How to be a frugalista and still have fun

Tom Friedman wrote in his NY Times column yesterday:

I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”

Don’t like Friedman? How about Ben Stein’s recent economic view? Or William Kristol’s? Or my recent favorite (thanks for the tip, Tyson) on our economic meltdown, Peter Schiff (AKA Dr. Doom, Wikipedia entry here) who predicted it with uncanny accuracy in this 2006 speech to the Mortgage Bankers Association. It’s a great education to watch the speech. Here’s the first of 8 videos (each about 10 minutes):

Schiff’s recent columns include his Nov. 21st column titled The Truth About Bailouts in which he says (bold italics mine):

So for the same reasons that Washington should not bail out General Motors, the world should not bailout America. Like GM, our economy is in desperate need of a restructuring. Spending must be replaced with savings, and consumption with production. The service sector must shrink and manufacturing must expand to fill the void. The dollar must fall, wages in America must be brought down to a competitive level, and hopefully government spending and burdensome regulation can be reduced.

This transformation will not be fun, but it is necessary. Our standard of living must decline to reflect years of reckless consumption and the disintegration of our industrial base. Only by swallowing this tough medicine now will our sick economy ever recover. By accepting a lower standard of living today, we will eventually be rewarded with a higher one tomorrow.

New Oxford Dictionary’s 2008 Word of the Year finalists include ‘frugalista’ — “a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc.” Anybody can easily start this lifestyle to become more professional and kind of organized in their lifestyle. They can easily complement their workwear or professional outlook with a mens leather briefcase available from Blaxton Bags.


Robbie and I decided this weekend that it’s time for us to ratchet back our consumption and work harder at being frugalistas, even though we’re not in any immediate financial danger.

Her first suggestion was to find free or inexpensive entertainment, both locally and in the Twin Cities. So on Saturday, we spent the afternoon exploring the new Minneapolis Central Library. (Among the treasures: the PostSecret exhibition. Amazing.)

Her second suggestion: do more adventurous cooking at home. The recipes category of the Just Food Co-op blog was a good place to start.

Do you have suggestions for how to be a frugalista in Northfield?  Attach a comment.

(No economic policy comments here, please. Hop over to the Our nation’s financial crisis blog post for that.)


  1. Jerry Bilek said:

    shameless plug-
    buy and trade used books. I sell used books for half the cover price or less most of the time. I pay cash for quality used books or offer 50-60% more in trade credit.

    or use the library. Last time I checked it was still free.

    November 24, 2008
  2. Ross Currier said:

    So Griff –

    Just because you, Tom Friedman, and the rest of your crowd totally screwed up the world are young people not allowed to go out to eat now and then?

    Perhaps they’ve been riding their bikes to work, turning down their thermostats, and buying used books (and clothing) for years, have substantial savings accounts, and are just enjoying their weekly, budgeted, night out.

    The community-building that, from the very beginning of our nation’s history, comes from gathering in (great, good) third places may be the best hope for our future.

    – Ross

    November 24, 2008
  3. Curt Benson said:

    High school sports are a good value. If you sign up before noon, Tuesday Nov. 25th, you can get a ticket and a bus ride up to the dome for the Championship Football game. You don’t have to be a student to ride the fan bus. A mere $15 gets you a bus ride and game ticket.

    Details are on the district website.

    November 24, 2008
  4. David Henson said:

    As usual Ross is right on it ! I would go a step farther and say it is the ugly impulse to always be controlling others that got us into this mess to begin with … “you should own a home I think we’ll provide tax incentives and touch off inflation in the housing market to help you out on the right path.” And too many numerous other examples to know where to begin.

    November 24, 2008
  5. Gilly Wigley said:

    Not sure the day/times on it these days. But dollar bowling was a cheap, fun thing to do, when I was in Northfield. Shoes and games were only a dollar each. Pop and fries were only a dollar each as well. So for only 5 bucks, you could bowl 2 games, with a drink and a snack.

    Up here in St Cloud, it’s hard to find things to do that don’t cost money. Every Tuesday at the local movie store is dollar rental night. You can rent 2 reg dvds for a buck. If you like them enough, you can watch them over and over for a week. 🙂

    Otherwise for free, no matter where I am. I always love to go park hopping. I like to find all the playgrounds with the old equipment that hasn’t been converted to cheap plastic. Or the ones with unique new equipment that I haven’t seen before.

    November 24, 2008
  6. kiffi summa said:

    Not sure how “frugalista” it is to drive to the cities for entertainment …70plus miles round trip…
    Take a tip from the old folks and why so many move here; there’s so much to do on the NF college campuses that sometimes you can’t pick which event to attend, and almost all of it free.
    Convocation lectures, Friday AM at Carleton , are opportunities to hear world renowned speakers.
    Also Sunday nights at the Cow there are various specific groups that meet: Politics, Quiz kids, Scandi music, etc., all free also.

    November 24, 2008
  7. Bright Spencer said:

    I have live frugally all my life either by choice or necessity. I didn’t get a credit card til I was 35, and that taught me well. I have never been in debt for more than a month…it was an American Express card that has to be paid in full every 30 days!

    The most frugal way to eat is to buy the food that is the best food available nutrition wise.
    Nutrient dense food like bananas, avocados, peppers, beets, nuts, seeds, all have plenty of calories as well as minerals and vitamins.
    Buy top cuts of meat, you’ll eat less and waste less money on bones and fat, unless you actually use the bones and fat for broths and sauces. Play the game of how to cook the food most efficiently energy wise, taking size of pan, cover or no cover, length of cooking time, and what else you can cook in the oven at the same time and save for later.
    (I throw in a head of garlic and roast it for 15 minutes and then use it throughout the week on toast, in sauces and soups, etc.) Also, you can cool off drinks on the porch before putting them in the frig, or warm up cold water before heating it up on the stove to save even more energy costs.

    Several of our young neighbors raising children have friends and family members over for Friday night card playing or table top board game night. After the cost of snacks, it’s just about free entertainment.

    I spent the last winter gathering photos of and with relatives I seldom or have never seen, writing letters, and journaling about the newly gained knowledge and enriching my sense of being at the same time. Except for a few stamps and photo development, it’s a very inexpensive way to have a great time.

    Walk down the street with your honey, holding hands and sing your favorite song,
    and wave to me as you walk by my house!

    November 24, 2008
  8. William Siemers said:

    I had a frugalista childhood:

    Take one bath a week. (All the kids use the same bath water).
    In the winter set the thermostat so there is ice in the toilet in the morning.
    Forget TV, gather around the one light that is on in the house for ‘story time’.
    Have a ham on sunday and have a ham dish everynight until thursday. (Chicken or Roast Beef may be substituted.
    Enjoy one snack food and one only: popcorn.
    Forget soda…koolaid is good enough.
    Buy ‘dents’ at the canning factory. Corn/peas/cream style corn/peas/corn/peas/cream style corn/peas…(I will never eat another can of peas).

    But for all that…it wasn’t that bad.

    November 24, 2008
  9. Bright Spencer said:

    If you are a person who shares a home with a pet, you can spend some quality time letting that pet learn a new move for you. Cats can play volley ball, parakeets can play pick up stix, and dogs can learn to gather up all their toys and put them in a box, for instance.

    November 24, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    NY Times columnist David Brooks has a column this week titled The Great Unwinding.

     And now attention turns to the task of the next decade: slowly unwinding the debt that has built up over the past generation. Americans aren’t borrowing the way they used to, but the accumulated debt is still there. Over the next many years, Americans will have to save more and borrow less. The American economy will have to transition from an economy based on consumption and imports to an economy with a greater balance of business investment and production. A country that has become accustomed to reasonably fast growth and frothy affluence will probably have to adjust to slower growth and less retail fizz.

    … the political class is going to attempt the politically unthinkable. The U.S. is going to have to move toward a consumption tax, to discourage spending and encourage savings.

    June 13, 2009