Frugal Intelligence


Intelligence is best described as the ability to learn.  While it can be measured to some extent there are no tests which can measure intelligence fully.  Common sense, for instance, is a form of intelligence and can be far more valuable than 'book learning'.  Common sense allows one to draw on knowledge that is not necessarily learned but instinctive.  Experience is a great way to increase knowledge and intelligence.   Experience allows you to expand knowledge by practically applying what has been learned through book learning and intuitive experiences.  Inspiration is the inevitable conclusion of intelligence + application of knowledge + experience.

I was about to toss a zippered blanket bag in the trash the other day when I recalled that Katie, in her new sewing days, repurposed all my comforter bags.  She'd fuse fabric to the clear plastic to make a waterproof tote bag.  Quite honestly, it was a bit of frugal genius on her part and a very clever repurposing of items on hand. 

As I stood there with the bag in my hand, I was wondering where on earth she got the idea...but then where do any of our ideas come from?  We do certain things and then one day there is the next step before us, the thing that moves us  to a higher level of experience.  We didn't begin with these ideas, we grew into them!

Katie had already been taught that what others saw as trash could become something pretty and useful or fun.  She'd spent many an hour transforming bath tissue tubes and empty bottles and boxes.  So when she began to sew, she started with an old piece of fabric to learn to make straight stitches...and then she cut up her bed sheet to make a tote bag!  I was a bit put out about that.   Soon she began to sell tote bags to her classmates and she moved on to making the plastic coated  totes.  Her knowledge began, really, back in the days of making a castle from cardboard tubes and boxes and ended up being a small enterprise that utilized what she had ready at hand.  Not that different from what she began with in creating her Etsy shop inventory.  She studied calligraphy all summer long, had a pile of old pallets that she then purposed into being handmade signs.   Now considering how often we recycled things to craft with it's not at all surprising she'd go that next step and the next.

That bit of thinking led me to think back to the beginnings of my frugal learning days.  I began, as most of us do, by learning from Mama and Granny and Grandmama.  They all had their own set of frugal skills and often they taught me by example more than by word.   I took their knowledge and expanded it as a suddenly unemployed newlywed.  I learned through necessity, which is a mighty good teacher.    Each thing I learned led to the next thing. 

I've now been at this matter of living frugal for some 40 years.  I often frustrate myself by reading blog posts and hints and ideas from the very newly frugal, looking for that next idea that will generate savings and give us just a little more leeway in our budget.  The problem isn't that the newly frugal don't have sound ways to save. They do.  I know because I've used  nearly all of those hints and I know they are good ideas.  No, the problem is that they are starting out and I've moved further along.  I don't see a whole lot of writings from someone with my experience.  I think I've subscribed to every one of the few who are just about even and a little beyond my level, but we all do pretty much the same things.

I realized this past week as I was digging away through post after post after post that I'm now at the point where it's not a matter of finding the next tip, it's finding the next thing I can add to my skill set in order to save.  Now is the time to begin to learn to crochet, to brush up on my old embroidery skills, to return to canning and preserving and to learn herbal remedies and  practice these skills in earnest if I want to keep moving ahead.  OR I can accept that I am at the peak of my frugal intelligence.  My that sounds lofty doesn't it?   But I am sure that those of you who have been practicing frugality for years understand it's not meant to sound lofty.  It's just fact.  Unless I add to my skill set, I have gone as far as I can go. 

Fortunately  I have a list of things I can learn or re-learn to expand my knowledge and there are plenty of blogs, videos and books from which to learn.   So off I go to find the 'next thing' to improve our lives.

What is your frugal intelligence?  Have you reached the stage where you're happy to continue as you are? Are you ready to learn something new to further expand your knowledge and experience?  What one thing do you want to learn right now?  When will you start?


Angela said...

I feel just the same way. I subscribe to almost entirely blogs of women about my age or older because whether it is newbie thriftiness or potty training/ discipline of young children- been there, done that. But there is always something to learn if you want to. I made homemade noodles for the first time yesterday! And boy were they good- nothing like the dried things at the store. And not nearly as hard as I thought. I used a recipe from from a few days ago.I love to learn new skills and hope I never stop!

Debby in KS said...

Terri, I haven't been at it as long as you have. Looking back with my current knowledge, I can see that my gparents were quite frugal. But, as a kid, it was normal to me so I didn't see it as anything but normal living.

My first real taste of frugality wasn't until I was 31. I got married late! We were visiting my mom and we went into a used bookstore. Propped up was The Tightwad Gazette....the first one in hardcover. I laughed at the title, but peeked inside. One page and I was glued. We were looking to buy a house and that book looked to be a "how to" guide on how we could do it much faster. We went back to my mom's and I read that book from cover to cover in several hours, marking pages, taking notes, etc. That was when I saw that my Gparents were very much tightwads!!! We put my new knowledge to work instantly and bought our first house 7 months later. We went hardcore lol.

That said, it's been 23 yrs. and like you, I feel like there isn't much to learn in the way of saving and repurposing and so forth. Like you, I'm in a place where I'd like to learn some new tricks. Like making soap, yogurt, the newer things like dishwasher pellets, etc. I'm starting to sew more (I'm still a beginner) and I'd like to learn to braid rugs and crochet. And also to do some fancy embroidery. I've embroidered most of my life, but I'd like to move to a more elite level. Quilting, too. I'm the embroiderer in my quilting group, but I'd like to learn how to do the actual piecing.

On a scale of TW know-how, I'm a 9. :)

Carole said...

I like to read the frugal blogs, but I am elderly and long past most of the writers' ideas. I'm past being interested in baby care. I have great grand children, but their mothers are finding their own way very well. Once in a while I find a suggestion I can use. Hopefully my descendants have observed my frugal ways, and will find their own intentional lifestyle that works in the culture of today.

Kathy said...

Great post!
I still have much to learn even though I am past the newbie stage. I like learning new skills and trying new things. I think that I am going to try to make sour dough breads;but I will order a starter. Perhaps try to regrow lettuce and celery and green onions next week. Try starting some seeds inside in march, so I can garden earlier. I would love to be more self sufficient which I think would save money.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

I totally enjoy learning new things.. And I read lots of different blogs/youtubes on thrifty and crafty ideas and organazation.. It gives me ideas,that I otherwise would never have thought of..

It is amazing to me, the wonderful ideas that others come up with.. Love your daughters idea on the plastic container.. smart..
Have a blessed day.

Lana said...

I am right where you are, too. I learned to crochet dishcloths but do it so badly and my dishcloths are soooo ugly. I need to improve in that area. My daughter should be able to help with that.

I started canning 2 years ago but need to more of it. I hope that produce is cheaper in my area this year. I cannot grow it because we have way too much shade. I would love to do green beans this year if I can find a good source. I also want to try canning some soups. I have canned pork but want to try chicken.

I'm not sure what else I want to learn. Embroidery frustrates me to no end so not that. I would like to add to my regular recipe list. We eat the same things over and over. That is probably the best thing to work on right now.

Stephanie said...

I'm right there with you as well. I've been on this frugal voyage a long time. My children are grown or almost grown (two still at home). My husband has a few years before he plans on retiring. My goals are to finish homeschooling my youngest (one yr left) and to prepare for college expenses. This includes finding each and every scholarship she can apply for. We have the money set aside, but every penny we save will go towards retirement.

Jane Allan said...

I thought I had come quite a long way on this frugal living journey, until I looked through historical photos in a local publication. I was particularly interested in the early 40's. The people here were coming out of the Depression and many of the young men had already signed up and gone off to war. Unemployment was high and there were no social benefits, yet the people lived well. They fished for their protein and grew their own veg. Goats were kept for milk. There was a lot of bartering taking place. I don't have goats but I do grow veg and fish. I think I need to increase my gardening skills to grow more over summer. Between us and friends, we have fresh fish about once a week. I might interview my 91 year old neighbour and find out how she managed through these years.

beckyathome said...

I was just telling my nephew yesterday that if you could learn one new thing every day, you would NEVER have to stop learning. Constantly learning is something I want to keep doing. That's one reason I started a blog--I was so computer challenged, and, although I have a long ways to go, I have learned so much. I want to continue building my computer skills. They amaze me, since I did not grow up with computers being very accessible to the common person.

After many, many talks on the subject, my husband and I have concluded that if some world-wide calamity struck, we would never have been able to store up one of everything to meet all of our needs. We can, and do, prepare for small disasters, such as storms, etc., but have decided not to become hard-core preppers. We also know we could never sit in our pile of storage and let our friends and family starve, so.....That being said, we've decided knowledge is something no one can take from you, so the more skills, the better. To that end, we've learned to cook with alternate energy sources like camp stoves, garden, can, and even dabbled with growing meat at times. There's so much more we want to learn. I love experimenting with gardening--trying new varieties, and I love canning. So, I'm always trying new things to grow and can. I love sewing, and have improved my skills over the years. I have so many more things I want to try.

The biggest thing I need to do is find a way to invent more time--I never have enough:)

Also, finding balance is important to me. I want to save money in any way I can, but I also want to have enough sense to pay someone to do something that I shouldn't do, and I want to be able to discern the difference. So, rest assured, I will never be roofing my house myself to save money (probably the doctor's bill when I fall off would offset any savings), and I won't be fixing things around the house (that's Rob's talent, and he has asked me politely to stop after I completely ruined a few things). When I was younger, I was bothered when I couldn't do everything. Now, I'm content to be happy with the things I do well, like cook, play the piano, etc. and don't mind admitting that I'm no good at cake decorating, for instance.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of the things like sewing or canning etc to be the next step in savings. I just thought of it as part of it to get to the end all along. But now I can see that by honing those skills further..doing it better or perhaps trying something totally new,.. I can also get thriftier. {{ and have fun too!! }}

I started a while back really watching for when sewing , crocheting etc supplies were in the thrift stores. Picking up things here and there when I could. I had been to the Hobby Lobby etc and after getting sticker shock realized just how much I could save there too if I thrift shopped. Even with coupons they are cheaper. Prices had sure climbed since I last bought sewing supplies! I told my daughter that my fingers now with arthritis can't handle the crochet hook like they used to. She showed me some new styles that are better for me to use now! Who knew they had made new hooks that are easier to use?? !! :-) Aren't our kids the smartest!!

Now you have got me putting my thinking cap on again Teri and wondering where my next thrifty adventure will take me! I will take my new more fashionable self {thanks to your clothing posts! :) } to the library and shops and look around and start to move forward!! Aren't you the wise one! :-))) Thanks!! Sarah

Anne@MidlifeMoneyTree said...

Love it! You put into words my inner dialogue as of late. Having mastered most of the low hanging frugal fruit, I am looking for new skills to increase my frugal intelligence. For me, most of those will come in the form of creating items that are re-purposed or upcycled. Or simply observing the natural rhythm of life, for example, shovel early and the sun will help melt the snow on the black top. Result, save a bag of ice melt salt. An awareness of possibilities, both in re-purpos e and in natural rhythms are my current frugal focus.

Anonymous said...

Now you are making me think! Interesting concept. I consider myself a frugal person, and mostly out of necessity and because it is something I enjoy. I was fortunate to have a great mentor, my older sister, stay at home mom of 6. Without her we would not have the nice lifestyle that we have. I learned the importance of picking and choosing what was important including like minded friends. My husband never had a very big paycheck and so i made every penny stretch and i am proud of it. Asked my daughter one day a while ago if it bothered her that her clothes were homemade. She said no, hers were in style but unique. I loved
Joann York and her Tightwad Gazette. I gobbled that up. I work with a young group of girls at our church called MOPS. Mothers of preschoolers. I am delighted to see so many interested in canning, sewing, making soap ect. The frugal lifestyle does require both partners to be on the same page, one can't save and the other always looking for more to spend. And that again is my two cents worth. As i think about it i am always open to new ideas. There seems to be new things on Pinterest and in blogs all the time. Gramma D.

Angela said...

Just to add to my comment-I made your kale and farro recipe- it was a hit! Husband son voted it a keeper recipe. Son's GF doesn't like kale and even she liked it. And I had never even heard of farro before- reminds me of barley though. Thanks for sharing!

Allegra W. said...

I'm in the same place, Terri, and loved reading this post and all the comments, seeing I'm far from being the only one. The skill I am currently honing is gluten free baking (I recently discovered wheat was making me very ill), and on my list for this year is soap, shampoo bar, and creams and lotions making, followed by expanding my existing knowledge medicinal herbs and essential oils. I might not be learning the same skills as you and all the other ladies, but I am still not alone on my journey :-)

Anonymous said...

I Love this post and all the insightful comments Terri! I once read that a good lifetime goal was/is to strive for "Constant, never ending improvement". The Internet is the modern day Library of Alexandra and is such a blessed resource for the spread of human knowledge and wisdoms. I am in total agreement with you in that one idea begets another...a sort of synergy develops! In my humble opinion, there is nothing so interesting and exciting as learning ideas and skills that will uplift all areas of human-kind in both humble and grand ways!
Tracey xox

Anonymous said...

Correction...Library of ALEXANDRIA!
I really need to proofread my comments before posting!☺️

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