Frugality easier than you think

By Karl Terry: Freedom New Mexico columnist

Tough economic times require tough action.

A check of the daily headlines or your 401K statement will tell the time for that action is now.

Sales are down in lots of businesses, wage freezes or layoffs are occurring and the job market is tight.

One of the best ways to overcome those problems is by becoming more frugal — thinking outside the box where personal finances are concerned — something at which I’m an expert.

While some are advising we shouldn’t be ruled by fear and spending should continue, I know from personal experience if the money’s not coming in it’s a bad idea to keep spending it like it was.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a few suggestions for weathering a down economy.

• I’ve regularly begun checking the coin return of every vending machine I pass. Most vending machines only work about 65 percent of the time, if the thing spits out the change but not the soft drink or candy bar people are so frustrated they often forget to pick up their change. If the crisis continues I may come up with a regular route.

• Eat more beans. For a few bucks you can buy a pound of beans, which will supply dinner for most of the week. Cornbread mix is cheap too and beans and cornbread are great eating. Purchase tortillas to wrap the beans in and you have lunch taken care of. The gas created by eating beans two times a day will keep your mate from hanging around in close proximity and nagging you for more grocery money.

• If beans disrupt your digestion too much there’s always the old college student standard of Ramen noodles. For 19 cents you’ve got a nice hot bowl of noodle soup. My favorite way to dress it up if I’m making dinner out of it is to add a cup of frozen peas.

• Need new wardrobe items? Stake out a laundromat and wait for a person your size to leave their laundry unattended in a dryer. During warmer weather, since folks will be trying to save money on drying their clothes, just cruise the alley until you find something hanging on a clothesline in the right style and size.

• Encourage the kids to do their important toilet business at school. It’ll save on water and toilet tissue and, well, there’s the matter of those beans, which makes this step pretty important.

• Rustling a milk cow from a local dairy to stake out in the back yard could be a bad move, unless of course you’ve already got a felony record, say from stealing clothes.

• You can keep chickens in a garage. All you need to do is keep the windows to the car down and spread a little nesting straw on the back seat. A hot plate at work and you can enjoy scrambled eggs at your desk. If you forget to chase the chickens out of the car and park in the hot sun in the summer you can even enjoy a solar broiled chicken that evening.

• Still want to eat out? Consider dying your hair gray and making a fake ID that will get you senior discounts.

• You could swipe the coupons out of your neighbor’s Sunday paper, except in a down economy he’s probably already let his subscription slip.

• For health care, try to strike up a close relationship with the best veterinarian you know. After all, except for those extra three stomachs, a cow’s anatomy isn’t all that different from ours. Besides vets are given a lot more latitude to experiment and they know all the best ways to cut corners.

I’m shocked at how criminal some of these suggestions turned out. Lodging at the local jail in a bad economy probably wouldn’t be all that bad if things get any tougher though.

Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: karlterry@yucca.net