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Frugal in Colorado

Sometimes Ilene and I like to walk Manitou Springs and visit the shops. On such dates I tell her that she can pick out any pair of earrings she wants, my treat. Ilene looked at little bear fetish earrings. There were two pair, identical except one pair was gold ($86) and the other pair was silver ($14). The jeweler flattered Ilene. “The gold ones will look so nice with your blond hair,” he said.Thinking fast, I replied, “But the silver ones will go with your hair more and more as time goes by.” Did I get an elbow in the ribs? Of course I did. Then, Ilene laughed out loud. She picked silver ones, which she’d wanted anyway, as more authentic Indian looking, and I bought her the matching necklace. Still way below $86. So, can strategic humor save a guy money? Sure, but the real lesson is that we are a team, and we are frugal.We’re amused by modern tail chasing: “I need a fancy job to pay for expensive freezer food, dry cleaning, day care, auto repair, etc. ñ all the things I don’t have time to do because … I have a fancy job.”There are down sides to frugal living, however. At home, Ilene cooks from scratch and occasionally has three pressure cookers going at once. The kitchen sounds like a Santa Fe rail yard at the turn of the last century. Healthy food? Absolutely. But with so much fiber, I pass wicker furniture!Our son is 16 and had spent the night at a friend’s house where they ate frozen pizza for dinner and frozen waffles for breakfast. Ty yearns to get away from what he calls ìmom’s hippie food.î Upon arriving home, he sees that Ilene is making us a delicious lentil stew in her 16-quart pot.Tyler’s comment, ìAh, I see we’re having the Brown Kind tonight.î (Eggs are “the Yellow Kind,î golden split-pea soup is ìthe Green Kind.î It’s all the same to our teenager ñ hippie food.Some of you might think frugal equals cheap. No, cheap is stiffing the waitress. Frugal is fixing your car yourself. I fix both our cars, and we drive them forever. No fashion lemming SUV for us. I’d like to get Ilene a new car, but her old Honda just won’t break. The car has brown, hideous paint; the back crushed in a bit from where a woman hit it at the start of the ëí97 blizzard. The rear window sports a blue sticker: ìYou have to be REAL SECURE to be seen in a car like this.îLast summer, I drove our kids to California in the Honda. Without car payments, the trip was affordable. We rode mules for a week through Yosemite’s high alpine camps.You know how they are in California. You are what you drive. Loading up in a Yosemite parking lot at trip’s end, I noticed a woman by her Lexus SUV looking at us reproachfully. Turning toward her, with raised eyebrows and a glance toward the beat-up Honda, I said sotto voce, ìThe bears did this.î Her laughter barked out so suddenly she slobbered herself. Have you ever seen a well-coiffed Lexus owner slobber herself? Priceless.Frugality is unique. How many 20-year-old Hondas do you see in a day? How many look-alike SUVs? You just can’t have this kind of fun with some ho-hum car that’s expensive to pay for, insure, pay tag taxes on and fuel. Being frugal, we’ve other plans for the money we save, and we’re making dreams come true.Our ranch is one such dream. Not fancy, we live ìwhere the deer and the antelope work.î The ranch house is the best part. Passive solar and earth bermed on the north side, I designed and built it all myself over two years. Energy bills are trivial year round and it’s the most comfortable home I know of. Frugal and unpretentious, the house is our ally, not an enemy with a suction hose in our purse for payments and utility bills.We’ve visited $300,000-plus trophy homes. You know ñ the ones with walls that move in the wind. They tend toward over-glazing. Think of the energy loss caused by two-story windows. What’s the point? I guess a two-story ceiling allows three vultures: big energy bills, big taxes and foreclosure to circle in comfort. Does anyone else think these huge, drafty barns are ridiculous?rI suppose I could buy XXXL clothes if I wanted to, but I’d look pretty silly. I buy what fits. That’s the point of being frugal. Don’t suffer, buy what fits you and buy carefully. Plan and save for your future. Buying to impress the neighbors or strangers on the highway is a path fraught with needless stress. A path that augurs bankruptcy or divorce.To be frugal, be true to yourself. Fashion, after all, is merely a race to conform to others. Living simply allows you the greatest luxury ñ time. Time without worry, to laugh and be a family. Time to enjoy this great state that we live in. Time to do a little of what you love instead of only the things you must. Time to live.

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