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Happy Year of the Water Buffalo!

It's fitting that our first post coincides with the first day of Chinese New Year, as this blog celebrates frugal culture.

What exactly is frugal culture? Here is an excerpt from the novel Sarah Canary that may help:

A white miner circa late-nineteenth century United States is talking to a Chinese miner.

"You tell me, how it is that you Chinese make a dollar a day in a job where a white man makes a dollar seventy-five and you always got more money than anyone else."

"Frugal. It's a frugal culture."

That's why I'm blogging. Since the collapse of the worldwide economy about four months ago, articles upon articles on how to economize and live with less a la recession chic. What struck me was that every article's "Top 10 Money-Saving Tricks " was simply the way I've been living since I've been an adult. These so-called tricks were common sense to me. They were nothing new, nothing I hadn't heard already, nor even particularly thrifty.

This has been my way of life as far back as 1994, at least.

A transformative book for me was Your Money or Your Life, a classic that made me take a hard look at what my life "costs" me, and whether I want to continue living in that vein. I read that back in 1998, and haven't worked full-time since March 9, 2001. I have a much more fulfilling life, and I hope I can help others find their own way to financial sanity & life balance. I'll talk more about YMOYL later.

I was raised in the aforementioned frugal culture, but it was more of a "penny smart, pound foolish" kinda way. What I figured out over the years is that value is what matters the most when it comes to spending money. It'll save you time & money in the long run.

One way to maximize value is to shop at retailers with a "guaranteed or replaced for free" promise backing up everything they sell. When I lived on the east coast, it was LL Bean. Now that I live on the other side of country, REI is my retailer of choice for outdoor wear and gear (not to mention it's handy because it's not just a catalog presence). REI's house-branded products come with the aforementioned guarantee.

For example, I bought a rain shell in 1998 for $190. Yes, that's a lot of money, but it was well-constructed and had all the characteristics I required for the trip I was taking. At the time of purchase I was deciding between this REI product and another manufacturer's jacket. I chose the REI brand, knowing that this would be the last rain jacket I'd buy from them. Sure enough, the jacket lasted me into 2006, when the zipper finally failed.

I strolled into my local REI store and asked for credit towards my next jacket. I received $190 credit towards its replacement, a $125 jacket, and pocketed the difference in store credit.

Sadly, that jacket lasted a meager two years before its zipper called it quits, whereupon I strolled yet again into REI with $125 to spend towards a new jacket. As it turned out, the jacket I selected was on sale for $80, so I pocketed some more store credit.

Let's recap: I bought a somewhat pricey jacket twelve years ago, and now I'm wearing a third jacket downstream from that original transaction, without spending an additional dime. Whenever I shop at REI, do I endeavor to buy whatever I can with the REI label? Damn straight I do.

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