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Tightwad the Holidays

A great comment on my Writer's Block "Green" entry made me think about something that is coming up soon ... it's fall now, so it must be the start of the Holiday Season. People will start shopping for The Holidays, which means Yule-Christmas-Chanukkah-Kwanzaa-Etcetera. And the old American custom of giving lots and lots of expensive stuff to other people so that you're broke all year paying it off. Usually this peaks very close to the Holiday, and the stores turn into murderous battle arenas as everyone thunders in trying to get all that done at the last minute. There is a reason many adults loathe The Season and anything about it while kids tend to look forward to it and think it's cool.

People who have enough foresight to do so, and are not living month to month tight, can avoid the melee by actually buying all the presents a lot earlier. One good time for doing so is the week after The Holiday when all the holiday-related stuff is going on sale dime on the dollar and the other stuff is half off or less, being swept out in favor of next year's stuff. If you are an artist, check out the Clearance bins at art stores and online art suppliers. They are full of last year's cool Gift Sets from major companies, that bundle a lot of expensive supplies often at a discount price in the first place. When the bundle gets discounted again on Clearance, you can get it for about 3/4 off or even less.

First off, if you're buying for a kid, try to avoid getting the Hot Item for This Year, whether it's a game machine or a specific doll or whatever. That will usually mean wearing chainmail and carrying a pike and then heading out to every single toy store in your region to find out that some other parent got That Thing fifteen minutes before you arrived. It's a standing joke because a lot of people do it and the toy companies and game companies do their big annual release at the time just in time for the holidays. They like nothing better than an insane feeding frenzy at stores for their product.

That kind of bejeezus expensive thing is the sort of thing to mention to the child the first time the child mentions it, that it would be a good goal for savings. Then give them some paid chores and let the kid work for it for months and have it as something they bought for themselves on their own decision.

This may result in discovering the kid had only a fleeting interest in the Hot Thing of the Year and actually cares more about getting riding lessons or a musical instrument or something else that is big but more permanent and not on the Top Ten Hot Items. But associating anything that would take a month's rent for someone living on minimum wage with long waits and personal savings for personal achievement sets up the child for realistic expectations. If they put half their allowance into it for a year and then got annoyed with it and hated it, that first big disappointment brings home to them fast that advertising always overrates everything and can be a flat lie. If they get it and don't get that disappointed, it becomes this big personal achievement that gives them an empowering feeling that they can do things that are big, that nothing is out of reach if you work at it and plan for it and tighten up somewhere else.

But pretending to your own kids that you're richer than you are sets them up for constant disappointment and a heartbreaking crash when they hit the real world and do have to pay rent before buying the PS# that just came out. Or wind up homeless owners of great game machines.

Adult presents are weird.

I look around at what's usually presented and scratch my head. Does anyone see an implied insult in giving people grooming aids and bath stuff for a holiday? Doesn't this say "You smell bad and look worse." Do they forget that maybe someone else gave them that last year and the year before? Things like a shaver, if the guy is clean shaven he probably owns one or doesn't like using electric shavers. If there is evidence in how that adult dresses and grooms themselves that they already own one or something very similar, an expensive fancy overpackaged version of same is not one size fits all. This especially goes for aftershaves and things.

Maybe the person has a favorite scent already and is smiling and pretending to be thrilled to get something that he passed over ten times a year at the store when buying the regular stuff because it was not his thing. Even if athletic guys on a sailboat were enjoying it on the commercial.

It's a standing joke that giving food preparation devices and appliances to women IS a massive insult. A slap in the face that says "Go be domestic. I gave you this fancy Cuisinart, so you are in charge of all cooking and cleaning and your opinion of politics or philosophy or what we're going to watch Saturday night is irrelevant." Every year cartoons make this point. Every year daft husbands hand that stuff to wives who have just seen their small business grow to have 20 employees or graduated law school or whatever, and have their heads broken with it.

Save that gadget for the man who prepared a four-course fancy meal for the potluck. He's a hobbyist, he cooks and probably loves it. But find out if he already owns one.

Less is more in presents.

Less is much, much more if you know the people and know what they already put a lot of their time and effort into. It is not pointless to give the aunt that collects porcelain dogs another porcelain dog that you found at a yard sale or on eBay. If it isn't in her collection she will probably adore it and actually think of you when she dusts the shelf and rearranges all 249 of them.

The Ultimate Tightwad Present for a spouse of any gender is of course A Day Off. Make a neat little coupon looking thing on your computer, a certificate worth A Day Off, and on it pledge to fill in for them and do all their chores and tasks that day, give them a whole day of just doing whatever they want. Take over housekeeping and kidwatching and all of their share of what needs to be done for one day. This includes handing off the remote and cheerfully helping out with whatever projects the beloved wants to get done on the Day Off. This may also make a splendid anniversary present too.

Another good one on that order is 12 Backrub Certificates redeemable whenever the recipient wants them.

The really memorable presents anyone receives are the ones that are so cool because they are exactly what they were drooling at and wanting for a long time and were for one reason or another -- as likely to be time as money -- out of reach. Doing it cleverly and not necessarily paying full retail or buying it during The Season can work well if what you want to do in giving them a present is to give them one that's still cool for years after and used constantly.

The best way to find out what The Special Thing is, is to listen to them for an hour or so. Set them off about their passion. Talk about whatever it is they are into, or ask about it in general. In the course of the lengthy explanation of what all fly fishermen must have, you'll find out what they already have and what they've been drooling at but having trouble budgeting and even some little thing on the side that is a luxury that they'd love to have but keep budgeting more practical stuff ahead of it. Or what they always run out of because they keep using it up. Including the details of where you can get it and why it gets used up fast and what they use it for. Most people talk very freely about their passions and are grateful for that hour's attention -- and if it's not In Season, when the holiday comes they'll think you're a telepath.

I have known women who would cry if someone gave them 10 yards of assorted calicoes in half-yard chunks or Fat Quarters. Or two pounds of paraffin and some packets of dyes and some dried flower petals. Because you remembered. Because you cared. Because you know them. Expect to get a handmade patchwork pillow or a fat fancy candle in return next year though.

You may have relatives who are dedicated materialist types who really do go swaggering and getting obnoxious about the size of their widescreen TV or this year's new car and get into that. Those are the gold-toothpick relatives. Find something small and pointless that can be had in some brainlessly luxurious way and get them a gold plated toothpick. It fits with the rest of their lives, they'll think it's cute, they'll take it as a compliment and it'll cost less than trying to find them a watch or an appliance they don't already have. Antique marts are good for that sort of thing because you can find something weird and forgotten that if cleaned up and presented beautifully in a velvet-lined box looks like it came from someplace super expensive. Find the story behind the doodad too, it'll be more impressive.

There's a disturbing tendency in holiday hype to denigrate the type of present that actually does count more than what it cost -- the handmade things that people can use. For one thing the crafts stores now tend to drift more and more away from useful things like afghans and pillows and spice racks toward little hanging chatchke stuff that says more about the giver than the receiver unless you are giving it to someone who subscribes to Southern Living and has eighteen or more of them massed on the wall together. In that case get or make them another one and pay attention to whether the theme is sunflowers, teddy bears or horses. Holiday ornaments are actually good for this if you know that person gets into the holidays and does a big tree and puts out all that stuff every year.

Handmade things cost time though, and sometimes it's part of my life strategy to try to support independent artists and artisans. It doesn't have to be handmade by you to be something cool, but when I buy something at a craft fair or an art fair or shopped in the French Market, I knew I was also spending my conscience and supporting people in small business who really need the sale, rather than supporting another giant company. It's entirely possible that small crafter paid more attention to whether the toys are toxic or not than the giant company, too. Especially if the crafter is a mother.

Every week I get two or three email updates from eBay warning about this or that toy or child jewelry or child furniture item that's being recalled for toxic paint, choking hazard, breaking hazard or some other child endangerment thing. A significant number of times, these items are made by large trusted toy companies whose names you can't help hearing when The Season starts. But with a small crafter doing handmade wooden toys you can mention to them "I also have a two year old grandson, do you have something with no small bits he can pull off and eat and choke? Is your paint nontoxic?"

Since at a craft fair you're usually talking to the person who made it, you can find the brand of paint they used and handle the toy, try to destroy it yourself on the spot to see whether that two year old can pull off the bob on the end and choke. Wood also is more biodegradable when it's worn out and broken and thrown out. It's more recyclable too, when that gets too old and tired maybe it can be cut up into some bits of wood for making hanging chatchkes or taken apart to be used for some other project.

Most little kids like a hobby horse. It's one of those toys that shows up in Santa's sack on every card. But it's not that hard to make if you have a jigsaw and a piece of wood and a broom handle, maybe cover the head with cloth or paint some features on, there are a dozen different ways to make it. Admittedly it can be used as a blunt instrument for sibling homicide but that's why we watch them in person instead of just trusting toy regulators.

One of the presents that stands out in my memory as a happy one, was an origami book and a pack of colored origami paper. I remember going through most of the paper very fast learning a couple of the forms, and cutting everything from wrapping paper to the newspaper into squares to do more, pretty much filling the living room with frogs and cranes once I figured out how to do the crane. That sort of thing can really stick for a kid of either gender.

But kids have personal specific interests too. Some may collect little cars or My Little Ponies or something specific like that -- and this is where the smaller present of a set of little cars or ponies or kitties or whatever the kid's into is going to have more emotional impact than buying the big giant hyped but generic toy for a child that age.

There are some adult things that can utterly fascinate a child and be found in thrift shops and pawn shops. Children get a huge kick out of something like a compass. Girls do too. They also like those cheap little binoculars you can get for sporting events and things, those are child sized and easy to handle. It's just interesting -- and getting them a real one may actually cost less than going and getting the Toy Explorer set. It also did not come in enough packaging to create its own small eternal Egyptian Tomb.

A year or two ago, Sascha's grandmother bought her a fancy doll about the size of her baby brother that had color changing hair and a big brightly-colored four-color-printed box with lots of windows and clear bits and things. I remember all the adults in the house spending about an hour of Tomb Raider stuff trying to break into the box and release the doll from Durance Vile so the child could play with it. She played with it for about five minutes. Its hair got messy. Her grandmother took it back and brushed the hair and showed her how to groom it and the child lost interest. She spent most of the day playing with the Play-Doh and its molds instead, something said grandmother got for her brother.

What I'm thinking is that making a handmade rag doll with sewn-down-solid yarn hair would stand up a lot better to the kind of play a two or three year old girl gives it. Doll clothes and shoes strewed the entire living room. The girl was not into clothes at the time, though she liked changing her shoes about five times a day. So in thinking of dolls, it's somewhat age related and I think for little kids the ones that come apart into lots of choking hazards for younger brothers are not as good an idea as the sturdy squashy sewn one that's physically cuddly and holds up to serious exploration and being dragged by one foot.

I'm not sure where the elegant doll with color changing hair wound up but I don't see it down here at all. That trail of plastic shoes and little brush and this and that small accessories is not living room stuff.

Some cool things for little kids that aren't hard to make if you get bright remnant fabric and a box of safe clean stuffing -- geometric shapes. A pyramid made up of four equilateral triangles seamed together and stuffed. A cube. A cylinder. An eight sided form (two of the pyramids end to end). A dodecahedron. Fairly big and easily thrown around. Not real sure on how to stitch up a sphere but there probably is a pattern for one somewhere, it takes melon slice shaped pieces and curved seams. Or just a set of beanbags. Those are soft and safe to throw at each other and fun without the risk of eBay recall, and if they're handmade they had no non biodegradable packaging at all.

Older kids than that have personal interests and if there is something big they want, they will mention it every week for several years running, like I used to mention The Typewriter. It may be A Telescope. It may be a basketball hoop for the garage. It could be anything -- but generally unless they live in front of a television set, it may well be something that you can find the adult version used or cheap and they don't care about the packaging.

Most children don't really want Clothes and Shoes unless they are seriously lacking them, and those gifts are gifts to the parents of the kid who then don't have to buy them for the rest of the year.

Most adults deep at heart have some little kid who gets disappointed at clothes, shoes and grooming aids every year and wishes someone would notice that they really like model trains or painting on porcelain or gardening or something else that's what they like doing on their off time. If there's someone who's a sports nut and has a favorite sport, a book of statistics or something is going to feel like you love them (as long as you look at their shelf first to make sure they don't have exactly that one). Or even a hockey themed couch pillow, at least it says you remember who they are.

If you're not knowledgeable on their field of interest, lots of people online are and you can talk to them to find out what every fly fisherman always runs out of when they're getting ready for the season. A box of little colorful feathers and the silk thread for tying flies is something special -- more special than trying to second guess the rod they have been saving up for or already just bought.

Then there's the whole thing with Gadgets/Electronics.

They are very high on the things I see in eBay ads. Lots of sellers get them wholesale still in package with warranty and order from drop shippers and become discount online middlemen. If all I wanted to do was live on eBay income, I would look into doing that and become a Power Seller.

I have nothing against this stuff. I love my laptop. I'm saving up a Computer Replacement Fund so that when it wears out from the very heavy use I put it to, I'll get a newer one then that'll make this one feel like a dinosaur with its speed and power. Yay and good, computers are one of the things that every year's model really is that much more than last year's. But I always buy a Good Refurbished one because in my experience, the one new one I got and the various new ones friends have gotten are less reliable than a Good Refurbished. Apparently the work put in by Refurbishers is very effective. The price drops to about half.

But if I got a computer for my grandkids, which I will when they're a little older, it would not be this year's new model and it would not be for The Holidays. I want to be sure to put that in its own category: Big Things That Need Saving Up For. The most educational one I could get for either of them would be a Good Refurbished set up with a Linux system. The little geniuses will grow up snarfling at Microsoft and downloading their software improvements every time they come out for free and have all the applications they need and some I never thought of.

If kids need cell phones so their parents can keep track of them, that's something to get them sometime other than The Holidays at the point they need it, say the start of the school year or when the old phone has worn out to the point it really isn't practical any more. Getting a good one does make sense. I have a Razr because our phone service gives you one at a steep discount about once or twice a year, and Kitten has one and Karl has one. When the littles are old enough for their own phones they'll get one around the time the phone discount thing comes around and it'll be its own thing.

The trouble with getting an iPod for someone's Christmas is that while it may be wonderful and it may be tremendously useful and a wonderful bargain on top of it where you got it -- you can't top that next year without irrelevant replacing while the old one's still good. That starts an annual arms race kind of mentality where the year after it ought to be their own television or something... and it can lead to upgrading the kid's computer annually at The Holidays instead of upgrading when there's a reason for it, like buying a new hard drive for the kid at the point they filled their hard drive and a bigger one just dropped lots cheaper.

What happens with this stuff is that the kids grow up thinking of the biggest expenses in life, many of them one time or long term investments, as the things that fall out of the sky from Santa's sack and don't cost them anything but saying thank you. They get a distorted view of what that sort of thing costs versus their income and then as adults with credit cards go getting those things for themselves and wind up paying such ruinous interest that they wind up buying it three or four times by the time it's paid off.

You can get a $1,200 computer on Rent To Own and pay about $3,600 or more by the time it's yours -- I checked into that when I was too poor to save up for one because I thought it was a way to get around not having credit cards or a bank account or enough savings to get one at all. That's how poor people and folks starting out get ripped off. Working people with more income than they spend in rent get credit cards and if they just make monthly payments will pay out four or five times before finally settling the bill, on the high interest payments. Sometimes on a maxed-out card the monthly payment does not even touch the capital.

But it seems normal and gets put off again and again month-to-month because they grew up on getting the huge giant things in life as holiday presents and the things they had to work for, if any, were smaller things in between. Then they wind up having to cut back on food in order to make the month's bills and slide a little more behind every month because their salary is not what it was worth last year from inflation.

So that's my personal take on gift-giving. Holiday gifts are a redistribution system. It moves some wealth around and it becomes this big annual harvest for every retailer of everything, but once it passes through that, it becomes part of the looneytunes credit card debt that most of the working people out there carry. If everyone did this, the economy would collapse and some big companies would be hurting bad. But if you do this kind of giving, it may help keep your January from looking that bleak.
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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)
In an effort to avoid last-minute gift shopping, I've at least started to plan already, and a good chunk of my gifts will be handmade. A few pairs of knit socks, a scarf, a sweater, some mittens. Some art.Bookmarks if I ever get around to using that leather tooling kit I bought on vacation.

I can't count the number of times my parents went into debt trying to give me a so-called "good Christmas," piled high with presents. It's rather sad, really.

I'll have to keep those coupon ideas in mind, too. Especially the backrub ones. My roommate will no doubt take full advantage of those, especially if I throw a footrub one in there too, for after hard days at work.

Re: computers, the only reason I have a reasonably up-to-date one is because my old computer died a spectacular death, and I wanted a replacement. I asked my parents to front the money and then I'd pay them back, which they were okay with. I got the cheapest and, to be honest, worst computer in the store, and it was still way better than my old one. I'd have been fine with an exact replacement, but they just don't make them with such low specs anymore. But if it weren't for that, I'd still have a computer that's about ten years old and can't do half the stuff most ads say that a computer needs to do. The only reason I have a laptop to go along with my desktop is because my roommate bought a new one and sold this one to me, on the installment plan, and I've always wanted a laptop to carry about for writing when I'm outside the apartment and will be away for a while. Glorified word processor, though today I finally caved and gave it Internet access. But they're both horribly out of date, but they still do wonderfully for what I need and want them for, so I'm happy. I don't need anything newer or better than what I've already got.

I'm looking forward to gift-giving season this year. I've got stuff planned, it's doable, and I don't think it'll leave me so broke I can't do anything for months afterward. It'll be fun, it'll be somewhat simple, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it, as always. The best part for me is in the giving, and really, I'm happy so long as the recipient is happy, even if I am left with a vague lingering regret over the fact that I can't give them everything they've ever wanted. :p
Sep. 16th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
That is so great you got a good laptop. It is one if you can haul it around and work on writing other than at your desk, either going out or just being able to go into another room. You can still find $200 laptops, but they usually don't have a functioning battery. That's the thing that goes on most old laptops.

For years I had one that I paid $200 for that would "probably run at least six months till you can save up for a better one." It lasted through five years and five novels, then I literally wore it out. Keys were popping off and none of them had letters on any more. I'm hard on my laptops, they get very heavy use.

Those are great holiday plans. When I got money, I started just dedicating December's spending money to gifts, but have throttled back now a bit. Especially when I found out that my adult family members prefer the art, and the kids' tastes are pretty well set but the kids don't know or care what I spent for it.

Fun, simple and doable means the fun is real.
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
My current laptop has about an hour of battery running time on it; the battery's not so great. Lucky for me, though, I've got it on adapter power all the time, so I don't have to worry so much about it. Even if the battery couldn't hold any more charge, so long as I can keep it on AC power, I'm content. Hopefully this thing will last for as many years as novels as your old one did for you!

Artsy gifts really are awesome! :D

Looking over your entry again, I saw your comment about how if people gave thriftily and wisely, the economy and businesses would suffer. Sometimes I think the economy could stand a little cutback. I don't exactly want people to suffer horribly if some businesses go under, but I think if we were all less consumerist and material-obsessed, we might get back to some good old-fashioned appreciation of the good simple things we do have, rather than gripe about what new gadgets we don't have yet.

Like tonight, in the doctor's office, there was a young boy, about 7 years old, listening to music on his iPod Touch. I really wondered to myself what kind of 7 year old needs the latest greatest MP3 player. Sure, they're the Walkmans and Discmans of the current generation, but at the same time, I didn't see a lot of young kids then with such things. I didn't see many kids with enough tapes or CDs to warrant having a personal music device. But nowadays, kids have all these things, and it sets the precedent where they're going to want to best and brightest for the rest of their life or else they'll be "going backwards." It bothers me, even though it doesn't entirely have much to do with me.
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:34 am (UTC)
An hour of battery up time is good. It's all I've ever actually used this laptop's battery for, but I have theoretically got three hours and it was only nearing the halfway point the last time I turned it off in a thunderstorm on account of having it on battery too long. I use the adapter all the time too. I've lived with no-battery laptops many times and the adapter cord was usually long enough to go where I wanted to.

Also battery up time gets affected by how many applications are open and I use my laptop pretty heavily, usually have the browser up and GIMP and maybe a couple of other apps with the word processor.

What would suffer bitterly would be the credit card companies themselves.

I'm not sure what that would do, to be honest, when you have a house on a mortgage -- and nearly every homeowner has at least the first mortgage. Your debt gets bought by another company but in general I think they legally have to honor the terms of your original mortgage. There is a lot of upper level finance involved at that stage and it can get ugly.

But rent goes right down into a black hole and you never see anything for it, a mortgage is better than that and usually much less for the space involved.

It's odd about the seven year old with an iPod Touch. Maybe they got a deal on it or something or it came from an indulgent grandparent. I still don't have a regular iPod, it's on my list but way down on my list since I spend most of my time on the computer and play music on my computer, play movies on the computer, everything on my computer. I could see when I get around to it getting one with a good big hard drive so it'll last me a long time even if the files and formats start getting big, but I'm not even sure what the iPod Touch does that other older iPods don't do. I'm pretty sure it'll run down the price on Good Refurbished though.

That is a little freaky though. I guess there are still a lot of people who do live that way and don't question it. I wonder what happened to the Nonmaterialistic Hippie?

Part of the problem is that the economy and economic thought is geared toward indefinite growth and that does not happen. If growth even slows a bit, they go into a huge panic -- and then start firing people to try to deal with the problem.
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Thankfully, I have no credit cards. :p I'm aiming to get a prepaid one soon so that I can use Etsy.com and eBay for some things, like getting that yarn business off the ground, but my credit rating sucks too badly to get anything other than that. I messed up with my first credit card and ended up at a collection agency. It's all paid off now, but my rating is still in the tank.

One of these days I'll end up with a house, provided the mortgage isn't too high. Right now there's an area not too far from the city I live in where you can get a 3-bedroom house and the mortgage is only about $300 a month. My roommate and I have been considering, on and off, moving out there in a few years, once she can drive and we get a car and are more financially stable. I, for one, am hoping that happens. Beats paying rent by a long shot. At least I'd own, or co-own, the place I'm paying for.

I've got my 30 GB iPod, and I wouldn't have that at all if it hadn;t been a gift from my parents when they were feeling either endulgent or repentant. It's been a wonderful thing to have when I'm out of the house and feel like listening to music, but it;s nothing I can;t live without, that's for certain, Sure is nice to have, though.

I think the biggest difference between the iPod and the iPod Touch is that the Touch is about half the size of a cracker and has no screen, just the dial to flip between songs. Possibly a smaller storage space, but I'm not too sure on that.

All the hippies are still living in communes in the middle of the woods. :p I can't say I'd mind joining them sometimes. *laughs*
Sep. 17th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
Oh that would rock. A monthly payment that low would make life a lot easier for anyone. Having a car would be essential if it's that far out though. The iPod is a cool thing. I was planning on eventually getting one because it is that stable and that useful, but I'm not going to be getting the top of the line. Just a decent one. Ah. So the iPod Touch is actually more miniaturization. The normal size one is pretty small as it is and the small screen would be all right for occasional videos, I'd rather get the old one.

LOL -- yeah. Some of them are, and that's a cool thing. But I bet a fair number of those communes did buy houses at some point just to keep the group's costs down.
Sep. 17th, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)
That mortgage payment would be less than half our current monthly rent. However, we get heat and hot water included in our rent, and if we had a house we'd have to pay property taxes and all that, so the cost overall may balance out, as a yearly thing. But still, we'd end up owning something at the end instead of still renting.

I was surprised at the clarity of the iPod screen. I watched subtitled anime on it for a while, and despite the tiny screen, the image was so clear that reading the subtitles was no trouble at all.
Sep. 17th, 2008 02:56 am (UTC)
Then again it might not come out even. There's water and utilities bills and there's tax, but water and utilities can be managed by how you live too -- the water bill goes down with xeroscaping and putting the tap filters in and things like that, utilities by just being sensible about turning things off when not in use, etc. ... living green can drive things down fast. Taxes don't tend to be so ruinously high that they're more than or equal to the mortgage rate.

That's pretty neat about the little iPod screens. Heh, odds are by the time I get mine it'll be quite cheap getting one with a good screen!
Sep. 17th, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)
That's true enough. We've been looking into getting a low-water washer, and even if we have a clothes drier, if we've goth the space things can always be hung outside to dry if they won't be needed immediately. Plus cutting down on bills elsewhere, growing some food instead of buying it all, stuff like that, would help free up money in other places the could go to larger bills if need be.

You ought to write articles for magazines and whatnot about frugal living. Heck, write a book on it. I'm willing to bet it'd be better than some "green and simple living" books I've come across. They often have good tips, but are also filled with nonsense that I either know to be false, misrepresented (saying that rhubarb is poisonous, when it's just the leaves that are), or have tips that have nothing to do with simple or green living (like how to tie a bowtie).
Sep. 17th, 2008 04:17 am (UTC)
Great thought, but it's already been written and that's where a lot of our tips come from. The Tightwad Gazette to Kitten to me. I just describe the ones we're actually using and that they work.

Kitten hangs wash in the yard most of the year, weather permitting, it does cut down on the bills even with the low energy high efficiency dryer. That set has probably paid for itself already in bills, the old ones were money sinks.

Right, it's only the leaves on rhubarb that are poisonous. The stems are just tart as bad as lemons and need about twice as much volume of sugar to make them palatable. Preferably with strawberries included.

I might put some articles in my newsletter though, just sort things out and write them on specific topics like my Holiday Spending Entry. How to be Frugal, Green and Lazy All At Once... I apply that same principle of "is it cost effective?" to my physical efforts as well, since I've got the chronic fatigue but a great desire to be comfortable and get more results for less work. Something has to be Fun or Necessary or preferably both to get me up to do it.

So there'd be little tips like that, things like putting dance music on while actually doing cleaning because it's less boring but your body will respond and you'll move to the pace of the music. Kitten and Karl both do that all the time and I used to when I was stronger and did my own cleaning.
Sep. 17th, 2008 10:37 am (UTC)
Maybe so, but it doesn't mean there isn't room on the market for another book, especially one with anecdotes about really living the life. :) Granted, I haven't checked out a lot of books on the subject, but it seems that the ones I have looked at pretty much just list the tips and tricks and have no stories about how they're working in a real person's life.

Tightwad may have that, though, I don't know. I still have yet to find a copy. :p

Of course, living green and simple from the perspective of someone who's got limited energy and mobility would be pretty interesting, too. I can think of a few people who would benefit not just from the advice, but the inspiration of the fact that it's all possible, because someone's doing it. Getting started can sometimes be daunting, especially when you've got limited means and abilities to just up and make huge changes in your life.

I always love a good apple-rhubarb crumble, or a strawberry-rhubarb pie. There's a lot of rhubarb that grows wild around here, so I've got good access to it in the summer. I've got a friend with it growing in her garden, and she practically begs us to take bunches or else it'll start to take over everything. *chuckles*
Sep. 17th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
I think the way to do that book might be with newsletter articles. Do you think that doing it as a column in my Free Newsletter would get me more signups for my Newsletter?

I think I'd have to title it Green Luxury: Living Easy on the Cheap.

Because there are three priorities to apply to anything I spend time on: is it going to damage the planet? Is it going to cost too much money to be worth it? Is it going to cost so much time and aggravation that it's not worth it?

And combine some of my priorities with the Tightwad philosophy, because there is a definite slant in my life toward the Creative Bohemian lifestyle -- and that is very different from the author of the Tightwad Gazette's personal reason to become that frugal. She just wanted to live in a big old farmhouse that cost a lot of money and have a lot of children. She did. She raised six of them and she lived on her husband's salary and got to be a stay-at-home mom.

Which what we're doing, falls right in with her philosophy: decide what you WANT. Then prioritize with some sense, cut corners on anything you don't care about and work hard to get there.

It's the same philosophy with some slant toward things that are high on my priority list, like esthetics and Green Living, which in fact runs so close to Tightwad it's almost the same thing. But gives a little added focus.

It really takes disbelieving ads too, because something like an iPod or a laptop is a fairly long term purchase, something that's good for years and years so it's worth researching and testing and taking your time while saving up for it, then getting exactly the one you want (especially in Good Refurbished) and being happy with it for years and years instead of goshwow gizmo-bang getting a new one all the time whenever there's an upgrade. Pacing upgrades is part of that too and really mostly relevant to electronics.

Strawberry-rhubarb or apple-rhubarb would be yummy, much better than rhubarb by itself. Heh, where it grows well at all it grows so well that it will take over everything! The main reason we don't have it is small children and large dogs, either of whom would not hesitate to chomp a leaf and get really sick or die.

Basically, if it becomes a popular column, doing it as a book would be the same way she did Tightwad Gazette and become a column that gets collected whenever there's enough of it to stuff a book. Plus, like her, I could open it up to reader tips and filter them and feature the ones that sound good or are worth testing.
Sep. 17th, 2008 07:18 pm (UTC)
I think it'd get more subscribers. As I said, I know a couple of people who'd probably actively love to read something like that, and plenty more who'd benefit from just having the info around to peruse at their leisure. I know I'd love to see it! :) Reader tips and stories would also be awesome. I'd say go for it, and I'll help spread the word around about the newsletter, too. I can think of a few communities I belong to that would like to hear about something like that.
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC)
I just told Kitten and Karl about the column, and they like the idea.

Karl then popped into my room for a good three hours of interesting conversation and demonstrated how to fix stripped out screw holes in wood, when the chair leg or whatever's screwed into wood is wobbly because the hole got dug out too wide. It's great. I may make that my first article in the newsletter.
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
Title of the article of course is How to screw when you feel wobbly.
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)
Or worse: How to screw when your wood feels a bit wobbly.
Sep. 17th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
*cracks up* That's so awesome!
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Already written, for either the site or the newsletter. :D

Thanks for the idea!
Sep. 17th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Any time! :D
Sep. 17th, 2008 03:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this-- it made for good reading, and it's always nice to be reminded that other people out there think like I do :) Being alone in a new city can be a bit intimidating with things like that.
I'm especially not looking forward to the holiday craziness this year, working in a mall. Hopefully I can escape in time!
I like reading your thoughts on child-raising too-- nice to see some ideas on how to do it right, if I ever end up caring for children.
Sep. 17th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
Wow, that's great. I get some of my ideas on child rearing from an incredibly practical expert -- Kitten. The success of our approach shows in how well behaved Sascha and Gaby are and that they are happy all the time. Not just well behaved and white-faced obedient without putting themselves forward, but laughing and playing and getting intense about everything in the world.

She doesn't believe in "an allowance" like giving them a starter paycheck for living -- instead kids get pay for chores on a reasonable kid scale from early on, with some chores mandatory and a much longer list of optional, you get paid for your work chores. This spoils the whole materialism thing right there. They get money, they put effort in and it transforms into a form that can be spent and they have the reward of the work they put in. Once it's theirs, it's theirs.

They get to bloody their noses on it long before it's rent, saving up a long time for something that turns out to be a bad buy, or lucking out and finding something they really wanted for cheap. They also learn that frugality means time to do whatever they want. Also that "work is whatever people are willing to pay for" more than "it's dull and unpleasant." They will both get rotated through all the chores of taking care of themselves as adults by the time they're grown, so that neither of them gets caught short as a young adult living alone or in a single gender household without important skills on gender lines.

Gaby will be the boy in the place who can cook and keep the apartment decent. Sascha will be the girl in her place that knows how to take out trash and fix things that break and not get scared to pick up a drill or a hammer. Happily, they're growing up seeing both Mom and Dad cheerfully and competently do the same chores interchangeably, so they won't feel so put-upon learning the tasks of the opposite sex.

Working in a mall during the holiday craziness was only tolerable for me if I immersed myself so thoroughly into it that I spread a Dickensian cheer around me. My particular mindbender was to spend the entire period when the Muzak changed pretending I was Charles Dickens and mentally writing the stories of everything around me.

It's easier to deal with new places now, because online all the people I know are the same. It's a lot less lonely. Nanowrimo may help with meeting locals physically, because they're as fun to get along with as other Wrimos but probably meet somewhere in transportation distance of where you live now. Good luck with it!
Sep. 18th, 2008 03:00 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm definitely eagerly waiting for Wrimo this year for that reason. I already checked the forums from last year and saw that there was a small group around here.
Surprisingly, I don't mind the music, and I can play along with all the decor. To me it gets to be a little bit like roleplaying, which can be fun. It's just... so many PEOPLE. I get a little claustrophobic.
Sep. 18th, 2008 06:32 am (UTC)
Yeah, that can be a bit of a problem. At least until you know them well enough that it's not as crazymaking. Sounds like this year is going to be a good one!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )


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Robert A. Sloan, author of Raven Dance

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