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Common sense — not so common

By on May 26, 2009

jar gift
photo by D’arcy Norman

Not everyone is frugal. Often, you might think frugality is nothing more than good old common sense. Sadly, what appears to be obvious for some people isn’t even a consideration for others. Maybe you’ve heard frugal suggestions yet have never applied them. Frugality is in the news on a regular basis. But is it sinking in? One reader, Lisa in Texas, shares: “I saw something the other day about how shopping online for your movie tickets could really ‘stretch your budget.’ How about reading a book from the library or just watching what is on TV? Or having friends over to play cards? Sometimes it blows me away the advice that’s given on saving money. I mean, yes, you might save a little by not buying your movie tickets at the counter. But how much more could they have saved by staying home, if they really need to save?” What have you seen or read that surprises you because you assume that everyone should know about it? We all start somewhere, and everyone doesn’t define frugality the same way. Change can be difficult, too. Sometimes people need to learn a lesson more than once, so here are a few common-sense tips. Maybe something will stick.

GIFTS: How often have you heard someone claim that they can’t find anything nice for less than $100? Use your noodle. There are plenty of gifts for less than $100. Even Oprah’s favorite gifts are less than $100! There’s just less thoughtfulness and creativity. Whatever happened to “it’s the thought that counts”? If someone can afford to give extravagant gifts, great. But if you can’t afford it, why do it? Connecting and interacting don’t have to include a high price tag. If you’re short on time or simply not the best gift picker, visit, which can offer customized recommendations and ideas.

COOKING: Make your own meals, and pack a lunch if you don’t already. It seems so obvious. Even semi-homemade is better than fast food. Claiming you don’t know how to cook is a poor excuse. Basic meals don’t require a culinary degree. There are plenty of online videos that offer cooking tutorials, such as Look and Taste ( and Rouxbe ( Magazines and cookbooks are filled with quick and easy recipes, too.

APPLIANCES: Something breaks, and instead of finding out the cost of repairing it, some people eat out until they can afford to buy a new replacement. In some cases, it’s not worth repairing, but many repairs can be surprisingly cheap. Many you can do yourself. Visit Web sites such as Repair Clinic ( and AP Wagner ( for parts information and do-it-yourself-repair resources. Another option is buying a used appliance. If your appliance is older than the hills, an upgrade can save you money, but shop wisely and do your homework. Read Consumer Reports books, magazines or Web site (

COFFEE: Many “experts” tell people to buy their own espresso/cappuccino machines instead of buying gourmet coffee a cup at a time. Some of these machines cost $300. There’s nothing wrong with a $20 coffee machine. Add a little vanilla, almond, cinnamon or cherry extract to your coffee grounds before brewing or use a French press. You can add flavored syrup or creamers, too.

Mocha-Creamer Mix

6 ounces nondairy powdered creamer
1 cup chocolate cocoa mix
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix ingredients together, and store in an airtight container. To serve: Stir 1 tablespoon of creamer in a mug of coffee.

Liquid Creamer

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened, condensed milk
1-1/2 cups skim milk

Choose one:
Chocolate Amaretto: 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon almond extract.
Vanilla: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Orange cappuccino: 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange extract.
Cinnamon strudel: 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon almond extract.
Chocolate raspberry: 2 teaspoons cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons raspberry syrup.

Measure ingredients into a 32-ounce container with a lid. Shake to combine. — Heather, New York



    5/27/2009 at 12:09 pm

    You are so very right about appliance repairs. So many people have a belt or timer break on a 2-3 year old appliance, then instead of getting it fixed or fixing it themselves they go out and purchase new. Not only does this fill our landfills with unnecessary junk, it is just such a waste of money! My husband just repaired our dishwasher with a simple part from Sears for $13. I had actually thought about buying new one since ours is over 10 years old, but now it works perfectly. Yeah for us!

  2. Monroe on a Budget

    5/27/2009 at 2:31 pm

    I wondered too … isn’t all this just common sense?

    And then I started noticing how many people shop in the grocery stores without a coupon box / binder … and get to the checkout lane and tell the clerk “I don’t have a shopper card” … and bring a bakery cake to a potluck saying “I didn’t have time to cook” ????

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