Weekly Woot & Grumble: Palm Trees vs. Blizzards

Woot

A cousin of Frugal Hound

A cousin of Frugal Hound

Our week began with palm trees and ended with a blizzard, so Mr. Frugalwoods and I feel we’ve had a genuine bi-coastal experience over the past few days. We were in San Diego all of last week visiting my family–many of whom have now dubbed themselves “frugal-family member name” for example: Frugal Grammy, Frugal Sister, and Frugal Hound’s Cousins (who are both canine and child in their species).

24 hours after our return to the Bay State, 26″ of snow promptly deposited itself on our city. And we’re thrilled. It’s true. I’m not ashamed to say it: we love snow! Despite widespread assumption, we’re glad we weren’t stuck in San Diego–we would’ve missed the storm. “Weirdos!” the cry rings out. To which I offer scant defense.

Mr. FW finding his zen w/a snow shovel

Mr. FW finding his zen w/a snow shovel

To further reduce your opinion of us, Mr. FW actually enjoys shoveling snow. Even I’ll admit this might be a bridge too far. But he likens it to the zen I sometimes experience when vacuuming (you know, if I’m in the right mood and there’s not tooooooo much Frugal Hound fur on the floor). You’ve got to respect a guy’s zen.

In deference to the blizzard, Boston shut down and we enjoyed a glorious snow day on Tuesday. Mr. FW baked bread and shoveled snow, I ranted about Valentine’s Day on the internet, we snuggled up, and we attempted to get Frugal Hound to frolic in the snow. She was not having it and beelined back to our house ASAP. That dog does not like the cold.

This is where she spent the rest of the blizzard

After her brief snow foray, this is how she spent the blizzard

However, she has now transitioned into her “I love how all of this dirty snow smells” phase of the storm, which happens every year about 2 days after our first major snowfall. Later in the spring, as the snow melts, we’ll be the people with the dog who only wants to do business, ahem, atop snow piles. We’ve actually walked out of our way in spring months to take Frugal Hound to locations harboring little mounds of snow. She doesn’t ask for much in life, so we try to indulge her where we can.

Ok enough about dog functions and back to my deep philosophical ramblings… this rapid shift in our climatological situation got me thinking about how incredibly adaptable the human body truly is. Mr. FW and I were fine basking in the southern California sun, but we’re equally fine bundled up against the single digit temps we’re rocking here in Cambridge.

Mr. FW and Frugal Hound traversing the snow canyon

Mr. FW and Frugal Hound traversing the snow canyon

I’ve been reflecting that humans are inherently flexible and able to operate at wildly divergent ends of any spectrum. Temperature is but one of those spectra to which we acclimate; lifestyle is another. I say lifestyle because I think our money follows our priorities–you inflate your lifestyle, you spend more; you simplify your lifestyle, you spend less. That old hedonic treadmill, or carousel of consumerism as I’m fond of saying, will ramp up our spending and cause us to lust after an incessant parade of material goods.

Conversely, I’ve found that simplicity in one area of my life–low spending–has led to simplicity and clarity in many other aspects of my life. The less I focus on what money can buy me, the clearer my goals and my dreams are. And perhaps most importantly, the happier and more at peace I am.

Blizzard

Blizzard: as measured by our back door

At first, extreme frugality is akin to flinging oneself into a snowbank. It’s a veritable shock to our consumer system. But over time, as it becomes habitual, as you begin to see the unfettered life it’ll afford you, and as your desire to spend diminishes, frugality becomes freeing.

Just as my spendy counterparts continually seek out the next hot thing to buy, I actively avoid buying. To put it numerically, the lower your spending, the less you need to earn. The simpler your lifestyle, the less money you require to attain true happiness and fulfillment. And hey, if you become a frugal weirdo, you can shovel snow and vacuum for fun… here you wondered how we maintain our $0 entertainment budget ;).

Palm Trees. You're welcome.

Palm trees (as seen from my sister and brother-in-law’s house). You’re welcome.

(The Anti-) Grumble

Don't stop and photo me, mommy, it's cold!

Don’t stop and photo me mommy, it’s cold!

I bring you the anti-grumble (so I guess it’s really just another woot, but “woot & woot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…): I’m part of a podcast panel discussion today on Financially Blonde’s Martinis And Your Money podcast. My esteemed fellow panelists are Melanie of Dear Debt, Tonya of Budget and the Beach, and J. Money of Budgets Are Sexy. Come listen to us chat about the topic of saving vs. stealing… dun dun dun.

Full disclosure: I can’t exactly remember what all I said while we were recording, because several times over the course of the conversation one of us would ask “you’re not still recording, are you?” And invariably, she was. So, consider yourself warned. I’m going to wager right now that you shouldn’t listen to it with children in the room. Aside from that, it should be a jolly good roundtable discussion about personal finance.

What are ways in which you’ve adapted to different circumstances? Do you prefer palm trees or snow-covered trees of indeterminate species?

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76 Responses

  1. Mrs. Maroon says:

    Give me palm trees every day!! Though you are right about the amazing ability the human race has to adapt to these two ‘extremes’ in temperature, I’m with Frugal Hound on this one. As far as “our money follows our priorities”, I think you are spot on. Our non-frugal compatriots can’t comprehend the idea that we don’t run out to spend every last dollar. We employ differing ideals and therefore find happiness, or more likely in their case the perception of happiness (my assertion from first hand experience), from differing sources. As always, a great read for a Friday morning. Stay warm!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally! I find it’s all about what you really value and where you want to truly allocate your time. The money side of it is almost secondary. Thanks so much for reading :)!

  2. cheapRN says:

    Adaptability is key in any area of life, but especially when it comes to saving money. It’s a trait that was common a generation ago and seems to be lost in the “got to have it now” era. You will also find once you have children that adaptability is crucial. Mrs. FW you have a knack for rocking the philosophical side of frugality! BTW, our Golden turned his nose up at Frugal Hounds’ snow get-up but I told him not every dog tolerates the cold like he does!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think you’re spot on about past generations valuing delayed gratification and savings to a greater extent. And, I’ve definitely heard that patience and adaptability are paramount with kids :). Frugal Hound is admittedly not a huge fan of her snow coat either, but with very little fat or fur and thin skin, she needs it! Thanks for your kind words too 🙂

  3. Mrs SSC says:

    I miss the snow so much! Actually I miss having four seasons. I can totally understand Mr FW Zen state of shoveling snow…. granted its not fun if you are in a rush to get somewhere, but I love how snow dampens noises and while the snow is falling and is fresh the world seems quieter and more peaceful and clean… sigh… I’ve totally romanticized snow…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I feel the same way about snow! I romanticize it even as it blankets everything in sight. There really is something about the sound of snow…

  4. I will stay right here and enjoy 70 degree weather and palm trees and exotic birds. I do not want to ever be in 0 degree weather and blizzards ever ever ever again. There’s something for everyone, though! All who love the cold and the snow, I salute you! 🙂

  5. Mrs. PoP says:

    I am so much more of a palm tree girl (or a lizard – give me a warm rock in the sun any day of the week!). 5 years of winters (college + grad school) gave me more than enough snowy fun and memories (snow angels, frozen hair, long underwear, etc) to last me a lifetime, even with month-long returns to the sun and warmth every Christmas break.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I knew you’d vote palm tree ;). I was absolutely a lizard last week in San Diego. I’d move my chair around on the deck in order to be sitting in maximum sun at all times. We actually had to relocate a few card games so that I could continue basking :).

  6. That podcast sounds great!

    Moving from PA to MD has really changed my mind on snow. All of a sudden, schools cancelled when there’s nothing on the ground! We do live in a long county, but c’mon people, it’s not that bad out. But I’m sure in a year or two I’ll adapt to the locals and be a terrible winter driver too!

    • MEL810 says:

      Here in Central VA, the mere words’ possible 1 ” of snow’ send people into a Black Friday sort of frenzy and they crowd the stores and buy out every last bite of bread, milk and cold cuts. it boggles the mind!
      I miss the snow. I like four seasons: spring flowers, summer sun and swimming, autumn color and a snowy winter!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        We had the same experience when we lived in DC! Everyone would snow-panic! I honestly prefer colder winters, and, the DC swampy summers are decidedly not my thing 🙂

        • MEL810 says:

          I, too, could do without the swamp thang! Yuck! But the cold here is miserable. It’s just dreary and damp but without the pleasures of snow. I’m originally an Okie, so I grew up in a less humid environment. I was born less than 25 miles from where the biggest ever F-5 tornado hit. That I can do without, too, but Hells Bells, last summer, I almost got swept away by a damn tornado in downtown Central VA! Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, but no snow! I live not far from the epi-center of that earthquake that shook up the mid-Atlantic a couple of years back. Boy howdy, you just don’t expect that here!
          The funny thing about this area is that people panic and stock up more for a dusting of snow than for a major hurricane. Hurricane Isabel tore a strip out of this area and many people were without power for two weeks! I was one of the few people that was really prepared for it.

          • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

            That earthquake was bizarre–I was in my office at the time, which was on the 7th floor and the shaking was very unsettling. But, we were lucky that no one was hurt.

            It’s actually another thing we like about the Northeast–aside from snowstorms and rains from hurricanes, there’s not much weather danger here. We used to live in Kansas, and I don’t miss the tornadoes! Kudos to you for being prepared for Isabel–very smart.

  7. Palm trees ALL THE WAY. I do like a good snowstorm, but I prefer to be inside for the duration and would like it to melt instantly once we’ve had one nice day to look at how pretty it is. Since somehow this never happens….

    I’ve always been fairly minimalist in terms of buying things — not hyper minimalist, but I don’t like cluttered spaces and so I’ve never really been tempted to spend (a) cash I didn’t have on (b) things I didn’t have room for. My big pitfalls have always been experiences (theater tickets, travel) and food (restaurants, lattes). But the financial kick I’ve been on has reduced my desire to spend on those things as well — I definitely still am spending on them, but when I’m not, I don’t spend a lot of time craving them, if that makes sense.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I was the same way–my spending was definitely concentrated on travel, food, etc (mostly travel and food 🙂 ). But, I find that travel can be done frugally. And, as far as food is concerned, after awhile, you’re right that the craving diminishes. It becomes our new norm. Go you for living the frugal life :)!

  8. Amy says:

    While I don’t love winter, I desperately missed the change of seasons when I lived in the SF Bay Area. For me, the joy and excitement spring brings, makes the cold and darkness of winter worth it.

    Oh, and I get it on vacuuming. I feel the same way about ironing (unless there’s a huge pile of things that need to be ironed).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I agree with you on the change of seasons. I find it to be very comforting and it just feels right. There’s nothing like that first warm spring day when everybody pokes their heads outside!

      I confess that I do not iron. I honestly have not ironed anything in years. I do own an iron, if that counts 🙂

  9. This is our first winter in Colorado and I was really nervous about it. Turns out, I adapted :-). Snow tires for the car, snow tire for the bike, good pair of boots and off we go! If you had told me last year I would consider thirty-two degrees and sunny to be delightful biking weather, I would not have believed you. I don’t even need a coat at that temp! (Pulling the trailer uses a lot of extra body-warming energy.)

    I even join Mr. FW in feeling a certain satisfaction in shoveling snow. It makes me feel vaguely powerful. LOOK AT ME! I AM PICKING UP THIS SNOW AND MOVING IT TO A MORE CONVENIENT PLACE! NOW I’M PUTTING DOWN ICE MELT!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s awesome :). You are the ruler of your own snow domain! And, way to go on toughing out the winter biking–woohoo! The right gear really goes a long way in making outdoor activities tenable in the winter.

  10. Tarynkay says:

    I am not an extreme person, so I enjoy our middling climate here in NC very much. We get all four seasons. Since I grew up in FL, this is pretty exciting. It might snow once or twice a year, but it usually melts before the next day, so we never have to shovel. The entire city shuts down for the lightest dusting of snow. All the neighbors come out and we all drink hot chocolate- it is pretty much my ideal of winter.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      My in-laws live in North Carolina, so we are very familiar with ya’ll’s version of a snow day :). Your weather is indeed quite lovely down there! And, I’m always a fan of drinking hot chocolate 🙂

  11. I’ve lived in the Northeast my entire life and once I reached the age where snow days don’t exist anymore, I can’t stand it! Well I guess it’s nice a couple times a year, but once it gets more than about 4 inches, no thanks! Never mind 26 inches of snow and having to shovel that! Glad you enjoyed your trip!

  12. Even Steven says:

    I might just have to give you kids a listen and see what the hype is all about;)

  13. Andrew says:

    Been out west 11 years now. Not once have I had to shovel the sunshine…

  14. I am glad that we didn’t get the 30 inches of snow they were predicting, but do feel bad for you guys and my brother who also live in the Boston area. Thankfully for your home, shoveling snow is part of your entertainment. 🙂 LOVED having you and your box wine on the happy hour and can’t wait for next month’s! Enjoy your weekend!

  15. I’m not sure I’d be that adaptable. I’ve become quite the weather wimp with my years now on the best..I mean west coast. lol! I love how FH sleeps. And the snow outfit is adorable.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Best coast… what ;)?! Frugal Hound indeed has a penchant for odd snoozing positions. What can I say, she’s pretty hilarious.

  16. “At first, extreme frugality is akin to flinging oneself into a snowbank. It’s a veritable shock to our consumer system.” Ha ha, ain’t that the truth! I remember when we first started living frugally and was thinking “Why on EARTH would anyone do this?” Now, it’s second nature. As to the weather…it’s hard looking at those palm trees and say that I don’t want those. I used to love cold weather, snow, whatever winter could throw at us. Having lost weight over this past year I’m seeing just how much of a weather wimp I am.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Frugality really does become second nature after awhile–it’s a wonderful thing! I definitely get pretty cold in the winter months, but, I still love the snow. There’s just something so exciting and new about it every time it comes down and blankets everything. I’m a weather weirdo, I’ll admit it!

  17. Kathy says:

    I’m one of those old farts who declare that they never closed school when I was a kid unless there was 2 foot of snow AND the temperature was 20 below. But that’s really true. Now they close schools at the mere hint of snow. Considering kids in Alaska go to school when there is several feet of snow those of us here in the lower 48 have gotten pretty wimpy. I’m in the Midwest and so far we’ve had a pretty mild winter. I really like seeing it snow but I do feel bad when hubby has to clear the drive afterward. Since we are retired, however, he can at least wait til it is done before he has to get out there. No worries about getting to work. WooHoo!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Now that is a great benefit of being retired! I must confess that I did very much enjoy our snow day on Tuesday and am not opposed to having more 🙂

  18. Kim says:

    I would say palm trees, yet I live in a place where it can get very cold, so who knows? I think there are goods and bad with both. One of my favorite things to do is wake up on the first sunny day after a big storm and just look at how frozen and peaceful everything looks. Corny, I know.

    Mo, however, hates all weather below 60 degrees and is quick as lightning at taking care of business when it’s cold.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh I wish Frugal Hound would learn from Mo! She tends to take soooo much longer in the snow… freezing her poor little hound feet the entire time.

  19. Rio says:

    The human body is truly adaptable. I was visiting my sister in Australia over Christmas (I flew out a week before and on a Tuesday coming back so it wasn’t crazy expensive). The day I left Australia it was 110 degrees!! Low humidity, so it wasn’t completely unbearable. I arrived back home in the Midwest to -10 degree weather. Over a hundred degrees difference and I was perfectly fine! Other than being extremely jetlagged and sad vacation was over, of course…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow–100 degrees is a pretty significant difference! But, it’s so true that the body will adjust. Australia sounds wonderful, by the way. I’d love to visit someday.

  20. Tawcan says:

    I would love to see some snow here in Vancouver. The local mountains are really suffering right now because the lack of snow and the warm temperature. I really enjoy walking down snow covered city.

  21. We had our fill of palm trees last week when we were in Hawaii and we are now back to the cold Minnesota weather. It’s actually been quite mild since we got back, but next week will be back into the single digits and teens (nothing above 20 degrees). That snow storm was rough for some of you out on the east coast. I hate snow because of how difficult it makes emergency responders jobs – it stresses me out just thinking about it!

  22. I must not be adaptable. I’d much prefer we lived somewhere with warmer winters and cooler summers. Also, somewhere where adults get snow days would be great too! We got a Dyson for Christmas and my love of vaccuuming has grown exponentially!

  23. Mr. 1500 says:

    Ha, I love shoveling too! I like it so much, I take care of my neighbors on both sides of us too. They are elderly, so that is part of. I love the exercise though. And I never need an excuse to go out and play in the snow!

    Stay warm!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I am not at all surprised to hear that you enjoy shoveling snow :). And, it’s very kind of you to help out your neighbors. I’m sure they deeply appreciate it!

  24. Shannon says:

    I’ve adapted to living in Utah, culturally speaking (has the same seasons as my home state). It’s a unique place, and if you’re not from here it takes some getting used to! I can always feel when I’m NOT in Utah. Something that definitely keeps me here though (15+ years) is the SNOW (summertime is awesome too). Light, powdery, happy times, fun snow. (Although it seems the East is getting all our fluffy white stuff!) I love to cross country ski (dog friendly) and backcountry ski (because it’s free and a good workout). I may resort ski ($ lift ticket!) if a group of friends are going, but only a few times a year. Heck my husband and I are organizing/directing one of very few (dare I say only?) backcountry ski races (aka ski mountaineering) in all of N. America! I guess we like snow. I occasionally would like to visit a tropical place that has palm trees, but I am not one for humidity at all.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m intrigued by this backcountry ski race–how very cool! I confess I don’t know anything about skiing at all. I’m a terrible downhill skier and I’ve never been cross country skiing, but I’d really like to try it out. Enjoy your snow!

  25. Sara says:

    Well, there is snow and then there is snow. 24″ is but a light dusting for us Buffalonians! Snow shoveling is fantastic exercise for the entire body and necessary for the mental health when you are likely to be relegated to the indoors much of the time.

    I am growing more frugal by the day, with thanks to the sage philosophizing of Mrs. and Mr. Frugalwoods, MMM, and others. I am doing just fine turning up my nose at spendy restaurant food and more clothes and all of the things my kid is convinced she NEEDS in order to survive her senior year of high school. The goods that still leave me with a whimpering heart are things for the HOUSE. I want a super coolio bathmat and art and colorful area rugs. I really really really do. I have worked so long and hard at rehabbing my HUD house that I want it to look nice – way nicer than I care about my corpus looking. I have managed to resist the siren song (for the most part), but I struggle so to not want ALL OF THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS.

    Any advice for overcoming latent money-wasting impulses concentrated in one area?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I can understand your house stuff lust–I really enjoy decorating too. My best advice is to just try and get everything used that you possibly can. Almost all of our furniture is from Craigslist (couch and a bed included) and our decor is a mishmash of garage sale items, hand me downs, and stuff I’ve repainted/refinished, etc.

      With some creativity, you can totally decorate on the cheap. A key for me was to embrace the idea of the mis-matched and not aim for the cookie cutter catalogue look. But, the fact that you’re living frugally means you’re going to be just fine :)!

    • MEL810 says:

      Bob Villa has some really cool ideas for re-purposing and reusing used furniture and household goods. Check him out.

  26. There is a certain satisfaction that comes with shoveling one’s entire walk way or driveway. It does, however, diminish when you have to do it twice a day for two weeks straight.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You’re right on that! Mr. FW shoveled again today (it snowed more this afternoon) and he seems to still be enjoying it… we’ll see if his enthusiasm wanes by next week 🙂

  27. Norm says:

    Maeby has the same affinity for snow piles, which I don’t understand, because she promptly starts lifting her feet up because the ground is so freezing. If it’s so painful, don’t stroll around in icy mounds! She’d try to lift every foot off the ground if she could.

  28. Jessica says:

    I’m glad you guys enjoy snow since you got so much of it. And poor Frugal Hound is so adorable in the snow.

    We hate winter weather so much that we moved to California. The Midwest ice storm of 2009 was so bad we knew we couldn’t take it much longer! We moved in 2011 and I do have to say I adapted to the warmth very quickly. My husband, my pup and myself can hardly tolerate weather below 60 degrees. Now when it’s 60 degrees I’m wearing a sweater and a coat whereas that used to mean it was warm enough for shorts!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s exactly how my CA family is! It’s so interesting how we acclimate to new high and low temperatures. Glad you are enjoying the sunny west coast 🙂

  29. Mrs. F,

    Quite a great analogy you’ve got going here. It’s quite remarkable indeed how adaptable we are when we truly want or need to be. Seeing people in mountains of debt from lifestyle inflation getting out of it faster than a Ferrari goes from 0 to 100 sometimes still amazes me.

    Also, I hate snow in the city. Everything becomes a mess, I can’t walk fast, etc. #grumblegrumble 🙂

    Have a great weekend!
    NMW

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You’re right about snow slowing down walking commutes! I’m usually a very fast city walker, which can’t happen in the snow and ice. It took me awhile to walk to yoga the other day, but, I still enjoyed looking at the snow :).

  30. JD says:

    Mrs Frugalwoods, I think we must be kindred spirits at least in the ironing area. I also own and have owned an iron for years. One time when our dog was still alive I had to iron something ( gasp) and when I brought the ironing board out of the closet our dog went wild barking at it. lol I believe that speaks volumes about how I feel about ironing. :0

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh that’s hilarious! Frugal Hound wouldn’t know what an ironing board is either. I’m just fine with slightly wrinkly clothes–I’m an imperfect person :).

  31. Pat says:

    Give me 72 degrees and sunny almost every day…that’s how we live in coastal San Diego county. Who needs seasons!

  32. That podcast sounds awesome!! I’ll have to head on over and check it out. We are almost out of snow here – hoping for an early spring. Summer is much better than winter, no matter what some crazy frugal people say. 😉

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thanks so much for listening :)! It was a lot of fun to record, I must say. I admit it, I’m a winter-loving weirdo!

  33. Ok I will never get tired of seeing pictures of that dog. Soooo Cute. I hate snow and I was actually planning on settling in New Jersey after the military because I have family there. Now I realize that the snow is just not worth it. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. I’m just going to visit.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Frugal Hound says thank you :). I think it’s important to know yourself and your weather preferences–no sense living somewhere you wouldn’t enjoy.

  34. brookst says:

    Over the winter I miss the warmth so much. The other day the sun came out so I got a book, laid down on the floor in front of the patio doors and soaked up the heat through the glass. It was rejuvenating. I also have a beautiful summer forest picture as my computer background, makes me happy every time I look at it.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I would do that with a ray of sun too! I was like a lizard while we were in San Diego–I followed the sunshine every time we were outside. But I find that the change of seasons makes me appreciate the sun all the more each spring. It’s like a warm reward 🙂

  35. I can totally relate to the zen feeling when cleaning! And I love doing it when no ones in the house to add a more zen experience.

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