A Word (or several) on Bargains.

          Hello, dear readers! I want to share with you today a public service announcement from the Coalition for People Who Are Alpha Delta. Bargains and You. Imagine your own dramatic soap-opera-ey theme music. Let me say right off the bat that I've adopted a thriftier lifestyle. You can safely assume that about 90% of my family's entire possessions are second-hand goods, from clothes to books to furniture and more. What some might be embarrassed by, we are proud of! That said, I am wary of some of the more self-defeating aspects of frugal living. There are definite pros and cons, and you should be aware of each (if you aren't already, you smart cookie!) before deciding whether or not the lifestyle of frugal living is for you. Here's my two cents!

          Let's approach this compliment-sandwich-style and start with something good to say about the frugal style of shopping: The obvious? It's dirt flippin' cheap! If you get accustomed to unit pricing (the price per 100 count, price per pound, price per what-have-you), bulk purchases (when needed, see Cons), and where to look for the best deals, that's a big chunk of frugal shopping right there! As a stay-at-home mom, it's important for me to pinch pennies where I can so that my family can save toward things like buying our own home or a car maybe a year or two younger than I am and to have a nest egg for our retirement and our children's inheritance, and to have a stash set aside in case of emergency. These are very realistic goals, if you ask me. I'm not foregoing buying this season's fall fashions or organic gluten free cruelty free vegan fair trade shoe polish so we can save up for a flat screen TV. If you buy new clothes each season, high-end personal care products or flat screens, that's fine for you and I don't mean to offend. But, for me and my house, austerity and frugality is the way to go. My husband and I have always admired the Mennonites and Amish around us--that's how serious we are. Someday we'd like to be as close to completely self-sufficient as possible (even giving up coffee and other imports, though I haven't run the coffee bit by my husband) and being frugal now is a means to that end. Let's face it: if you examine your needs against your wants, you can trim a lot of fat from your budget. Also, you should be budgeting. Budget or else.

          And now, something to guard yourself against if you pursue the frugal lifestyle: Buying things you do not need or will not use simply because they were cheap. Before you get all excited and sign up for a BJ's membership, I want you to watch an episode or two of Hoarders. This was my life. I wasn't raised in a frugal house, I was raised in a hoarding house. I wasn't the hoarder, but I lived with and was directly influenced by someone who spent so much time as an avid bargain hunter that something in their brain switched off. Soon, the house was packed with all kinds of everything, and none of it necessary. Ten-packs of keychain calculators "because they were only $.30". A shopping bag full of packs of gum. Five sewing machines, never to be used. Several huge stacks of Sunday newspapers, bought for their coupons. Not everyone who opts for a frugal lifestyle will suffer this. I believe some circuits have to short in the brain first. I was raised around this sort of thing, so I was accustomed to it and adopted it myself. It took a lot of hard work and self-induced psychological boot-camp to break free from impulse spending habits. Remember how I said the Salvo is a block away from my house? I used to go there multiple times weekly! I'd drop $20 or more per visit on clothes that I didn't even try on and often never wore (here's a good remedy for that, always shop with your husband). Long story short: there is no point to being frugal if you're going to spend the money you save on constant impulse buys. Buy with a purpose.

my latest bulk purchase, most
of it will go in our "bug-in" closet.
 In addition to impulse buys, be wary when buying in bulk. Yes, I have a BJ's membership (through my mom's account which she gets for free through work!). How often do I shop there? Not as often as I'd like. But, every visit reminds me of why I keep my distance. We currently live in a teensy apartment. Blessed with much storage space, yes, but still teensy. Unlike some of my 5-kids-and-counting friends (Psalm 127:5), my family doesn't have an urgent need for a 5 pound bag of string cheese. Again, buy only what you need, and buy with a purpose. That said, I'd like to mention quickly that buying in bulk isn't all bad, it's actually something I highly endorse when building up a long-term storage food stockpile (which, like budgeting, you should be doing!). Bulk stores like BJ's or some co-ops or my favorite Mennonite stores are absolutely great for this. I actually kick myself when I come home from a Wegman's run without having bought two of every shelf-stable item (one for the shelf and one for the storage closet). I'll devote an entry to food and other goods stockpiling later.

          Let's wrap it up with another compliment for thrifty shopping: You don't have to settle for inferior goods (or services in some cases). My husband, though broke as a church mouse when we first met, used to turn up his nose at even passing by our local Salvation Army store. Until he went in and looked around. Now, we buy about 99% of our family's clothes at the Salvo, Goodwill (my husband's favorite), or kid's consignment shops. Our city's Salvo isn't one of the better local thrift stores as far as I've observed, but it's one block away from my front door. Heck yes. I've recently been finding great books, clothes, and things to put on these asylum-white walls at the Community Support Shop, a Christian-run second-hand store that relies on donated goods. They have ridiculously laughably wonderfully low prices and
a cutesy little box, $1
added perk:organization!

this is on a hand-stretched canvas! $1
everything in this picture (and my son's room) is second-hand! 

The part of my brain connected to my wallet aches when I hear this: "It was only $30 at Carter's!" It also ached when a well-meaning friend unaware of our house's finances suggested we check out the outlet mall for "a good deal" on clothes for our son. I'll spare you the details of that trip (just watch Idiocracy) and just say that by the Delta standard, there where no deals to be found. Some absolutely adorable clothes at Osh Kosh cost more than what I'm used to spending on half a layette! I was disappointed to leave empty handed, but in the end it only strengthened my resolve to dress my kid fashionably, functionally, and frugally. So far, it's been a success.

         My whole family receives compliments (too often for my taste, but I don't take compliments well) on things like our attire and and even more when we tell the person that our entire outfits are second-hand! Now, I don't want to dress fashionably or frugally to please anyone (except my husband) or glorify myself or anyone else but God. Wise use of my family's resources on these sorts of things are a real-life application of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). If God blesses us with one talent when he gives our brother five, are we to complain that we can't invest wisely because we weren't given enough? Be a good steward (think of it as an investment if it helps) and do the best with what you have for the glory of God.

          Thank you for stopping by. Let me know what you think about frugal living! Be well.

                                                  With so very much love,
                                                                Alpha Delta.

What's for dinner: Burrito bowls!
Verse of the day: Psalm 37:16 (KJV) A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.