Sunday, May 03, 2015

A frugality update

Back in September, I wrote a post about trying to get a handle on our finances.  I made a real effort to curtail our spending, with moderate success.  There was definitely more I could have done, and my resolve crumbled with the holidays, but overall, our savings have grown and we have completed the scary big expenses that were hanging over our heads last year--replacing our house's circuit breaker box, hiring someone to prune the two large trees on our property, and new glasses for me.  I hadn't had a new pair since 2001!  Tuition and taxes are out of the way for another year, so now is the time for a financial power play.

One thing I did to save money was to do my grocery shopping outside of Charlottesville. I found that prices are cheaper in the valley, and for a while was driving over the mountain to the Sharp Shopper and Martin's in Waynesboro.  It seemed that I made up for what I spent on gas in the food savings, but perhaps only marginally.  There are definitely some great deals at the Sharp Shopper, but I don't have time to drive that far every week.  I made one trip to the Aldi in Culpeper--a one-hour drive from Charlottesville.  I spent far, far less than usual when I went to Aldi, enough to fully justify the gas expense, but it was so utterly exhausting, I haven't done it again.  I heard that Aldi might be coming to Charlottesville which I think would be good, although I know some of you will disagree.

Some of the comments on the Aldi article linked above are discouraging.  I know I can be obnoxious about walking and biking everywhere and living in the city and shopping local, but it's pretty shitty to call people "pavement apes" because they drive to the suburbs to save money on groceries.

Anyway, while food prices tend to be lower outside of Charlottesville, it's not practical or environmentally friendly to drive to next town to shop.  So I cooked from the Good and Cheap cookbook, served more vegetarian meals, and focused on resisting impulse buys at the grocery store. Nothing revolutionary there, but since groceries are something you must buy, small changes really add up.

Groceries aside, I've been more mindful of spending in general, particularly on clothes.  Buying new clothes, and justifying the purchases because they are needed for work is one of my big weaknesses.  I have made a lot of very silly clothing purchases over the years, some of which you will see in a post I'm writing about building a professional wardrobe.  My new found love of sewing has also made me think hard before buying clothes for myself.  Sewing takes patience and planning and forces you to get over the instant gratification of buying new ready-to-wear.

I also put a halt on any home decorating projects, which means the front hall is still unfinished.  The painting is done, but I have framed only one of my vintage Great Lakes nautical charts and I put off buying the big mirror that I want to prop against the wall.  I did buy a 200 year old Heppelwhite table at the Covesville store.  It was a steal because of a clumsily-replaced leaf.  I think it looks well in the hall, but that's all we're doing for now, unless I find a really good deal on a mirror.

Antique table--the wonky leaf is against the wall.


  1. Well there I am in the comments on that article and I still agree with myself. I think the Aldi in Waynesboro is opening this week and while I wouldn't drive there on a regular basis I might make the trip once every few months. I'm excited about the local Wegman's opening next year but fear they'll price their items to match the other ludicrous local prices.

    My biggest contribution to frugality was turning down the thermostat three degrees this winter.

    1. An Aldi in Waynesboro? I hadn't heard of that. That's certainly much closer than the Culpeper one. I'm also fearful that Wegmans will match their prices to the other local stores. There doesn't seem to be any motivation for stores here to offer reasonable prices. They charge more because they can.

    2. May 7 at Waynesboro Town Center.

    3. NPR reported that Wegman's (if you avoid the luxury items and stick to the basics) is one of the cheapest of the supermarket chains to shop in. I live in an affluent area, but that still seems to be true. They make their money on the fancy stuff.

  2. I have no opinion on the Aldi. We are finally buckling down and addressing some house issues we've put off for too long, but we've been saving towards that. Starting a new office job, I've realized I don't have many professional clothes that I really care for anymore, but I've decided I'm going to follow my winter lead and make myself some new skirts. After I get the two gardens in, inbetween working two part time jobs and everything else we have going on around here. At least it's not dull.

  3. What a shame that the groceries are so expensive. My BFF swears by Aldi. I've only gone to the one in our town a few times (out of my way), but the people I know who shop there really like it.

  4. We've been shopping at Aldi for a few years. I can usually get the bulk of what non-fresh food I need for a week for about $70 (feeding 4 adults). We spend about another $20 a week on fruits, veggies and fish at the farmer's market. One of the things I love about living in Florida is a year-round farmer's market.

    Another way I save money is by bartering with my daughter! I doggy-sit while she is at work and she pays for my monthly mani/pedi. Our takeout meal of the week is Taco Tuesday at our local Mexican place...4 meals including drinks for $20

    I have shopped for clothes at a local thrift store. I bought Gloria Vanderbilt and Lee brand shorts that looked brand new for $2 each and some t-shirt with the original Kohl's tags on them for $2 each.

  5. Growing up in Ann Arbor, and now living in a very economically depressed area, has made the difference in prices really obvious. The stores in Ann Arbor do have a better variety of fresh produce and foods that I can't find in stores here, but the prices for all the normal stuff are significantly higher. I'm frustrated by both things --I'd like to be able to find the imported cheeses and things that I could find there, and I'd be willing to pay more money for them. But I'm happy that I don't have to pay double the normal price for a box of dry pasta that I would if I were buying it in Ann Arbor.

  6. I loved shopping at Aldi when we lived in Germany, but I've only been to one of them since moving back to the states in 1998. Groceries can eat up a lot of money, but it's the work clothes that get me. I'm not an easy size to find thrift store bargains, but I'm also not a very good shopper. My closet is full but I don't have much to wear.
    Looking forward to that work clothes post!