Frugal is fashionable

April 16 2010 by Ellen Roseman

I’m finding lots of new books with tips on how to save money. They’re bringing back economic wisdom learned during the Depression, but adding a modern touch.

Here are three authors whose advice I found relevant and often compelling.

Marjorie Harris, known for gardening tips, expands to fashion, food, home and travel in Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style. I like how she distinguishes thrifty from cheap:

Cheap is someone who buys based only on price, whose life experiences are guided by price, and who would probably give up something sublime because it costs too much.

The rules of thrift aren’t meant to develop a stingy quality; indeed, it should bring on a feeling of well-being, rather than deprivation.

Being thrifty requires a brain; being cheap doesn’t. Being thrifty is figuring out how things work and making them work more efficiently. Being thrifty means being self-aware.

Marjorie has famous friends with ideas to share. Margaret Atwood, for example, tells you to freeze your clothes for three days, unfreeze them and then freeze them again to kill moth larvae. Then, dry your clothes to avoid mildew and store them in an airtight metal trunk with cedar lining. If the air can’t get in, the moths can’t live.

Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic Green Guide, which I wrote about in this blog, has a sequel, Ecoholic Home, which promises the greenest, cleanest and most energy-efficient information under one (Canadian) roof. It packs a punch in its concern for the planet and for your pocketbook.

In her section on appliances, repair or replace — always a vexing question — she recommends getting rid of top-loading washing machines, fridges from another millennium, dishwashers without a blue and white Energy Star logo and air conditioners that have kept you cool for more than 10 summers.

You can hold on to your clothes dryer, since technology hasn’t changed that much, and your stove will last you 18 years on average. “If it’s got convection and self-cleaning features, I’d stick with it till it croaks,” says the NOW magazine columnist.

Bitches on a Budget is a book aimed at younger women, rich with contemporary sass and online tools. Author Rosalyn Hoffman, former department store buyer in New York, is plugged into the fashion scene and loves Target. (When, oh when, is this style-conscious, thrifty retailer going to open in Canada?)

I liked her section called XXX, mature audiences only, where she talks about a dirty little secret, but only for mature women, those in control of their emotions and their finances; women who live within their means and their budgets; women who pay their bills to the penny every month, no financing charges.

We put everything — yes, we mean everything — on one single airline-linked credit card. Food, shopping, gasoline, meals, flying, bus and train tickets, clothing purchases, condoms. Hell, we even bought a car once and put it on the card.

We hoard miles. And then we use them for huge, big, expensive, unaffordable business-class tickets to faraway, exotic destinations. Places like New Zealand, China and South Africa. Stop in Calgary and Hong Kong on the way to Auckland. Return from Beijing via Honolulu and L.A.

Her advice? It may pay to spend cash on trips shorter than six hours; you can manage in the cattle part of the plane for that long. But use your miles for any trip at least 12 hours (or at least use them to upgrade). As a bonus on those long hauls, you’ll have the flexibility to make stops along the way. Save those miles and splurge.

3 comments

  1. Seven Dollar Pants

    Apr 17 2010

    Great advice! We’re in the middle of reading B*tches on a Budget, and it just makes so much sense to us because we’re thrify b*tches at heart. JD& CM xo

  2. NormaK

    Apr 18 2010

    By purchasing Marjorie Harris’s “Thrifty”, I violated my personal commandment to never buy books available in the library! However, I especially enjoyed the chapter on food and the “Thrifty Wine List”. The autobiographical section is fascinating and I’m so glad that she shared.

  3. FrancesC

    Apr 21 2010

    I will never, never part with my refrigerator and top-loading washing machine until they fall apart irretrievably. They are both the best machines I have ever had. And my kitchen stove is at least 50 years old; a stove is a stove.

    If the government wants houses that are energy efficient, they should change the building code to require them to be superinsulated. We should have done that 35 years ago after the first oil price shocks. Think what our emissions would be like now!