frugality & wealth

Two new posts from Katherine on Treehugger:

In Praise of Frugality

Gen Y’ers don’t like to credit the frugality and financial conservatism that dominated their parents’ and grandparents’ mentalities. Frugality isn’t cool or hip. It doesn’t advertise well. It doesn’t gratify instant cravings for new things; but, like it or not, frugality has played a very big role in the financial success of previous generations.

I’m going to add Gen X’ers to that as well. So many people I know seem to be doing well on the surface (decent jobs, houses, cars) but they are in debt up to their eyeballs. And they also fall into the “I want what I want when I want it” trap.

Important Wealth Advice

Interestingly, many of the same practices that save money while freeing oneself up for more adventurous, non-materialistic experiences are also good for the environment. Frugality is intimately linked to living a greener, less wasteful and consumerist lifestyle.

And a link to the Globe & Mail article she references: Feeling Lucky?


two book reviews

Although I have no time to read these days, I keep adding books to my list of things that I want to read someday. After hearing an interview with Sarah Lazarovic on CBC Radio, her book A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy became #235 on my list of books to borrow from the library at some unknown point in the future. I love the concept – painting pictures of the things she wanted but didn’t actually purchase. This would work well for me since I’m not much of an artist and the stuff wouldn’t look particularly appealing once I was done with it. Lazarovic’s paintings, on the other hand, are very charming. And since I have never been much of a shopper, her philosophy is one that I can easily relate to.

Lazarovic’s philosophy essentially boils down to that familiar, grandfatherly saying “waste not, want not”, but with a noticeably different take. In Lazarovic’s late-capitalist world, it means something like “shop less wastefully, and your wants may actually subside, allowing you to live a happier, less overwhelmingly consumption-driven life.” But I’m sure that when my grandfather muttered those words over breakfast, he was referring to his experience of a Depression-era economy – don’t waste anything because you never know when scarcity will strike. The problem with our current economy is not scarcity, but the opposite – overabundance. It is up to us to choose how we interact with it. Read the rest of the G&M review.

On a similar theme is James Wallman’s book Stuffocation: Why We’ve Had Enough of Stuff and Need Experience More Than Ever.

He gives the following five reasons for why experiences are better than material possessions at making people happy:

1) Experiences are prone to “positive reinterpretation,” meaning you’ll instinctively turn a bad memory into a positive one, whereas a bad purchase will stay sour in your mind.

2) Material possessions are prone to “hedonic adaptation,” which is a fancy way of saying the novelty will wear off. An experience, on the other hand, is wonderful in the moment and re-livable in retrospect.

3) Experiences can’t be compared in the same way that stuff is, which makes everyone’s experience unique.

4) Experiences contribute to our personal identities in a way that material possessions do not.

5) Experiences bring us closer to other people. They are a great conversation-starter and make us more interesting.

Read the rest of the Treehugger review.

two soapboxes

Soapbox 1: Was strolling through Superstore a couple of weeks ago and there were two displays, side by side, in the clothing area. 100% cotton, white, men’s tank tops for $6. Two feet to the right, 100% cotton, white, women’s tank tops for $8. Any difference? A small one… A-back vs racer-back. Oh, c’mon! Yes, I know it’s only 2 bucks, but why is the women’s tank 25% more expensive. Well, I guess it’s because. That’s right… because.

Soapbox #2: In a related rant, $6? $8? I think John Oliver can do a much better job on this one than me. See also: article in Huffington Post.

collaborative consumption

Really interesting segment on Spark today on the perks and perils of collaborative consumption. I believe this used to just be called sharing. But this is sharing at a whole new level, brought to us by the marvels of the Internet.

Also check out April Rinne’s blog post on the legal, regulatory and policy issues of a sharing economy. I know that the words “legal, regulatory and policy” don’t automatically make it sound like a riveting read but she brings up a lot of important points and provides a clear, concise overview of the issues around sharing, whether you’re joining a car share, signing up on Airbnb or starting a tool lending library.

out frugaled!

Or should that be frugalled? In any case, I thought I needed new boots. Hows this for need?!?

old boots

My dear friend was walking around with her boots literally falling off her feet. And if that wasn’t frugal enough, she rescued these boots from a dumpster in the first place. It cost $35 to have the zippers replaced and then she had a great pair of boots for three years. Until the back seams split and the left sole started falling off. And even then she wondered if she could get them repaired! In the end, not being able to fit them in her suitcase was the deciding factor. They went into the garbage and she went home with a new pair of boots.

new boots
Gorgeous, expensive boots. But I approve because I don’t think being frugal is about being cheap. I think it is better, when possible, to spend the cash on something that is well made and that you love rather than a series of cheap things that you’ll toss out at the end of the season. And I have no doubt that my friend will love these boots for years; that she’ll have them re-soled and repaired and in 10 or 12 years time I’ll be able to take a picture of this pair, falling off her feet.

wants versus needs: the gift giving edition


The Bank of Montreal’s 2012 Holiday Spending Outlook finds that survey respondents plan to spend an average of $1,610 this holiday season, up from $1,397 in 2011. Shoppers surveyed say they plan to shell out an average of $674 for gifts this year, compared to an average of $583 last year. The top reasons for spending more are having more people to shop for and being better off financially.

Further to the SPUG post… the top reason for spending more this holiday season is having more people to buy for. But do you need to buy for all those people?!? Can we just sit down and have a sensible conversation where no one’s feelings are hurt? Do we really need to do Secret Santa exchanges at work? Do we need to send gifts to every relative, no matter how distant? Do we need to buy something for every child in our lives? For all of our friends? No, we don’t need to and quite frankly, half the time we don’t even want to.

But there are expectations… Many years ago my now ex-sister-in-law sent me a two page letter berating me for not buying my infant nephew a Christmas present. I had just lost my job but that was no excuse. Any gift would have been better than none, no matter how cheap or crappy. He was 6 months old but she assured me that my transgression would “go down in his book of life.” Uh…. only if you tell him, ’cause he’s, like, a baby and doesn’t even know who I am yet. I hate the pressure to buy something! Anything!

The amount of money spent on Christmas isn’t the part that makes me want to run away to a desert island, it’s the waste. People have so much stuff already. And every birthday, every Christmas, every Hanukkah….. more stuff piles up. No wonder we have t.v. shows about hoarders.

Can we let go of this? Just a little bit? Ease up on the expectations, say no to novelty mugs, have a good time and just enjoy each other’s company?

And just so I don’t sound like a total Scrooge, I truly appreciate the thought that goes into every gift I receive. Since the only people I exchange gifts with are those who know me well, it is always something relevant or useful. Like the food hamper from my mom last year (best gift ever!). Or books. Or handmade gifts like jam and knitting. Or booze. :]  But if any of my friends or family want to stop, just say the word. I won’t take it as a sign that you don’t love me anymore.

be a spug

Copyright New York Times

Copyright New York Times

From the New York Times archives (via Treehugger)…

SPUGS RENEW WAR ON CHRISTMAS GRAFT: Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving Issues Its Second Call to Arms. ANY ONE MAY JOIN CRUSADE Mrs. Belmont and Miss Anne Morgan Plan a Big Rally in Metropolitan Life Building.

The Spugs are on the warpath again. This society, formed as a vigorous protest against the growing custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas without sentiment, the custom of making Christmas gifts for the sake of expediency, or under any other form of compulsion, was organized last year, and carried on an effective and spectacular campaign in the closing weeks of the Christmas shopping season. Read more.