A Frugal Wife's Contributions to Preparedness, by Desert Dawn

Saturday, Nov 28, 2009

This is for the Ladies: take the lead on frugality to finance your family preparedness! Below are things I do and have done, some for years, some for only a few months. You’d be amazed at how much starts accumulating in your checking account when you do these things. I have paid off credit cares and bought a rifle with scope, some junk silver, 1,000 rounds of ammo and a more than three month food supply since I started being more serious about these things.

My husband and I are professionals making good salaries – at least for now. We are fortunate to be able to live in a small town in a relatively low-cost area. This allows us to avoid some of the gratuitous spending pitfalls in larger urban areas, such as parking fees and bridge tolls. We have 10 mile commutes. We are able to live fairly simply. We still seem normal in the workplace, but there are some tricks for this that I will share. Why? Because if you are just waking up to the need to start your preparedness and are not already frugal, these are some good ways to free up disposable income without suddenly showing up at work looking really different and starting the curiosity mill....

First is transportation. For your ‘normal’ part of life, remember that the vast majority of automobiles are not investments, they are financial liabilities that depreciate every moment. My husband and I have different work hours at widely-spread places, so we commute separately in old Hondas. His is a 1991, mine is a 2000. We inherited both from my parents, so no high payments for fancy cars. We keep up the routine maintenance but not at the dealer, though we have a trusted mechanic for the tricky stuff. With rare exception, they get clean in the rain (we have no road salt issues here). I haven’t had to make a car payment since 1992, and I bought that car with cash. Our G.O.O.D. vehicle is a truck and we paid cash. Occasionally someone will make a crack about my car – essentially that at my salary I should be able to afford a nice car. I just smile and make some benign remark as I think about all that I save on transportation and how that money is helping me be more prepared.

Next, if you work and must keep looking ‘normal’ here are some tips on The Office Look if you haven’t been able to take the leap to work out of your retreat.
For Basic skin care: Frugality doesn’t mean you stop looking normal at the office. It is a subtle change in how you get to that look. Stop buying anything from cosmetic counters in department stores. Buy no Lancome or Estee Lauder. You don’t need the 4-step (that means four expensive products) skin cleaning system. It is a trick. Where ever you enter in the 4-product cycle, the product creates a skin problem that the next one fixes. The cleanser leaves your skin oily so you need the ‘toner’. The toner dries you so you need the ‘moisturizer’. See where this goes? Take care of your skin simply. If you really need a ‘toner’ here’s a secret: it is mostly witch hazel and colorant. Buy the witch hazel from K-Mart or another discount chain – twice as much for 10% of the price.

Bar soap is probably too harsh for most of us. Get some Neutrogena facial wash (unscented) and a stack of cheap washcloths – the kind that come in 12 packs and have really short loops in the terry. Dilute the Neutrogena by half with warm water so it mixes well. Use one or two pumps on a wet washcloth in the shower – work it into the cloth well before you start and use it all over, from the top down. Remember that both sides of the cloth are soapy! Fanny is next to last, feet are last. ( Use a clean cloth each day or rinse well and let dry in the sun so you don’t end up with a fungus from your feet). You have just been cleaned and exfoliated. If you don’t like this brand, use a mild shower gel but dilute it by at least half. Shower gel is commercially engineered for you to use much more than you need so you will buy more and sooner. By diluting, you get better foaming and waste less – either pump or sprinkle on the cloth.

Now, use a little Aveeno daily moisture lotion on your face and your parts that get dry. It will not make your skin oily or plug your pores. Buy the stuff in the big bottle for $8, not in the expensive little bottles. If you need a sunscreen, then get the Aveeno in the big bottle with SPF 15. You have just replaced at least 5 products at $20 or more each with 3 (4 if you include the bundle of washcloths) for a total of less than $20. That gives you $80 to buy ammo or junk silver this month. See where this is going?

For your work cosmetics: do your research. Many of the K-Mart brands are the expensive department store brands without the pushy sales people. Learn a basic routine that puts on eye makeup first, then the rest. Otherwise you use more product fixing the mistakes. Most of us can get by with very little makeup, and we look better for it. If you really like a specific brand, you can probably find it for about half price on eBay. Most of the sellers are basically honest– just check their feedback. This change can free up $100 a year or more, depending on your habit.

For your things that grow: Stop getting nail jobs. Long cutesy nails make you look less professional and cost a bundle. Trim and file your own. Keep them short and clean. There’s $30 a month, more if you stop pedicures, laser hair removal, tans, etc.. I still get a haircut, with no color or perm, about every 8 weeks from a one-woman salon in another small town. She charges $15 a cut. Even with a tip, I enjoy a ‘private consultation’ for a quarter of the price I was paying with my perm-and-cut style at a conventional salon. So, there’s another $25 to $50 a month by being you!

For your wardrobe: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Choose two color palettes of relatively timeless pieces. Mine are in black and navy blue. I have several black skirts, pants and jackets in black, less in Navy. Black works well because you don’t have the same ‘shades’ problem as you get with navy. Black is black. I have some different shirts and an odd skirt or pair of pants (gray, wedgewood blue) just to keep it from looking too uniform-ish. The jackets are in the washable Traveler styles from on-line cataloguers, hence no dry cleaning. I wash on gentle and hang to dry. I have two sets of navy and black shoes – same shoes in both colors. I wear black or navy hose. Everything mixes and matches easily. I have a couple of nice pairs of pearl earrings and make my own pearl necklaces by stringing the sale pearls from Fire Mountain Gems. There’s my professional working woman wardrobe. I plan to retire in a year, so I will buy even fewer items before I retire. Do this and your ‘wardrobe spending’ goes way down. I went from 80% dry cleaning to about 10% dry cleaning using this basic scheme, so have saved money there as well. Stockings, one or two tops and a couple of pairs of shoes a year are your shopping list once you have the basics -- possible replace a piece or two if too well worn. Just the dry cleaning part of this saves about $50 a month.

Personal habits:
If you still smoke, then stop. You can buy your year’s prudent reserve of food by quitting smoking alone. If your household consumes more than 1 bottle of wine a week, cut back. If you eat out, including lunch at work, more than once a week, cut back. Stop buying prepared packaged food. Spend some time cooking over the weekend and freeze it for your lunches. Stop buying lottery tickets. These are the easiest dollars to keep and will add up. You will probably feel more like firing your weapon on weekends when you eat less junk.

Around The House:

In the kitchen:
Best investment I’ve made in a while was a really nice bread machine. I bought a Japanese one that makes a normal-looking loaf. It paid for itself really fast when good bread was pushing $4.50 a loaf. My husband was taking a bakery-bought bagel to work every day for breakfast as well. We were spending $10 to $12 a week for bread products. Making our own for about $3 a loaf is a deal. Our ‘bread bill’ was cut in half and paid for the machine in 7 months. We go full tilt on nutrition as well. No sugar or corn syrup, and plenty of dry milk, whole wheat, nuts and dried fruit so a slice of bread is more than half the meal. This also helps me in rotating our supplies because we eat what we store.

Your water:
If you have hard water, try to learn to live with it without a water softener. If you feel you must have one, then locate it in a place where only the hot water coming into the house goes through the softener. Most cold water applications do not need softened water. You want your shampoo to suds up, so just do the hot for your warm shower. Bar soap does not work well in hard water, so another reason to go with the diluted shower gel and a washcloth. There’s the price of a big bag of salt or more each month for your prep supplies.

Not all detergents are created equal. We have very hard water and have learned to adjust to it rather than use a water softener. I tried all sorts of combinations trying to reduce the residue, which is mainly the solids from the detergent. I find that All free and clear cleans as well or better than the rest and leaves little residue. I use cold water and about half the amount of detergent they recommend. Powdered detergent in a hard water area will ruin your clothes or require more additives, so a low-solids liquid like All Free and Clear fits the bill. I learned this from my County Agent – he had a list of detergents and how much powdered residue they bring to your wash load. I buy the largest container when it is on sale. I use it to refill the small container that I keep in the laundry room. A dab full strength on greasy spots, otherwise everything goes in, no pre-soak, spray, etc.. If something is really smelly, I add a splash of Pinesol to the mix. When I retire next year, I anticipate having time to line dry a lot of items. Right now, it is only my work tops and jackets (traveler fabric dries fast). What I have found is that it is the drying that wears clothes out. Set you drier on a low to medium heat for the minimum time needed. Our old dryer does have a moisture sensor. I set it on the moist side of medium. No need for softeners if you don’t have fabrics full of solids from your detergent and are not toasting them in the dryer. Your clothes will now last longer and you will save on lots of product that you no longer need. I spend less than a dime per load of wash on laundry product and my clothes are soft and long-lasting. Over time, this can save you a few hundred dollars in a year.

If you are on the grid like we are, power is a big expense. First thing to invest in is a programmable thermometer. Program the temp to be seasonally 10 degrees higher or lower when you know you will not be in the house. Ours changes the temp for the time we prepare for work and then when we get home. Nights are set colder in the winter. That, along with turning off lights that we aren’t using and minimizing use of appliances makes a difference. Also, if you have natural gas or propane available, migrate appliances to gas as you replace them over time. We also make use of our lovely desert natural light when we can. From the complaints I hear, we spend about half of what our neighbors are spending on power.

Little things add up, so pay attention. We both have allergies and a lot of runny or stuffy nose problems. For tissues, I buy one fancy boutique-shaped tissue box per dispenser. When it is empty, I cut the top so I can refill it from the big, less expensive boxes. I can refill 3 vanity boxes with 1 large box of tissue. There’s another $5 a month.

Hand soap
We don’t use much bar soap here in the desert, it dries you out to much. I get the foam soap dispensers with a screw top, usually from Bath and Body works during their big sales. These have several advantages. Most are refillable. You can refill with a couple of tablespoons of the diluted shower soap and more water and have a fresh supply. In addition to saving product, these foamers save water as well, because you are not running water to get the blob of thick soap off your hands. Hand-washing is a good habit to maintain with the pandemic du jour potential over the next few years.

I have probably exceeded my word limit so will stop for now. The above tips can go a long way to building a larder, so we ladies shouldn’t leave all that to our primary breadwinners. Lets do our part – oh, and don’t forget to work hard on your marksmanship. I recently beat my husband on the pistol range. - Desert Dawn

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