Saturday, September 24, 2011

Being Frugal

I found a blog online called "The Simple Dollar" which I found to be very helpful and interesting as it is all about trying to find ways to save money. The blog has many great posts about how the writer, Trent, finds ways to save up some money so he can provide the best future he can for his family. I admire him. He also some great books which are really helpful and interesting. One of them is "365 Ways to Live Cheap" and it is full of sensible tips.

I know what it is like not to have enough money going around and it is never pleasant. I find that most of the suggestions on his blog make perfect sense and really can help make a difference. I know that for a fact because we, my parents and I, already practice some of his suggestions on how to save money at home.

We have a vegetable garden which my Dad religiously takes care of. He is a farmer and has been all his life (except for a few years when he tried to make a better life abroad). His came from generations of farmers so farming is in his blood. He makes sure that all his prized vegetables are well-taken care of. Having that garden is like a lifeline. We very rarely buy produce. My Dad and my step mom make sure that we have enough onions and potato to last until the next harvest. Our lunch and dinner is made from vegetables that are picked fresh from the garden or have been in the fridge for a day or two. Not only are we eating fresh organic produce, we also save money by not having to buy from shops (you never really know how the produce in shops were really grown). We only buy onions, potato or tomato when we need some to tide us over until the next picking. Plus, we rarely cook with tomato unless we have our own garden tomato. Dad even has bananas growing... :)

We have two lemon trees, a guava tree and a grape vine at home. We also have papaya when it is the papaya time of year.

Grapes on our vine in our backyard
A squirrel enjoying a grape 

Lemon Tree

We are also lucky enough that Dad had our home built in a way that there are open spaces on all four sides and that there are lots of windows. This means that we have ample natural light during the day so we do not need to turn on the lights unless its really gloomy and cloudy outside. Dad also has some space where he planted some great trees which not only give our home a touch of green, but also provide some shade in the really hot Indian summers. They also provide nesting spots for some of the birds (they are a great source of entertainment, you know).

Dad's garden at home

Our family is also very conscious of how we use water and we try to conserve water as much as we can. For example, Dad had bought an RO (reverse osmosis) water purifier (which help keep us healthy). I noticed that for every two liters of water that we get from the purifier (it has a 5 liter storage capacity) the purifier starts to spew water from its narrow pipe as it purifies water that comes from the tap and fills its storage tank. At first, I didn't think much of it as it was the "dirty" water which contained all the stuff that had been filtered out.

But then, I decided to see just how much water was being piped out. I had the shock of my life when I realized the water filled-up three large pots! So I got a big pail and put it in the kitchen and had the purifier's outflow pipe go into that pail. I use the water that collects in the pail to mop floors, water the plants, wash rags, and  I put the excess water in a big bucket in the bathroom so that it can be used to flush the toilets. After we started to do this, Dad noticed he had to turn on the water pump (we have an underground water tank which gets water from the municipal supply and that water needs to be sent up to the overhead water tank via a water pump) for a lesser amount of time as we use up less water so we need less water. This is because the water from the water purifier that would have simply gone down the drain and wasted is now being used.

Truth be told, we have a lot of stuff that use electricity at home. We have the usual fridge, washing machine and the stove chimney. Then we have a small water pump to help send water from the underground tank to the overhead water tank and we have a bigger one that pumps out water from a bore-well for situations where the municipal supply fails. We also have lights, ceiling fans, a television, a computer, mixer, UPS, voltage stabilizers, a power inverter and other small gadgets like cellphones chargers. What we try to do is save on power as much as we can. We turn off fans in rooms that are empty. We always unplug appliances when we go off to sleep except for the fridge. 

We try to make as many things as we can at home. We make our own pickles (most village households do) from our lemons and other garden produce. We also make our own butter and cottage cheese or paneer. That used to be the norm when we still had a cow (named Cow). But now that we buy milk, we make smaller amounts of butter and clarified butter. When we need cottage cheese, we make it ourselves. We even make our own noodles made from wheat flour!

Lemon and Carrot Pickle

We own a car and a scooter which spend more time in the garage than outside it. We prefer public transport whenever possible. The car is used only when we need to travel as a family, when we need to get LPG cylinders (in India... gas is not piped into homes except maybe in some very lucky areas), and when we have a number of errands that need to be run the same day. The scooter is much more rarely used as Dad is almost 80 and I cannot seem to learn how to use it.

Before the winter, we are planning to get a solar water heater so that we do not have to use electricity or LPG for heating water for bathing and kitchen use. We were hoping to get a solar system up so we can go off the power grip but its way too expensive at present. 

Posted by: Bames Pabla
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