Frugal Encouragement


If you’re trying to live a frugal lifestyle, it helps to have frugal friends who share your goals and values. Adults are not immune to peer pressure. Friends who go out to eat often (and worse, invite you along Dutch Treat and are surprised when you never come) can make you feel a bit grubby and mean about your lifestyle- or worse, can influence you to break your frugal goals. We’ve certainly found ourselves at a restaurant, dismayed with ourselves and mentally figuring out what we were going to have to cut from our budget to pay for this just because friends had pushed us to join them often and hard enough that we finally caved in to peer pressure.

People can be, well, less than supportive at times, can’t they? This can range from those friendly urgings to spend money you really shouldn’t be spending on stuff you really do not need to buy, to outright criticism. In one place we lived we kept a ‘compost bucket’ under the kitchen sink. Whenever we had compostable scraps we put them in the bucket, and when it was full we took it out to our compost pile to dump it. At one informal gathering of gals from church one of the young wives started complaining about how overboard her mother-in-law went on frugality, and she ended with something like, “I mean, I can see the point of saving money, but when it comes to keeping your food trash in a bucket in your kitchen, that’s just gross.” I blinked a bit- she’d been at my house more than a few times, and pointed out, “We do that, it’s for compost.” She wrinkled her delicate little nose and said pointedly, “Yes. I know.”

Oh.  So it wasn’t a faux pas. It was a deliberate rebuke.

There was a time when her criticism would have embarrassed me and made me ashamed, but happily for me, at this point in my life I was old enough and she was young enough that the only embarrassment I felt was for her own rudeness, and I must admit, I felt more irritation with than embarrassment for her. I have to wonder how negatively she might have influenced anybody else in that room listening to her act as though keeping a compost bucket was akin to letting pet mice romp on the kitchen counters, and spitting on the griddle to see if it was hot enough.

If you need some frugal encouragement, here are some links that might help (you’ll find good tips there, too):


You could try to take your real life friendships to a more mutually encouraging level.  Here are a couple of ideas for how this could work:

1. When you find a post on frugality or with a good frugal recipe or a fun activity that you think your unfrugal friends would enjoy, share it with them- either print it out, or email it to them.  Be careful with this- the idea is NOT to preach- just to share a post you genuinely think they will enjoy on its own merits that also happens to be frugal.

2. Cook one of the meals you find from one of these frugal sources and invite your friends over for dinner.

3. If they are real friends, they just want to spend time with you.  Find frugal activities that your friends will enjoy and be proactive about substituting them for the unfrugal activities they keep inviting you to do.  If they ask you out a lot, invite them to  brown bag -it with you for a picnic lunch at the park or your own backyard.  Or have them over for a baked potato bar or a a soup and salad bar (you make a frugal soup and home-made bread, offer a basic lettuce salad, and invite friends to bring other salad components or soup toppings).  If they invite you to a gym that isn’t in your budget, invite them to go walking with you once a week or a couple of times a month.  If they invite you to go shopping with them, ask them if you can have them over for tea when they are done shopping instead, or say you’ll come if they will go to your favorite store- and take them to  a thrift shop or consignment store.

4.  Be honest with them.  If you have a particular bill you’re trying to pay off- a student loan, a car payment, explain to them that you’ve decided you really need to pay down this particular bill as fast as possible and the best way to do this is to avoid hanging at the mall, going out to eat, ski trips, or whatever outside-your-current-budget idea that your friends long for you to do with them. Don’t be a Debbie-Downer, just laugh and say, “You know what guys, that sounds like fun, you go and have a blast and I’ll be with you in spirit.  But for us,  right now, I really want to push hard and save everything I can to pay off our car so we’re not giving extra money in interest payments to the bank instead of using it for treats for us.  I’m in for stuff that doesn’t cost money for a while.”  And then try and come up with a couple of things that do not cost money, or help you meet your goals frugally- game night at your house, go garage saling together looking for clothes for the kids,  invite a neighbor to go walk with you every morning, volunteer to clean the clothing room at a local pregnancy center and ask if a friend or two want to do that with you, invite a couple families to join you for a park day.

5. Don’t be preachy, boring, or moralizing- be the sort of friends you want to have- don’t guilt trip your friends, don’t be the kind of friend who only talks about one hobby horse, don’t make them feel like you think they are inferior to you because they of how you save money.  That would be as rude and annoying as my young friend of the anti-compost bucket.  Find other subjects to talk about than how you saved money this week if that is not an interesting topic to your friends- presuming these are friends you want to keep- but every once in a while when you do see a great deal on something you know they like, pass it on.

What are some of the ways you maintain friendships with friends who don’t share your frugal goals and inadvertently encourage you to break them?

Where do you find frugal encouragement?

What are some frugal ways you have found to have fun with friends?


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Quick Stress Relievers

I put together this list for somebody else, and then thought I might share it here as well. I am not going to go into all the details of why and how these things work. At the end I include the list in a printable form you could put in your pocket or use as a bookmark.

When stressed, or nearly into panic mode, or needing to fight off that fight or flight reaction (because your response is emotionally from within you, not because you are actually in danger), anxious, etc, try these:

1. Recite the times tables to yourself- start at the sixes if it’s not distracting enough to start at the lower numbers. If you are math whiz, then do something more complicated. It just needs to be complicated enough to require a *bit* of focus, not so hard you need pencil and paper.

2. Go over something you’ve memorized- Bible verses, poems, speeches, dialogue from a play or movie, sports stats, a speech you had to give or have coming up.

3. Sing a song. Singing songs is really a neat way to do all kinds of good things for mind and body. One of them is that singing releases oxytocin (although less so if you are a professional singer).

4. Cold water on your face, or even dunking your head and face in cold water, can do wonders. Gives new meaning to ‘go soak your head,’ right? It’s supposed to be especially beneficial to chill down the eyes and the area around the eyes, so if you can’t soak your head or splash your face with very cold water, try putting a chilled wet washcloth over your eyes, or get a chilled beverage and hold the container against first one closed eye and then the other.

5. Inhale through the nose for a count of 7, hold your breath a few seconds and then slowly exhale through the mouth. You want to be sure you are breathing deeply, through the diaphragm.

6. Exercise- if you can, do a few quick pushups or sit ups or jumping jacks. Jog in place. Run upstairs. Take a very brisk walk around the building. Do some quick stretches.

7. Get a massage. Hug somebody for 30 seconds or more.

8. If you’re an animal person, snuggle with your pet.

9. Gargle. It doesn’t really matter what- gargling your drinking water before swallowing it is fine.

10. Hum- works for some of the same reasons singing does.

11. Find a repetitive somewhat mindless activity you can do- some people use a fidget these days. Crocheting, knot tying, knitting, macrame, drawing, origami, whittling, adult colouring books also work.

12. Laugh

13. Something called Loing Kindness Meditation (LKM)- which to me looks a lot like just spending a few minutes earnestly praying for good things for other people.

14. Cold shower

15. Hold your breath, pinch your nose and try to breathe out, like clearing your ears for a dive if you scuba dive or to help with high pressure. Sit down while doing this because it can make you dizzyy.

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They Have No Rice

Regarding my previous Davao Diary post, I will say, it’s not 100% true that if they say they have no money they have no rice.  Culture is culture, but people are people after all.  
I do see more abject poverty here than I have ever seen in the U.S.  That is not all I see.  There is a thriving middle and upper class.  There are plenty of people who live well. There is just a different quality to the poverty here than in the U.S. The safety net is not the same.  I see more evidence of bad dental care- lots more people missing teeth here, including people in professions where you would not really see that in the state.   And people who seem to be living well, it’s hard to explain. They are, but there is a different set of expectations about what that means.  We ended up with movie tickets we could not use and we gave them to somebody else from church, and later we learned this was the first movie they had seen in ten years.  There is a man who lives at the church building with his school aged daughter because he has no money and his home collapsed in a storm. The home was basically four bamboo walls and a roof. She doesn’t seem to go to school. 
But sometimes there is some exaggeration of conditions.  We were at the beach once and a guy came up with a sad story about having run out of gas in his boat (he was a shell diver- they free-dive and bring up stuff to sell to tourists), and he had no money for gas and could not go home. We only had enough cash with us to pay a cab to take us home, so we really could not help. He started up his motor and left.
On another occasion as I walked down the steps to go to church, there was an adolescent sitting at the bottom steps- before he saw me he just looked like any young teen lolling around of an evening. When he saw me, he slumped, looked pathetic, and held out his hand and said “Money?” in a weak voice. I had none with me- my husband had taken my backpack and gone ahead of me a couple minutes before. I said, “Dili quarta,” which is bascially ‘no money,’ although it may be ungrammatical. I pulled my pockets out to show him, to be sure I was clear.  
In a heartbeat he unslumped, straighted up, grinned cheekily and went back to being an adolescent.
There is a custom here that in the Christmas season, people will come to the door to sing, and you are supposed to pay them something.  Our language teacher told us she saves pesos (about .02 each in USD) and other small coins (centavos which are worth much less, but we haven’t figured them out) all year long for passing out, and early in the Christmas season she will buy large containers of snacks, lollipops, gum, jellies (a tiny individually packed container of something like jello, but it does not need refrigeration, one container is about a spoonful) to pass to the children.  After I told her about the man on the boat who said he had no money for gas, but then he did, she nodded and explained the Christmas practice. The children, she said, may or may not have money, this is part of the custom, so you give a small something because it’s Christmas.  But the mothers, she assured us, “if the mothers come to your door to sing for money, it is because they have no rice.”
The Christmas season here begins in September.
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Recipes for Cooking in the Philippines

Here is a cheesecake you make in the rice-cooker.  I am so excited about this.   It is so funny the things you crave.  I like cheesecake, but it’s not really something I go out of my way to make or to buy back in the states.  I’ll grab a piece at a potluck, but that’s about it.  I *can* get cheesecake here- there are two shops within walking distance (around fifteen minutes if the Cherub isn’t with me, ten if I push it) that carry it.  A slice is about 2 dollars at one of them and 4 at the other.  The 2 dollar slice is twice as big and it is good, but there is something not quite right about the aftertaste.  The four dollar slice is tiny, a sliver.  And it’s perfect.  But to be able to make a whole cheesecake in my rice cooker- well, that would be such a treat, and I could serve it to guests as well.

Tortang Giniling– this is a kind of omelette with cooked potatoes and tomatoes in it.  Potatoes are not as cheap here as in the states, and mostly I see new potatoes (tiny ones), although I hear big ones are at the open market.  However, the little ones are nice for cooking curries- I cut them into quarters and start them cooking and they are done quickly.


Tortang Talong– this is a kind of omelette or fritter made with eggplant. You take chinese eggplant (the long, skinny kind) and char them over the fire. Our helper pulled the grill off the outside grill and just set them over the gas flame on my burners inside.  Peel the blackened skin, then, with the stem still attached, mash them flat with a fork, dip in egg mixtre, fry, spooning more egg over the top, and flip and fry some more.  That’s the most basic version.  Linked is one with some other vegetables and extra meat.


Ampalaya Con Carne– this a simple stir fry with bitter melon and ground pork. I want some more bitter melon in our diet because it’s suppose to help with high blood sugar.


Tinolang manok: Manok is chicken.  This is a soup.  Green papaya is really, really tart.

Tinola chicken mami– also kind of a soup, with noodles, green papaya and malunggay leaves. You could use spinach or bok choy leaves.  Calamansi is a tiny lime, with wonderful flavor. You can use lime juice and if you’ve never been so blessed as to have calamansi, you won’t know the difference.  Miki noodles…. I don’t know.  Fresh noodles, very thin.

It amazes me how much they like their food well heated here. It’s so hot I just want main dish salads but that’s not really a thing.  It’s kind of hot for lettuce, of course.  And most tomatoes in the market are small and green.  They are not unripe, not like a green tomato would be in Indiana. But they don’t have the same deep, zesty flavor as an Indiana tomato, either.

Tofu and green bean stir-fry with salted black beans:  I haven’t had good luck with firm tofu so far. It’s got a sour taste to me.

Ginisang Sardinas with Ampalaya or Sautéed Sardines with Bitter Melon– putting this on the menu for the Cherub and I for lunch.

Piningyahang Manok (chicken with pineapple, recipe calls for canned, I will just use fresh):

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Traveling with Kids: Games to Play

Slightly revised, but older post. I wrote this about 8 years ago.  The 19 year old is married with two kids, and we now have three kids 30 and up.  Wow.

A few days ago our 19 year old came home from work shaking her head.  She’d been listening to the radio, a Christian station, and there was a program on where the radio commentators were asking people to share their tips for enjoying their children while traveling.  One lady called in and said that the best thing her family ever did for a family car trip was buy each child individual handheld computer games and head phones.  “WE didn’t hear a peep out of them for 12 hours,” she said.

Pip, our 19 year old, was flabbergasted.  The radio hosts were a bit surprised as well.  One of them said, “Well, we do have those and my kids play with them some.  But we have found that we get some really good family time in on family vacations if we don’t allow those in the car.”  The lady was oblivious, however, and explained how when she was young, her parents had bought individual walk-mans for every child and they said it was the best thing they had ever done.

That reminded me of an article my mother read in some family magazine extolling the delights, nay, the necessity, of having an in car DVD player for long car trips.  She was so indignant (in a grandmotherly fashion) that she wrote the magazine to tell them that her daughter and son-in-law traveled with seven children all the time and they did not use electronic devices.

It’s nice that Mom is proud of me, but that wasn’t strictly true.  There are the cattle prods…….

I kid, I kid!!  We do listen to CDs (and now an iPod plugged into the radio so we can all hear it), but we do more visiting and playing games- FREE games.

One silly but oddly compelling game Pip told us about from that radio program is called ‘Banana.’  You simply watch for yellow vehicles and try to be the first to see it and say, “Banana!”  Keep track of how many you see first and the one with the most points at the end of the designated time wins.  She, our 14 y.o. and 6 y.o. Blynken have been playing it every Sunday on the way to and from church.  Several times somebody has suggested a different color and fruit to match, but as Pip says, bananas is just funnier, and for some reason it really needs to be a three syllable word.  Kumquat ought to be funny, but it just isn’t in this game, and tangerine or persimmon both have the requisite three syllables, but they aren’t as funny as banana.  We don’t know why, it just is, so we accept it in a totally zen sort of way.  Or as zen as you can be while shouting, “BANANA!”
You can also, should you just have one or two small children, have one of them clap everytime he sees a red car, and the other clap when he sees a white car.

Here are a couple other free car games:

Buzz: Count off, in order, and keep counting (driver says one, passenger says two, backseat dweller says three, etc). Only every time somebody gets to the number seven, a number with seven in it, or a multiple of seven, instead of saying the number, that person claps and says ‘buzz.’ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, buzz, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, buzz, 15, 16, buzz, 18, 19, 20, buzz….
You can change the ‘buzz’ words as needed for your children- do multiples of five, ten, or don’t do multiples at all, or use whatever number they are trying to memorize.

Categories: I name a category (later the children get to choose) and ask each child to name an item in that category- I might say flowers, and then they all have to tell me the name of a flower, or I might choose bugs and they have name different bugs. With older children we go around the car and name them in alphabetical order, trying to get through the alphabet. You can adapt this for a wide age range by allowing the smaller children to skip the alphabetical sequence.

Who Am I?- Choose Bible characters, nursery rhymes, characters from books you read or even, gulp, television shows and movies. You can give three to five clues, as easy or difficult as your audience can handle, and they guess who you are. Example: “I’m a woman in the Old Testament. I was a queen. I wore make-up. I encouraged my husband to take what wasn’t his. Who am I?” (Jezebel)

You can also play this like 20 questions. YOu skip the ‘animal, vegetable, or mineral’ question, of course, and just say, “Okay, I’m ready. Who Am I?” Then they ask questions to help them guess. We usually allow two questions for this one- good or bad? Married or single? Old or New Testament? Male or Female? Human or Animal?

HEY, COW: Only for rural areas.   Each person or team gets a side of the car and when you see cows you roll down the window and scream HEY! COW! as loud as you can. The number of cows that turn to look at you are the number of points you get.

The alphabet game. One person would start with A and have to either name a word or item they see that starts with A and so on. Or you can just look for the actual letter on billboards, licence plates, and road signs as you drive.
License Plate Game:  keep track of licence plates (states) and see how many different states are represented.
car bingo: Buy one or make your own.  Put animals, cars (and colors- red car, yellow motorcycle,etc), trucks, silos, moving truck, railroad, flag,  etc and try to get bingo.

Traffic Light Speed Words: When you are stopped at a red light, say of all the words you can think of that start with the letter A. At the second light, it is all B words.  You could use parts of speech, or require 3 syllable or longer words, or words in a language you are studying, or authors, etc.

Another license plate game: Decide ahead of time that whenever you see a VW, or perhaps a yellow car or a livestock truck- whatever, that you will each try to make up a sentence with the letters and numbers on the plate.

Tell Stories- one person starts, the next person, adds, then ask one of the kids what happens next, and then ask the next kid what happens next, and so on.

The Ministers Cat, an alphabet game. One would start, The ministers cat . . . is an ANGRY cat. The other would reply, The ministers cat . . . is a BEAUTIFUL cat. And so on through the alphabet.

Choose a colour- Find 10 things you can see out the window in that colour. When you get to ten, choose another colour.

Stock up on small, cheap treats- juice boxes, gum, dried fruit, little toys, etc.  Hand them out ever 100 or 200 miles.

Pack jump ropes, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, a frisby, perhaps a ball, bubbles- and stop at city parks for a picnic meal and make the kids (and you) do some running and large muscle playing.

One family I know of recommends looking for a metal cake pan for each child and they can keep their crayons, coloured pencils, small toys, and some magnets inside it on their laps. Keeps things organized.

What about you?  What are some of the ways your family whiles away the time while traveling- or sitting in a waiting room?

For other ideas, see this post and this one on my family’s regular blog

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