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Chic & Frugal – Week One

June 13th, 2017 No comments

I’m going to start a new series tracking my expenses and income. I’ve been logging details into my moleskine journal for the past month but after reading Save Spend Splurge’s blog, I realized it would help to make it public. It would make me more accountable.
To make it easier, I’m not going to keep track of my automatic payments for monthly household expenses, such as mortgage, utilities, cell phones and so on. Instead, I will keep track of unexpected expenses and marketing costs. Last month’s tracking revealed I spend way too much money on last-minute trips to the market for food and buying coffee and drinks away from the home. If I can develop more discipline in this one area, I will save hundreds a month.

What follows is a week of expenditures and income

My goal is to save and plan for all these unforseen expenditures so that I’m only spending on Wednesdays instead of spontaneous trips or spending. This is going to be a huge challenge for me. *Edited. Now that the week is done, I’ve decided that unless I go over my $200 budget, I will not track grocery expenditures each week.

Wednesday (Market Day)
Each week I budget a maximum of $200 to spend on food. Many weeks I’ve been able to only spend $100 or $150 on market day. Unfortunately, this almost always coincides with the weeks I have to go back and buy more food to make it through the week.

Today, when I saw I had spent nearly the two hundred I had budgeted, I didn’t stress because I’ve realized for the most part I need to spend that to get through the week. For now. I’m working on lowering food costs.

Here I’ll break it down:

Marketing

Aldi $59
Cub $42 (I bought nine loaves of a special bread my daughter with tree nut allergies can safely eat – because it was on sale – and put it in our deep freezer. It is the one thing I find I MUST buy at this big grocery chain and it’s a pain when we run out.)
Target $101 (This includes $5 for bug spray and $7 for a smores metal rack to put on our grill. Other than that, strictly food this time.)
FOOD: $202

In addition, I withdrew $20 cash at Target so I can give my kids ten bucks each to spend on field trips for their last day of school.
CASH: $20

Miscellaneous

Parking ticket $38.
When my husband’s band played last week in downtown St. Paul, he got there a few hours early to unload equipment, etc., and didn’t load the meter for long enough.
MISC: $38

Unplanned drink:

Invited out to a brewery by some other mom I ran into while attending kid’s middle school graduation .
$8 with tip

SPENT: $268

Thursday

I spent the morning working on my novel at the coffee shop. I have a punch card for an Americano that I buy every other month, so technically the coffee today was free! I was starving at the cafe and wanted to eat lunch there so badly, but I refrained and walked home to have some brown rice, black beans and a hard boiled egg with some olive oil and vinegar and garlic salt. Very satisfying and free. (Oh, then I finished with a wedge of chili chocolate.)

But then my budget plans went off the rails.

A few years ago U2 came to town and since I’m ALWAYS strapped financially I told myself we couldn’t afford tickets. EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE IN THE SAME TOWN.

I’ve regretted that decision ever since.

Now that U2 is on tour again, I was anxious to see them and disappointed to see they weren’t coming to Minneapolis. The closest show was Chicago. A few months ago, I almost splurged spending nearly $1,000 to fly to Chicago and see U2. I knew it was too much so I didn’t pull the trigger on the tickets in my cart. So when I found out U2 had added additional shows and were coming here to Minneapolis I knew I wouldn’t miss them this time around. My friend who has a U2 membership said she could buy me pre-sale tickets today. But then when we spoke today she told me that she can’t buy four tickets since she already saw U2 in Portland last month.

So I went and bought the same membership so I can buy my tickets tomorrow early for pre-sales at $70 a pop. For two tickets that is probably $140 to $175. Even adding in the $50 membership fee I’m still coming out ahead of what I was planning on spending for my Chicago trip. Plus don’t have to worry about childcare for the kids, etc.

U2 membership: $50

Dinner out: $18

I’m starting to see where all my money goes. This dinner was last minute and unplanned. It was the last day of school for our kids and they had activities that kept them out past dinnertime so my husband and I went down to the most delicious authentic Mexican restaurant in town and split an Alhambre, which I don’t even know how to describe except to say it’s pork and grilled vegetables and pineapple on a platter of tortillas. Amazing! We also split an order of chips and guacamole My husband had a jarrito to drink and I had water so it was a pretty affordable dinner out.

SPENT: $68

Friday

This morning I had to drop my teenager off at the house where she is babysitting and we were early so we wandered into the nearby dollar store. While there, I bought Father’s Day cards and a box of candy for the teen.

Dollar Tree: $4

Push Lawn mower $30

So we have this HILL going up to our house and it’s a bitch to mow and my husband has a sore back so even though I’ve NEVER mowed a lawn in my life I bought this so I can do that damn hill! When I went to try out the lawn mower (someone had listed it on Craigslist) it was not a good buy so I passed. And was relieved to NOT spend that thirty bucks!

U2 tickets!

$192. With fees and whatnot, it was a bit more than I’d expected to spend since the floor tickets were listed at $70 a pop, but I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to have these tickets. I can’t stop smiling about it!

Target:

Last minute trip to Target when I realized I was out of sugar and oil for the food I was cooking. Gah.

$5

SPENT: $201

Saturday

For the past two months, since the weather warmed, really, we’ve hosted small dinner parties on Saturdays and today was no exception. I realized that the one thing I hadn’t purchased was beer for my husband so I felt very virtuous walking to the store in 90 degree weather to buy his beer and a single beer for me (I was more interested in the wine my friend was bringing.)

Beer: $12

SPENT: $12

 

Sunday

Ordered Blue Tooth wireless headphones for my husband for Father’s Day next week

Headphones: $25

I usually buy a small package of Wasabi almonds once a week when I work as a reporter at the Pioneer Press because I can’t eat nuts at home (My daughter has severe tree nut allergies) Today I also bought an RX bar to see what all the hype was. I wasn’t impressed.

Snacks at work: $5

SPENT: $30

Monday

Oh joy of joys, this is possibly going to be a no money spent day! Please.!

I resisted! So. Many. Things. I. Wanted.

Instead, I returned a pair of linen pants I hadn’t even taken out of the package yet.

SPENT: $0

Ugh. Have to edit this. I wanted a spend free day but then last night we rented Rogue One on Amazon. So there you go. Best laid plans.

SPENT: $5.

 

Tuesday

Contacts: $130 on contacts for the kid. For some reason this is an unforeseen expense because I mistakenly thought insurance would cover her contacts. Gah.

Thrift score: $8 PRISTINE, I mean PERFECT Egyptian cotton sheet set + hardcover copy of John LeCarr’es The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

SPENT: $138

 

IN CONCLUSION:

I’m NOT so chic and frugal and something has to change!

I’ve decided that since groceries are a weekly fixed expense I won’t log them from here on out, so I’ve deducted $202 from my expenditures this week. Even so, I am absolutely shocked and mortified to see what I spent in one week.: $520 on UNFORESEEN expenses. Totally and completely absurd. Actually embarrassing to see this. Wow. I had no idea I could go through that much money in a week.

That is unacceptable. Next week is going to be a whole lot different. Now, I realize that I buy concert tickets once every ten years (truly) so that was an exception. I DO, however, buy contacts for the kid once a year so I need to plan for that next year. So if I deduct those two expenses: $130 and $192 for U2 tickets and the $50 for presale access, I feel a LITTLE bit better, but holy smokes. That’s still nearly $150 in a week.

This was an amazing exercise in budgeting and I’m going to do it next week, as well.

 

 

 

Limoncello and Laundry

January 13th, 2010 4 comments

LIMONCELLO


Oh Limoncello, how do I love thee, let me count the ways ….

Well normally I drink limoncello in the summer because it is the perfect summer evening drink. I keep the bottle chilled in the freezer and then shortly before serving put some small glasses in the freezer to chill. Right before serving, I dip the rim of the glasses in lemon juice and then sugar and pour a few fingers of the liqueur. Yum.

I buy my weekly bottle of wine on Wednesdays when all wine is 15 percent off at my local liquor store. Today while I was in there, I saw a gift box of Limoncello that included two cups from Deruta. You can see here that I have a Deruta platter. I am tempted to go back and buy a second gift box while the store still has them.

In the photo, you can tell my kitchen is under construction. The backsplash with my Mexican tile is new, but if you look closely you can see it does not yet have grout on it — that is happening tonight. But you can see how the deruta cups go with the theme of my kitchen. I also have other pottery that is blue and yellow and my walls are that same yellow.

Laundry

Months after Marsi guest posted HERE about making your own laundry detergent, I finally ran out of my costco brand and went to buy the ingredients today. I also bought a tin at the thrift store to keep the detergent in and a cheapo cheese grater so I didn’t have to use my food one to grate the soap bars. By the way, rumour has it that Marsi makes a killer limoncello, as well.

Categories: Frugal Chic, La Bella Cucina Tags:

A La bella figura philosophy

January 7th, 2010 7 comments

A very Italian and la bella figura philosophy is to care for your belongings. Taking care of what you own shows respect for yourself, respect for your belongings and respect for the planet.

The classic example is the Italian man or woman who drives the older vehicle and spends weekends polishing it and caring for it so it always looks like new.

It is also about keeping those old shoes polished and your clothes ironed and your house spotless (I have a problem with this last one, especially with two small kids).

It is about meticulously cleaning your appliances, such as your blender, after each use.

It is taking care of everything you own so it will serve you well and last for years.

It isn’t about tossing something that is broken or needs to be repaired unless it is a hopeless case. It is about trying not to buy anything that is “disposable” that is meant to have a short life and then meant to be tossed.

Instead of discarding what you own so readily, try to figure out if you can fix something that is broken or find a new use for an item before you pass it on. I am trying to do this.

There is a fine balance between decluttering and using what you have until it no longer gives you use. I think the differences is that if you own an item, such as a toaster that works and serves your purposes but maybe isn’t the exact model or color you like — use it as long as you can before you replace it.

The idea is to not replace useful items so readily … use what you can as long as you can.

For instance, I am not overly thrilled with my winter coat, but by taking off the belt and the belt loops, I am much happier with the way it fits. With the waist belted, it looked sloppy, bulky and not chic in the least bit.  When one of the loops for the belt broke off, I decide to tug on the other one and become belt free. the only problem is I ended up with two big rips in the sides of my wool coat. Then a button came off.

Because it is wool and an expensive clothing item, my immediate thought was to take it to the tailor for repairs. I kept waiting to have enough extra money to do this. Didn’t happen. So I sat down with a needle and thread and repaired it myself. It was actually easier than I thought. The stitches aren’t great, but my repair work does not show.

Then I took my beloved trench coat and reinforced the beautiful wooden flower buttons on it. I was upset last spring when I lost one of the buttons on it. I found it crushed by a tire on the street. Luckily, I could pull off an unseen button under the collar and use that. But that was the only button left that doesn’t show, so I need to make sure I don’t lose any more.

Making Do

December 28th, 2009 7 comments

 

 pamelahanson-bis

This photograph by Pamela Hanson http://www.pamelahanson.com/fashion   has always captured my fantasty of living in a European city in my small apartment overlooking a bustling boulevard.

For some reason I imagine this is a very small apartment, maybe even a studio apartment where this woman lives.  It just appeals to my love of small homes, small apartments, few possessions, but ones that are meaningful.

One thing I have always loved about Europeans (at least the ones I have known personally) is that they were all so nonmaterialistic.

It wasn’t about buying, buying, buying. It was about living.

For them, life wasn’t about having things. Life was about having experiences.

I have tried to embrace this in my own life.

I remember reading in Entre Nous, how French women “make do” with their clothing, their belongings, even their husbands — not trying to change them to meet their expectations.

I like to remember this philosophy of making do when I cook — using up the ingredients I already have in my cupboards and refrigerator; when I “shop” my closet — working with the clothes I have instead of believing I need more of them; with my belongings — for instance, I will place one pot ontop of another for a voila! instant double boiler instead of thinking I need to go buy a new kitchen accoutrement.

I am trying to live my life this way and hopefully get out of debt and then only spend my money on things like books, movies, language classes, cashmere sweaters, wine, good food, piano lessons for my kids, etc.

Minimalism

December 3rd, 2009 5 comments

travelclothing

 

It began when I was not even 20 and I was in a very unhealthy, scary relationship that was complicated and difficult to get out of. I looked around at an apartment full of stuff that was owned by both of us. I felt trapped. That is an understatement. I felt underwater, overwhelmed and helpless.

So I began packing boxes — for him.

I threw everything in that apartment into his boxes and walked out of there with my clothes and a boxspring.

I was free. I was free of him. I was free of all the “stuff’ and belongings that trapped me.

Good for me. Except what I brought with me was a neurosis about owning things. If I began to accumulate too many belongings, I started to feel trapped again.

One of the best experiences in my life was when I backpacked through Europe for two months. I carried everything I needed to live for 2 months on my back. I didn’t buy souveneirs — I took pictures. It was a wonderful time in my life. I was free as a bird, so to speak.

But that was not real life. In real life I had more than what fit on my back. I would move from one college apartment to another with what would fit in my small hatchback. I had discarded the boxspring early on and had a small, twin roll up futon mattress that rolled up in the back of my car.

I think I lived like this for another 15 years as I moved from apartment to apartment in L.A., then Seattle, then Monterey, then Oakland.

Then I got pregnant. For some reason this allowed me to relax a little. I didn’t feel like I had to be ready to run at any second. I didn’t feel trapped by my belongings anymore. Well, maybe a little.

Now, what I do, is I declutter. I only keep what I love and find useful. But I still know deep inside me there is the desire to own nothing and to be able to leave in a heartbeat.

I love those exercises where you look at your belongings and have to decide what to take if you have 20 minutes to pack before a fire consumes your house. Because there is always a mental list in my head.

So yes I am a minimalist in the good sense where I would rather be on my deathbed and remember all the “experiences” I had instead of the things I owned, but I also am a minimalist in the bad sense, where I fight within myself to be able to live a life where “stuff” doesn’t own me, I own it and it doesn’t take up space in my thoughts — it just is.

Another “Money Diet” Guest Post, this time by Marsi!

September 25th, 2009 12 comments

Here is a guest post by Marsi, a fabulous writer and editor many of us have begged to start her own blog, but she is probably too busy, so we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful guest post. Thank you Marsi!

marsi-pic1 

The Money Diet Does Laundry

 

“After enlightenment, then laundry.” (Zen proverb)

 

          Although the U.S. is showing signs of emerging from the serious recession of the last two years, many of us still feel its effects in our own personal economies and are looking for ways to save money where we can. When you consider that major appliances (such as washers and dryers) consume approximately 9 percent of the average household’s energy, the laundry room is as good a place as any to make small changes that can save you money. Today, I share with you some of my tips that might help you realize some savings and, I hope, make the drudgery of laundry a little more pleasant.

 

Wash in cold water. Would you believe that 95 percent of the energy expended in using your washer comes from heating water? According to the Saving Electricity website (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html), a warm/warm wash-and-rinse cycle costs 39 cents per load, whereas a cold/cold cycle costs a mere 3 cents per load — for an average annual savings of $143. In my experience, washing in cold water gets my laundry just as clean as warm water, while better preserving its colors and sizing.

 

Consider buying a front-loading washer. Because front-loaders use significantly less water and energy to operate, the long-term savings of replacing a top-loader with a front-loader add up over time. If you need to replace your washer, it’s best to do so with a front-loader. Although it may cost an extra $200 up front, it will pay for itself in long-term energy savings. Also, a front-loader is much gentler on your laundry because it doesn’t use an agitator, which can pull and damage clothing, so your clothes last longer — a hidden savings itself.

 

Drip-drip dry your laundry. Kick it old-school by installing a clothesline in your backyard. My rowhouse has a huge balcony in lieu of a backyard, which is perfect for a multiple-line retractable clothesline. I use it three seasons a year, from spring to autumn. Indoors, I also use a folding laundry rack for smaller items (such as socks and underwear) and delicates. I have found that not putting my shirts in the dryer keeps their color and texture intact for much longer, which saves me money as well.

 

Make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener. I came across great recipes for homemade detergent and softener two years ago on Modern Cottage (http://modcottage.com/?p=117) and have used them ever since. Modern Cottage estimates that each batch (which yields approximately 35 loads) costs a mere $2 to make, versus nearly the $10 for the equivalent in Tide. My family and I have detected no difference in the cleanliness and freshness of our laundry; if anything, our clothes seem fresher and less dingy because they don’t have build-up from fabric softeners. The cleansers are so mild that they’re perfect for baby clothing, and if you have sensitive skin or allergies yourself, you’ll be pleased with the results as well.

 

As you can see in the photo, I store my laundry detergent in a cute tin from Cost Plus World Market and have decanted my fabric softener into a decorative bottle. They add a nice touch to my laundry room and are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than big plastic jugs of detergent. Although young Wolfgang doesn’t contribute much in terms of labor to my laundry efforts, he — along with everything else in my Laundry Room Still Life — certainly improves the view while I go about my task. 

 

Laundry Detergent (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

2 bars Ivory soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
1 cup borax (available in the laundry aisle of grocery stores and Target)
1 cup washing soda (in the laundry aisle of larger grocery stores, also may be available in some hardware stores)

 

Blend it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Add drops of essential oil (lavender is my favorite) to scent your detergent, if you wish. Use 1 tablespoon of detergent for a light load, and 2 tablespoons for a large or dirty load.

 

Note: I urge you not to destroy your food processor by using it to grate bars of soap. Please trust me on this. If you have a standing mixer (such as a KitchenAid) that comes with a metal grating attachment, you’ll make quick work of this task. If not, please do it by hand with a cheese grater and enjoy the firmer biceps that undoubtedly will be yours after this exercise. Do not use any appliance that has plastic moving parts because grating soap overworks the motor, causing the plastic parts to break or melt. Please, use only an appliance that has metal moving parts to grate soap.

 

 

Fabric Softener (adapted from Modern Cottage)

 

1 gallon distilled white vinegar

25-30 drops essential oil

 

Use 1/4 cup per load to eliminate static, soften laundry, and rinse away soap residue.

 

 

My First Guest Post!: The Money Diet

September 19th, 2009 7 comments

I am thrilled to have Stephanie from Bonjour Madame, someone I admire enormously, write my first guest post.  Thank you so much Stephanie! You are always an inspiration to me. I won’t waste time with my words, but rather defer to hers. Enjoy:

The Money Diet

Kristi graciously asked me to guest post on the topic of money. Specifically “The Money Diet.” I would like to state that The Money Diet or Regime Fric is something I read on the French Chic (Yahoo) boards years ago and it was originally written by a talented writer and board member, Marline. It inspired me so much to change the way I treated money and that change stuck with me and changed my financial life for the better. I’d like to share why it inspired me so much.

Marline approached this strategy in such a way that made the project fun. She related the money diet to strategies outlined in Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat” book.  As women, we can probably all relate to an actual diet.

Step one …”round up the usual suspects”. What are you buying repeatedly? Especially those things that you already have enough. If you don’t know what these are, keep all of your receipts for three weeks. Review all of your receipts and start writing down the trends. Take note of not only what you are buying, but how often and how much. For me, it’s lipstick, skin care, books, magazines,tea from the coffee shop, and clothes. Write it down.

Step two … where are you spending? Is it online, the mall, extra items in the grocery store, bookstores or coffee shops? Write it down and devise a plan to avoid these temptations. These are your offenders and while you are paying off debt, should probably be avoided. Stop going to the mall. I’m being sarcastic, but it’s amazing how well this works! Just avoid that particular place that you overspend. Realize mindless shopping is an attempt to fill a void in your life.

Step three … have patience and develop rituals. While you are not spending on needless items, put that money toward paying off debt until it’s gone. Embrace organization and cleanliness. If you take care of what you own now, you will appreciate it more and realize you have everything you need already. Organize your bills. Make bill paying a pleasant experience. It can be done! Fix a cup of tea, put on relaxing music, place your bills on your clean table, use a nice pen, and relax a little.

Step four … picture yourself where you want to be financially and have a goal. It’s important to have a dream for your future both involving sound finances and a splurge. What do you want to do? Take a trip to Paris or Rome? Buy a fabulous pair of shoes? It can be big or small but it must motivate you. Mine is another trip to Paris. I think about strolling along the Seine, sitting at a cafe, shopping for something special in Paris (and paying cash) and it always stops me in my tracks with whatever I’m about to buy.

Consider writing down on paper your new story. How do you want to be financially in the future? Write down how you will treat money, organize your finances, live stress and debt free, and have extra money to do the things you’ve always dreamed about. Make it fun and be specific. Use your imagination!

Finally, these are a few of my tips that I’ve learned throughout the years from experience. Always live below your means. It’s the only way to have extra cash to save for your future goals. If you are constantly spending everything you make, it will never happen. Resist the urge to continue trading up your house and know that it is possible to pay off your mortgage in much less time than your original loan. Aim high!

Learn that it’s OK to be different. Even when your friends think your decisions are strange, learn to be at peace with it and know that what you are doing is the right thing for you. Make a list of free and inexpensive things you can do that enhance your life and do them regularly. Create a savings account for your specific short term goals. I’ve got one titled “Paris” and it’s an absolute joy to make deposits into this account. It’s separate from other investments and savings accounts.

One of the things my husband and I do too often is eat out. I actually prefer to eat at home because it’s healthier and more relaxing. I can control the ingredients and practice becoming a better cook.

If you like a more technical approach, I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. It will explain how to get out of debt and approach it with great intensity. It’s a great book. I tape his show on the Fox Business Network every day and watch them when I have free time to continue to stay motivated, even though I am debt free. I need constant motivation to continue to save for what is important and staying focused on a more frugal lifestyle helps.

I also recommend that you visit the FC boards and search for these older posts by Marline. They are treasures and I hope that she knows how much of an impression they made on me years ago.

Stephanie
http://bonjourmadamestephanie.blogspot.com/

Frugal Chic

May 14th, 2009 Comments off

pariscafe22.jpg\

I touched on this subject last year, but it seems even more timely now.

 Here are a few ideas to live frugally but chicly. I know there are many, many more:

 

Value experiences over “things

 

Living a frugal chic lifestyle means spending your leisure time with friends lingering over a cafe au lait at the neighborhood coffeeshop instead of meeting that same friend for a shopping excursion at the mall.

 

 

It seems many Europeans — especially French and Italians in particular — agree.

 

“Our next vacation means much more to us than a new car and we would never sacrifice the former for the latter except in case of dire necessity. Give us being and feeling over having any day,” — Mireille Guiliano of French Women Don’t Get Fat.

 

Many Europeans have had to be frugal — credit is not as easily obtained there and people are unable to spend money they don’t have. It is very eurochic to only spend what you can afford and to save up for something special. Having less access to credit, encourages Europeans to prioritize their spending for maximum satisfaction.

 

In C’est La Vie, the author writes, “People in France made less money than those in the Unites States but still lived better — partly because of this slower pace of life, partly because of the cultural importance of a good meal (with good wine, bien sur) and partly because with less discretionary income, priorities were better defined. If a French peson had to choose between new clothes or a concert ticket, the ticket usually won out.”

gainsbroug.jpg

Choose quality over quanity

This applies to everything you own: kitchen accoutrements, knicknacks, bed linens, dishes, art objects and especially clothes! American women tend to go overboard clothes shopping. Conversely, European women do not. They also do not feel the need to  wear a new outfit for each day of the week. I actually have more than one relative who keeps a chart of what they wear each day so they don’t duplicate outfits. I’m afraid I must disappoint them greatly. Europeans, instead, invest in quality and wear their “good clothes” over and over again. In his book Freakin’ Fabulous, Clinton Kelly observed how the French did this shamelessly.

 

“… by the time Friday rolled around people were wearing the same outfits they wore on Monday! … they cared more about quality than quantity … they actually paid more for clothes that fit them well and wore them more often.”

 

If you notice, in most French or Italian movies, the characters will be dressed in the same outfit in different scenes. In “Happily Ever After” the stylish Charlotte Gainsbourg wore the same tweed slacks, silk blouse and dark cardigan in several scenes over several days. Observation of my European friends has shown this is true to life. Europeans wear outfits repeatedly with style and flair.

 

I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but it bears repeating:

 

In the book “Simple Isn’t Easy” the authors quote a French architect saying “American closets shock me. So much, too much. No one can dress well with so many clothes.”

 

In the same book, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik says, “It is a question of selection, to choose less. That is something that Americans do not understand. They think that more is better.”

 

clothesitaly.jpgclotheslinevenice1.jpg  Living Green is Frugal Chic

 Frugality dovetails nicely with taking care of the earth. Many habits that will save you money are also good for the environment.

— Cloth napkins. It is chic to use cloth napkins, but it also saves you money you would spend on paper towels or napkins.

— Using canvas totes or baskets when marketing is chic and earth friendly. One of my local grocers actually gives shoppers a 5 cent credit for each bag they bring from home. And what feels chicer than strolling the Farmer’s Market with a French market basket slung over your shoulder filled with locally grown produce, flowers and artisan cheeses.

 — Line-drying your clothes can save you money and prolong the life of your clothing and linens.

 — Walking and bicycling as often as possible is good for you body, spirit and pocketbook. I love to walk or bike to the market, the library, the cafe and to buy wine.

 — Grow your own vegetables and herbs. Tres chic and very European. Frugality at its best, in my book.

 — Avoiding waste. Recycle. We get a credit on our utility bill for doing so. Buy in bulk to cut down on packaging while saving money. Shop your own kitchen cabinets and refrigerator before marketing. Find creative ways to use every bit of a food item that you can.

In a 2003 Washington Post article, Marcia M. Mitchell writes about being “French and Frugal” and how the French housewife “squeezes every tasty bite, every nourishing drop, every last crumb of sustenance from the carefully considered contents of her market basket.

“Nothing — I repeat nothing — will be wasted.  When she puts out the family trash at the end of the week, it could fit into a coffee can.”

Mitchell’s article mentions using chicken carcasses for soup and turning overripe fruit into dessert toppings.

While living in France, Mitchell said her own kitchen habits were transformed:

“Now I find myself giving serious attention to stuff I used to throw away with aristocratic nonchalance. It’s not just a matter of having to pinch my Euro-pennies in tight times, it’s also about being resourceful and adventuresome.”

 

Categories: Frugal Chic Tags:

Are Italians naturally frugal?

February 29th, 2008 Comments off

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“All the energy Americans devote to the accumulation and management of money, the hours spent thinking about how to amass it, organize it, invest it, will it, spend it, keep it, share it or not share it. Romans instead devote their energy to other things — to looking well, eating well, loving well and spending time with their families.” — Alan Epstein, As the Romans Do 

What is frugal? It’s not being cheap. It’s not being stingy. It’s not being greedy.

It is a question of selection. It is a question of spending money wisely.

As Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner  writes in Living La Dolce Vita, Italians believe in respecting and taking care of the things they have and not wasting things. They believe it is very important to save money, as well.

Of her Italian grandmother she writes, “She disdained extravagances and buying possessions as status symbols. If something was still in working order, it was unthinkable to replace it just to have a newer model. When we ate at her house and didn’t use our paper napkins, those napkins would be folded and saved for the next time . . . Nonna Angela taught me that buying too many things is like taking your money and throwing it in the wastebasket. ‘Cluttering your house with possessions only clutters your mind,’ she would say.”

 In Simple Living by Jose Hobday, the author describes frugality in this way:

“Frugality doesn’t mean not spending. Frugality means a thoughtful economy. We’re frugal if we use our time well. We’re frugal if we cook with healthy materials. Frugality and simplicty or poverty of spirit all say limit, don’t waste.

“Stinginess is just greed and usually clutters our lives. Frugality is a careful examination of the complexities of buying and selling and deciding how to remain free in this complex transaction . . .

She also speaks about living simply to enjoy small, everyday pleasures.

“Freedom comes to both body and mind in the form of time. When we eat, how much we eat, the time we devote to eating and preparing food becomes important … I guarantee you, if you eat a little less and a little less often, you will eat with more relish both for your soul and body. Mild hunger awakens taste buds and our appreciation grows.”

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.