Sarah, my 3 year old:
“Mama, Silas has a nail in his foot!!!”
Silas (5) to me: “You know, a nail. Like a finger nail.”
Sarah: “WE HAVE TO GET IT OUT!!!”
Let’s lighten up! Tell me your kids’ funniest funnies!
If you’ve ever been to my house, I’m sure you’re laughing by now. I really should have enlisted the services of a guest blogger for this one. Or I could just say, “Watch Design on a Dime.” I’m about as qualified to write a post with “decorating” in the title as I am to write a post with the words “fitness,” “organization,” “spotless home,” or “gourmet cooking” in the title. In other words, not.
But I’ll give it a shot and show you some pictures of Silas’s room from our last house. (Here in the new house I haven’t really figured it out yet.) I ended up being pretty pleased with how it turned out, all things considered, and it was frugal.
He loves to sleep with his army sleeping bag, which is just fine, but it didn’t look very inviting, or very neat. I’ve been wanting to buy him a spread, but for now I simply asked, “What Do I Have in My Hand?” I dug around in the cedar chest, looking for something, anything, to put on his bed, and found this pretty afghan that Billy’s great-aunt made us when we got married. I had forgotten all about it. It was just right. No money spent.
The bed itself came from a garage sale. I am not sure; it might have even been free.
The big middle picture is a signed pen and ink print that we got at a garage sale. I got the other pictures from an outdated calendar I bummed off my brothers, and framed them in frames people had given us. Total cost for this little arrangement: $1.
These beautiful signed lab prints belong to Billy. I believe he got both of them as gifts. They went perfectly on the big wall opposite the bed.
This kid-sized gun rack came from a garage sale, too. I think Billy got it for $2 or $3.
The thing about “What do I have in my hand?” decorating is that you can’t be too much of a perfectionist. I think it boils down to contentment. Silas’ room does not look like a designer room, although if I had the time and went to the effort I could do that for a reasonable cost as well. But I’m happy with it the way it is. He is too, and that’s what matters. Thrifty decorating also means patience. Most of the time, if you want to save, you don’t just go out and buy the whole ensemble at once. You have to wait for those good deals to come along. But I don’t mind. I guess I’m strange, but it brings me a great deal of satisfaction to have made my little guy a cozy space so frugally.
Many years ago I received a (now defunct) magazine for Christian women in which the female editor frequently encouraged us ladies to ask ourselves, “What do I have in my hand?” The idea was to be creative with what we had rather than feeling that we had to buy something new, or even new supplies to make something. While the magazine went down a sad road and eventually disappeared (as far as I know), the question stayed with me. I still often ask myself, “What do I have in my hand?”
Honestly, I don’t get out much. It’s not that I can’t; it’s just more practical not to. I don’t know when I’d have the time to get out more. And I love staying home. Going out with four small children is hard, and in this day and time, especially in an urban setting, a little dangerous. Also, it’s cheaper. So I’m home a lot. Consequently, I frequently find that I won’t be going to the store for a few more days, but I have a need or want at the moment. Maybe it’s a meal; maybe it’s a craft I want to make. Maybe I need a gift for someone, or a costume for my kids. Asking, “What do I have in my hand?” has saved me money—probably a lot of money.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t a very creative person, but I find that the more I have to be, the more I am. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know. I also get wonderful, inspiring ideas from other bloggers. They have no idea.
Last year (or maybe longer ago than that…) a group of people around the nation learned to ask this question in a greater way than ever before. They joined a movement called Compact, committing to buy nothing new for one year, except for what they needed to live, like food. As I understand it, it wasn’t against the rules to shop for something you need, like a coat from Goodwill, the goal was just not to buy anything new. Each had different reasons–paying off student loans, for example.
Imagine the money you would save if you didn’t buy anything new for one year. While I don’t see my family going to that extreme any time soon, I admire Compact members and their example inspires me to waste less and ask, “What do I have in my hand?” In this way, I can help my family and steward well God’s gifts to me.
Clothing is one area that can be very expensive, but it’s also one of the easiest places to cut costs. Unless you have special clothing needs (like special dress clothes or work attire, or odd sizes), with careful planning, I believe that anyone should be able to outfit the troops for a fraction of what you’d normally pay. And I don’t mean that they should look like they came out of the rag bag!
Here are a few tips for saving money on clothing.
I learned this lesson one day when I almost absently breathed a sentence prayer, “God, Elizabeth sure needs some new shirts.” Actually I planned to go buy her some…But by the end of the day, someone had given us a big bag of clothes that included a bunch of shirts in Elizabeth’s size. Now when we have a clothing need I pray first!
Another time, when Elizabeth was a baby, we were on a trip to visit family and she had outgrown all but two of her outfits. I mentioned to Billy that we needed to stop and pick up some clothes before we arrived at our destination. As we got closer to our planned stop, he said, “I just don’t have a peace about doing that.” I kind of inwardly rolled my eyes and thought, so what do you expect this child to wear? Well, when we got to my mom’s house—you guessed it—there was a big box of baby clothes from an old family friend. I guess God showed me!
Always Accept Hand-me-downs
Don’t be too proud to accept hand-me-downs. People ask me frequently, “Would you be offended if I offered you some hand-me-downs?” This question always amazes me. I always say, “No way! We love hand-me-downs at our house!”
Of course, you have to have at least a few friends and acquaintances in order for people to offer you clothing. This is one of the very practical reasons it’s beautiful to be part of a community of faith. God uses us to meet each others’ practical needs. And honestly, the hand-me-down clothes I’ve gotten are usually way nicer than what I’d be able to afford if I were buying clothes from the store.
Some people say it’s not worth the hassle to save clothing, but for us it’s been a lifesaver. Also, if I end up with a surplus or something that doesn’t work for us, it gives me opportunity to pass clothes on to someone else who can use them.
Shop Thrift and Consignment
You have to pick through things at thrift stores, and some stores are better than others, but you can find amazing deals there. Just be choosy. You can find up-to-date styles, brand names, and even clothes with tags still on. One of my brothers got an expensive navy blazer to wear to my wedding at Goodwill for 99 cents. I hear that you can really find good stuff if you shop thrift and consignment shops near upscale neighborhoods in some parts of the country. I don’t thrift as much as I should, but it’s something I may do in the future.
Learn to Sew
Anyone can learn to sew simple clothing. Especially if you buy fabric on sale, you can make garments at very low cost. Wal-Mart usually has a dollar-a-yard table with pretty cotton prints. If you bought a couple yards and made a knee length cotton skirt (so nice and cool for summer), you’d have it for less than $3.
Shop Clearance Racks
Learn to shop off-season. Summer clothes are on final clearance right now! Wait till they hit rock bottom prices and then buy pieces for next spring and summer. Same goes for winter clothes. It’s usually not too hard to guess what size a child will be the next year, so sometimes you can do this for kids too. I’ve worn name brand clothes that I got for $2 or $3 for many years.
Stick to a Classic Look
It gets expensive to buy trendy clothes only to have them looking dated by the next season. Make classic pieces the foundation of your wardrobe, and then add inexpensive trendy accessories if that’s the look you like. That way you aren’t out much on transient styles. Buy classic shoes in neutral shades that will go with everything. Now I am hardly the one to be handing out fashion advice, but the principles work if you know what you like.
Be happy when someone gives you clothes, even if they are not the exact styles you might have chosen. Don’t fall prey to the “must-have” mentality. Keep your wardrobe simple and let go of the clothing habit, if you have one. A small wardrobe is much easier to maintain anyway, especially for children.
For the rest of the frugal series, check out the Frugality category!
Like many of you my home and community were in the path of Hurricane Gustav. I probably won’t be able to post for 4-6 weeks. Reviving Motherhood will be up and running again as soon as we’ve sufficiently recovered from hurricane damage. Fortunately we are all fine and God has been very good, but life won’t be back to normal for awhile. Hug your babies!