Featured Grownup’s topic this month is thrift.  We have been pretty fortunate during this financial down turn.  My husband is employed securely in an industry that is not likely to be much affected, and we bought a side of beef from someone who keeps forgetting to charge us.  I am wondering how many times you have to remind someone they gave you several hundred pounds of beef before you drop the subject.  Guilt keeps us asking him every few months.

I have read with interest for some time of people going a month or a year without spending, except on food and toilet paper etc.  Some day I would like to try it.  I am sure it would be a good exercise, but I am not ready to try it just yet.  Since I am not in the middle of a noteworthy experiment, and not really in reduced means, I will offer some random thoughts on the matter of finances.

I think Christmas becomes a huge guilt trip for people.  We manage to buy gifts for as few people as we can, and I am not afraid to recycle a hand-me-down toy under the tree.  My grandmother doesn’t really have the space for much stuff, so I make bread for her and give her homemade jelly too (our 2007 stash is running low).  If my other grandparents lived any closer I would do the same for them.  As it is, they get a cheery card.  We buy gifts for my parents, our kids, and our lovely granddaughter.  I always try to make some candy and cookies should an emergency gift-giving occasion occur. 

My husband (Grandpa Daddy) has a huge family; ten siblings and all the nieces and nephews that go with those numbers.  Christmas could get out of hand pretty quickly in this atmosphere, even if we drew names.  Fortunately, GD’s family tries to get together at Easter or Thanksgiving.  We get gifts for my MIL and GD’s two relatives who celebrate Christmas with us.  Nobody gets birthday gifts (well our kids do, but not the nieces and nephews). 

Last year I gave the ladies’ teachers a cutting off a house plant for Christmas.  The plant has been in my family for generations, and with clearance pots, it was a bargain.  This year we are working on dried flower bookmarks, maybe a leaf one for Ed the busdriver.

Building your own costumes is another money saver if your kids play dress up like mine do.  I made princess dresses two years ago, and they are both in great shape.  If we had spent $80 on those princess costumes Disney is so proud of I am sure they would not have withstood the day in and day out use my homemade ones did.  When you start sewing, you realize that patterns and fabric are not the bargains they once were, but if you aren’t picky or can be patient about the fabric you can find all kinds of stuff on clearance.  This year Leo is going to wear a purchased red sweatshirt and sweat pants (we are from Nebraska, they will get used again) covered with electrical tape to be Spiderman.  Last year I got what used to be a first-communion dress from Goodwill for my daughter to be a bride. 

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(I made the mermaid costume on the left.  Not as authentic as the other one, but more practical for trick or treat purposes.)DSC01181

Pocanantas costume made from ugly curtains the people before us had in the kitchen.  I tied the doll to a backpack for papoose.

Having a handy husband helps save money too.  Mine can do anything from electrical wiring to plumbing to general mechanical work to basic construction, so we rarely have anyone repair our stuff.  I was surprised to find out that lots of guys can’t do these things.

My title came from my friend Jean.  I lived with her for a while in college and she taught me the practical points of cooking,  Mom had already taken care of the finer points.  Jean showed me that cooking was not a mystery, “just heat something up.” While Mom taught me to use a recipe, Jean taught me to wing it.  This information served me well when I lived in an apartment in college.  Jean might be the queen of thrift.  She once told me, “I can’t cut any more corners, we are in a circle!”  Her daughter stayed with us for a week one summer.  We asked her what kind of pizza she liked and she said, “Oh, I like them all, hamburger pizza, hot dog pizza…”  If I am ever in a corner, I will be calling her for advice.

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