The $10,000 Auto Decal

When your child is accepted to college and sends back a “Yes” reply, the school starts sending you all sorts of stuff, including a free car decal.

Minimalists should always be wary of accepting free items, but I have kept two of these free stickers.

These two stickers represent $18,000. That's more than the car cost new.

These two stickers represent $19,000. That’s more than the car cost new.

Here is how they came to cost me so much. In the state of Illinois, there is case law, whereby children have sued their divorced parents to pay for college. And the court ordered it so. Four years at a state school with each entity (mother, father, child) paying one third of the costs. Aware of these rulings, the kid’s dad and I voluntarily entered into such an agreement, saving our kids suing us and the legal fees.

Plus, I want to help them pay for college.

As you can see by the auto stickers, neither student is attending a state school (average cost per year $32,000.) They are attending private liberal arts colleges (average cost per year $61,000.) They are responsible for the difference. Fortunately, they are both naturally intelligent and hard-working and have earned significant scholarships to attend school. Middle son, is on track to graduate without debt, beloved daughter will have some.

Beware free stuff.

Frugal Vacation

At the sculpture garden

At the sculpture garden

We recently returned from a six day trip to visit my son and daughter-in-law in Chattanooga Tennessee, an eight hour drive from here.

Total cost of the trip: $327.48


Gasoline: $102.22

Restaurant Food: $133.83 This was spent on the two travel days. While in Chattanooga, we ate all meals at my son and DIL’s home. I cooked dinner as they had to work during the day.

Grocery Store Food:$36.63 This does not include what son and DIL provided. I was merely refilling their pantry, as when we come to visit, it is a bit like locusts descending on your kitchen.

Entertainment: $54.80

In the past, when we have visited Chattanooga, we have mixed expensive entertainments like spelunking and white-water rafting with less expensive hiking and picnicking. This trip, we focused on the less expensive activities. Here are a few of the things we did and what they cost.

Walk around downtown, and across the pedestrian bridge. My son treated us to ice cream and icy drinks. $0

Bike rental for one day: $24

Lookouts baseball game: $0 (My son, who is a college baseball coach, got these as a favor from another coach.)

Nature Park hike and picnic: $0

Sculpture garden: $0

Hunter Art Museum: $34.80

Teenage squabbling was kept to a minimum and we had a great visit!

Frugal Beauty Routine

Funny, when I was younger, and actually kinda cute, I spent way more money on beauty products than I do now. Oh, the irony.

Here’s what I do now:

Easy to pack too!

Easy to pack too!

The soap is handmade with olive oil. There are cheaper soaps, but my skin doesn’t like them. I use the “no poo” method for curly hair where you “wash” your hair with conditioner.

A little bit of foundation with SPF 15 and mascara. That’s it. The small, unlabeled bottle has olive oil in it, which I rub into my face before bed and remove with a steaming washcloth. That process completely eliminated the breakouts I was getting.

It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. I don’t look like a supermodel, but I look just fine for my age.

Listening to My Body


As a single mom, it has been a struggle to take care of my little ones and myself. For years I ignored my tiredness and just pushed through. This summer, it has kind of caught up with me and I have been dealing with a pervasive fatigue. Not to worry, I ‘m not sick, just finally listening to my body.

This is a new skill for me, and I get it right only about half the time. I started two projects this summer that I eventually bowed out of.

Many years ago, when I was a quilter, I vowed that I would not buy any more material until I had used what I already had. This is the same kind of thinking. Don’t take on anything new, until I have finished what is already in the house.

So, I am resting and taking vitamins.


Summer Sandwiches

With all of us working different days and times, we don’t eat together at meals as we used to. I still want to provide fresh, inexpensive meals for my family and Summer Sandwiches has been one solution.

Baguette 1.49 9 oz spinach 1.79 sliced cheese 2.19 sliced turkey 2.49

Baguette 1.49
9 oz spinach 1.79
sliced cheese 2.19
sliced turkey 2.49

Here’s the ingredients for 5 sandwiches.

baguette sliced in 5 sections, cheese slices, meat and spinach added

baguette sliced in 5 sections, cheese slices, meat and spinach added

And all of them wrapped in some wax paper. I’ll store them in the fridge and kids (and me) grab them for lunches, snacks and late dinners.
Each sandwich costs $1.08 USD. I’ve not had any of them go to waste, we eat them too quickly.

and still 7 oz of spinach and 6 slices of cheese for a future meal

and still 7 oz of spinach and 6 slices of cheese for a future meal

New Kitchen Count

At the beginning of the summer, I stopped cooking with flour and sugar. Partly for health reasons, partly because I’m just not interested in spending my time baking anymore. We are still eating those things: bread, tortillas, cookies. I’m just not making them. Interestingly, by eliminating those two ingredients from my cooking projects, many of the items in my kitchen are superfluous. The dry measuring cups, the cookie sheets. So I did a big kitchen de-clutter. Here’s what’s left:

6 metal cookware items

6 metal cookware items

glass cookware and storage items--11

glass cookware and storage items–11

utensils and cutting board--14

utensils and cutting board–14

The pantry with some of the storage containers, plus a coffee canister and glass juice container.

the little white trashcan is for glass to recycle

the little white trashcan is for glass to recycle

I count 33 cookware and storage items.

Another Frugality Post

It’s been awhile since I did a frugality post, but with two kids in college this fall, frugality is never far from my mind.
Here are a few things I have done in the past week or so:

~The repeated loading and unloading of the drum set for the multiple (yeah!) band gigs, was starting to tear up the back of the hatch. So, I took some free cardboard from work and some leftover Duct tape (from the Prom Dress project) and made a liner for the trunk.

free liner for the hatch

free liner for the hatch

~My internet service at home has been down for a week and counting. Today, I am at a local café with Wi-Fi access and using the gift card I got for my birthday to purchase a tasty drink treat while I send this to you all. And, yes, I did make sure that my internet provider will prorate my bill for the month for the days that I have been without service.

~It is one of the minor irritations of my life that the bathmat in the downstairs bathroom gets dirty almost as soon as I throw it down. I read an advertisement that came in the mail. The store was touting their “reversible” bathmats. Doh, [she slaps her forehead] I can turn my bathmats over, making them reversible for free.

~For many years, I have paid my kids to clean the house. We had a round robin list of chores and everyone would sign up for what they wanted to do. Starting this week, I am doing the house-cleaning. A little more work and more cash in my pocket. All the kids now have outside jobs, so they have opportunity to make money aside from the house-cleaning.

~Beloved middle son, who will be leaving for college in a few short weeks, has already received the list of “must-haves” that he is to bring to college. He and I reviewed this list together, eliminated about half of it. That is, if he did not need these items for the first 18 years of his life, he likely will not need to purchase the item to tote to a cramped room that he will share with someone else, who got the same list and may have purchased all the items on it. Of the items that we agreed that it would be useful for him to have, I was able to find the following things at home in my minimalist house: large plastic bins to tote things and store between semesters, a flashlight and an umbrella, a power strip, shampoo, laundry detergent, toiletries and of course, his clothes. I did purchase for him a set of linens to fit the weird sized beds that they have in dorm rooms.

~My cell phone was acting up, I did a “hard” reset, which basically sends it back to the factory settings. Because I am a minimalist in my phone usage as well as other areas in my life, it didn’t take but a morning to re-load the apps and contacts that had been erased.

~Other frugals I hope to implement after everybody goes back to school: reduced food budget. That shouldn’t be too hard as the household will be reduced by 50%. A similar reduction in utilities should be effortless. By planning ahead, I hope to reduce my Christmas expenses by 50% as well. I won’t say how ahead of time, as some of my Christmas gift recipients read this blog.

How about you all? Recent frugals? Anything as easy as turning the bathmat over?

Picturing Minimalism


One of the more frequent comments I hear from my readers is “It makes so much more sense with the pictures.” That is, when we can see the process or solution, we understand it better.

Interestingly, this holds true for me as well. In the process of photographing my minimalism for you all, and looking at the photos, I have understood my processes better. And often gotten ideas how to improve things.

For example, when taking photos of the food in my refrigerator just prior to a shop (to illustrate how to eat cheaply, healthily) it occurred to me that I didn’t need a full-sized refrigerator. So I installed a “mini” fridge. It uses less space and less energy.

When I photographed my linen closet for you all, I saw all those stock-piled supplies and laughed at myself, still behaving as if I lived 10 miles from the closest store, and had to take all my toddlers with me when I went. I don’t need to keep all that toilet paper and shampoo here. There is a store 3 blocks away that is fully stocked for me.

It makes me want to take pictures of everything, so I can see it anew.

Minimalism Versus Stockpiling

New reader Lee Ann asks about stockpiling. Do I, as a avowed minimalist and person interested in frugality stockpile?


Well, at any given time there are between 18 and 36 rolls of toilet paper in my home. But, No.


There are many reasons that I do not find stockpiling a frugal choice. It might work if you are the United States Armed Forces and buying in bulk. Or if you are feeding 8 children under the age of 12 and can predict your meals, school supplies and clothing choices. That has not been my experience with four children.

1) I have found it far more frugal for us to shop at a store with consistently lowest prices, plan my meals around their cheaper items than to stock up on something that the kids got tired of eating after 3 months. I would valiantly try to finish off whatever the stocked up items was, all by myself. But after eating it for 9-10 months, I was done too. And the remainder would go to the Food Pantry.

What about foods that don’t spoil? Well, if doesn’t spoil, that is, if a one celled organism does not recognize it as food, than it probably isn’t. And I would prefer to eat fresh food that does spoil, and purchase those foods in smaller amounts.

What if there is an apocalypse? Or a war? Or a drought? Well, if I am not swept up to heaven in the rapture, I suppose I am hosed anyway…forget the meal plan. War? We will have to see how it plays out. Too many stores could just make you a target for the hungry masses. And I am not yet prepared to shoot hungry fellow refugees to keep my stash only for my own DNA brood. A drought? I could grow a lot in my back yard using the grey water from my house. Again, I do not need to plan for every contingency, but be aware of what we might do and how we might help our neighbors.

2) School supplies: I have not home-schooled, and every year the school district would send a list for each child from their “teacher” with what was needed for the following year. SIGH. After several years in the district, I realized that the list was a composite from several teachers at that particular grade, and not necessarily reflective of what my child’s teacher would require them to use in the classroom. Case in point–a particular brand of watercolor paints that my 2nd grader must have. I dutifully bought the pricey item. I dutifully wrote the child’s name on the back. At the end of the school year, when it was returned unopened. I used alcohol to remove the name and wrote the next child’s name on it. When it returned to me a year later, unopened, I again removed the name and saved it until the last child took it to school, stored it in his desk for 10 months and then I removed the final name and donated it to a group that creates school supply gift packages for students that can not afford them.
Long story short–I still have #2 pencils that were required purchases for my students 5 years ago. E-mail me your address if you want them.

3) Clothing: When your children are infants and toddlers, they do not care what they wear. Depending on the child, they may not care until age 3 or age 15. But eventually they do. And they will not wear whatever frugal thing you have stockpiled for them, whether it is cousin Sally’s hand-me-downs or brand new (sale) Gap fashions. They want their own thing. So, for us, the most frugal way to deal with clothing for children and myself is to take everybody shopping at 1) the thrift stores 2) discount stores like Target and TJ Maxx and 3) if it can not be found at those places: negotiate. For example: sport coats for the boys to attend their brother’s wedding were purchased at Goodwill for $3.50 each. When beloved daughter wanted a particular dress for homecoming, she bought it herself. When she wore it to her brother’s wedding a few months later, I reimbursed her for the purchase. I did not pay for the rental of a tux for middle son for homecoming, but I did buy him a $200 suit that he will be able to wear for all occasions until he outgrows it. For myself, not stockpiling clothing means having only 7 days worth at a time, replacing them as they wear out. I have heard many, many folks talk about spending lots of money and time on second-hand clothing that just wasn’t right and languished in a closet. Better, I think, to have only seven outfits that you are happy to wear every day.

List of items that I make sure we do not run out of: (is that stockpiling? Probably.)
Toilet paper
Laundry soap
Dish soap
Printer paper
Printer ink

What do you all think?

Decluttering and Weight Loss


Reader Patricia requested a post on de-cluttering and weight loss. Others have written on this topic from the perspective of de-cluttering their homes and as the junk came out of their house, the “junk in their trunk” melted almost effortlessly away.


This makes sense to me. Once you start down the path of asking, “What is enough?” in one area of your life, it begins to infiltrate others.

But since it’s been years since I had to do a big de-clutter, that has not been my story. My problem has been a combination of too much to do and a tendency toward perfectionism. This combination keeps me pushing myself to do “one more thing” before I collapse in exhaustion at the end of the day. And I have tried to “fuel” that push with caffeine, sugar or alcohol. That is where my enough point gets out of whack.

If I give up the endless To-Do list, if I pull back from my perfectionism to “good enough” levels and allow my body the rest it needs, my weight settles into a healthy place.


How about you all? What are the enough spots that create healthy weight for you?