The New Savings Culture

I have reported before that I spend a few hours each week trolling about on Pinterest reading frugal blog posts.  There's always the off chance I might learn something I haven't known before, or relearn something I'd forgotten (just as good as a new trick is a forgotten trick!)...Most blogs tend to stick to the old basics that we've all learned and repeated: stop eating out (as much), stop buying new when used will do as well, stop spending what you haven't earned yet...You get the idea.  Sort of a 'Frugality for Dummies' mentality.

However, there is a new savings culture out there and I've noticed it creeping in amongst frugal blogs with a subtle message: Frugality isn't worth it.

How, you might ask, do they justify their position?  By trotting out the old and hackneyed methods of savings (stop eating out, stop buying lattes and stop overspending) and hinting that small savings are the least effective way to manage your funds.  The new take is this:  You should work to earn more because a new and better job will reward you many times over.  You should invest instead of save. You should cook from scratch but forget coupons or meal plans.  That's too much work for too little return.  You should buy top quality as you can afford to pay cash but used is not necessarily the way to go, if it requires repairs or sprucing up.  You should skip the work of a vegetable garden but find a good CSA that will deliver organic vegetables and fruits to your door on a weekly basis...

Shall I go on?

In other words, Frugality is a lot of work.  There's got to be an easier way.

Uh huh.

Here's my take on this whole thing.  Frugality is a lot of work.  Sometimes we're saving mere pennies it's true, but that is the difference between our budget and theirs apparently.  We might have to save pennies because the dollars are accounted for and not stretching quite far enough.  There might be better paying jobs out there, or even second jobs available, but we haven't seen them in our area, not even in the larger cities within driving distance.  What used to be a whole section devoted merely to job ads in our city paper has dwindled to half a page at best and often not that.  It seems prudent, under those circumstances, to stick with the primary job you have and look for other ways to save. (And then it's just possible that some might be like my John.   He could make more elsewhere. Miserably.   He likes his job and he likes the rural county where he works.   I'll take a happy man, thank  you.)

It is true that if you are in debt, you must use extra income to get out of debt.  And if your income isn't enough to both get you out of debt and pay your bills then you must figure out how to get that added income. When we decided to get out of debt we did not seek out a second job for John.  He worked one extra 12 hour shift a pay period when it was available.  ONE.  Usually in a month's time he had two extra days.  That was it. We applied that money towards debt reduction.

We looked  for a job for me but it was soon clear that working outside the home was not going to be the most cost effective thing I could do.  So  I looked inside my home for a job. At that time I was sorting out my grandmother's home after my father's death and culling items routinely from my own home.  I sold those items on eBay.  I put every penny of the clear earnings (after eBay fees and postage and tithe) right into our debts.  Often it was only $100 clear a month but it was dedicated to debt repayment. I cleaned my mom's home twice a month.  I was paid a small amount, just above minimum wage for two hours of work and taken out to lunch afterwards.  That money was used to extend our grocery funds.  That bit of cash pretty much covered that mid pay period lot of milk and bread and fresh produce that is always wanted.

I clipped and used coupons (there was no Aldi grocery in our area at that time), continued to cook every single meal from scratch, planned my foodstuffs so that we seldom had waste.  I became queen of the Leftover Makeover menu.  I found ways to cut down on expenses and we tried them all.  Some worked for us and some didn't.  Some required an outlay of money we didn't have at that time, others simply weren't cost effective enough to keep doing.  Homemade laundry detergent was inexpensive but didn't dissolve well in our soft water.  An alternative for us was to combine sales/coupons/refunds to get detergent that worked with our water for pennies.   Some saving methods didn't work with our home life very well like putting a timer on the hot water heater.  We had three schedules running in our home at that time and showers or laundry ran accordingly.  To offset the necessity of the hot water heater being on 24 hours a day, we made panels that we put in the windows on the sunny side of the house in summer months.  It reduced the indoor temperature by 10 degrees and that meant that the AC worked a lot more efficiently at keeping our home at 80F.  The savings in summer months was enough to offset the cost of heating hot water for a full year.

The most important thing we did?  We continued practicing those things that had proven to be true money savers and to do them consistently, day in and day out.  If I saved $1 a day I had stretched our income by $30 at the end of the month.  It might not show up as an actual figure in the bank account but it showed in easing the strain we felt in tugging the budget ends closer.  Another fallacy you'll hear about savings is that if you can't SEE it you didn't save it.  Phooey!   How can you believe that something doesn't count simply because you cannot see the additional money in a physical account each month?  That's one mistake this New Savings Culture is making in my opinion.

Here's my thinking:  my great grandparents and grand parents made it through the Great Depression. Their very stoic approach to life, their hard core frugality and that of their neighbors, got this country back on it's feet.  It kept them going.  It meant my grandmothers all saved thousands of dollars each, putting away a small amount each month and letting it build up, a proverbial rainy day fund that they never felt the need to draw upon.  I can see the results of their ways very well.  I'm not convinced this New Savings Culture has all the facts...Or the backbone to carry on when things really get tough. Call me old fashioned.  I won't hang my head in shame if you do.


Mable Hastings said…
My huge garden and our three chickens mean that during the summer our monthly food bill is about $50---for milk and meat, mostly. I can/freeze/dehydrate what we don't eat during the summer so in the winter we are still eating from my garden---not as much, so our food bill is about $100 a month, but it is still considerable. I would MUCH rather be working in my garden and at my canner than going to a conventional job. (Never mind the money I save on not having to have stylish clothes or use my car every day...) It all depends on what you value. To me, the independence is important...
a8383 said…
Oh goodness. Clearly these people have not lived this way for over 30 years like we have. I know I am preaching to the choir here but I know we live a nicer life on one salary. No not more money, but less stress and more enjoyment. We have a lovely home- not a macmansion- but clean and I sew, paint, divide plants, thrift etc.because I have the time. I am here when my husband and teen get home. I am available when DD gets off her nursing shift and wants to talk. I am here when granddaughter wants to talk to Marmee. A blogger I follow just had some hard news- decreased income and increased insurance now at the same time. There is no money for groceries but she has a full pantry and skills. In a depression I have skills. The frugal lifestyle is more, so much more than the bottom line. . Angela
I can't say I have come across this attitude in blogs as much as you have but I have heard it from friends and some old neighbors.
For me, I would rather control what I can at home than be controlled by an employer. I truly feel my place is at home but if spend willy nilly, then I can't stay home.

And you know, I think a lot of this is because work at home is not valued and neither are most workers who work less than glamorous jobs or aren't at the top of prestigious fields.
That is really a shame too.
Teri said…
I'm old fashioned too! And love being that way. Love reading your blog Teri
Anonymous said…
Did anybody mention time on any of those blogs? Higher paying jobs (managerial) or second jobs many times come with a price to pay. That price is less time with your family.

There is nothing wrong with investing, but I don't think very many investments today will give you the return as consistently or as quickly as saving on your food bill or your other cost of living items(utilities, rent), insurance.

Time with my family for me is clearly the sensible choice. You also mentioned that your husband is happy with his job. There are a lot of people in high paying jobs that can't make that claim. Job stress leads to illness.

Janell Hughes said…
Being here for my family is more important than money. I have had people tell me it is a waste to clip coupons to save a dollar or two. Not in my book. Just call me old fashioned too.
Anonymous said…
This way of thinking is all new to me. I will have to give it some thought on how to reply. One thing that came to mind quick on the subject though is this. If these people get that second job or do what they can to not be like us in the way they save what then? They get the second job or whatever and still do not save deeper. So with this new amount of income they do what a lot of people do..spend more... So where is that $ going to come from? They have already maxed out the hours they have to work? They are working to live not living to work. Investing is a step in faith. It may work out but no one knows. If you have the $ to gamble on and could be ok if you lost it...but I do not invest $ that will be NEEDED. They are risking a lot. A penny earned is a penny saved...we earn every penny we save believe me! :) Really it is a gift from God but with the knowledge He gave us we have it. Every bit helps for sure and it is no biggie to save a little here and there. It gets to be a habit we don't even think about. No problem. And as you show us too there are always new ways to cut back.
I love what others have said already. They said it beautifully and I agree. I am here shaking my head...somewhere there is thought in what they are saying but it seems backwards and inside out to me! :) They aren't going to come out of it right side up in the end I am afraid! Sarah
Rebecca said…
Good thoughts & valid points! In the end, I think everyone should evaluate their lifestyles and circumstances periodically (wisely and honestly) and make the adjustments required.

For sure I'd say that the habits and skills required to live a frugal lifestyle are never wasted!
Rebecca said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Lee said…
Excellent post!

I agree also with what Rhonda said, "I would rather control what I can at home than be controlled by an employer." Amen!

I'm fine with being called old-fashioned. :)
vickie morgan said…
Such good points- the new frugal people seem to have a "I gotta have it" approach. Although we are not in debt thank goodness we still live frugally so we won't be. We own old cars and fix them and live in a modest house so we can live on our retirement pay. My husband says I would love to have that but I would have to go back to work to get it. It's just not worth it to us. I bet they to will get tired of the daily grind and go back to the old frugal ways.
Anonymous said…
I read and reread your posts everyday. I find them inspirational and insightful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.
lislyn66 said…
The new culture doesn't want to take the time to do things the way we continue to do things. I clip and use coupons, I go to CVS where I get the most bang for my buck by buying only the items on sale, with a coinciding coupon and at the end of that transaction I get a coupon for $1, $2, $5 off of my next purchase, it all gets turned around to where sometimes I pay nothing for items purchased. I don't have a credit card, just my child support debit card and that's fine. I shop Aldi, Walmart only for the few brand name things I won't skimp on and those are very few. All of my clothes come from my friend who has a big shopping habit and since I can't stop her, I reap the rewards. My daughters use gift cards to purchase clothing items they want and they go straight to the clearance racks. If I order things online I instantly google a code to get a discount. These are necessities for our family, without doing them I'd be homeless. Just wanted to chime in....I'll take being called old fashioned any day! Oh and we're the same with the employment ads, there is maybe, maybe 1/2 a page, sad.
Anonymous said…
Nicely written post. I see this idea in some of the blogs I read too. I think that "easing the strain" makes a huge difference!!

Something I'd like to point out is, we all aren't going to do the same things to save. We all live in different parts of the country and in different environments. I live 60 miles from a WalMart or Walgreens (like CVS I think). I don't clip coupons because first, I never find coupons to clip and second, the ones I could print off the computer don't apply to our food choices. The little grocery store in my town frowns on coupon usage as it means more work for them.

But, I do make my own laundry soap, bake my own bread, have a big garden and can/freeze a pantry full of goodness. I wear simple clothes - jeans and t-shirts - 99% of the time. We hardly ever eat out because there aren't many restaurants available and home cooking is just plain better anyway. ; 0)

I love being home and not at the beck and call of a boss!!!! Tp me this means "easing the strain" on my health!

I still say a penny saved is a penny earned. And as someone pointed out, the interest one can earn now on investments or savings is so minimal that it is hardly "see-able." Pam

Kathy said…
I'm old fashioned too, and proud of it! :D
I have seen a few of those blog comments where they say that the little savings doesn't matter. But I think those little savings add up to big savings. The other thing that annoys me about some of those blogs is where they talk about giving up your daily latte etc. Really I think that most of us who are frugal never got into the daily latte habit to begin with...I like your blog because you keep it real. Thank you!
Laurie said…
Hi Terri,
I haven't come across this thinking (yet) in any blogs I read. Doesn't make any sense to me. I love being an old fashioned homemaker, complete with "pin" money!
Have a great weekend,
Linda P. said…
Funny timing here. This morning, after I had hung up a plastic bread wrapper I had washed so I could use it for freezing my next load of homemade bread, I was finished with this morning's dishes. I cleaned the sink with baking soda and then rinsed it with the saved rinse water from washing dishes. I was smiling, thinking how close I felt to my own long-gone grandmother as I went about these tasks. We own our house and our year-old car and have no debt, but we were running through our savings at a scary rate in those first years of retirement. These little things I do have made an immense difference, many thousands of dollars a year, and we no longer take money out of savings. Going back to work was not a possibility for me because of a chronic illness but doing these little things at my own pace certainly is. My husband, a retired professional, could work contract work and earn more than I'm saving, but that would be at the sacrifice of his health and our time together. He's in his late 60's and has earned his retirement. Instead, I'm contributing to our well being and also not wasting the earth's resources. That matters to me since we live in a part of the country where water is scarce. Thanks to you and other frugal posters and those writing comments, forming a community of like-minded people.
Linda P. said…
Ah . . . that would be a "loaf" of bread and not a "load" of bread.

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