Category Archives: Frugal Living

The Clothing Exchange: Bartering, Giving, Saving & Making A Difference

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You know what I love most about the above photo? Its location.

These folks aren’t camped out waiting to purchase tickets to the newest Batman movie. They’re not waiting to get into the V.I.P. line at a night club nor are they waiting in line to get to their Houston Rockets seats.

This was the scene outside the doors of Eagle Heights Fellowship in Mont Belvieu, TX. This is the Church home of Penny Glass & her three well-rounded, funny, adorable daughters.

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Mrs. Glass created an ingenious bartering system called The Clothing Exchange and it has grown exponentially over the last few years. As a result of her need to provide for her own children she wondered, “What if there was a place where I could give up what we don’t need in exchange for what we do need?” She approached her Pastor and pitched her idea. He fully supported her and gave his permission to use the Church as headquarters for this economically sound solution to clothing needs.

Viola, the Clothing Exchange was born!

How it Works
Many families are having trouble dealing with the current economic climate. They’re struggling to bring home the bacon (in my house it’s veggies). As a result clothing is an area that may be sacrificed in order to keep the family car running, keep electricity on, and stock up on groceries.
The Clothing Exchange allows families and individuals to bring in used but reusable clothes in exchange for a voucher equal to the number of items donated.
So, for example, Molly donates three jeans and five blouses which she’s outgrown-eight items. On exchange day she bring in her voucher and picks out eight items of her choice. She can choose 8 pair of jeans or seven jeans and one blouse or maybe she wants six pair of jeans, one pair of shoes and a scarf. Any combination is allowed as long as she doesn’t exceed eight, the number on her voucher. All participants are made aware that there is no guarantee they’ll find somethung in thier size or something they’ll like. But all are still willing to take part because it means they’ll be donating to others in need even if they get nothng in return. However, according to Penny, there’s never been a situation where a participant couldn’t find clothing they could use.

Simple, smart, effective and very much in need. In fact the need is so great that hundreds of people from miles around came to donate their used clothing in hopes of helping others while providing for their own families. Talk about a win-win situation.

Economic Ripple
So is there a positive economic effect? Most definitely! Most families shop at big department stores. Others, like myself, love thrift stores. When we shop at these locations the money doesn’t always stay within the local economy. Big companies need to spread their profits all over the globe in order to thrive. They have to pay for advertizing, put money into payroll and employee benefits and maintain thier facilities.
The Clothing Exchange allows local money to stay local—in the bank accounts of members of the community. So Mr. J donates his sons old clothes yet comes home with more clothes for his son without spending a single cent. With the savings Mr. J can put more money into an emergency fund or save for his son’s trade school education. Now imagine hundreds of families within a certain area doing the same thing. This creates more economical stability within the region. It makes sense, too, that if a family is more stable they’re able to donate to charities, give to missions and shop at local farmer’s markets. These all help give strength to the local economy.

An important aspect to the Clothing Exchange that builds a strong economy is what Penny does with the clothes that cannot be used in the exchange. See, if donated clothes have rips, tears, stains, etc they’re either given back to the donor, given to other churches or given directly to the homeless. This ensures only clothing of the highest quality are available on Exchange day. Providing the homeless with clothibg has several amazing results. It helps build confidence, gives a sense of added security and it offers an opportunity to excell. Imagine being homeless, sleeping on the streets, unable to shave and shower. Across the street from the box you live in is a NOW HIRING sign in the window of a locally-owned diner. You know you qualify for any open position. You’d work hard and put in extra hours if someone would just give you a chance.
Problem: You don’t feel presentable. And the fact is, most employers won’t hire someone who smells bad and is dressed like….well….a homeless person.

But, if the clothing exchange provided you with a fresh pair of socks, a pair of shoes, nice slacks and a long sleeved shirt and maybe even a tie; well your future could look very different. You can wash up in the restroom of a convemience store, change into your new duds, then walk confidently into that diner and tell them “You sould definitely hire me”.

This is one way a homeless person can become a productive member of society. All because of the generous hearts of Clothing Exchange participants.

Want to Join In?
The next Clothing Exchange event will be in Feb or March of 2016. In the mean time
1. Set aside those items you no longer want or need: shoes, shirts, pants, jackets, sweaters, hats, etc.
2. Tell others about this blog so they’re informed on how they may participate.
3. Follow this link to the Clothing Exchange facebook page so you can stay up-to-date on future events-
https://www.facebook.com/groups/237924579719778/?fref=ts

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The Frugal Life: Christmas (& other Holidays) Without Presents!?

I’m guessing the title of this blog got your attention- good.

 

Most people, mainly Americans, can’t imagine a Christmas without exchanging gifts. Does the idea of a present-free Christmas bother you? Do you see Christmas as a time meant for gift-exchanging? If you said Yes to any of those questions then you’re meant to read on.

Sadly, every year many people see Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day and other holidays approaching and their shoulders tighten. They remember last year’s task of figuring out what to buy everyone, long check out lines, the nervousness of hoping they chose the right gift, and so on and so on. Even before the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas, is actually here they’re already weighed down by unnecessary stress. It’s really a shame.

I’ve heard on the news many times, “….burgular has stolen Christmas from another family”. Stolen Christmas? As a Christian, I have a problem with that phrase. Christmas is not something that can be stolen. It’s the celebration of Christ’s birth. Can you take that from anyone? Of course not. That’s the problem with the zombie-like, “must buy presents” mentality. We’re slaves to materialism! How about we take the words of Christ to heart? Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need”.

Two things are important here. First, seek His Kingdom above all else. We need to ask ourselves,… Are we focused on His Kingdom more than any other aspect of life; or do we allow presents, candy canes, heart-shaped boxes of candy and celebratory cakes, to occupy the first-place position in our heart?”

Be honest!

Second, notice the verse ends with “…and he will give you everything you need”. Christ didn’t say He’d supply a PS4, a new sports car or a Hawaiian vacation as a result of our dedication to put Him and His Kingdom first. God is telling us here that our needs are a higher priority to Him than our wants. Obviously, we should mirror His perspective- God first, needs second and then wants. And the wants are a ‘maybe’. Picture a world where this was reality. Instead of long lines at retail stores we’d see those lines at the soup kitchens, waiting to help the needy. People would camp out in front of their Church waiting for Christmas service, not in front of Macey’s eager to get their hands on the latest name-brand purses. Families would not continue sinking deeper into credit card debt. They’d pay cash to buy a homeless family an entire wardrobe instead. Man, I’d love to see this kind of economic focus in our country. Wouldn’t you? I would love to see a world where Christmas and Valentine’s Day aren’t a source of stress but tranquility, unselfish acts, and the celebration of Christ’s provision.

The decision to go without buying presents at Christmas can affect your bottom line greatly. Think of what you spent during Christmas of 2015 on gadgets, gifts, toys, clothes, wrapping paper, ribbons, fuel, time, etc. Add to that the total cost of Valentine’s, all the birthdays and one anniversary of last year. Wanna know what my personal total is for 2015? $100.00 for 4 people. An average of twenty five dollars per person isn’t bad right? Mmm maybe…. Let’s add our total to our current bank account balance. Wouldn’t you rather have that new total in your account right now in case something major rears its ugly head? Or wouldn’t you prefer to put it towards paying off a credit card, paying on a loan or paying extra on your mortgage? That would be a Frugal Lifestyle decision that helps reduce stress and could eventually lead to financial freedom. A No-Presents Christmas, or other holiday, also sets an example to the following generation. They’d understnad that God being born as a human baby is the resaon for Christmas. They’d learn to focus on the Ultimate Gift they’ve already been given, not the material stuff many have learned expect. As far as Valentine’s Day is concerned children would learn that time spent with a loved one is far more valuable than any material gift.

The question is: Are you ready to be that example?

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Remember- If we can buy it, it will eventually fade but memories formed while enjoying each other’s company will last a lifetime. No presents on birthdays is also a great way to weed out those “what did you bring me?” people. You know, the ones that are only interested in what they can squeeze out of you? We all have them in our lives. But, telling everyone that there will be zero birthday presents next year will also expose the cream of the crop. Those who actually care about you will say things like, “Spending time with you is gift enough”. Those are the ones you hang onto! As 2017 approaches let’s start imagining a stress free, laid-back, relaxing, Christ-centered year where we concentrate less on exchanging gifts and more on appreciating THE GIFT of a relationship with Christ.

It’s no coincidence that the Wisdom of the Bible also supports a frugal lifestyle which helps lead to financial freedom.

The #Frugal Life: Mute The #Commercials

I clearly remember Super Bowl Sunday 2013, not because of the game, the highlights, the commercials, or the advertised specials. I remember it well because all the commercials were muted!

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I know that many of you are pretty shocked right now.

You see, a couple from church opened their home to anyone who wanted to watch the game and just hang out. In order to make it more interesting, the couple created an environment where – during commercials – the TV was muted and someone would talk about something they were thankful for, how God blessed their life, or something they just wanted to share with their friends. What does this have to do with Living Frugally? Everything!

I love John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (NLTse)
If we say we are Christians then we are to be guided by the third member of the Triune God- the Holy Spirit. Often The Spirit speaks to us like a small voice reminding us of our priorities, goals, mission, etc. Advertizing for the newest gadgets, upgrades, new features etc. become competitors for our attention. The Spirit will not force Himself on us so many times the big sales and allure of shiny new toys wins out- tragic!

There is a reason retailers pay millions per second to advertise during the Super Bowl. It is the same reason that Super Bowl commercials are so much more creative than any other time of year. The marketers realize that it is the most watched sporting event in the world and therefore, it serves as their best opportunity to get into your pockets. You’re glued to the tube and they know it!

At the party I attended there was zero opportunity for these retailers to influence our buying decisions. I was free to remain in a thankful mindset, enjoying time spent with other Christians and therefore open to The Spirit’s voive. I was not tempted to spend based on an emotional response to advertizing creativity. However, the neighbors next door, whose TVs were not muted, were subjected to creative attempts at infiltrating their wallets, bank accounts, and credit cards.

Resist the Temptation

The power in having the ability to ‘just say no’ cannot be overstated. Imagine the temptations you would avoid if you decided, before hand, that you are going to say no to all advertising during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year’s, and Super Bowl Sunday!

It brings to mind the fact that many folks who have a desire to save, live frugally, invest, etc. are sometimes thrown off track by a commercial designed to do just that…throw them off track!

How many dreams have been wrecked because of one unplanned purchase which leads to regular unplanned spending? I imagine the answer is in the millions.

A well planned budget doesn’t include reaction or emotion-based spending. It is the result of a disciplined mindset that recognizes the importance of saying no to creative marketing ploys. My advice to those determined to live the frugal life? Mute the Commercials!

What about you , BBM reader:

*Are you able to tune out the commercials or do you occasionally fallen victim to those wily advertisers?
*What’s your plan for resisting New Year’s and Super Bowl advertizing tactics?
*Got helpful tips for your fellow BBM audience?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

The Frugal Life: Put Away Your Money, Your #Doctor May Be Wrong!

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I have two slipped and torn disks in my lower back. For those with medical knowledge, they are between my L4, L5 & S1. For those that are not, they are just above my tail bone. I also have scoliosis in between my shoulder blades. Needless to say this is a painful situation, especially on days when both conditions hurt at the same time. January 24, 2015 will be my 40th birthday and I find it difficult to do certain things I really enjoy like teaching hip hop dance/choreography, 110 meter hurdles, martial arts tournaments, and even stuff I don’t enjoy like long distance running. (Any race longer than 110 meters is just insane!)

I had very reluctantly accepted the idea that I’d never again win another martial arts trophy or compete in #CrossFit® games in the future. For someone who’s been athletic ever since birth this is depressing and annoying. The mental frustration is sometimes more painful than the injuries themselves.

Several months ago a friend showed me a #YouTube video of a man who was told by multiple doctors that he’d “never walk without a crutch again.” This man has a wife and children. He felt helpless to provide for his family as any good husband does. The mental strain of being so limited would bring him to tears at times. I can relate to his psychological battle.

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Ready for the good news? He heard there were exercises that could fix his knee injuries! That’s not a typo and before you say it’s impossible, keep reading. As I watched this video I witnessed this determined father doing the exercises he’d heard about. He strained to get his body into the Yoga-like positions. He fell over again and again. However, by the end of the video he was not just walking unaided by the crutches, but RUNNING!

My point is that your doctor may be totally wrong in his/her prognosis. It happens all the time. Doctors are flawed human beings who make mistakes in their offices and on the operating table. They are not perfect, yet, we act as if they are. They say take the pills and we do it, they say “it’s incurable” and we believe it. They say “you’ll never teach martial arts again” and I say “I’ve had enough.” Enough paying for follow-up visits to their offices, enough of paying to see specialists, enough of paying to remain injured, missing out on the many activities that help keep me healthy. And especially enough of paying for medication that only helps me deal with pain by putting me to sleep. I’ll keep my money in the bank and fund my retirement accounts, save for my child’s education, save for vacations, and fund my gym membership, thank you very much. I will focus on maintaining my fiscal and physical health!

As a Christian I believe in following God’s lead in everything, health included. And who knows the inner workings of your body better than God? Nobody!

Psalm 139:13 & 14
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

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Persistence
It is not mere coincidence that there are hundreds of YouTube videos of folks defying the conventional medical wisdom. Is the hopelessness offered by the medical community something to be held onto? Are we supposed to accept a life less livable, less active, and less fun based on the opinion of a flawed human just because they have more training and a piece of paper hanging on their office wall?

I certainly refuse to do so. I am done being one of the medical field’s statistics. I want to join those folks who never gave up, beat the odds, and proved the doctors wrong. Just as there are those that say you can never be wealthy – the naysayers – there are those that say you have to accept what a doctor tells you. Not so. Therefore, my new routine towards dealing with these injuries – and consequently saving wads of money – begins today, March 15th, 2014.

I’ll update you on my progress and the money I save along the way. CrossFit® games, here comes Taz Bright!

The Frugal Life: #Frugalite Shopping

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Luke 14: 28-33 But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it! ’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

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If you are determined to live a frugal lifestyle it is essential that you learn the art of purchasing items at the lowest possible prices.

Doing so allows you to keep a higher percentage of your #paycheck; therefore, allowing more for paying off debt, saving, and investing. This is what allows you to build a strong financial situation. So how do you accomplish frugal spending?

First, pawn shops. These stores are very underrated. I frequently shop at a pawn shop in my neighborhood. Since I love buying movies I am thrilled that my favorite pawn shop sells DVDs & blu-rays for less than $5. I can buy three movies for the price of one brand new movie at popular store chains.

The movies haven’t been shortened, altered, or otherwise made any less entertaining just because they are priced lower than their brand-new counterparts. Also, I love knowing I am getting the most bang for my hard-earned bucks.

Second, #thrift stores. Along with pawn shops, these stores are a great resource for clothing, furniture, electronics, and power tools. There is a thrift store in my neighborhood where I can buy a jacket, tie, slacks, and dress shirt for less than $5. Yes, all those items for less than $5!

You may be thinking these items may be off brand, unimpressive rags that I would not wear in public. You would be wrong. I’m talking about brands like Perry Ellis, Liz Claiborne, and many others. Of course, off brands are also available. However, if you are dedicated to living frugally, the brand’s name should not matter at all.

Thrift: prudent use of money and goods: the sensible and cautious management of money and goods in order to waste as little as possible and obtain maximum value.

Thrifty Shopping

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Imagine that you have $50 set aside for clothes. You can go to a famous chain store and purchase one, maybe two outfits. Conversely, you can go to a thrift store and spend $10 for similar items. That is the art of Frugal Shopping! And of course you cannot get any more frugal than free. I like to browse the free section of Craigslist every now and then. Over the years I have acquired things like glass shelves, vases, a mattress, indoor plants, clothes, shoes, couches, a TV, and loads of other items at zero cost. It would be difficult to add up the monetary savings I have achieved over the years. Also, the barter section of craigslist is very helpful. Why not exchange something you are willing to get rid of for something you want or need? Bartering allows you to acquire items without taking away from your bank account to do so.

If you want to keep more of your paycheck and become a frugal shopper, the first step is to search for thrift stores and pawn shops in your area; and pay them a visit.

Happy, Frugalite shopping!

The Frugal Life: Give #Plasma, Save #Lives And Get Out Of #Debt

When someone asks how they are supposed to get  out of debt I give them several helpful tips including one that I think is underrated and often forgotten…Give Blood/Plasma.

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I live about eight miles from a facility that pays around $25 every time I donate blood. Following the rules and regulations I can give blood twice a week without posing any danger to myself. (Side Note: It is very important not to give blood too often because you can do serious damage to your body and even die from it so please follow the guidelines of your blood donation center.)

Giving plasma twice a week would yield $50 to put toward getting out of debt or increasing assets. A maxed-out credit card with a $500 limit (+ interest) would be paid off in just over 9 weeks. A $50 weekly payment towards the principal of a car note would help pay off the vehicle sooner and help reduce total #interest payments. Paying off such debts frees you from #slavery to creditors. Proverbs 22:7 is worth reading concerning this concept.

Thinking of investing in stocks? Deposit that $50 into a brokerage account, like Scottrade.com each week until you’ve accumulated the total amount you wish to invest. You’ve just created an #asset without going into debt to do so.

Not only does giving plasma or blood help you support a frugal lifestyle but you literally give the gift of life.

We are all familiar with the economic impact of a bread-winner dying. What if you gave blood, saved a bread-winner and therefore kept a family out of debt and above the poverty line?

Proverbs 19:17 states If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord —and he will repay you! (NLT)

God Himself has told us we’ll be repaid for helping those who need assistance. Does this mean you’ll be rich as a result of being generous? No, but it does mean God’s paying attention to your every action and will reward you with friendships, great health, His guidance and protection and maybe money as well. His repayment comes in many shapes and sizes, it’s not limited to monetary wealth.

Imagine a child dying from loss of blood. Not only is this emotionally traumatic, it affects work performance which then affects one’s wallet.

Giving blood or plasma not only saves physical lives but boosts the global economy as well. I challenge you to search for the blood donation centers near you. Ask if they offer payment for donations. Give blood/plasma, save lives & get out of debt!

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What about you, BBM reader? Have you ever given blood/plasma as a way to help others and/or increase your income? If not, would you consider it now that you’ve read this post? I’d love to hear your stories.

The #Frugal Life: A Frugal Mentality

How Much is Enough

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Often, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the mind’s of many people.

Some imagine a penny-pinching Grinch that hoards every dollar as if clinging to life itself.

Others imagine a destitute fool who doesn’t recognize the so-called “finer things in life.”

My hope is that this blog post gives a better picture of the mind of the frugal individual. Set aside the inaccurate, and sometimes insulting images in your mind, and let’s discover the real reasons for developing the frugal mentality.

There is a scene in the movie The Great Gatsby where Gatsby is on the second floor of his bedroom, throwing pieces of clothing down to the woman he loves. His intention is to entice her with his riches, impress her with expensive clothing, and therefore hold her affections.

This is a far cry from the frugalist’s mindset and definitely far from the mind of God. I say this because of what is written in #Matthew 6:33

Seek the Kingdom of #God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (NLTse)

God prompts us to seek His Will, His pleasure and His mission for our lives above all else. We are not to be trapped in the vicious cycle of working hard for material gain just to be foreced to work even harder to afford even more. If we concentrare on our relationship with God first, He will align our mind and goals with His and therefore free us from such dangerous materialism that inevitably lead to greed.

The Christian Frugalite (yes, I created a new word), following the Spirit’s direction, is free to see things as they really are. Free from the prison of materialism. The frugalist understands that the really important things are neither material nor monetary. Unlike the get-all-you-can attitude of most folks, the frugally minded actually see the ultra-lavish lifestyle as both sickening and greedy.

The movie scene I described earlier actually turned my stomach. Why? Because I think of all the desperate people in the world who could benefit from the generosity of the ultra-rich.

Can you imagine the problems that would be solved if every mega-rich celebrity or sports personality decided to sell their mansions and some of their many luxury vehicles, then donated the proceeds to feed the hungry or help rescue victims of human trafficking? What if all those millions were funneled into creating jobs for those in desperate situations instead of being used to buy expensive purses, over-priced shoes and jewelry?

That would be an amazing thing!

It is the Christ-centered, frugal mind that can do this world the most good because it is not trapped by the unproductive idea of gathering more and more stuff. The Frugalite is free to give to charities, churches, and the indigent on the street without feeling she has missed something.

She understands the importance of paying a homeless person to wash her car instead of going to the car wash. In fact, giving to those less fortunate gives the frugal person a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So the next time you’re tempted to think of a Frugalite as stingy or cheap, you may want to consider that she is not hoarding her pennies, she is proactively funneling them to where they do the most good.

I’d really love to hear:
*What frugal practices have you adopted?
*What frugal habits do you plan to employ in 2015?