Sunday, 29 January 2017

On Getting Older, Frugally


There's just a whole lot of gray in my hair these days.

On top of that, the lines under my eyes don't smooth out, no matter what concoction of filler or revitalizer or primer I use. The line that I noticed crossing my forehead in my twenties has deepened and invited a couple of friends to hang out there full time.

Not to mention whiskers.

I don't want to rain on the parades of any pert twenty-somethings that might be reading this, but getting older can be ghastly. I once bragged that, for a gardener, I had no problem with cracked feet like many gardeners that I know. Within a couple months my big toe developed a painful fissure and now I struggle to keep it from getting sore whenever I work outdoors (which is basically all summer). Of course I don't have scientific proof that cracked heels or toes has anything to do with my age, but it's another glaring example of how I feel like everything is changing as I barrel towards approach forty :)

Does this mustache make my nose look big?

When I was pregnant with J I didn't colour my hair, paint my nails, or do anything that involved chemicals. Same with my second pregnancy, with O. After we had J there was really no money. When my last drop of hairspray was gone I didn't buy more. I used up all the last partial bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc that we had in the back of closets and in the bottom of suitcases. None of my clothes fit. I continued to gain weight after having the baby and, like most new moms, my world was upside down as far as sleep and routine were concerned.

I'm not complaining. Those baby years taught me a lot. For one thing, I was absolutely certain that we would be okay money-wise. I often said that at that stage I wasn't able to earn but I could do my best to save and that I did. We paid off Husband's debts, his dirt bike, his truck. This was while we had bought our very affordable house in a small time and did some updates on it. All the while, I didn't have hairspray and finally I ran out of foundation for my tired looking skin.

And I resented it.

At some point I began to feel that our success at paying off debts was coming out of my own hide, if you will. I actually signed up to sell Avon so that I could get the discount on the products that I wanted. I am still using them (got most of them for free and they've lasted all these years with my infrequent use), although I didn't cut it as a salesperson ;)

Slowly, over a few years, I began to buy a few pieces of clothing and now have a winter and summer wardrobe that, while not flashy or expensive or overly "hip", I am comfortable wearing. My friend dyes my hair in exchange for baking or meals (my mom is also a hairdresser but she's so busy all the time I try not to bother her with one more job). My point, though, is I have found that I am happier when I feel like I've pampered myself a bit or at least paid some attention to how I look. And, as a very frugal person, I think it is important to draw the line when frugality starts to make you unhappy/unappreciated.

As I see myself starting to look older, I have to acknowledge that this is the start of the next phase of my life. Yes, I'm frugal. I buy literally nothing that isn't essential or food. I especially don't buy much for myself, and that is a choice that I no longer resent. Because I have an almond scrub that I use on my face from time to time, and a tube of blue mask that makes my pores look so much better. I moisturize. I exfoliate. I use a toner and a primer and I finally threw away the eye shadow I bought in university (gross, I know).

I guess my point is, you can take care of yourself in a frugal way. I'm sure I will never get a day at the spa and I don't need that to be happy. I'm quite sure spending that much would make me ill. But I CAN do a few little things as part of my routine that make me feel better about myself. The main one is exercise and fresh air. A big one is adult conversation. And I'm finally admitting that trying to look nice makes me feel happier and there has to be a place for that in my frugal routine.

I read blogs where the women wear all thrift-store clothing and have forsaken make-up. Good on 'em. If they still feel beautiful (and believe me, they are!), then by all means I think that is wonderful. I think you need to find your comfort zone. If you are resisting cutting back on spending in one area, question why that is. In my case, I might spend $100-200 on clothes for myself in a year. Other years I might spend $0, yes, $0. This year I bought an $89 winter coat because the one I was wearing is misshapen from 2 pregnancies and I've been wearing it for over 8 years. It's very good quality and very warm (alpaca) so it's still in the closet, but...I felt dowdy. So I bought a new coat. I also got the winter boots I wanted because they were $100 less on a boxing day sale and my old ones were so worn down on the soles I kept wiping out on ice. For some people, having the money to buy new winter gear is something they dream of. I never lose sight of that. I have waited for 8 years to buy a new coat because I really didn't "need" one. This year I bought one because continuing to wear the old one had started to bring me down.

I don't want to resent the sacrifices I make for our financial goals. I also don't want to look tired and wore out.

I shop thrift stores, folks. There's not always something that fits or looks good. You put this body in a summer dress that is 10 years out of style and it is embarrassing. I don't spend much on clothing for myself but, when I do, I make sure it is something I will wear and feel good in. Yes that might be a hand-me-down from a friend or a thrift store find (love it when that happens!). But if I need a piece of clothing I will also watch for sales and shop around until I find what I need. No apologies. That is why I save. I buy absolutely nothing we don't need and I count our pennies. I do this mostly so that we have emergency funds for when Husband is not working (it's somewhat seasonal so there are down times to be expected every year). If times are tight, I am obviously not going to go buy myself something to wear. During those times I can do a home facial, using the drugstore products that I've had for years, and still feel good.

When you live frugally, especially if you are just starting out, it can get to feel like a lot of sacrifice. But a beauty regime is not much different than anything else--the more work you can do yourself, the more you can save. Buy a home waxing kit and skip the salon. Try colouring your own hair or ask your stylist if she works from home. Do your own nails. Go on Pinterest and look up a homemade facial. There are ways to pamper yourself and feel good without spending much. If you let your frugal endeavors steal your sparkle, though, there is a good chance you won't stick with it. Maybe it is better to allow yourself a few treats here and there and stick with the overall goal.

What is your opinion? Do you think it's okay to splurge a little, when the money is available of course, to feel better? And, if so, what is it that makes you feel better? Notebooks? Nice pens? A book to read? A new hairstyle? Coffee out? I'm interested!


  1. there's a fine line between frugality and austerity, i think...and some people take it to the level of downright asceticism. although, if that's what floats your boat, knock yourself out. ;) those people, though, i suspect, are acting voluntarily and not out of necessity, because if you've ever been in a position of true lack, then it's not something you'd do again on purpose.

    anyway -- i totally get what you're saying here. for me, having never had the burden of great beauty and never being one for make-up and whatnot, my indulgences were/are books...and pens....and notebooks (although i fell into the habit of Dollar Store composition notebooks and they suit me just fine so i've carried on).

    you really do need to take care to give yourself treats - even little ones - because if it's always about deprivation, it's going to be a long, hard, road and not one that's sustainable. and i found that having to do without, most of the time, my level of joy at even the smallest indulgence, was HUGE! :) xo

    1. Yes! You nailed exactly what I mean--it is healthy to scale back the frugality a bit when it starts to become too painful. I'm not encouraging anyone who really wants to save money to go out and blow a bunch just to "feel good" (believe me, you won't!). But I also wanted to point out that not giving ourselves some little pleasures does take the spark out of life :) I bought some nice pens last year and I have to admit, I feel a little happier whenever I use them :)

      And I think you are absolutely right--people should choose how austere they want to live...I wanted to put it out there, though, that as frugal women it is not the end of the world if we do pay a bit of attention (and money) to how we feel inside and out. Deprivation is a long hard road, small pleasures sure makes it more fun!

  2. Love the pic! Totally agree with you :-)

    Except maybe on the home wax kit. Baby steps there so that you avoid paying for some crazy ER visit 8-D

    The reality is that as you get older it is harder to take care of yourself because everything is changing (hormones etc.). Your skin gets drier for one. Yes there is a lot that you can do frugally but some things you have to pay good money for (like a good pair of tweezers...on my list for this year! and a good manicure set too...)

    Salons will definitely see me again. Not any time soon but I do like to pamper myself and see nothing wrong with it if you can afford it. Right now I have other goals.

    But looking good is important to me and I really should make more of an effort. Or buy a mask like the one you are wearing :-)


    1. Hahaha!! I like the point you make about having other goals right now. Possibly that's why this post felt timely for me--I'm at a point where we've achieved some goals and I'm focusing a little more on myself these days (started a writing class!). Trying to give myself some TLC and staying within a certain realistic budget. And inevitably, my priorities will shift again and this won't feel so important. I hope you have a great week, nice to hear from you!

  3. Hi Jill! I come with hat in hand on this topic, knowing I've been on the spendy side of this debate for a long time. I'll comment with my brain (which seems to grasp the tenets and common sensical parts of balanced spending) and not with my heart, which has always been too heavy-handed with the visa in this department.

    I see the online ascetics that eschew the makeup and clothing, and to echo the sentiments, good on 'em - but it's not for me. We all are entitled to what makes us feel good, and I believe that as long as we're not hurting anyone - including ourselves - then we should be free to indulge in what makes us feel great and what makes our days a little brighter. Life is for living, after all. I can say with certainty that putting myself together and feeling that I look polished makes me feel great; the same way we may lovingly polish and maintain an heirloom or a classic car - out of love and pride, and not out of some pressure based on someone else's expectations - is how I view self-maintenance. I don't wear makeup or try to coordinate my clothing because I feel like the media machine tells me I should (I'm by no means saying I have a healthy relationship to all this, but I can vouch here on this point) but I've been given one body to carry myself through this life, and making sure I put enough care to have it presented well isn't superficial or a product of feeling some sort of pressure. By golly, we make sure children and pets are always groomed and looking their best - because we love them and love putting time into their upkeep! - that I think we shouldn't think twice or feel any guilt about wanting to put forward the best version of ourselves.

    This being said, there definitely is a fine balance where this becomes "beauty for sport," as I like to call it. I'll preface by saying I'm aware I've been far from the Queen of Balance when it comes to personal spending, but in some areas I know a line needs to be drawn. I've never had a facial or a manicure or fancy anti-aging treatments; I just can't put that money down for a service. However I've learned the *very* hard way that no matter how many YouTube videos and tutorials, attempting to dye my hair or shape my eyebrows at home results in complete disaster so I get these done. Yes, I stretch the services out to the point I've got some serious shabbiness going on between visits, but at least I'm not running to a salon in tears with orange hair. Sure, I could eschew these services completely, but my Mediterranean eyebrows au naturale do NOT work for me, and this is one of the reasons I say no to lunches out or spa days with the girls - because I've decided what's important to me and what I allow, knowing I've made judicious decisions on what I exclude.

    This being said, you devote the grand majority of your time, energy, and money to your family and barely spend on yourself - please never feel any guilt for needing new winter boots and a good coat! These things are necessary in our climate! And you know what - even a non-necessity like a dress that makes you feel great when you put it on shouldn't bring upon any guilt either; it's definitely not something you overdo, or buy so many feel-good dresses that one more would be gluttony and a hedonic treadmill tendency will just leaving you wanting a new dress next week (as a recovering spendaholic, I can vouch that you are the antithesis of a careless spender!)

    1. Great comment FD. It's so important that the little "treats" or rewards or pampering comes from a place of personal sustenance. Whether it is a new notebook, the $10 day planner that truly makes my day, every day, or a snazzy new haircut. And you're right, when one goes overboard and continually spends and treats oneself, it is no longer special. It's all about the balance!

  4. Yes! You managed to put some of my thoughts into words, ideas I've been struggling with. I shop secondhand for most everything - household, kitchen, tools, kid's clothes - but new for myself. I buy so infrequently though, that it's worth it to get exactly what I want, something I will be truly happy with. No color, cuts or mani/pedis here - but I always have a fresh tube of mascara and a yoga pass.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think what's important is that we get a bit of pleasure from doing things for ourselves, whatever it might be. It doesn't detract from the overall goal of saving, it actually allows us to keep chugging along. Lovely to hear from you!

  5. I'm wearing a $200 wool sweater I paid $6 for at a thrift store, $26 leggings I spent $2 on, and $80 leather/fleece slippers I spent $10 on. All were brand new. I don't know how people send things to thrift with the tags still on but I'm glad they do. If I don't love it I don't buy it because even if a piece was only a dollar, it's a wasted dollar if it isn't worn.

    My only makeup is eyeliner and mascara ($12 total). No creams or lotions thanks to drinking a lot of water and using handmade soap that doesn't dry my skin.

    BUT! I'm spending $65 tomorrow to have my hair colored. Home kits don't work on my gray. I sometimes feel guilty that I spend some much but if i don't do it my hair looks awful. I've wished for 20 years for the gorgeous, thick, lush gray hair some women have but it's still just plain ugly. Feeling good about it is worth the $195 a year. We should what we need to for ourselves!

    1. I totally agree about not buying it, even if it's a dollar. I object to having more "stuff" just because it was cheap/on sale/free. Clutter, to me, is stress. I've come to really enjoy admiring something I like and allowing myself that moment before acknowledging that the item would make my life no richer. It's become easier for me to recognize the small pleasures that make me feel good, as opposed to mindless spending that has always made me feel toxic and unhappy. I always appreciate your feedback, Robin. You're a true outdoors woman and I'm always happy to hear from you!