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Frugal is the New Black

Oct
14

With all economic news in the media, frugal is suddenly in. People who live in the country are now ahead of the curve–only they never paid attention to the curve to begin with and they don’t care if they’re ahead of it or behind. Frugal is a lifestyle in the country, not a reaction. There is a surprising satisfaction in simple pleasures in “fat” times, and a corresponding comfort in the lean. Country people have always found joy–and a steadiness through both ups and downs–in simplicity. I was struck sharply by it when I first moved here, and intensely attracted to it. Life in suburban areas felt so competitive to me. People trade up their cars each year, dress in the latest fashions from fine department stores, regularly dine in trendy restaurants, decorate their homes with expensive furnishings, and purchase ridiculously costly gourmet groceries. They need all this stuff because, well, everybody else has it!

And those are huge blanket statements, but having spent most of my life in suburbia and then the past three years in the country, there is a marked difference in the prevailing perspectives. I have known frugal people in the suburbs, and there are even a few ostentatious people in the country, but by and large, the lifestyles are polar opposites. And I know just how easy it is to be sucked into the suburban mall-shopping culture of clothes from Dillard’s and coffee from Starbucks. I also know what a relief it is to escape it. Nobody cares what I wear here. Nobody cares what I’m driving. Nobody cares how old my furniture is or if it matches, and gourmet food around these parts means getting some cheese from the Amish. Nobody has iPhones or Prada boots or dishes from Pier 1. Repurposed, banged up, and handed down is a form of art appreciation.

Country people reinvent, recycle, reuse. They garden, they can, they freeze. Seasonal decor means a basket of cattails or a bowl of pine cones or a vase of autumn leaves. Country people have chickens and goats and cows and pigs. They cut down firewood and stockpile hay. Entertainment is an evening on the porch. Life is simpler in the country because simplicity is a core value.

Now, for once, the rest of the world struggles to catch up to us.

Of course, catching up is easy. All you gotta do is slow down.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on October 14, 2008  

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  1. 10-14
    2:11
    am

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I love living in the boonies, and the freedom it affords me. You’re right, no one cares what you wear or drive, and cooking at home almost 100% of the time (and using a lot of your recipes) is the best entertainment around!

  2. 10-14
    4:44
    am

    Which is exactly why I can’t wait to get back to the country…. You said this perfectly, and oh how I miss it.

  3. 10-14
    4:50
    am

    I don’t like big cities. I would rather live in the country myself.

  4. 10-14
    5:01
    am

    The picture of your lane and the fall leaves is wonderful.

  5. 10-14
    6:03
    am

    Amen girl! Displaced country girl living in the big harsh city here, but never forgot my roots. Still living the frugal life and I’ll be 56 years old in December. You just can’t take the country out of us no matter where we may call home. xxoo

  6. 10-14
    6:28
    am

    true words!

  7. 10-14
    6:47
    am

    I live just two doors down from my old homeplace & 5 out of my 6 siblings live within walking distance of each other. We have gardens, rabbits, deer, etc…Even though the post office has us listed as a “Drive”, just ask anyone that lives here and it is a “hollow”. I plan on retiring from the rat race in 3 years. I have been slowly over the last 5 years exposing my family to this way of life. Kids 26 & 21 are more adaptable then hubbie 47. Now they see why I have reference books in regards to living frugal, canning, raising chickens etc. “Country living is the life for me”

    Mim :shimmy:

  8. 10-14
    6:54
    am

    I want nothing more than to live in the counrty!

  9. 10-14
    7:06
    am

    Amen! Well said, Suzanne. You are very blessed to have seen both sides and now live where you do. Thank you for using your gift of words to tell it like it is. :-)

  10. 10-14
    7:10
    am

    I agree. I lived is suburbs growning up and when I got married my dh moved me out to the country. It took awhile to get used to it. But we live frugal and dont have much. But it hurts a lot less during these hard times. My mom never understood why we never wanted much, never new clothes all the time and new funiture. What we have works. Now she understands better. She lives a mile up the road from me. She is getting used to country life herself. We talked about growing a garden next year and if needed my dh knows how to hunt for food. So we will find a way to survive if we had to. I look at it this way. I was much more poor before my daughter was born. I am richer now than I used to be. So we can adapt if needed. Stuff is just stuff. We cant take it with us when we go to heaven. lol. We can survive with out new cars, boats, and fancy clothing. I am not sure how well I will do without my internet though?? lol

  11. 10-14
    7:11
    am

    Well Said my friend!!! Well said….

  12. 10-14
    7:12
    am

    I remember when my “city” used to be in the boonies.. everything grew out to meet it. Now I’m fixing up the home so I can move closer to the boonies again.

  13. 10-14
    7:15
    am

    I’m with you. All that city stuff is just extra fluff. Speaking of frugal, anyone have ideas how to get frugaler (more frugal?) if you already use it up and wear it out and make it do or do without????

  14. 10-14
    7:24
    am

    Suzanne, Very well said ! I completely agree with your :rockon: thoughts. Slower is better. Plain is better than fancy.
    Frugal living is better than “keeping up with the Jones”

  15. 10-14
    7:46
    am

    Amen Sister!

  16. 10-14
    7:56
    am

    How true everything is. I’ve been a country girl all my life and have no complaints. I have no desire to waste my money on things the more well off consider necessary. As far as recycling goes, I sew and consider myself a crafty person and I am always reusing things for something other than what they are supposed to be used for. I love making blue jean quilts out of old jeans and clothes. I have one on my site, and the best thing is you don’t have to know how to quilt, you knot them with embroidery thread. I just bought 3 pairs of nice shoes, a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of dress boots at a yard sale for a total of only $3. I’m not embarrassed by my yard sale finds, I’m proud of them. Unlike well off people,I brag about how much I save on things, instead of how much I paid for them.

  17. 10-14
    8:13
    am

    I too want to say “Amen” to your comments. If everyone would slow down and give thanks for what God has so graciously given us…this world would be much better.

  18. 10-14
    8:28
    am

    Once again – Well said!

  19. 10-14
    8:35
    am

    What a wonderful post and I absolutely agree with you. I like what I have in my comfortable older home and have no desire to keep changing things and spending a lot of money to try and keep up with anyone. My neighbors and I love the quiet and friendliness of our neighborhood and we just enjoy getting together. We all love to sit out on our porches or decks and enjoy the beautiful weather and lovely colorful Fall scenery. We are just a hard working group of people who don’t feel we have to prove anything to anyone and take time to enjoy people rather than things.

  20. 10-14
    8:46
    am

    Your words are so true. And you know, I never really thought about it. I have lived this way all my life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  21. 10-14
    8:48
    am

    Well said Suzanne!Frugal living is becoming addictive and sometimes time consuming if you live in a city,if I lived in the county it would be an everyday way of life.

  22. 10-14
    8:50
    am

    You just hit the nail on the head! I’ve always been a country girl at heart – always longed to live this way. But I didn’t actually, physically, live in the country until 7 years ago. Moving here, I felt like I FINALLY fit in. When I lived in town, there just was nothing to DO! I went to the mall and spent money I didn’t have just to pass the time. We would stroll into coffee shops because everyone else got $4 coffees when they were at the mall. We ate out all the time because there were 40 restaurants within 1/2 mile of our home and it was a form of recreation. Now there is nothing but farm fields within 1/2 mile of our home, I’ve become a much better cook, I have farmer friends from whom I buy goat cheese and pasture raised pork and beef and lamb, I raise my own meat and laying chickens, I have a garden that is bigger than my entire lot was in town, I can and freeze fruits and veggies, make sauces, salsas, jellies… I only find myself at the mall once or twice a year when I absolutely need something to wear to a wedding or funeral, and then that’s when I grab a couple new pairs of jeans for my everyday wardrobe. I have spent more time outdoors in the past 7 years than I have the entire 31 years prior. I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything else in the world. My grandma warned me that I would hate it. That I would be scared out here in the middle of nowhere. That I would miss all the people and conveniences. Well, I love my grandma, but on this one, she was completely wrong. I love it, love it, love it out here. You couldn’t get me to live in town again for anything. No way, no how!

  23. 10-14
    9:01
    am

    Last year I didn’t get enough pickling cucumbers to make pickles. I hit 3 of the farmers markets around here begging to buy some pickling cucumbers, a few of the vendors thought I was crazy.Finally I found a lady( a true farmer) you brought me in all I needed the following week. Wasn’t really frugal but I got my pickles made.

  24. 10-14
    9:02
    am

    I have lived both sides just as you have. When my hubby was alive, he thought I deserved the best of everything. We both grew up poor and he never forgot that. After he passed away, I went back to living a more frugal life by necessity. Now I have all I need, my bills are paid, my home is paid for and I never go hungry. What more can you ask for. Of course, a little extra now and then would be nice. :lol: Have a great day and :hug: to all. You are all amazing.

  25. 10-14
    9:05
    am

    http://chickensintheroad.com/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_bananadance.gif

    You said it! We made the move two years ago from a small suburb of a smaller Northeast Wisconsin city, and could not be happier!

    I’d like to think we were “frugal” before the move, but it’s now gone to a whole new level! We have shelves of squash and pumpkins in the basement, along with a couple bushels of apples waiting not-so-patiently to become applesauce and apple butter; we have two barns full of hay that we put up in August for the horses, goats and sheep; we have a new snug and warm henhouse for the flock of layers; we’re filling the freezer with cooked pumpkin for nice fresh winter pies.

    It’s all good. My dear wife is always telling me we can do more by re-using what we have. It’s a change of perspective and a different mindset. A better one, in my humble opinion.

    Steve

  26. 10-14
    9:26
    am

    Great post. That’s why I love living in the country.

  27. 10-14
    9:35
    am

    Nice post. And your fall colors are gorgeous.

  28. 10-14
    9:47
    am

    :yes: you hit it good.
    I am still trying to learn to can
    between turkeys, geese, duck, and chicken eggs…I got ‘em coming out of my ears. :lol:
    Love your picture of the road in fall, just beautiful.

  29. 10-14
    9:49
    am

    Amen Sister. The Farmer and I keep saying we want to move a little further west because civilization (in the form of “lifestyle malls”) is quickly closing in on our rural area. Fortunately this economic downturn will slow the development down. I always say that we’re the only place in the U.S. that has a Coach store within 3 miles of a feed supply store. It’s crazy!!!

    BTW, No…I’ve never stepped foot inside the Coach store. I don’t think I own any clothing that would be apropos and I’d feel like I just fell off the turnip truck.

    – Suzanne, the Farmer’s Wife

  30. 10-14
    10:11
    am

    I agree 100%! I am living in suburbia after a short stint in the “country” and it’s shocking to be back. It’s definitely not better. No, not at all. It’s an endless cycle of indulging an appetite that has no end. It is EASY to get caught up in and brings NO satisfaction. You painted a very true portrait of American life, city & country.

  31. 10-14
    10:19
    am

    AMEN! Very beautifully said Suzanne.

  32. 10-14
    10:34
    am

    We live in the suburbs and have always been frugal but I know the type of lifestyle you’re talking about since it is all around us (or it was). I like that people are making more practical choices, it makes me feel more comfortable.

  33. 10-14
    10:46
    am

    I LIVED THROUGH THE BIG “D”. ALWAYS HAD ENOUGH TO EAT – THERE WAS NEVER A TIME THAT WE CONSIDERE OUR MOTHER A SHORT-ORDER COOK. ONE ATE WHAT WAS ON THE TABLE. IT AMAZES ME AT THE PICKY CHILDEN WE ARE BRINGING UP TODAY.
    LET ME LEAVE YOU WITH THIS:

    A GOAL IS A DREAM DRESSED UP IN WORK-CLOTH.

  34. 10-14
    11:03
    am

    Oh, how I envy you…

  35. 10-14
    11:12
    am

    I love your post. I have lived in the country all my married life (23 yrs) and I love it. I love gardening and being able to enjoy being outside. I’m content w/ what I have and have come to appreciate things more. I have no idea what clothes are in fashion because I’m a jean and t-shirt type of girl.

  36. 10-14
    11:18
    am

    we’re ready to get out of the hamster race in the city – have a couple of acres you’d like to sell?

  37. 10-14
    11:23
    am

    As a frugal person leaving in a well-to-do suburb, I am really to pack my bags and join you! I “retired” when I was 40, having had kids later in life and wanting to enjoy them. I have always leaved on less than I could afford, and enjoyed the “thrill” of spending as little money on things as i could. Now that the kids are in 4th and 7th grade, I find it challenging to live in an area where the kids (not so much mine) have so much and yet seem perpetually bored. It’s hard to explain to the kids that they are NOT missing out on anything, when all they see is what they don’t have (in physical things). It’s hard for them to understand that just because people have big houses and a lot of things, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a lot of money, or that they are happy. Some of the homes in this area would just amaze you, they are so huge!

    I was wondering how your kids did during the first year of your move, and how they now view the life they live in comparison to their old life.

    I would be there in a heartbeat if I had a way of providing for the kids. Just looking at your pictures makes me happy. Hey, maybe you could fund your site by offering a bed and breakfast experience! I’d come, especially now to see the autumn trees!

    ~Debbie

  38. 10-14
    11:29
    am

    Sigh……I am sorry for so many typos! I really need to learn to spell check first, then post…..I have no idea why “live” keeps showing up as “LEAVE”. The letters are not even close on the keyboard!

    “As a frugal person LIVing in a well-to-do suburb, I am READY to pack my bags and join you! I “retired” when I was 40, having had kids later in life and wanting to enjoy them. I have always LIVED on…..”

  39. 10-14
    11:36
    am

    So true!!

    As one who lives in the ‘burbs, I can tell you that people not only trade up cars and boats, but also spouses. There is a luxury apartment complex that seems to house whichever spouse gets kicked out of the house.

    It makes me so sad that their spouses are also part of their “image” and if not good enough anymore…well, see ya.

    We just bought a 16 acre hay field and can’t wait to build on it and escape the madness!!

    Kris
    working hard at http://www.sccworlds.com

  40. 10-14
    11:52
    am

    What a gorgeous picture of the forrest, Suzanne!! I LOVE THAT..and we noticed our Hummingbirds have left too! sigh

    I enjoy alot about the country life and certainly identify with what you pointed out about the “burbs” and I hate all that competition/status conscious too…but, I see good and bad in both, mainly just that I like to be close to a hosp, if I have a medical emergency, or close to the dentist, or if I have a fire…I don’t want to be way out in the boonies!!! But, lifestyle wise, I feel comfortable in both, really – I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I think we all have a comfort zone, depending on how we were raised..

  41. 10-14
    1:06
    pm

    All my life I was taught to reuse, recycle, repurpose. There are so many people here that when I say, “oh, you could use this that you already have, instead of buying a new fangled thing”, are just in AWE (?) of what I have said. And then say oh, sure I can do that…I am so sure that they run out and buy what they didn’t need in the first place…because that is just “how it’s done”. My grandma was from the country, raised her four kids in the country and then my mom taught me. (Although my mom finally got caught up in the delight of buying instead of making, etc.
    I kept my learned country values, for a while, and then ran out of time. I ended up having to work full time and going to school to support my girls myself. Now I am trying to reinvent myself, by baking my own bread, recycling everything I can get my hands on, reusing stuff. Finding the delight in renaming, and repurposing things, just for the joy of it if for nothing else. I am getting back into sewing my own clothes again, knitting crocheting, and I am going to start a vegetable garden, if I can ever find my backyard for the forest of weeds!
    I chuckle everytime I see someone else has “discovered” simplicity. I have lived it people, welcome to my world!

  42. 10-14
    1:15
    pm

    :thumbsup:

  43. 10-14
    2:32
    pm

    you hit the nail on the head with this post, country girl

  44. 10-14
    3:19
    pm

    Wonderful post and BEAUTIFUL picture. Simplicity is the lifestyle we have chosen and we strive to simplify our lives more each day.

    Your forest scene is lovely. We have few trees here and I am mesmerized by fall colors that others might take for granted.

  45. 10-14
    3:41
    pm

    You put that beautifully! When I read a book that uses name brand shoes or clothes I’m lost! :lol:

  46. 10-14
    3:48
    pm

    What a gorgeous picture of your lane!

  47. 10-14
    3:55
    pm

    I agree, use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. I buy most of my clothes at good will or on clearence and have 90% of my furniture was my folks. But I am in the process of making the old out house door into my “new” headboard for my bed! :treehugger:

  48. 10-14
    4:00
    pm

    Physically I wish I could go back to the farming style, my body (back and hips) won’t let me. But I also have to add that if the family dinner relied on me to supply the meat for it, well we would all be vegetarians. That is one process of the farm that I could not do. My husband calls me a pack rat as I always think “There is something that this can be used for” (baby jars especially), my parents also were born and raised in the depression.

  49. 10-14
    4:35
    pm

    I really wish we lived as you do. Sometimes it’s better to remember and use the past lessons, than it is to rely on present ideas.

  50. 10-14
    4:54
    pm

    I would fit right in. My parents were very frugal and so am I (not so much my husband though). Most of the women I know spend their days shopping or working and shopping for even more. My home is definitely lived in. I think more of my animals than the furniture. I’ve recycled before it was the thing to do. I lost my desire for cooking from scratch though but maybe I’ll get that back lol.

  51. 10-14
    5:47
    pm

    Hi Suzanne,
    I am new to your blog. In fact, my Mom stopped in a couple of days ago (Life in Wakefield) and we started reading a bunch of your old postings, and just loved them! I couldn’t agree more about life in the country being a hundred times more meaningful than life in the city or suburbs….sadly many people will never get to experience such wealth because they are so entrapped by the life they have chosen. But for those who CAN slow down, I say….yes! It’s a wonderful life!!! Sadly I am only there is spirit now, but not yet in reality. Still, I know where I am headed, and it’s down a country lane…..

  52. 10-14
    6:50
    pm

    Two great sites to help with frugal living…I never miss them even though I’m not as frugal as I hope to be..

    http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/

    http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/

  53. 10-14
    6:54
    pm

    My computer blipped on me and I’m not sure if the post went through…just giving two great sites on becoming frugal..
    http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/

    http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.com/
    I have gotten some really good ideas from the first one..the second one is new so haven’t read much yet. :catmeow:

  54. 10-14
    7:00
    pm

    Suzanne, You are undoubtedly one of the best writer/bloggers I have ever read!! I just love your sense of humor and style. I love the stories you tell,and all the pics you post. It just brings me back to my childhood and growing up years. I grew up on a farm in Nimrod,Arkansas,then later moved to Van Buren,Arkansas. I thought that no where on Gods’ green earth could there be another place like Arkansas.Since I married 36 years ago,I have lived in many states and seen many places but still in my mind and heart there just isn’t anyplace like the country and the country people, they are my people and country runs through my every being. I really appreciate you and all the hard work that you put into this blog. You are one fine Country girl.

  55. 10-14
    7:38
    pm

    This article touched my heart. WV has been my home all my life. My grandparents raised me and they taught me the value of self. Grandpa sat at the head of the table and I listened to learn from his experiences. I hung on every word my Nanny said, she had raised 7 children and then me and I never once heard her complain. Here we take care of our family and will spend all day helping our neighbors. Here we will spend month’s at home caring for our elderly. Here we know that God will provide if we are willing to do the work, what a blessing! Thank God I learned everything I hold dear is here. I Have everything I need. Our value is not held in the bank its in our hearts.

  56. 10-14
    7:43
    pm

    What a great post, Suzanne. Wonderful words of wisdom.

  57. 10-14
    9:38
    pm

    I forgot when posting earlier…you should make that photo available as a print..it’s gorgeous!!! :woof:

  58. 10-15
    1:25
    pm

    A really old city boy, and a really old ex-farm gal left their hated condo 4 years ago to embrace the country life. “He” worried that “she” would be bored. She worried that He would miss the urban life. Not so! He has traded his 3 piece suit life for jeans and suspenders, and his love of really good restaurants for some home made bread and jam (made from grapes that he picked and helped preserve.) Her black dress has been replaced by some home crafted Tom Sawywer jeans – great for the garden.

    We love the country. Every day we thank God for the beauty in our back yard; the trees, the birds, the deer, and even the nasty tempered dog that we love. And especially we are thankful for the relaxed and simple life we now lead.
    A traffic jam here is meeting three cars on the way to town. Shopping is parking next to the door at the grocery and not waiting in line. And, perchance we do wait, its a chance to visit with strangers.

    Thanks for some great reading. (My skeptical grown children realize now that we are living the really good life.)

  59. 10-16
    3:04
    pm

    Thanks for a great post from a tiny town (700 people) gal in KS. We love living one block from the open wheat fields and all aspects of country life. Those urbanists don’t know what they’re missing!

  60. 10-16
    5:29
    pm

    Very well put! Round these parts, it’s all we talk about, is getting a good deal on something, what’s on sale where, etc. We grow our own and are proud of it.
    What I like best is that my child gets to play in the dirt, sometimes go to work with Mommy or Daddy, and can play outside for hours. City kids, sometimes go months without setting a foot down on DIRT. Blows my mind…

  61. 12-27
    11:29
    am

    This is so true! I’ve recently read another long article on “Possum Living” that was a real inspiration, although a little extreme, I think. It’s here:
    http://www.f4.ca/text/possumliving.htm

  62. 11-20
    2:53
    pm

    I just ran across the beautiful photo and well stated article! My DH and I grew up in different parts of the Midwest but in rural communities, probably a mainstay to our 32 yrs of marriage. But 19 yrs of that was in a middle size , affluent suburbia- oh how my soul long to get out of there. And 9 yrs ago we escaped! We only moved 120 miles but what a great change, even though we still live in a village, we are so removed from the “suburbia” attitudes; no one thinks twice of driving on old vehicle (more than 4yrs), clothes are clothes, setting on a porch is common, kids ride bikes, gardens are grown, and we eat supper at home, except when there is a local ball game – hi school kids cook up goodies to pay for their class activities or a benefit dinner.
    I will never forget, we d lived here a short time, and our daughter’s old boyfriend and parents dropped the boy off to visit while they went to fill up with gas, they called back a short time later and wanted to know where the local fast food place was in town. Well we do have a small pizza place but it s not open n Mondays and that s it. So the mom said , what do You do for supper ? “. My reply was we cook, she nearly fainted.
    Also, several yrs ago, must have been before the 2009 recession, I was searching the net on living frugal -there just wasn’t much out there . One couldn’t help but wonder if our country wasn’t in trouble when no one wanted to recognize this as a positive life choice., glad we are living the life. …. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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