October 5th, 2010
Autumn is well upon us, and people who have been struggling to stay afloat in this lousy economy all year are now faced with the prospect of the coming holiday gifting season. Which can be daunting in the best of times, but can be positively depressing for those not used to not having cash or credit for the consumerist frenzy. This post is about helping to trim the gift list if you haven’t done so already, plus how and where to find gifts for loved ones that they may cherish forever, help maintain and spread the joy of the season, and not cost an arm or leg.
1. Analyze your gift-giving habits, trim the tree.
In our free-wheeling consumerist culture the Christmas shopping season represents half or more of retailers’ annual intake and an average middle class family’s greatest expenditures on unnecessary items for the year. If your family is struggling, the credit cards with their usurious interest rates have already been cut into small pieces and thrown away, consumer loans have been paid down or frozen in place, and promises to self not to spend more than you’ve got have been made. Don’t change a thing just because the holidays are coming!
If you have a lot of friends and extended family for whom you’ve bought gifts in years past, networking with them early is a good idea. See if doing something other than gifting this year could be a thankful relief to them as well as you. Pot-luck holiday get-togethers are fun, and no one person has to provide all the food and drinks. “Re-Gifting” parties can be great fun too, where you give some trinket you got from someone else in the past (it’s been just taking up room in the closet or on the shelf ever since) to someone else. Chances are someone will remember who gave Fred that hideous tie he’s never worn and laughs will ensue. The holidays are for fun, so have some!
If you’ve got children, find out what they want most instead of just gathering their wish lists of every toy they’ve seen advertised on TV. For children old enough to know Santa isn’t Bill Gates, one big gift can be better than ten little ones. Items like bicycles, roller blades and other sports equipment can be purchased second hand and refurbished, maybe personalized with glitter paint and trim. Go for things they’ll really use and enjoy, stay away from basic junk.Alternatives, Brand New Used, Clothing, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Shopping, Thrifting | Comment (0)
March 18th, 2009
The news these days is chock full of dramatized street theater as the “haves” fight about ridiculous things like super-bonuses for AIG grifters, amazing world-class ponzi money-laundering schemes, and how we on the low end of the totem pole get to pay through the nose (as usual) to bail these crooks out. At this point it’s not even a partisan fight, it’s just rich versus poor. As usual. We who have been actually harmed by these interminable games of economic Risk are just trying to survive with the basics – food, clothing and shelter.
While I hope that anyone who regularly reads this blog has already bought their seeds and planted their ‘taters, there are things we usually have to purchase – or trade for – because we don’t produce our own at home. Sure, it doesn’t take more than a quarter acre of yard to keep a fresh milk goat or half a dozen chickens who give us eggs for free, but often people will be unable to even do that much. Keeping that goat fresh requires breeding once a year, and then you’ve got to either deal with a smelly billy goat or transport to where the smelly billy goat is standing stud. And what about the kid? That’s something my family could never quite conscience (these youngsters, if not also female, are usually slaughtered for meat). And don’t let anybody fool you. Those chickens CAN fly (sorta). At least to get over the fence into your neighbor’s yard.
If you are lucky enough to still have a roof over your family’s heads, there are ways to save a great deal on foods you can’t produce in your garden but need to keep everyone healthy and satisfied. Nothing makes us feel wealthier than a truly fine and healthy diet. Plus, that alone can save us multi-thousands in chronic diseases we really don’t have to get in the first place. The first of these is to join a local CSA. With this membership, which is critical to purchase right now if you can, you get a portion of the crops and products of local farmers near your home. Even if you garden, this can help fill out the take so you’ve got more to work with. Buying local directly supports your local farmers, and helps them to purchase the seeds and equipment they need to keep on producing.Alternatives, Bulk Buying, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Garden, Nutrition, Recipes, Staple Foods, Surviving | Comment (0)
November 14th, 2008
As we move into 2008′s extended holiday period, more than a few families are wondering if there will be a Christmas this year. Sure, some retailers are going all out to stay open long enough to see if anybody’s buying this year, but with consumer credit at a virtual standstill, international trade languishing on the docks and jobs being lost by the thousands every week, it’s a no-brainer that this Christmas isn’t going to be ‘the usual’ consumer spending orgy of Christmases past.
Presuming that your family still has a home, can heat it, and enough income to put food on the table, there are ways to have a festive, meaningful Christmas without going further into debt and without ending up with cheap Chinese junk that nobody really wants or needs.
The best thing you can do for your family is Make Your Own, and involve the kids! We save old Christmas cards in a box in the closet, pull them out around Thanksgiving and use them, plus various saved papers, made papers, trims, sequins, glitter, buttons, studs, etc. to make brand new Christmas cards for the people in our lives. Scissors and glue, a paper cutter, maybe some cutsey hole punches and lots of odds and ends, these cards inevitably get saved by every Mom, Grandma or other friend/relative who gets them! And kids are especially creative in this area. Sure you’ll have to clean up the mess, but a great time was had by all.Alternatives, Art, Crafts, Do It Yourself, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Recipes, Recycling, Sewing, Shopping, Thrifting | Comments (4)
October 7th, 2008
Food: Eating What You Can Get
World markets continue to take dramatic hits and the Dow has fallen below 10,000 for the first time in four years. Seems a lot of banks and other players are unhappy with the trillion dollar bailout package passed last Friday because it limits their personal golden parachutes and stock option scams. Awwww. Should we call the waaaaambulance for these whiners? Nope. If they didn’t need our money they shouldn’t have begged for a handout in the first place. In the meantime, regular people are having a much harder time putting food on the table as prices rise dramatically and more and more find themselves out of work. This post is a beginner’s primer on how to get food if you can’t afford it.
Before I get to the list of good links readers may find helpful depending on their particular situations, readers should know that many states, such as the one where I live (NC) have budgetary caps on how much relief in the form of food stamps they are able to provide. This can mean that even as increasing numbers of people find themselves going hungry, fewer people will have access to the standard governmental relief. Thus more people must turn to other providers. A good overview of those providers supported by the USDA commodity program is provided at Amber Waves. If your family is in danger of ‘food insecurity’ be sure to familiarize yourself with emergency providers in your area. Cities generally have soup kitchens, places where you can go for a hot meal. Most smaller cities and many towns or counties also have food banks, check into what you will need to provide to qualify.Alternative economics, Alternatives, Barter, Economic Depression, Family Projects, Foraging, Grow Your Own, Inflation, Staple Foods, Surviving, Wild Harvest | Comments (2)
January 30th, 2008
Since the subject of tourism has been mentioned in the context of affordable necessary medical care, I thought I’d go ahead and mention some cool new developments in vacation tourism for those who may be thinking of what they’re going to do with the family this summer when the kids are out of school.
People who are living frugally don’t have to stop having fun and don’t have to stay home all the time. They just have to weigh their choices more carefully than people who have a lot of money to spend and don’t mind spending it. While it’s true that many of us consider a trip to visit family members in another state to be an actual vacation, but not necessarily because the people we’re visiting are all that fun and interesting. Usually it’s because the cost of gasoline, necessary vehicle upkeep, motels along the way and restaurant meals for the whole family for days or weeks at a time can easily eat up every cent of your vacation savings or tax refund, leaving zip for trips to Six Flags or ski resorts or Disney World – places our kids think of as actual vacations.
There’s a new partnership movement afoot in my state that takes great advantage of the many scenic, historic and educational wonders that make this state a tourist destination for millions of people every year. I strongly suspect there are many other states doing much the same thing, and the information’s not that hard to find. It’s called “Agritourism,” and it’s offering benefits to farmers, rural communities and artists of all varieties via partnerships with arts councils, agricultural extension services, state and federal parks services and small tourism operations in established tourist regions.Alternatives, Art, Conscious Living, Crafts, Family Projects, Vacations | Comment (1)
January 8th, 2008
Habits of thought that won’t cost you a thing…
My last post offered some Tips for Avoiding Pressure to Shop, mostly in the context of getting out of the usual “girls’ day out” type of expensive, mall-hopping, credit card fueled frenzy that way too many people in the modern world view as entertainment. At least, until the bills come due. Sad statistics demonstrate that if medical costs from an accident or illness in the family don’t lead to bankruptcy, credit card debt will. These are the two biggest contributors to middle class bankruptcies in the U.S. at this time, and as the mortgage crisis becomes ever worse, it’s not going to get any better.
In this post I’m going to offer some ways of thinking that can become habitual without too much trouble, that will help keep you out of debt by not going into debt in the first place. Not everyone can put these to good use, but those who can will find that their shoestring budgets go a lot farther in covering necessities.Alternatives, Conscious Living, Debt, Economic Recession, Family Projects, Garden, Nutrition, Shopping | Comments (3)
December 24th, 2007
…at that nice mountain cabin everybody rented…
During this 2007 holiday season, it seems the children are all nestled asleep in their beds, with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads… oh, wait. You say the “children” are all teenagers now, terminally bored with Christmas and expecting a 10-gig iPod loaded with every album too objectionable to be played in public, plus keys to your a car and $400 worth of “Prison Chic” pants that hang somewhere around the thighs and show off their underwear?
Be of good cheer, enjoy yourself anyway, and…
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!Filed under Family Projects, Holidays, Humor | Comment (0)
December 17th, 2007
Analyzing Your Usage and Expense
In the 21st century almost all of us are acutely aware of the challenges of global warming, unsustainable consumption habits, the real human costs of petroleum dependency and the ever-rising cost of all forms of energy. When it’s difficult for regular middle class city and suburban dwellers to maintain their few hours of home down-time due to rising costs, the burden on rural dwellers can easily be impossible to bear.
Anyone committed to sustainable and self-sufficient living should have already begun planning their energy strategies. There are many things to consider before investing in energy sources. One of the first things a homeowner needs to become aware of are the various federal and state incentive programs available to them if they choose to meet some or all of their own energy needs with ‘green’ sources. These incentives have been fluctuating at the same time the per-watt price of the technology has been steadily falling. In some places the cost trade-off – where the cost to install is paid for by the incentives and further energy is basically free-for-upkeep – is down to 3-5 years. Which is a point when someone planning to live the whole rest of their lives on their homestead has no really good excuse not to invest! The Database of State Incentives offers a clickable map with details for all 50 states and is updated as incentives are tweaked or changed.Alternatives, Conscious Living, Environmentalism, Family Projects, Green Living | Comment (0)
November 13th, 2007
Yes, the holiday season is upon us again, just when we are trying to adjust what the government does to our internal clocks twice a year (just to mess with our heads, I am convinced). It’s a time of get-togethers and feasts with family and friends, and the sometimes scary specter of gift-giving that puts such a huge dent in people’s tight budgets these days.
So I thought this is probably a good time to talk about gifts that cost little to nothing, but are always gladly received and mean more than just some trinket you could buy at the store.
Does that sound kind of strange in this era of conspicuous consumerism, where even 5-year olds brag to each other about how much their gifts cost (and how that means Santa must love them more?). Probably not to those of us who have given up conspicuous consumerism and found that we like it. Yet I am talking about gifts that hold enough thought and effort on your part to impress even the richest, most disdainful member of your family, who has always considered you a true failure of Capitalism for your choices in life. In my case that would be Aunt Edna and Uncle Francis.Alternatives, Crafts, Family Projects, Gifts, Holidays, Sewing | Comment (1)