The Other “F” Word

2 May

I collect refrigerator magnets. I’ve never stopped to count how many there are but I’ve got quite a few. My favorites are the ones you get in trendy gift shops that have a vintage picture of a woman with a witty saying. For instance, I have one very large one with a picture of a woman leaning on a pillow. The saying? “I dreamed my whole house was clean.” I also have one with a pensive woman. Her caption reads, “She thought she might enjoy being mature.”

My favorites, though, go hand in hand. One, of a woman embracing a man states, “Darling, let’s get deeply into debt!” Its mate shows a picture of a beautiful woman with bleached blonde hair and deep red lips. She’s saying, “Frugal is such an ugly word.”

I firmly believe that frugal is an ugly word, but as we are deeply in debt, I’ve resolved that I shall attempt to become frugal.

My grandmother was very good at being cheap—I mean, frugal. I remember she had a wire basket with a long handle in her kitchen. You know those little hunks of soap that are too little to effectively wash your hands with but too big to throw away guilt-free? My grandmother collected them, put them in the wire basket then, when she needed soap for doing dishes, she would swish the basket around in the hot water.

I’m pretty sure they don’t make the soap my grandmother used anymore. Until my own family entered the frugal zone, I bought really nice soap. One particular favorite is French-milled and smells like gardenias. I’m not really sure what French-milled means, but it makes the soap nice and hard, but not too hard. Unfortunately, my favorite gardenia soap costs $5 for a bar. Now, it’s a big bar, but one can purchase a crate of Ivory soap for $3.99 at Target so I switched to Ivory. My husband liked that it’s cheap—I mean inexpensive. My daughter liked that it floats. I remember liking that when I was her age. I don’t remember the soap costing more than $100 to use, though. Here’s the problem with Ivory: it’s soft. It’s soft and gushy and all that soft, soapy gushiness combined with my daughter’s long, long hair creates a drain clog that requires a plumber to remove. Our foray into cheap soap cost us $65 per hour to remove. That gardenia-scented soap is smelling better and better these days.

I’ve tried to save money on clothes and shoes. Back when I was young and trendy, I had more than twenty pairs of black shoes. “How can one person need twenty pairs of black shoes,” my husband asked? I was astounded that he could question owning so few black shoes. I tried to explain to my husband the difference between sandals, pumps, sling backs, oxfords, loafers and ballet flats. All he retained is that the ones he thinks are hot are called “pumps.”

I used to spend a LOT of money on shoes. One pair was made entirely of leather, from the buttery smooth uppers to the little stacked heels. They were sleek, almost austere and I wore them with everything from pants to skirts. They were $200. I wear them still. Last year, I bought a pair of tan Mary Jane pumps at Target. They cost $19. Within half an hour of putting them on, my feet are screaming in agony. I remind myself of this every time I am drawn into the shoe section at Target. For me at least, there is no cheap and chic when it comes to shoes.

I can’t save money on my daughter’s shoes, either. She has long, narrow feet that can only be shod by the local outrageously expensive children’s shop or Nordstrom. My son, however, wears the same pair of shoes every day. While I admire his cheapness—I mean, frugality—I am sure we will have a doctor visit for some disgusting fungal growth in the near future.

Since our grocery expense is rather large, I thought I’d cut costs there. I bought the huge store-brand of frosted flakes. It came in a floppy bag with “Cheap Frosted Flakes” plastered all over it in big, bold letters. I needed a proper disguise. I bought a really cool plastic, reusable cereal container. My mother would have called it “Tupperware,” but a genuine Tupperware cereal container costs $20. I think I paid $5 for mine and felt guilty about it. I put the $1.99 worth of cereal in the $5 cereal-serving container. The next day, my son poured a huge bowl of flakes, added three pints of milk and took a bite. He immediately ran to the sink, spitting the flakes out as if they were coated with arsenic. “These aren’t Kellogg’s!  These suck!!” His sister heard his pronouncement; hence she wouldn’t eat the offending flakes either. So, I tasted the flakes. They suck.

I moved on to makeup, another considerable expense. Foundation, in particular, is something I am very particular about. I routinely bought $45 foundation, made specifically for me by Prescriptives. Apparently, I didn’t buy enough of it. Prescriptives went out of business. There being three aisles of makeup at Target, I selected a promising shade. It cost $15. I put it on. Though a lovely shade of rose in the bottle, it turned instantly orange on my skin. I tried another brand for $12. It turned orange. Another brand. Another $15. It turned orange. Forty-two dollars later, I still need a foundation that doesn’t turn orange.

My husband would say that one of our biggest problems is the fact that our regular grocery store is Target, coupled with the fact that I like nothing better than going to Target and pushing a cart around for an hour or two. I’m better about non-grocery items landing in the cart, but the kids aren’t. Some surprise treat always makes its way onto the belt. And, while I bring a list, I always find something we need that isn’t on it. At the check out counter, the children have fun guessing if the total will go over $200. I’m pleased to say it frequently doesn’t. Still, one of my son’s favorite jokes is that Dad goes to Target to get milk and comes out with milk. Period. Mom goes to Target for milk and comes home with milk and a flat screen TV. What? You mean you don’t? What are you, cheap—I mean, frugal?

© 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

6 Responses to “The Other “F” Word”

  1. Bobbi Meier May 2, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I pile slivers of bar soap onto a new bar, but I like Grandma’s idea better!

  2. Ib May 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I laughed out loud, especially at the flakes. You are awesome.

  3. Elaine May 4, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    I had a dangerous trip to the Red Dot Boutique last week. If you ask me now, I might remember just two or three of the 9,000 things that somehow ended up in my cart! Have you tried Meijer Grocery Express? For $7 they do your shopping for you and even load it into your car…and won’t accept a tip! It completely eliminates the impulse buys. Even with the $7 fee, I save more because my little darlings aren’t chucking stuff they “really REALLY need” into the cart!

    • jmlindy422 May 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

      I used to do Pea Pod. That got rid of a lot of cart clutter. The biggest trap is taking those kids with you!

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