Experiments in Frugality

Josh gives guitar lessons to earn extra money. I, on the other hand, can find no market for my area of expertise, which is dilettantism. Curiously, very few people are interested in taking lessons on how to be marginally competent in a wide array of skills and hobbies. 🙂 My one viable option, teaching LSAT test prep, requires more time than I care to invest (at least teaching for Kaplan did, so that’s out).

So, in lieu of earning extra money for the family, I help things along by being frugal. I’ve been reading The Tightwad Gazette that I checked out of the library, and have enjoyed finding out that I’m already quite frugal (thank you Scottish ancestry!) but I’ve also learned some very useful tips. For example, I already sprinkle the dishes with baking soda rather than filling the second cup of the dishwasher with detergent (this also gets your dishwasher very clean inside), but I learned from the book that you only need ONE TABLESPOON of detergent to wash a load of dishes. I did not believe this, but when I looked on the back of our detergent box (which I frugally bought bulk at Costco) sure enough the directions read “Fill both detergent cups, or use one tablespoon.” I tried this out, and one tablespoon of soap does clean just as well as filling the cups (which is about 8 tablespoons).

I would highly recommend The Complete Tightwad Gazette – it’s written in a very entertaining article style, and although I find some of the suggestions to be pretty ghetto, there are great ideas too, and a lot of complex analysis of whether or not things we think of as frugal really are. One thing I like is that the author emphasizes that frugal means different things to different people in different situations, but at root it’s about making conscious choices about how to spend your time and money so that you spend time and money on your top goals, not just wasting it on endless reams of stuff that you don’t really care about.

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