we have to make a concerted effort. We pored over the website and decided to get a sampler of perfumes from Atelier Cologne. Sephora was crowded. Mr FS was waiting in the car (mallophobia). The salesperson checked and checked and they were all out. Finally, he found one that had been used as a sampler. It was mostly full. HE GAVE IT TO US FOR FREE. We hugged (note: if you visit New Orleans it is ok to hug pretty much anyone you encounter.)

2. At a thrift store not to be named. The employee gave me a holiday discount on some stuff. He did the same for everyone. SHHHHHH.

3. Big Lots. I got a coveted dollars off coupon in my email. When I got to Big Lots I discovered I had forgotten it. The assistant manager (who, along with the manager, has been very nice to me) said that I could get the discount even without the coupon.

Who needs holiday presents?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Rare Trip to Goodwill

A rare event: a trip to Goodwill yesterday. Goodwill used to be a regular stop on my frugal path, but I now go less than once per month. It's a few miles away; the store mistreats its employees; as far as I can tell, its "mission" is to run stores with low-paid employees and well-paid management. Aside from these somewhat virtuous reasons, I have a personal one: my GW raised its book prices from 20 cents to 99 cents. It just doesn't seem worth it to slog through all the John Grishams to find that book I've never heard of that proves to be excellent.

Now I only go to GW when Mr FS goes to Home Depot, which is right next door. Yesterday was the day. It is a huge store. The shelves were sparsely filled, perhaps because it was a busy day and many treasures had already gone to new homes. I was looking in a rather desultory fashion, hoping that Mr FS would soon rescue me.

Then I heard one of those GW "bonding" conversations. These often occur between two middle-class shoppers who are both excited to be at GW and slightly embarrassed. These conversations are always VERY LOUD. Yesterday, two women bonded over the housewares, which happen to be right next to the racks of shoes. They were exclaiming over their wonderful bargains. "But," said one, "I would never buy SHOES." "No," said the other, "That would be like buying UNDERWEAR [also sold at GW]. DISGUSTING."

Even though I was not looking at shoes, I headed right over to join the other shoppers. Pickings were very slim. Still, I had to show some sisterhood to the other shoppers who were buying shoes, perhaps by necessity, and being treated to a scornful message.

Now, I am lucky (in the secondhand shoe world) because I have relatively small feet. I found a pair of Mephisto sandals! I also spied (probably from the same donor) a pair of Arches and a pair of Ferragamo loafers. The latter two were too small. I have learned through painful experience (and too much clutter) that shoes are to wear, not to look at.

I bought the Mephistos. Then Mr FS rescued me. He had had a bad time at Home Depot. To cheer ourselves up, we got two Frosty's at Wendy's, right behind GW. The employees at the OTHER thrift store gave me some coupons as a gift. Thanks, guys!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Two summers ago, Mr FS took a solo walk and discovered a wonderful park near our humble abode in Paris. We spent many hours there. Last summer, Miss Em paid us a visit and we walked to the park after dinner.

There were many more people there on our visits than shown in the photo below. Said Miss Em:

"Is this paradise?"

“They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms:
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.”

― John MiltonParadise Lost

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Roused from Slumber Again: Eileen Fisher Harem Pants for $55! Nordstrom Rack

This is a good deal for those who have wanted to try these iconic/weird pants. I love them myself.

Nordstrom Rack: as of this posting, sizes XS, S, and L remain.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Roused from Slumber: Paula's Choice Super Deal and THANK YOU

A very long blogging slumber. Miss Em is back from Serbia and work is exhausting. Both are good causes.

A few weeks ago, Paula's Choice had a decent sale and I succumbed. Now, she's having the BEST SALE I've ever seen. Arghhh. I don't need anything else, but perhaps you do. In honor of Halloween (??), everything on the site is 25% off. Discount code is right on the site.

Remember, if you haven't bought from her and use my code, we EACH get $10.  Not too shabby.

And THANK YOU. My last post was on trying to be LESS PATHOLOGICALLY frugal. So many good suggestions have come in. So far, I have mostly bought lots of medium-sized presents for my children (art supplies! boots! backpack!).

We also had a lovely meal at Rue 127, somewhat off the tourist track. You should give it a try if you're ever in New Orleans.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

80/20 Frugality?: Spend more on...What?

Mr FS and I have a combined age of 124. We are close to retirement if we really want it. In fact, we are too old for early retirement. Not that we wanted it. What could be more rewarding than yapping about literature?

Every now and then, I make a vow in this space. Generally, I do not keep my vows. Everyone knows about the Pareto Principle, right? That's the idea that everything is 80/20. You get 80% of the results with 20% of your effort. Then, to get the other 20%, you need to put out 80%. This works with stuff also: we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time; we use 20% of our cookbooks 80% of the time, and so on.

This would mean that--in my frugal path-- I've gotten 80% of the benefits from 20% of the effort. For a long time, we put in the extra 20%: we wanted, for instance, to make sure our kids graduated college without debt. DONE. We wanted to pay off our house: DONE. 

Thanks to the recent swoon in the stock market, I have reverted to my 2008 behavior: I no longer look at retirement balances. Time is no longer on our side: whatever we save now will have a relatively small impact in the long run. 

That is disappointing, but freeing. It's hard to change habits. But I herewith vow to try to do only the 20% that will garner the 80% of results. 

So I'm trying to figure out what add-ons we should indulge in. Frugal Son wants us to treat him (and ourselves!) to more of the pricy restaurants in New Orleans. So we're doing a bit more of that.

I can't think of anything else. Any ideas?

Have you ever deliberately INCREASED your spending? On what?