A Brief Moment of Smug

STAR Tannery, Virginia – It is not often that I get to gloat.

I mean, it’s not often that I get to gloat about something I, personally, accomplished. I can’t gloat over Heir 2 graduating next month with a grade point average over 4.2 or that he will attend Roanoke College on an academic scholarship. That’s his accomplishment and I mention it here only as an example of how much I’m not gloating.

For we Domestic Goddesses, this is truly our time for gloating. Having taken it on the chin for over thirty years about our decision to focus on home and family at the expense of a career, we suddenly find ourselves having the very skills needed these days to survive on dwindling or non-existent incomes.

I sympathize – really I do. I made a conscious decision to be a homemaker so the things we had to give up to make that happen really didn’t bother us much. We learned to finagle reasonable facsimiles of the things we were sacrificing. Sure, not everyone takes a vacation to Pittsburgh (where there just happened to be a state-paid conference), but the hotel had cable, air conditioning, an indoor pool and free breakfast (for Heir 2 this was the highlight of the trip, since the breakfast bar included Fruit Loops).

It must be agony, though, for someone forced into domestic toil by a layoff. Staying at home put you in the land of no Starbucks; where “doing lunch” is reheating last night’s leftovers no matter how sick of it you are; where there are no Christmas parties or office sports pools; and everyday is Casual Friday. The other day I attempted to wear heels and almost killed myself trying to walk around.

It can be very isolating, especially if your hobby is recreational shopping or you like dining out a lot.

In my bloggerly travels I’ve noticed a huge crop of frugality newcomers searching for the domestic skills necessary to cutting expenses. The result of this is that formerly helpful websites featuring discussions on guerilla miserliness are now recycling the tired old advice to “skip that $5 latte and carry your own coffee” or to “use the library instead of purchasing bestsellers.” These days the only ones still buying $5 lattes are former AIG executives.

You will have to pardon me, though, when I get a chuckle out of how quickly product advertising retooled itself from everything being “fast and easy” (luxuries for which you pay) to the same item being “cheap” (only as compared to eating out). Any cheapskate worth his salt knows you can’t have both (ramen noodles being the exception that proves the rule).

Sooner or later, if you want to save money, you’re going to have to learn to cook. Throwing prepared frozen lasagna in the oven is not cooking – it’s reheating. And it’s expensive. And, if you love food, it’s unsatisfying.

Now this is another concept that baffles me. Everyone has to eat. Why would anyone not know how to cook? It’s not a “housewife” thing or even a “girl” thing; it’s survival. That t-shirt that says, “What did I make for dinner? Reservations!” sounds downright decadent these days.

I’m aware I sound smug, but for so long I’ve had to defend my frugal idiosyncrasies like washing out plastic bags and drinking straws (this, specifically drives my brother crazy, so I’d do it even if it didn’t save money). One Christmas at my brother’s house I kept confiscating the things he was going to throw out that I usually wash and reuse (the aforementioned bags, tin foil, supermarket plastic serving trays, etc.). As we were getting in the car to leave my brother followed us out with a bag of trash. But instead of tossing it into the garbage can, he ran up to the car, knocked on the window and, holding up the bag, said, “Here! You can take this home and restock your kitchen!”

Well guess who called this weekend to ask what type and brand of plastic bag is most suitable for reuse? I hated to tell him that I rarely use them any more since I’ve collected enough infinitely more reusable glass containers. Ya gotta keep up with the industry, ya know?

So, smugness aside (I wish the word was “smuggery, but it’s not), I do want to welcome all you refugees from the corporate world to the world of domesticity and leave you with this:

Baking soda and white vinegar. It’s the solution to everything. Stock up.

Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

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