Within every culture, you have subcultures, and the subculture of frugality is pervasive within the homeschooling community. This means that although I’m not the most parsimonious person I know, I’m very cheap. And big words make it sound much more attractive.
There are a multitude of reasons why homeschoolers tend to live this way. Many families are single income. We have to make half the money go just as far – sometimes farther, because unlike the .94 national average, we tend to have more children.
There are also philosophical reasons behind all the scrimping: homeschooling families tend toward the old-fashioned way of things. Even if there are easier ways, you learn so much more from doing it the harder way. Finally, we tend to be of the crunchy-granola variety, terribly concerned about chemicals and natural health and ground water and such.
This is why it’s not unusual to find those who mill their own wheat, raise goats for milk and cheese, raise chickens for fresh eggs, garden voraciously, can tomatoes, and reuse aluminum foil many, many times.
I do most of those things. My husband drew the line at goats. Not even “they’ll cut the grass for us” could convince him. He’s been a patient man. I can’t complain.
I’ve been living this way for quite some time, but I must say, it’s getting crowded here in frugal land. Until this recession hit, frugality was not popular. We were oddballs. Now, every magazine I see is singing the praises of this lifestyle.
“Save $1200 With These Simple Changes!” “How To Stretch A Dollar,” and “Couponing Made Simple.” At first, I was thrilled to see these headlines. Thinking I could learn something new, I’d flip to the article straight away.
No such luck. Every article, every time, I’ve been doing those things for years. Not only was I bummed about not learning something new, but also that I wasn’t the one who wrote the article.
It didn’t occur to me until recently that my husband and I have been living almost freegan for some time now. Gleaning furniture and housewares from curbside, our house is, to say it kindly, eclectic. I rarely buy things new. If I can’t get it free, I look at Goodwill or yard sales (or my sister or Freecycle.org). Only a failed search there will land me in a retail store. I’m rarely in retail stores. Even our perfectly awesome flat screen HDTV was a dumpster save.
When it’s free, the picture is even clearer. Trust me.
I can stretch a nickel in alarming ways. Most people think they are being frugal when they strip a chicken carcass and make a second meal. I take it a step further by freezing the bones and making my own broth. I haven’t bought chicken broth in forever.
This year I tried my hand at canning. I mean that quite literally as I boiled my fingers quite often, and was reduced to tears on more than one canning day. It was hard, hot, exhausting work. But the first time we opened a jar of salsa made from our very own tomatoes and jalapenos, it was worth every tear. I’ll never go back.
I guess there’s a romantic notion behind doing things the way your grandmother did them, or even your great-grandmother. My frugality not only stretches every dollar, it’s a connection to the past. And when something takes you ten times longer to make than it is to buy, there’s a sense of accomplishment that can’t be beat.
But don’t expect to see me beating my laundry on a rock any time soon. I can only take this lifestyle so far.