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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frugality as Stress Relief

Learning to be frugal has been a tremendous source of stress relief. As a poor grad student, I learned how to make bean burritos to make the newly-beloved Mr FS (a Californian) happy. I guess I would have served him  Julia Child's Veal Prince Orloff if he had desired it. I actually knew someone (with a trust fund) who attempted this iconic--time-consuming and expensive-- dish.

It was just by chance that his most beloved dish was about the most frugal meal we could have. We didn't quite understand that all our high-living friends were taking out loans to supplement our meager stipends, but were glad we were staying on budget.

Even now--when I am frugal by choice--I find that frugality provides a leavening to the various slings and arrows that come our way.

I always like to get the Wednesday paper, because it has the new food ads. Talk about simple pleasures! (And I share the pleasures with Frugal Son and Miss Em's pal, Mr C, as we email our thrilling finds.)

Today, I learned that a Dollar General Market has opened in my area. A new store! Always good for the consumer. I discovered that they will have incredible prices on avocados, mangos (50 cents each) and grapes (95 cents).

I was beaming with happiness and looking forward to having the nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market price match the loss leaders (hate Walmart, but I only use for price-matching and prescriptions. Except for my old student Lacey, the Walgreens pharmacy team is hateful and rude. At Walmart, the pharmacy lady says "Hi, honey. How was your vacation?")

As I was basking in the joy of produce, I opened my email and found a missive from Frugal Son: part of the ac came loose; water was condensing on the wall. EtcEtc. Mr FS agreed with Frugal Son's quick fix and we will investigate later in the week.

It seems that I can only control the little things (like my grocery bills). The big things--and we are approaching the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina--seem to appear without warning. It may seem strange to find comfort in 50 cent avocados when we have to deal with gigantic expenses, but, well, there we are.

P.S. RIGHT AFTER I completed this, another gigantic emergency expense reared its ugly head. Stay tuned. In the meantime, bon appetit.

Close-up picture of foliage and avocado fruit


Gam Kau said...

In the past months our rental home has had a cast iron sewer pipe break, central air conditioning went kaputz and a mother raccoon nesting with her babies in the attic requiring part of the roof being removed. I expressed the same thoughts as you. As a result of living frugally we could at least absorb the unexpected expenses. I am always telling my kids to expect the unexpected!

MM said...

My thrifty New England mother used to claim that she saved pennies to spend dollars.
True today as it was then!

Shelley said...

There is a lot of comfort in knowing I can live contentedly on very little.

Miser Mom said...

And in contrast to your simple pleasures, here is an expensive frustration. My dad's new wife spent much of last night in a tizzy of frustration (that the whole family unfortunately had to be a part of) because my son had left a fingerprint on her brand new $23,000 piano. A fingerprint.

It is ENTIRELY his fault; we'd all been warned not to go near the piano. Yet there it is. Nineteen people feeling miserable all evening because a fourteen-year-old boy with ADHD touched something with his greasy fingers.

The piano brings a lot of pleasure, but it's not a frugal pleasure.

Duchesse said...

@ Miser Mm: I wonder if the piano is not just the symbolic object for a very uptight person, and possibly and unhappy one.

I grew up with a piano and it was in fact a frugal way to have hours and hours of entertainment and fun trying to play the latest songs or banging out favourites. I think my mother was a little obsessive about nobody putting a glass on the wood but nothing like your relative.

No matter what your means or how much frugality you practice, you always need an emergency fund!

Miser Mom said...

Duchesse -- in defense of my dad's wife, I will say that she's owned pianos all her life (and I grew up with one we banged on very happily), but she's waited until age 79 for this particular, very special piano. I completely get that she wants it to be perfect. I respect that.

Still, I was just really struck by the delight that FS gets from inexpensive burritos, on the one hand, and the evening of anguish and apologies because of expensive pianos, on the other hand.

So yes, for an introvert who has just moved into a brand new home only to have 19 members of her husband's family come visit for a week -- she's under a bunch of stress, and the piano IS a symbol of that, for now. Too bad.

Duchesse said...

Miser Mom: Sounds like that piano is a bucket list purchase for her; I have seen people become very nervous about the use of such exceptional purchases (especially by others.) A friend of mine bought an iconic luxury handbag after years of longing for one, but never carries it in case it is damaged.

It's not an unusual phenomenon and sometimes people relax about it, in time.

Frugal Scholar said...

@GK--Wow! Except for Hurricane KAtrina, we didn't have that much disaster all at once.
@MM--Yeah--but sometimes I feel foolish focusing on pennies when those big dollar expenses roll in.
@Shelley--That's the biggest stress relief of all.
@Miser--Your poor son! I'm sure the grease will come off eventually. Or new grease will come to keep it company. I love that most of my stuff is vintage.
@Duchesse--Wise words as always.
@Duchesse- I am really hoping that I won't get into that kind of purchasing in my later years. Many of my mother's friends in FL have filled their houses with fragile--glass--knicknacks. Stressful just to look at!