Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What frugal is not

I had every intention of writing yesterday but we spent all day running errands that were delayed with Friday's big snow, not the least of which was picking up my insulin. The forecast was for more snow to fall last night and today. I don't think we have received the amount they originally thought but it began as a combination snow and ice. I was already in a deep sleep when the land line phone rang and woke me up, a little past Midnight.

It was Christopher (who assumed I was asleep and I'd hear that phone as opposed to my cell). He had just nearly gone into a telephone pole after sliding on ice and was asking me to stay up and "pray him home". There are many benefits to living in the country but driving home in bad weather is definitely not one of them. I did stay up, I did pray, and I was very relieved when I heard our car pull into the driveway. With the weather conditions continuing to disintegrate, I'll probably be praying him home again early this evening after his last class finishes.

I'll be taking pen to paper (keyboard to Blogger?) this week to share lessons learned during the twenty year recovery from Yuppie-hood. I'm still learning but I've come a very long way. Instead of starting out with what I mean by being frugal and returning to a more simple lifestyle, I thought it best to share what I feel being frugal is not about.

I used to love watching Jeff Smith on his PBS cooking show called The Frugal Gourmet. (It's a shame his life ended not too many years after being involved in a moral downfall, even PBS wouldn't keep showing his programs.) Anyway, he often commented that being frugal does not necessarily mean cheap.

I have found that buying quality when I have the money (and not having to go into debt to do it) far exceeds what I'd pay over time in buying... cheap. I've already talked about kitchen equipment (tools) but that is an area where I spend a lot of my life so it is also where I buy quality. I've been married over thirty years and I still have one saucepan left from the very nice pieces I bought before I was married, same as my high quality knives.

I already talked about purchasing two skillets and a saucepan recently (they finally came to the top of our written down priority list) but that entire experience shows better than anything how I view frugal vs. cheap. I knew I couldn't afford the top of the line (All-Clad) but I'd done my homework and I also knew the Cusinart cookware was quite good, especially for the home cook. I also wrote that I ended up taking my middle-of-the road bigger saucepan back to the store and exchanged it for the higher quality saucepan that was on sale (after my husband reminding me the difference in cost wasn't all that much).

The saucepan I came home with was an All-Clad that I have now used numerous time and I must say... this girl is in love. I thoroughly enjoy the Cusinart skillets (both work beautifully) but I now realize why those "in the know" love their All-Clad. I had to change my way of cooking just a bit as both brands do not like being used over high heat but gosh do they make cooking a joy.

I was talking to the sales woman at the kitchen and gourmet shop about All-Clad. I found out they put at least one of their pieces on sale each month so one could (eventually) end up with the best cookware at a more reasonable price by checking back from time to time. (After wasting money on cookware sets, I've found it is far better to purchase individual pieces on sale rather than a complete set which often doesn't have the best cookware for the way I cook.)

Fortunately for me, the item on sale was just what I needed and the Cusinart works quite well. (My daughter loves her Wolfgang Puck cookware!). My Le'Creuset "dutch oven" is now over twenty years old and it has some chips on the inside (which don't look great but they are fine to cook with). I use it at least three or four times a week. For years I asked for cookware and small kitchen appliances for birthday and Christmas gifts. My husband did the same with Craftsmen tools and the years has accumulated a valuable collection. (They, too, come with a lifetime warranty.)

I was thinking of other purchases where we bought quality as opposed to cheap and I had to look no further than my hall closet. I have three winter coats that I wear quite often, one is a black dress coat with a fur collar that I purchased half price at a mall in Michigan many (many, many) years ago for a little more than $100.00. The second coat is the one I wear most often in very cold weather, a beautiful blue down coat with a matching hood (also with fur) which I purchased about ten years ago at the end of the season clearance where one took half price off of what was already half price. I paid $50.00. Now, since this is not an algebra class I can make it easy... they are both $200 coats. My third coat is a lined all weather (long) coat that was obviously expensive when originally purchased. I paid $20.00 for it at a garage sale.

These are most likely the only coats I'll need as long as I take good care of them (and I'm not a person who likes changing styles often, these are all three very classically made). What I find interesting is how God does provide according to how much we can afford when we shop. The first two were purchased when I was actually looking for that particular style of coat. The black coat was absolutely perfect and I had the money budgeted to make that purpose. The blue down coat was also what I was looking for and I had the money budgeted (although that color of blue was new to me but I loved it). The third coat was what I needed but I had very little money to spend, $20.00 is quite a bit for a garage sale item but I actually had the money and it was... once again... perfect for me.

This is already getting to be quite long but I'm hoping to inspire you that cheap is not always the best. If you have the money at the time, quality may (in the long run) prove to be much more of a frugal purchase than going cheap. It all depends on lifestyle and priorities. For instance, I spend a lot of time cooking and baking so quality is a good buy in the kitchen. However, I've had my heart set on a Rowenta iron for some time now but the small amount of ironing I do does not justify paying that much money.

What other items do we pay a little more for to reap benefits far above the cost? I purchase high quality laundry, cleaning, and dishwashing supplies (Mrs. Meyers, Seventh Generation, Charlie's Soap, Kiss My Face soap, etc.) because of our health challenges. In the long run, they are not that much more (because I find them to last much longer than cheaper brands) and I don't have to be concerned about chemicals.

Same with food... I purchase organic when it is possible (Wal Mart and Target are both selling organics at a more reasonable price than health food stores). I can't do as much as I'd like but even little things add up. I can't afford organic milk for us (and it is not a priority) but Target now sells organic butter at a great price. My daughter is on a tight budget but she purchases organic milk for her family as she feels it is very important for small children and nursing mothers. (I also like to seek out local farmers at the farmer's market in the summer.)

So, what are some other items I feel are worth the money paid? Just off the top of my head? Hmmm...

education (if one is really going to use it),

classic literature for kids and adults (I go for used when possible but I have paid full price when necessary, especially for gifts),

good shoes,

a great sofa... ditto dining table and chairs (if they are used often),

sturdy but soft mattresses,

flannel sheets in winter to keep one warm and cozy,

a good computer (having just learned that through experience),

high quality DVDs that families watch over and over,

travel... if you don't have to go into debt,

dinner out with hubby once in awhile (much cheaper than a divorce due to lack of attention),

time with children as opposed to working even more overtime to pay for "stuff",

the cost and maintenance of friends with fur,

important items for the house (water heater, furnace, etc.)

... and much more.

I know I could add easily to the list later but I think this list will be just what is needed to plant a seed in your mind. I didn't list good quality clothing (although I believe it is the best) because I can often find it at Goodwill and garage sales. I will, as funds permit, look for favorite brands at a clothing store if necessary to meet a specific need.

More ponderings tomorrow (hopefully). :)

Photo: A park in our county taken last year but this is the way our trees look today.


Anonymous said...

I am paying attention. :^) Great post! I've added a couple of things to my ongoing wishlist.


Anonymous said...

Lovely photo, lots to think about, and thanks for the tip about All-Clad going on sale. I've been thinking about new cookware.

Kelly said...

This was a great and much appreciated post!


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

So much to chew on in this post. Thank you, Brenda, for taking the time to pull it all together. There's a lot of good advice here.

Misc. Muse said...

I am glad Christopher is ok.
Was time for sliding off road. My dd totalled her car - slid on black ice- went off road to avoid hitting someone. she was between towns, just got off her 36hr EMT shift. Now she has the car hunt I feel bad for her but thank the Lord she is fine.