Frugality, near and dear to my heart.

Personal finance isn’t really about investing or budgeting.  It is about deciding how to live your life, what you value and then being smart with your money so you can create a good life with the things that are really important to you.

We decided from the beginning that going on family vacations was really important.  For Dale because he always went on a summer trip no matter what.  One summer they went even after his dad lost his job.  For me because I rarely went on summer vacations.  There were just too many of us for my mom to manage all on her own.  After a few of us left home my siblings got to go places together.

That became our focus for saving each year.  Not for a new car or furniture.  Not for a new television (seriously, do people really save up for new TVs).  We also spent a lot of time talking about where we wanted to go.  We usually did this at the beginning of the year, with the kids helping us decide where we wanted to go.  We always had a focus of something fun to do with our savings. 

Another thing we learned to do right at the beginning.  Every time Dale got a raise we never raised our standard of living, we always put the extra money into savings.  Now that was hard, we were scrimping by at times.  Especially when we had to move to Washington D.C.  After 18 years in the service we found out Dale would be loosing his flight pay.  This was around $500 a month, which was a considerable amount.  We planned ahead and were saving well over that amount each month.  When the time came we didn’t even notice it was gone, except we paid less tithing. 

Part of frugality is buying quality instead of quantity.  I would much rather have a very few nice things in my house than a bunch of junk.  Quality doesn’t always equate to the most expensive thing in the store.  You buy the highest quality you can afford after carefully considering what you need and how much you can pay. 

Another aspect of frugality is thinking about what you really need.  We had some friends who told their children they needed to get their “wanters” fixed when they were besieging their parents for things.  Do you need it or want it?  What are your priorities? 

The last area is making things last.  We had a red wagon for years that Dale would sand and repaint so it would last for all the children.  Where is it now?  Lost on a move unfortunately.  But we did have movers once who told us that they were more careful with out household goods because he could see that we took care of our things.  We have repaired things rather than throw them out and buy new.  One of our early repairs was a popcorn popper that had a broken element.  Dale took it apart, stretched the longer piece of element to fit and screwed it back together.  It made delicious popcorn for many years after the repair. 

Everyone can create the kind of life they want within the constraints of the income they have.  It may take some creativity, but as they say in the Ikea ads “You don’t have to be rich, just smart”.

It’s a muesli world.

There is one thing Dale and I disagree on.  Breakfast cereal.  He continues to extol the virtues of a big bowl of muesli every morning.  I answer back that my bowl of oatmeal is tastier and far healthier, at least for me. 

One of the things our mission taught us is that Europeans have a superior brand of muesli mix, and European yoghurts are better than American style yoghurt.  Oatmeal is oatmeal where ever you go.  After a year and a half of living in Germany and eating muesli virtually every morning we came back to the USA.  We brought back a bag of muesli mix mostly so we could make our own mix from stuff we could get here.  We have a very nice grocery coop where they have every kind of rolled grain imaginable.  But they didn’t have all we needed.  We had to travel to Utah to a Honeyville Farms store to find a big bag of a cereal that is very similar to the German kind.  He doctors it up with added sunflower and other seeds.  We buy it in 50 pound bags and haul it back to Washington in the car. 

Dale mixes up his muesli the night before using the mix adding his special blend of seeds and nuts and then stirring in lots of yoghurt.  The next morning he adds fresh fruit and a palmful of almonds to this concoction.  I know all of you out there are salivating at the thought, but I can guarantee that it doesn’t taste as good as it sounds.  On top of that it looks like something that somebody already ate and then threw up into a bowl. 

So how does it go over in the family?  There opinions are divided between the true Swiss and the one who married into Swissdom.  Most of the kids love the stuff, it is almost a craving with Leslie.  Kurt can take it or leave it.  I can’t stand the stuff, I detest it!  I would only eat it if there was nothing but road kill for breakfast (and only after thinking about it for a while).  So we decided that you have to be true Swiss in order to enjoy muesli.  But then I could be wrong, I don’t think either of Dale’s sisters would eat muesli.  They are as Swiss as their brother, one-half.

Why do I dislike muesli?  Two simple reasons.  I don’t like raw grains or flour, hence, I don’t eat raw dough, or batter of any kind.  Also, I am not a fan of yoghurt, at least American style.  German yoghurt is okay, probably because of a higher fat content, which I don’t need.  Mix the two together and what do you get?  Nasty raw grains with slimy yoghurt.  Blech.

For now I will eat my delicious cooked steel-cut oats for breakfast every day.  This week I am adding a teaspoon of real maple sugar for a change.  Next week maybe toasted walnuts.

It Is Easy Being Green

This week my daughter Carolyn (the original “greener” in our family) asked me to participate in the 20 dollar organic challenge.  I should buy 20 dollars worth of organic groceries each week. 

Dale and I try to use organic foods, but sometimes it is tricky to balance our tightwad tendencies with organic eating.  Things got a lot easier when organic became more mainstream and after watching the documentary “Food Inc”. 

Since the Olympia Farmers Market opened in April we have had another option for buying organic foods.  The downside of that is the Farmers Market is an expensive option.  Much better and open year round is the Olympia Food Coop. 

We had some errands to run on Friday.  I needed more steel cut oats, Dale needed yoghurt for his muesli (I need to write a post about muesli).  We both wanted some sweet cherries to munch on.  We went to Fred Meyers for those items, but noted the cherries that were on sale and marked as organic looked old and a bit wrinkled.  We decided to go to the Farmers Market and the Coop. 

At the Coop we discovered that their steel cut oats were cheaper than Freddys (both were organic).  They also had apples that were reasonable at $1.35 a pound, organic of course.  I also picked up some maple sugar for my oatmeal and we bought a very small amount of organic chocolate covered dried cherries and coconut.  The coconut was heavenly tasting a lot like the best Mounds bar you have ever eaten.  I am not sure, but I think all the food at the Coop is organic.

At the Farmer’s Market we noticed that all the cherries were organic, big, plump, red and juicy.  We tried several samples and ended up buying a pound of Rainiers and a big bag of the deep dark red ones.  Oh my.  We also bought some apricots and asparagus.  I love the Farmer’s Market.  Buying from the farmer makes me happy. 

What foods should you always buy organic?  I have a list. 

Grapes, cherries, apples, celery, potatoes, peach/nectarines, pears, bell peppers, spinach, raspberries and strawberries.  These are known as the dirty dozen.  We should always buy them organic because they harbor more pesticides than other produce.

Low pesticide foods are:

Eggplant, corn, peas, avocado, broccoli, bananas, tomato, pineapple, asparagus, papaya, onion, kiwi, mango, cabbage, watermelon and sweet potato. 

We want to avoid pesticides because they damage the environment in ways we can’t fully understand or predict.  Pesticides kill insects by targeting their nervous systems.  We don’t want those same pesticides targeting our nervous systems as well.  Some studies have shown there is a marked increase in ADHD in children who have a high level of pesticides in their bodies.  Those are all good reasons for eating organic produce. 

The 20 dollar challenge may be a small thing, but if everyone bought 20 dollars worth of produce that is organic that equates to fewer chemicals entering our biosphere and more people purging chemicals out of their systems. 

I want to consume food that is organic and locally produced.  I want it to be reasonably priced, I can’t expect cheap for food that is carefully grown.  In our community that is something more easily done than in other places.  I also want everyone to start being more thoughtful in what they chose to put in their mouths.  Could the crisis of obesity have it’s roots in not only how much we eat, but how what we eat is produced?

Something to think about.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and in the Abersold house

Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse;

As Dale surfed over the web with great care,

In hopes that a vacation soon would be there;

 

The children were nestled in homes far away,

At least until Kurt comes back in late May;

Janet could settle for a long winter’ nap,

But Dale was restless to cover more map;

 

Now Priceline!  Now Orbitz!  Now Expedia.com

On Bestfares!  On Travelocity-don’t let me down!

To the top of the world!  No price is too small!

Show me vacations!  Show me them all!

 

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

The Abersolds have traveled on land, sea and sky,

To Germany, Hawaii and Phoenix they flew

And cruised both the sea and food buffets, too.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

 
And sorted the offerings; then stopped with a jerk,

And waking poor Janet, from slumber she rose,

Then giving a nod, she approved what he chose.

 

They sprang to the airprt, to McQueen gave a whistle,

And away they flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he flew out of sight,

The next trip must be planned-I can start it tonight!!

Censorship

I often write emails that I never send and blogs that I never post.  Why would I do this? 

For me writing is cathartic.  I write when I am angry at someone and feel like I need them to hear my point of view.  I write when I am upset at the world, usually for no particular reason.  I also sometimes write when my heart is breaking over a family member. 

I always censor myself.  The emails and blogs get changed into something more acceptable or else just deleted altogether. 

 After I write and censor I always feel better.  It’s almost like having my own psychologist just to listen to me go on about my problems.

It may seem pointless and silly, but sometimes I feel like I’m teetering on the brink and writing gets me back to safety. 

Not to go into too much detail but I feel an email coming on.  You can be sure I will delete it before anyone sees it. 

Am I the only person who does this?

I haven’t blogged in a while and I’m sure no one has missed me.  It seems like I’m only on the computer for a few minutes each day and don’t take the time to write anything.  These days I have so much on my mind that I really have a hard time figuring out what I should blog about.  I really don’t want to get political.  Thinking about current world events is disheartening and sad.  My day to day life is boring, not complaining just stating the facts.  I like boring.  Sometimes I blog about something and look at it later and decide it was pretty dumb. 

We just got back from our trip to Yellowstone and other places.  We had a fun time in spite of the cold and rainy weather.  Dale got a bad cold while we were there.  I had one prior to leaving which was very mild.   His kept getting worse and worse.  Today we decided to drive home from Pendleton and skip the touring things we wanted to do.  He just didn’t feel well enough to go hiking.  It was good to get away and good to get back.  The first thing we did after unloading the car was walk around the house and check out the garden.

I will try to find something more interesting to blog about in the near future.