Frugal Ponderings for the Last Bit of Summer Break

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

I think one of the hardest things to deal with when you’re frugal is the need to be flexible.

It’s a lot easier to shop, manage your busy schedule, and stay organized when you have a detailed plan.

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This week, I was reminded, as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

On Sunday night, I used my food processor to shred a bunch of zucchini from my garden and put four loaves of chocolate chip zucchini bread in my oven. I was feeling pretty good about all that I was getting done.  And then I cut my thumb on the shredding blade while I was washing it.  Badly.

My husband stayed home with our boys and my mom took me into Urgent Care.  Fortunately, no stitches needed – just a little surgical glue.  That is, until Monday afternoon, when I was happily filing away old papers and cleaning out our family binder in preparation for the new school year.  The cut in my thumb reopened and once again wouldn’t stop bleeding.  So back to Urgent Care where I got some steri-strips for the next week and this lovely bandage to wear for 24 hours:

bandaged hand

Isn’t this cute? I’d make a really good hitchhiker!

The bandage made it  a little difficult to do, oh, everything.    The thumb actually doesn’t hurt.  It just looks bad.  It’s mostly a frustrating inconvenience.  I’ve now lost an evening and the better part of an afternoon waiting for a simple fix to a self-induced injury, and my ability to do a lot of basic tasks has been hindered for awhile.   Despite all that, I’m grateful it wasn’t worse, grateful for family who came to my rescue and grateful for decent health insurance.

Summer vacation is almost over

I was fortunate to take a short trip to Austin, TX for’s SaveUp event.  This was a gathering of some of the most talented money-saving bloggers in the country to discuss how to help our readers save even more! It was a great trip – full of fun and inspiration – and I look forward to sharing some of what I learned there with all of you in the upcoming weeks.

My family took a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  This was the first major family vacation/road trip we’ve ever done, and the kids did great.  We had a fabulous time, but I was reminded that everything in a popular tourist area will cost a lot more money than you think it will.  Overall, I think we did a decent job of keeping our vacation spending in check, but it will take us awhile to save for our next family vacation. Fortunately, we have plenty of photos to remind us of our journey:

Crazy Horse Memorial

My awesome family posing in front of the Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer, SD. I love that this project is funded entirely by visitors and private donations.

The boys all go back to school next week, and I’m happy to report that we didn’t have to go back-to-school shopping.  We only had to pick up a few odds and ends from their school supply list.  I always feel a little bit of mixed emotions about the end of summer vacation.  On one hand, the boys are excited to go back and we’re all ready to resume the regular school routine.  On the other hand, I will miss the freedom to stay up late fishing, watching a movie or playing games with the boys.

I’m not meant to be a gardener

This summer has once again reinforced that I’m not really much of a gardener.  I plan the garden, plant the garden, and then my husband is the one who remembers to water it and keep it alive.  And every year, I mess up something with my planting.  This year, I decided to plant herbs (basil, oregano and thyme).  And when my tomatoes, beans and zucchini took off, those poor little herbs became completely shadowed.

I was bad about keeping up with harvesting the herbs before they flowered.   We were out of town during the peak of raspberry season and missed out on a lot of free fresh wild raspberries. My zucchini continues to overwhelm me.

I always start the season with such optimism.  I envision myself joyfully blanching fresh veggies and making homemade jams and jellies… And instead, my garden is overrun by weeds and disarray.  I guess there’s always next year.

Rearranging and cleaning out

My oldest son has been lobbying hard for his very own bedroom, so we decided to move him into a spare room in our basement.  The best part: we were able to decorate his new room with things we already had in the house. Just one problem: The spare room was a catch-all for everything that didn’t have a home someplace else in the house!  We now have a giant pile of items to donate to Goodwill, and a new resolve to be very conservative on what new items we bring into the house.

Still time for a little reading

I haven’t had much time to read any books lately, but there have been a few articles on the interwebs that have caught my eye.  Check out these reads:

Give me Gratitude or Give Me Debt at Momastery is the article that explains my whole approach to frugal living.  This post really resonated with my “Less is More” mantra I’ve adopted this year.

Speaking of “less is more,”  I was very interested to read about The Buy Nothing Year: How Two Roomates Saved More Than $50,000 on  I don’t believe I could pull off a challenge like these two folks from Canada did, but I do know there are lessons on saving money that we could all learn from them.

I’m always interested in learning about ways that people bring in extra cash.  I live in the woods where the deer are everywhere, so I paused, oh, like a deer in the headlights when I saw Enjoy walking in the woods? Here’s how to find and sell deer antlers at The Penny Hoarder.

When you name your blog “Northern Cheapskate,” a lot of folks struggle with the word “cheapskate.”  They associate with tightwads or stingy folks. I’ve always made it my mission here on this site to make being a cheapskate a positive thing – by demonstrating simple ways you can save money on the things you do every day – simple things that you wouldn’t be ashamed to talk about in public. That’s why I enjoyed Extreme Frugality – Where to Draw the Line at Money Off.  It outlines my sentiments on what is okay when it comes to saving money and what is not.

Planning ahead

We’re soaking up as much fun as we can the rest of this week, and then we’ll be working on establishing our new school, homework, and activities routines.  I’ll also be working to bring you more great money-saving content.  So if you haven’t already signed up for e-mail updates, you should!

About Christina Brown

Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.


  1. Fawn says

    Don’t give up on gardening! I think everyone is overwhelmed with their garden at some point……I have cucumbers coming out of my ears right now, lol :) Every year I learn from my mistakes and the next year I try and improve from them. We use grass clippings from our lawn and completely mulch around everything when its teeny tiny. Weeding is much easier then and at some point, the plants get big and shade the ground below and help suppress the weeds. My potatoes went crazy this year and totally shaded my sugar snap peas, which I had never grew before………be more forgiving of yourself, you do not have to have a perfect garden to garden, even a few fresh tomatoes or herbs is a nice reward.

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