Learning to Be Frugal

06/23/2015 04:54 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016
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Talk about a sexy blog title. The word "frugal" does not score high in the sexy department, but that is something I am committed to change. This summer I will turn 50. I am, in my ripe age, learning to be (deep breath)... frugal. It's about time, you might think. And I couldn't agree with you more. But I never have been too fond of people who rub the dollar bills together between their thumb and index finger to make sure they don't give one too many in tips, or who don't give their cleaning help a generous holiday bonus, should they be so lucky to have one.

On the other hand, 23 years of being married to a tax and financial advisor, gave me some kind of permission to be oblivious; not exactly a wise thing, long term, and especially not once my marriage ended and I'm supposed to manage on my own. I have been known to be a little too loose-fingered with my cash and absent minded with my fiscal responsibilities, and lately, my cash reserves reached an all-time low. Which sort of shocked me into the frugal-mind-mode, or at least, to begin taking the idea more seriously.

Which also means I have to get rid of the glorious magnet on my fridge with a picture of a divinely glamorous 1950s woman, with the caption "frugal is such an ugly word." Because, if it's a mind-set thing, then I have to live it up and rid myself of all the negative associations. Note to self: Frugal can be beautiful (repeat, repeat, repeat).

As an example of my new-found attitude toward spending unnecessary moolah, I'll have you know how clever I can be: My middle son just graduated from high school and in the spring the requisite cap and gown (including sash and tassel) order-date was fast approaching. Instead of mindlessly sending him to school with the $50-something check, I dug out his older brother's cap and gown from two years ago, assessed it, washed it (gotta love polyester) and zap, all he had to order was the cap and tassel for $16. It helps, of course that all my three sons are between 6'4″ and 6'5″, the size of said gown.

I have recently listed my condo on AirBnB and happily hosted my first guests last weekend. Today, I got another reservation. The extra income will help matters a tad in this financial slump, which is likely to be a deep and wide and far reaching valley, since starting this fall, two out of three kids will be in college (ka-ching, ka-ching). But more money in will NOT mean more careless spending: Keeping in mind the mantras of the guy I once shared my life with, "To spend one dollar I have to earn two..." or even better: desired object in hand (or flashing before me on Amazon) ask myself "But do I need it?" before hitting the "Buy in One Click" button. It takes practice, but I'm motivated.

Just today, I stopped in at Chico's, the ladies' clothing store where the elastic waistband is the norm (boy, this is comfortable! I can eat more!), and a size 2 is the real-life equivalent of a 14 (gee, I'm petite after all!). After a brief moment of slight "must have" agony, I valiantly resisted the "buy one at regular price, get 50 percent off the second item" deal. It's taken me this long to be able to shrug, walk away proud and empty-handed and call their bluff. Who needs twice as much clothing as she desired in the first place, and why don't the Chico people just admit it's only 25 percent off per item? I win you lose.

All I can say is it's a process. It may still be a while before I install the Groupon App, or the SavenowCT App, or, argh, the AARP Savings App on my iPhone; concepts I learned of only yesterday from a beautifully frugal, and sexy, friend.

And just for the record, buying books doesn't count.