Frugal is as frugal does |

Frugal is as frugal does

April in Glenwood
April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
April E. Clark

As stocks continue to tumble and companies cut jobs, this holiday season we all need a dose of frugality reality.

Life as I pretty much know it.

Though the idea of being independently wealthy sounds fabulous, many of my life decisions have left me otherwise.

I was warned about the writer thing, trust me.

Like an unhappily married couple constantly fighting, money and I have had our issues. We’ve even gone through a trial separation.

We always seem to get back together in the end.

Money loves to make me crazy and is typically unavailable when I need it the most. I try to control it but am weak to its sexy power and charm.

If money is king, I’m the more like a mistress than a queen.

The difficult part about being frugal, especially during the holidays, is there are just so many things to wish for ” and buy for others, of course. Sure it’s better to give than to receive, but it is fun to open a huge plastic Barbie RV in front of all your cousins. Or a small box undoubtedly filled with something expensive and sparkly.

Of course that takes money. And usually a lot of it.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers spent $469.14 on gifts for family and $90.13 on friends last year. They also spent an average of $106.67 on themselves. Hey, resisting those buy-one-get-one-free promotions can be hard.

Nothing says the holidays like matching reindeer sweaters for you and your sweetie.

The NRF forecasts about a 2-percent growth in retail sales this year. I predict my budget will not see an increase. Just a thought. So, how can we be frugal during these festive ” yet financially burdened ” times?

I say we go old school for the holidays.

Oranges as stocking stuffers for the kids. A needle and thimble for Mom. Dear Ol’ Dad gets a ball of yarn. Or maybe a shoeshine kit.

Forget Wiis and True Religion jeans, iPods and Uggs. Santa’s going cheap this year, and we’re all going to like it.

But wait! What does Santa do about the ‘tweens and teens expecting designer label clothing and electronic gadgets (I just aged myself there) under the Christmas tree this year?

Time to teach them about a little thing we frugal people “or is it cheapskates? ” call hand-me-downs. And it starts with a story that still amuses my mother to this day.

Unlike all the really really popular kids in my middle school, I did not always wear the flashiest of labels. I did have a pair of Jordache jeans and some pretty sweet Nikes for the time, though. I remember begging and pleading for parachute pants. I didn’t score a pair until they were on the clearance rack, which meant they were pretty much out of style by that point.

These pants were like 100 bucks, so I understand my mom’s side of the argument.

Of course I didn’t at the time.

But it was a particular dusty gray-blue velour jacket ” a hand-me-down from my older brother Marty ” that was the deal breaker for me as I suffered through puberty. I know it’s a strong word, but I hated it. I really did. For one, it was a boy’s jacket. And in 1986, girl’s and boy’s stuff were pretty gender distinct.

Except those red leather Michael Jackson Thriller jackets with zippers.

And fluorescent T-shirts.

Second, I was extremely sensitive to appearance. When I wore this particular hand-me-down, I wished someone would throw me down the stairs.

Did I mention I was going through puberty?

Like all my wardrobe malfunctions from the ’80s, I eventually got over it. Marty grew up and out of the house, and his handed-down winter wear was no longer my worries. I moved on to other teenage angst-ridden tirades like begging for a car on my 16th birthday.

My parents gave me a blue Matchbox Camaro instead.

At least it wasn’t velour.

Now that I’m much much older, with my own money to fight with ” or without ” I know my parents did the best they could in raising us during times that weren’t always so easy. There were gas shortages in the ’70s. The stock market fell pretty hard in October of 1987. We still get oranges in our stockings ” maybe to remind us how good we’ve got it. But we also receive sweet Christmas gifts that seem to get better as we age.

Maybe it’s because I’m giving more to them, too.

And getting along with my money much more swimmingly these days.

We always seem to get back together in the end.

April E. Clark is just happy to spend Christmas with her family and friends in Indiana this year. She can be reached at

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