Thrifty After Fifty

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By Rachel Brown, next avenue

With inflation particularly high in recent months, we’ve all felt the pinch a little more than usual. But look back in time and you’ll see that staples of life have become more expensive throughout history. It is a trend that is unlikely to end in our era, and a phenomenon that is more keenly felt by those living on fixed income or retirement nest eggs.

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Cutting down on discretionary expenses like shopping, travel, dining and entertainment will certainly save you money, but there is something else you can do to save a little money and still enjoy the good things in life from time to time: Be frugal.

Thrift is not an ugly word

If you think being frugal is the opposite of fun, you’re not alone, according to Christine Whelan, a professor of consumer science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“When you say ‘affordable,’ people immediately think of thrift stores,” she said, “and after that, it’s old or broken things, or maybe clingy people. But it’s hoarding or just buying cheap. It’s not about things. It’s about being aware of how you spend your resources and whether it’s in keeping with your values.”

In a course titled “Consuming Happiness”, Whelan told his students, “It’s not something you do”. passed To do this because you are on a fixed income or limited budget. When we think of it in terms of spending in line with our values, it becomes a choice for us. Received Every time we think of buying something.”

get creative with thrift

Nancy McPherson, a 57-year-old business process analyst in Burnsville, Minnesota, articulates Whelan’s concept of aligning personal values ​​with spending. “It’s such a thrown-out society these days,” she said in an interview, “but the way I look at stuff, anytime I need something, I’m definitely going to find out what I can use it or find it for free.”

McPherson, who is also an artist, applies this policy to buying household items and making home repairs, but also to gift-giving. “I can’t even imagine the last time I bought someone to make a gift versus it,” she said.

Her recipients can expect hand-painted cards, homemade and canned jams and jellies, or, if they’re really lucky, one of his handmade cribbage boards. McPherson estimates that she saves thousands of dollars each year by making her own gifts.

Build a DIY Collective

On a 17-acre farm in Wright, Minnesota, a few hours’ drive north of Burnsville, Sophia Campbell is the picture of thrift and self-sufficiency. When the 51-year-old IT manager and her husband bought the farm a few years ago, they were hoping to renovate the property’s 130-year-old farmhouse, but did not get a permit to do so.

Faced with the daunting task of tearing down the old house and building a new one, he slyly hired a contractor to meet the code requirements, but did almost all the finishing work himself. Well, those and a small army of friends and family.

“I have 37 cousins ​​on my mom’s side in my family,” Campbell said, “and many of them are skilled, so we get family discounts on a lot of things.” But Campbell and her husband also enlisted the help of their unskilled friends.

“A lot of our friends are out of town people who don’t know much about doing this kind of work, but they are all generous with their time and energy,” she said. “They really just need direction. You don’t need a high level of skill, you just need a willingness to learn and learn.” get it done,

be a keen learner

It highlights some frugal points. First, if you don’t find yourself easy, be eager to learn and be ready to test your limits. The best way to learn a new skill is to do it with a skilled person, but a close second is following up with a YouTube video. However, searching for a specific job or project you’re doing can yield thousands of hits, so make sure you see an experienced, licensed professional.

Second, for the things you can’t do yourself, hit up your social networks before calling in a professional. Turning your social contacts into a DIY alliance is one of the most impressive things you can do.

Know when to call a professional

“It’s shocking how slow work becomes when you stop paying professionals to do it!” Campbell chuckled. And, as we all know, time is no small consideration.

McPherson recently needed a new roof on his home, but “I didn’t because the code required it, and over time I would have to be out of work, it was better to have it done,” said a professional. ceiling. “If my shed needed a new roof, I would never have rented it!” He quickly added.

In addition to the time involved, do-it-yourselfers need to consider potential disasters – financial and physical. For example, Campbell’s husband experienced a potentially serious fall while working on the roof of their new home. Fortunately, he was tied to a safety harness and unwell, but the incident prompted him to pay a pro to finish the job.

accept your limits

To get a sense of other things average individuals shouldn’t deal with on their own, we asked Jesse Elsser, longtime DIY expert and co-creator of the Fix It Home Improvement podcast and YouTube channel.

“A surprising number of people lose their fingers and every year some die trying to replace the springs on their garage doors,” he said, highlighting the fact that just because something seems simple, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not that it is. He also urged extreme caution when doing anything involving plumbing, electrical or gas lines.

With those types of projects, he said, “if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, it can be really dangerous or when things go wrong it costs you more and you have to fix it.” Someone has to be called for that.”

His biggest advice? “Take the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions and code requirements. I’ve learned a lot from reading the instructions!”

Get the best return for your time

While most of us won’t tackle large projects of that type, Elsesser said there are many things we can all do to save money now and in the future. DIY televisions love to showcase big renovations, but doing basic, even boring tasks can save you thousands of dollars each year.

Many of Elsesser’s videos cover routine maintenance of appliances, furnaces, lawn tools and water heaters. While the cost of hiring a pro varies widely with location, they estimate that you can easily save 50%—and often a lot—by doing these things yourself. Plus, doing routine maintenance now can delay the huge cost of replacing an item for years or even decades.

Saving 50% on maintenance and low-skill repairs is great, but you can save even more by just cooking for yourself more often. In a 2017 Forbes study, analysts estimated that buying prepared (frozen) meals at the grocery store or using a mail-order meal prep kit would cost you half as much to get the same meal.

add small savings

Cooking from scratch increases your savings by almost 80 percent. But I can tell you from experience that if you plant a garden and grow some of your own food, you can make a lot of food that costs just a penny.

Whelan also suggests reviewing and canceling unused subscriptions. It takes little to do with a critical eye toward automated, recurring purchases from magazines, newspapers, music or video streaming services and online retailers, yet you can save hundreds of dollars a year.

There are many ways to be frugal, and we are often able to do much more than we think. It really just comes down to four things: Think about your values ​​before you spend; Be prepared to dive in and work; Be brave enough to challenge your perceived limits; And when your experience, skills, or time don’t allow you to do it yourself, be smart enough to call in for help or hire a professional.

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