January 30, 2010 11:37:00 PM
There''s frugal, and there''s free. Nowadays people have lost jobs and for the first time are worried about putting food on the table and a roof over their head. Frugality is avoiding unnecessary expenses, but what do you do when your income has shrunk to almost nothing? I''ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
Anyone in that situation might not be reading this, except I''ve noticed the newspaper cost 25 cents in a world where nothing cost 25 cents any more, not even a piece of candy. So maybe by reading a newspaper, a person could think about something else for awhile. Lord knows, there''s enough bad news in the paper to make one feel better about their own circumstances. There''s also the classifieds that might provide a job, a cheaper place to live, or a buyer for something you can sell. If all else fails, the funnies might bring some laughter.
The Sunday paper cost a dollar, but you can make that back in coupons. If you are lucky enough to get the Starkville Dispatch, it''s free. If you have a newspaper and share it with someone else, maybe a shut-in or an elderly friend, then you get a little conversation, and they get a free newspaper.
One day I saw an ad for bantam roosters; they were free. Also, newspapers make good wrapping paper, fire starter and packing for breakables.
Then there''s the library. Everything is free: read books, magazines, newspapers, view movies, listen to books on tape and use the Internet.
The Starkville Library has a book sale every first Monday; prices range from free to $2. There are books on making frugality a viable lifestyle. Why buy a book about saving money when you can get it for free?
While downtown, one can take a walk along sidewalks and, in Columbus, down to the Riverwalk. Enjoy plenty of fresh air and exercise; view the river -- all for free. I recently let my own gym membership slide, figuring I have plenty of places to walk right here. I have three pieces of gym equipment sitting in the garage, as well as bicycle and a kayak. All free, if I just use them.
"Recently I have talked to people in the most desperate circumstances -- those who have declared bankruptcy, received public assistance, or lived on the smallest of incomes. Without exception I was able to identify areas where they could save," says former professional budget analyst Amy Dacyczyn.
Dacyczyn advises three basic ways to save money: Buy it cheaper (bargain hunt), make it last longer (mend and repair) and use it less (like your car or the clothes dryer).
Also, if you are not using it, sell it. (Frugal tip: Price it at $99 or less for a free classified in the bargain section.) Hey, we have a broken Foosball table and some exercise equipment no one''s using.
Maybe we could all try swapping services like babysitting, haircutting, yard work, running errands or making casseroles.
I understand there is a big difference in doing without because you chose to and doing without because you have to; I''ve done both. No one likes to feel deprived. I think it was Cher who said, "I know what it''s like to be rich, and I know what it''s like to be poor; rich is better." However, several rich people have made the tabloids lately. They don''t seem to fare much better.
The Apostle Paul said, " ... I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Paul was sitting in a dungeon, lacking his coat and parchment.
Faith, family, friendship, prayer, kindness, goodness, laughter, libraries, art centers, churches, river walks, fresh air, sidewalks, sunsets, secondhand newspapers, and above all, hope for a brighter tomorrow. Maybe it''s true -- the best things in life are free, or at least cheap.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.