Friday, July 30, 2010

Weekend Reading: Thrifty, Living the Frugal Life with Style

Thrifty: Living the Frugal Life with Style.
By Marjorie Harris.
House of Anasasi Press, 2010.

I don't know what it was about this book, maybe I just couldn't get over the cover, but I really felt like I was reading my mom's guide to frugality. Sure, older people have a lot to teach me about ways to save money, but I also couldn't really connect with a lot of the advice in this book. It may speak to me in twenty or thirty years, but right now, not so much.

Case in point, Marjorie begins with telling us that she hired a friend of hers to come over and organize her house. Well, that seems very extravagant to me, and though she said having a better organized house will save money and time in the future, I'm just not sold. She mentions estate sales and auctions, which is somewhat frugal and green, but also can be very pricey. This is frugality for people who have already lived a frugal live and have a little money, not for those of us up to our eyes in student loan debt and working part-time.

Actually, a lot of the book is just her talking about how great her friends are. I'm certainly glad she likes them, but, again, it didn't do much for me.

Best Takeaways:

Cheap but decent wine list.
Marjorie has a friend who is a wine author who made a list of good wines for less than $20. As I know very little about wine (usually preferring the boxed variety, but I can't really serve that to guests or bring it to dinner parties), it's nice to have a list of good brands that don't break the bank.

Ask for an appliance demonstration before buying.
Granted, I've never bought an appliance, so maybe this is standard, but it's definitely good advice. If you bring home a dishwasher that you paid good money for and you hate the way it sounds or it's way too loud, there's not much you can do.

Run the dishwasher and other appliances at night when electricity is cheaper.
Ok, is this actually true? This sounds like something that people who used to have to pay for minutes on a landline phone would say. I realize that there's less stress on the energy grid overnight, but does that really effect price? Someone get back to me on this.

Overall Opinion:

This is not the book for me. However, I like very much that she draws the distinction between thrifty and cheap, "Being thrifty requires a brain, being cheap doesn't. Being thrifty means figuring out how things work and making them work more efficiently. Being thrifty means being self-aware." (4)


  1. This is the best I could find about using appliances at night, and yes, it seems to come down to less use of the energy grid at peak times:

    "in effect, it takes two power stations simply to cope with the surge at peak times, such as 6pm - when people come home from work, turn on the television and oven and put on a load of washing."

  2. Oh, and this, about "demand charges":

    The power company may charge you more for using energy at peak times, depending on your state and your power company.
    The problem with electricity is that it can't be saved up, really--it has to be used as it's generated.

    And I just remembered one more thing! Our library has a device you can check out called a Kill A Watt (electricty usage monitor) where you plug the Kill A Watt into the wall and then plug your appliance into the Kill A Watt, and it measures how much energy the appliance is using.

  3. Fascinating... I've always wanted to be able to track that to get a better handle on how it all works. I tried to understand the cost breakdown on my company's website, but it made no sense, and then I felt dumb. I'm going to see if I can find one of those (Kil A Watt) around here... have you tried it?

  4. No, not yet. It was on hold for the longest time and I forgot about it, but now that I've remembered, I might try it. I don't know how much it can really tell me or help me, though, because, I mean, I use what I use. I know you're supposed to not only turn off but also unplug appliances when you're not using them, but I'm just not going to do that. If I unplugged my TV every time (or put it on a switched power strip and turned it off that way), it would reset itself every time I turned it back on, and the DVD player would not remember where I was in the middle of the movie I was watching. I would shortly be driven bonkers by that. I suppose I could unplug the toaster.

    There is another device for checkout at the library that looks like a glue gun (and is very stinky, incidentally, like some sort of petroleum smell, but I think that's just how it's made) and you point it at something and click the trigger, and a laser beam measures the heat coming off of things/through things. I think it's meant to measure through walls for electrical hotspots and places where insulation is lacking and things like that. That seems more potentially useful, again assuming you have the wherewithall to do something about it. It's fun at least.