Frugal Kids – Host a Used Skate Exchange

Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, Canada I learned to skate almost as early as I learned to walk. Skating was a daily activity on local ponds, lakes and the arena in town.

Each year the parents at our school would organize a “used skate exchange” day. Everyone brought in last year’s skates, which were now too small, and found skates just the right size.

Volunteers coordinated tables by size so it was easy to find where to drop off your old skates and find your “new” skates.

At the same time there would usually be a bake sale, hot chocolate or cider to buy and at times even a craft sale.

Not only was it a great way to get new skates without having to buy new it was a great way to raise funds for school projects.

These days we’re often too quick to throw out the old and buy new. This year why not organize a skate exchange instead? This could work great for schools, community centers, churches, etc.

What are you waiting for?

Frugal Holiday – Wrap Gifts as you Go to Save Time

photo by MicheKerr If you’re anything like me you’ve likely started, or perhaps even finished, shopping for the holidays. One of things I dislike most is being faced with a mountain of gifts to wrap all at once. It takes any pleasure from wrapping and decorating package when you’ve a dozen or more to do at once.

When my kids were young I began wrapping the gifts as I bought them and stacking them on a closet shelf.¬† No ribbons, gift tags or other decoration. I’d just wrap at that point. In soft pencil on or near the tape I’d put a small symbol to represent which person it was meant for. Squiggle, circle, star, square, etc. Just something easy to let you know who each gift is for when the time comes to put them out.

A week or so before Christmas, once the tree was up and decorated, I’d take down the stack of gifts and decorate with ribbon and gift tags to place under the tree which only took a few minutes.

I found my kids were less likely to snoop through the gifts if they didn’t know who they were for and the ribbons were less likely to get squashed plus it took the stress out of gift wrapping.

Sometimes it’s just as important to be frugal with your time as it is with your money. Any little tricks that preserve your sanity during the holiday season counts as frugal in my book!

Frugal Dilemma – Should I Buy a New Bed?

One of the challenges of moving from a house to an apartment is room size. The master bedroom in my house is large enough to accommodate my king size bed and other furniture. The bedroom I will have at the apartment is much smaller and my king size bed will not fit.

My neighbour has offered to buy the king size bed and I’m happy with this but now I have the question of a new bed. Here are my options:

  1. Buy a new queen size bed frame & mattress set that I really love – price will be around $3000
  2. Buy a new queen size bed frame & mattress set that will do for now but not really 100% my taste from Ikea or similar store – price will be around $1500
  3. Use an antique mahogany sleigh bed I’ve had since I was a child (and is currently not in use) and buying a double size mattress set that will fit it – price will be around $1000 (or less) for mattress set

I could talk myself into going with option #1 pretty easily. I’ve found a unique queen size bed that I really love and I could tell myself it’s an investment piece that will last me many years. I could also tell myself that the money my neighbour is paying for the king size bed will help pay for the bed. Then I could tell myself that, since I’m not really buying any new furnishings I really can afford this one little splurge. And finally I could tell myself that part of my new life without my husband I deserve the luxury of this new bed.

With option #2 things are a bit trickier. I don’t really love any of the beds in this price range. While having a queen sized bed would be nice when compared to the double bed in option #3 at the same time it seems a bigger waste of money to buy a less expensive bed that I don’t really love than to buy the more expensive one in option #1. I think option #2 can safely be eliminated now.

Option #3 is the most frugal option in the long run. It’s both frugal with my money and it’s frugal with my available space. The bed itself is an absolutely gorgeous mahogany sleighbed that’s around 200 years old. It’s a piece of furniture that has been in storage for a few years which really is a shame. The craftsmanship and beauty of it cannot be found in today’s modern furniture. However, it’s only a double size not a queen. The move from a king size bed to a double size bed is going to take some getting used to. And while it’s clearly smaller than a queen, the bed frame itself has a headboard nearly 5 ft tall and a foot board about 3 ft tall which creates a lot of visual clutter for me. My personal taste and style runs to contemporary in style and the heavy ornate feel of this antique is not in keeping with the rest of my furnishings.

Some quick info on sizes:

  • A Standard King size – 76 inches wide
  • A Standard Queen size – 60 inches wide
  • A Standard Double (also called Full) size – 54 inches wide

I’m stuck between options 1 and 3 now. I really don’t know what I should do. The frugal angel on my shoulder is telling me to go with option #3 but the devil shopper on my other shoulder is telling me to splurge just this once on option #1.

Update: I’ve decided to not just talk the frugal talk but to walk the frugal walk this time. I’m going with option #3. I’m going to use the antique sleigh bed which only requires me to purchase a full size mattress. The most frugal (and sensible) option.

You thought I’d cave in and go with option #1, didn’t you? Yeah, me too.

Update #2: This post was featured on edition #133 of the Festival of Frugality. Check it out. Lots of great frugal features there.

Rent versus Own

For most of my life I’ve been under the impression that owning a home was always the best option financially. Dozens of personal finance books seem to say the same thing and I bought into it. Hook, line and sinker.

My family has spent the last dozen years or so scrimping to pay the mortgage, property tax, insurance, maintenance, utility bills, lawn and landscaping expenses. We bought appliances, lawn mower, hedge trimmer, snow shovels, wheel barrows. We planted annuals, perennials, sod, shrubs, trees and hanging baskets. Lawn fertilizers. Grass seed. Squirrel baffles for the chimney. Bird-proof vent covers. Christmas lights. Animal proof garbage cans. Multifunction sprinklers.

None of which we had to buy when we rented during the first few years while our children were young. Over the past dozen years of home ownership we’ve spent so much money on the “joy” of maintaining a home that I’m almost ill at the thought. All of the vacations we couldn’t afford. All of the investments and opportunities that we had to walk away from because we had every cent tied up in a house. It’s a nice house. I like it a lot but now a part of me resents it too. It’s cost us a lot of money over the years. It’s appreciated considerably in value over the 12 years but the hidden costs offset that considerably.

Once I got my head around the idea that I didn’t have to own a house – a lovely sense of freedom hit me. I can rent a nice apartment, in a nice area for less than half my combined mortgage, tax, and insurance payments each month. My utilities are included in my rent so I don’t have to worry about how a hot summer or a cold winter will affect my bills.

I have the freedom to know that I’m living worry free. If the toilet backs up or the roof leaks I don’t have to worry about it. I just pick up a phone. I don’t have grass to cut, weeds to pull, snow to shovel.

Not only is renting going to be considerably less expensive financially – it’s going to free up a significant amount of my time.

I plan to live on a fairly tight budget but this time it’s by choice not necessity. Now I can invest extra money in mutual funds and other investments. If I held onto the house as an “investment” I’d rarely if ever have any extra money. Usually when I did have a little extra it would when the furnace would die on a cold night or the electrical panel would act wonky and off went that extra money in the pocket of the repairman.

Yes, once I really started thinking about renting vs. owning, I’m shocked I bought into the hype for so long. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks renting makes sense over owning.

A quick breakdown of the costs of renting versus owning for me:
Rent = $768 per month – includes utilities
Own = $1620 per month – includes mortgage payment, insurance, property taxes – does not include monthly utilities which run approximately $200/month

My cost of living is reduced by more than $1000/month – freeing up that money to be invested in high interest savings, stock market, bonds or mutual funds – any of which, if chosen wisely, will result in a higher rate of return than my house would have over the coming years.

And the reduction in stress and worry is really invaluable.

Welcome Frugal Friends

Merlene PaynterI’m Merlene Paynter. I’m 39 years old. I’m the mother of two teenagers. I’m changing my life.

Frugalous is a combination experiment and journal as I change just about every part of my life. I’ve left my marriage of 19 years. I’m starting my own business. I’m selling my house and moving to an apartment. I’m conquering my fears and learning to drive a car. I’m going to live a debt-free and frugal lifestyle while I save and invest to make some of my dreams come true over the next 5 years.

None of these changes will be easy. There have been tears and will be more to come. There have been doubts and will be again as I move through these changes.

What I do hope is to offer you some practical advice on how to have a frugal but fabulous life. A lot of the debt reduction and frugal websites and books tell you all of the things you should do to save money. A lot of it seems to be recycled and rephrased and repackaged but there’s not a lot of new information. I’m really hoping I don’t fall into the habit of repeating the same old stories. I’m also hoping that if I do you’ll forgive me. I think we all know by now that if we save the $5 on the price of a latte we’ll be rich. That’s how it works, right?