Frugal Friday with Erika Shea – March’s comments

Erika Shea and her daughter Frances

The tips, comments and thoughts shared in just three short weeks of Frugal Fridays have been so much fun (and so insightful) to read through. It’s amazing to see how quickly and wholly this feature has been embraced, the conversations it has sparked and the incredible knowledge it has already unearthed. Rather than have these comments sit buried at the end of posts, we thought we would repost them at the end of each month so that everyone can share in what’s been shared!

Thanks to everyone who posted a comment! My comments follow each comment in italics.

From Sherry: My mother was telling me the other day about a woman she read about, who picks up sweaters in decent condition at Value Village and other thrift stores, then unravels them to re-use the yarn in other projects. Of course it would have to be the right kind of sweater to start with, but goodness knows knitting unravels fast enough when you drop stitches and don’t want it to. I’m sure you could pull apart a sweater and rewind the wool in the time it takes to watch a half-hour program on television. Besides the money-saving implications, it’s a nice way to upcycle used items.

Erika: Thanks Sherry! I’ve been hoping to try thrifted wool products to make new felted items out of too – mitts, and socks and hats. Just wash in hot water, dry, cut and sew – someday soon! I’ve heard that felted wool sweaters are pretty easy to work with.

From Kelly: Here’s a breakdown of some of my biggest money savers:

I make it a rule not to eat out often. You can eat like a king on the money you would spend at a restaurant if you put it toward groceries instead. When I do eat out, I make sure it’s not a chain (so at least it’s benefiting the local economy) and to order things that would be difficult for me to make at home. Also, when grocery shopping, I try to be aware that sometimes things that seem like they’re saving you money actually aren’t (e.g. buying in bulk at the bulk barn isn’t always cheaper and buying a case of things you don’t really use just because they’re on sale isn’t saving money either).

Rediscovering cheap entertainment: spending time with friends, board/card game nights, free public talks, hiking, potlucks, etc. – these things are almost always more genuinely fun and interesting than going to a bar. When I do go to bars, I make sure it’s to see a band I really enjoy rather than just a fallback thing to do on the weekend.

I have a thing for clothes shopping, so I’ve made the switch to shopping almost entirely at thrift stores (baring some undie necessities). Hand-in-hand with thrifting is learning to make basic alternations, dye clothes, and make clothes from recycling other clothes. There’s such a high turn-over rate in my closet that my friends and I also usually have a clothing swap at the end of each season. If there are summer clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn all summer, someone else could probably get more use out of them than me.

There’s a good link/info posting site with many contributors called Reddit that has a special section for frugality that you might want to check out: http://www.reddit.com/r/frugal . The posts you see first are the most recently posted ones that got a large number of votes, but you can also sort posts by those that have been highly rated (the “top” tab near the top of the page) and then select “links from _____” (at the top of the list) to see top posts from this week, month, or year, etc..

Erika: Wow! Thanks Kelly! You’ve touched on so much here – groceries, entertainment, eating out and clothes shopping. I love the idea of a clothing swap. Lately, I find it so satisfying to get rid of things and to know that I’m keeping only what I’m really using and a clothing swap offers one more point of sharing and reuse before making a trip to the thrift store to drop things off. I also love the idea of only ordering things I can’t make at home when I eat out. I’m going to remember that – I think it will encourage me to eat out less (if it is with intention), to try to innovate in the kitchen more (because I probably can make much of what I would eat when I’m out) and then to really appreciate and savour the times and places that I do get to head somewhere new for a meal.  

From Jay Mac: I think the biggest challenge with being frugal is to realise it takes time. It is a learned skill set and the decisions about how to spend money are emotionally charged for many of us. That’s why I think it is a good idea to keep a list of how you might save money and to challenge yourself to gradually work away at it. Don’t expect too much from yourself at once, try one new frugal thing a week if you have the time to work up to it. If you don’t, and it is an emergency situation, I’d suggest re-evaluating your bills. Many of us pay too many additional fees for cell phones, cable, banks, for services we don’t use. Getting rid of services you don’t use, and watching your grocery bill would be my two biggest tips. Also, some banks like BMO have a free Moneylogic service where you can see what you have spent money on… it is a great analysis tool.

Erika: Thanks Jay. You make a very good point about the emotions attached with spending our money. I think this (our emotionally-laden purchases) is a big factor in the success of consumer goods companies whose goods are priced ridiculously beyond what it cost to make them (especially when the labourers paid to do the actual making were hardly paid at all). Entire industries have come to depend on the fact that we will set aside logic and buy with our (sometimes misguided) hearts.

I’ve found it can be helpful to make a note of the little things that I see and would like to have and make myself wait a month (or at least two to three weeks) before buying them. Almost every time, with the passing of time, I find I want them less and come to the realization that I don’t need them at all.

And you’re so right about how quickly the services we pay for can eat up our income. I hope to post on banks and credit cards next month and ways we can get around for paying for some of the costly service fees they continuously add to our services.

From Wilson Eavis: Frugal Friday, what a great thought. No one better to contribute than Erika, and what an awesome sailor-lady she is!!!

For (most of) us here in Canada we take for granted the task of running to the grocery store to “choose” what we’ll have for supper.

After recently returning from some Bahamian and Caribbean southern islands, food is not as plentiful or cheap. Nor is gasoline. A large bag of Lay’s potato chips =$8.99, a loaf of bread = $6.00, etc. But they all smile!

My point… we have it made here, especially here in Cape Breton. Sure there are plenty of less fortunate people than we are, and as bad as we think our Government might be, we’re not living in a Dictatorship or Communist life style. God love our freedom!

So we should all smile too! Just like Erika and Leah.

Erika: Thanks so much Wilson. I cannot wait for the weather to warm up enough to get our little boat into the water.

You bring such a great perspective to this conversation. I can’t help but wonder what role the global economy may have played in those exorbitant prices. Naturally, things like Lays have to be imported and bread too probably if it’s of the Wonder or Uncle Ben’s variety, but I wonder if cash crops (coffee, cocoa, sugar, etc.) – the things that we can’t get enough of in the West – have contributed to the erosion of smaller farms or family farms on these islands (farms that could produce a variety of crops so that much less would need to be imported). I’m not sure of the answer, but I bet you get to meet the most resourceful people on trips like these! 

From Nona MacDonald-Dyke: A friend once told me the hardest thing to teach a child is ‘credit’ because they see us whip out a card instead of money and believe that that card is the key to money and everything in the world he/she could ever want. I wished he’d told me how to teach children about credit while my children were growing up. He said to teach it with a little black book. Start giving your child an allowance, and he/she records it in the little black book. That allowance is their money to do with (within reason) as he/she wishes. But, there’ll come a day when there’s a dream of a new toy etc. that the allowance doesn’t cover at once, instead offer to loan the money to the child, interest free, and the child agrees to pay back so much from her allowance for the new item, and she record’s it each time in the little black book until the debt is repaid. What this does is teach them about credit, record keeping, honesty, and to ask themselves if the new item they want to buy on credit is worth having. Hope this helps someone.

Erika: Hi Nona. Thanks for this great suggestion. This makes so much sense – especially what you’ve noted about what children learn when they see us rely on credit (but tell them to spend and save wisely). I really love the idea of the little black book and this is something we’ll use as soon as our daughter is of the allowance-earning age. I think teaching children about credit in this way is especially important at a time when student loans (huge sums of somebody else’s money) are the reality for almost all 17, 18 and 19 year olds who chose to pursue studies beyond high school. It is a lot of financial responsibility to hand someone (and a lot of money to repay over what can be decades) if they don’t understand all the implications of credit or borrowed money. I heard just this week as well that the average Canadian consumer debt now exceeds $25,000. We definitely have a lot to teach and to learn.  

From Mary-Beth Thompson: Along the idea of grocery costs, when my sister and I were growing up money was tight, but we never realized it because, among other things, there was always plenty of food. As I began buying my own groceries on limited income I asked my mom how she did it. A few of her tips were as follows:

Buy the three cheapest fruits and vegetables and learn different ways to prepare them. As the seasons change so will the produce so you won’t get bored of them (bonus: it will likely result in more local produce).

Use the tricks (and recipes) from the depression- the economy has changed (and changed again) but the logic remains. For example, by pouring boiling water over rhubarb you can get away with using half the sugar!

Speak with the produce manager about what’s in the back. Often there are apples that aren’t good enough to sell… but perfect for making applesauce!

Don’t be shy to cruise the 50% rack. If you’re using the product in a reasonable time frame paying full price is just silly.

Know the prices of staple products – than you can spot a deal.

If you freeze the odds and ends of veggies you can use them to make a veggie soup stock when you’ve gathered enough.

Erika: Thanks Mary Beth. These are some wonderful money-saving grocery tips. I’ve been trying to keep better track of the non-sale price of items and have been so surprised by how often grocery stores will try to pass off regular price (or five cents below regular price) as a great deal just by making a sign bigger or sticking the item in a flyer. And the 50% off rack! It is a great source for deals, especially the reduced fruits and veggies rack – a super place to find smoothie and soup ingredients!

From Alicia Lake: The frugality issue surrounding food is one that I have been looking at over the years because I choose to eat mostly local food but cannot spend a fortune feeding my family. We have come to realize the importance of food value and also the necessity of putting thought into meal planning. One example of this is that we only buy free range chicken from a local farm, but we generally buy their whole chickens at 3.99 lb. and with proper planning we get 3 dinners and several lunches for 4 people out of one chicken. We also have developed relationships with local farmers who will sometimes sell slightly less than perfect produce for a reduced cost especially if we are buying a big order like 100 pounds of potatoes to last the winter. Another important thing we do is to think about what we spend and make choices based on our values. We prioritize good quality food and supporting local producers, we do not value supporting multi-national fast-food joints, therefore our kids probably only get burgers once a year or so – which no doubt reduces our budget.

Frugality is a complex issue I realize. We all look to find ways to afford to feed ourselves and buy the things that we need, but so often when we see a cheap price it means that something has been compromised to make that item cheap. It could be the environment, it could be health or safety, it could be wages of foreign workers or it could be our neighbours livelihood that was compromised, but cheap prices generally require compromise.

We need to be mindful to ensure that we save money while living lightly. Thank you for creating this space for discussions Leah and Erica!

Erika: Alicia, this is incredible. I’ve only rarely purchased whole chickens and haven’t thought of buying potatoes to last the winter, but these are now top of my food to-do list. Thank you for these very thoughtful and practical suggestions. And thank you for your powerful and succinct wisdom “when we see a cheap price it means that something has been compromised to make that item cheap.” This is such an important lens for all of us to keep with us and use to assess the “deals” we see everyday.

From Jay Mac: One frugal tip for groceries is to sign up for coupons, especially from online sites such as save.ca; sign up for all of them and then trade with friends. For the cost of a stamp you can also have “coupon trains” (with friends or through sites) where you send your unused coupons on and people select the ones they want and send ones they can’t use on to you.

I agree with the person who said to get the three fruits. We do buy single apples and fill a bag, but we look for the ones that are lowest price that week. We always get bananas because they are so cheap… and usually another fruit that is on sale. Don’t pass up frozen veg and frozen fruit (use in oatmeal or smoothies) as you can often get better prices than for fresh stuff.

Erika: Thanks Jay. We love our frozen fruit. It offers a nice bit of variety in the deep dark days of winter. Have you ever tried to freeze your own? Any tips? I’m thinking of giving it a try this summer.

From Mark Sparrow: Mmm….sushi. Great post, I love making sushi at home and the new Sobey’s, as you mentioned, has a ton of sushi ingredients (and a pretty amazing international foods isle as well). It’s also a good idea to buy your salmon fresh and then freeze it for 24-48 hours before defrosting it in the fridge to use in your sushi. This kills any potential undesirable parasites and is a common practice of sushi restaurants (as far as I know!).

Erika: Great tip Mark! We didn’t freeze our salmon last time but we definitely will next time!

From Wilson Eavis: Great DIY article, Erika. Have become a fan of making sushi at home too. Getting better each time, I must say. Learning techniques are simply that…learning. That’s the fun part. My sushi rolls that started out egg shaped are now looking more round all the time.

I did find the nori sheets at Oka Maki are far better tasting than “others”. Love to have a hint of Wasabi on the side too, certainly brightening each bite, but be careful, it’s killer!
My only add to this great article … a really super sharp knife is a must to cut the sushi rolls, and I dip the knife each time in cold water to avoid sticking. Surely Rob keeps a good sharp boat-knife in the kitchen!

Can’t wait till next Frugal Friday and my next sushi attempt too.

Erika: Wilson, you are so right! I forgot entirely about the knife which was just as important as the nori and the bamboo rollers! The first knife I picked up in the Superstore (and quickly put back) was $38. Yikes! The second one I picked up was $7 and incredibly sharp. It’s been great for so many other things around the kitchen too and we wouldn’t have been able to make our sushi without it.

About Erika Shea: Erika lives in the historic Northend of Sydney with her handsome partner Rob and beautiful, but increasingly mischievous toddler, Frances. When she dreams about having free time, it is filled with sailing, knitting and gardening. Since it is a dream and in no way tied to her actual track record, the garden is thriving.

You can read her first two Frugal Friday columns here and here!

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One Response to Frugal Friday with Erika Shea – March’s comments

  1. Pingback: Frugal Friday with Erika Shea – March's comments | Dream Big … | Money Day Dreams

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