Money and Love…or Hate

Yes, I’ve been remiss.  Prepping a house for sale and looking for a job have slurped up my creative juices. When you hit a job fair where 15k people show up… When the market’s at 7,000 points… (note: long ago I mentioned that someone (I couldn’t find the source) said 7 ,000 was the point where the market would stabilize. God, I hope so!! Just not seeing the continual slide might help many find just a smidgen of hope that we’d get through this.

But, many aren’t. You can’t be frugal when there’s nothing to be frugal with. And, few things test a relationship as much as an empty checkbook. For many, money is our worth, our value to others. For others it’s a means of avoidance – a new outfit or fancy dinner allows us to skip facing the issues in our life. For still others, it’s a barrier to a relationship, as this funny, but sadly true article shows. Creativity and a sense of humor had no chance against $$$.

Many are staying in unstable, unhappy, unfullfilling relationships out of necessity.   Can’t sell the house. Can’t find a job. Can’t leave. It may be a financial fix, but it’s one that will surely lead to repercussions felt for generations. Frustration, fear, anger, hopelessness – who better to vent at than that SOB spouse you’d leave in a minute if it weren’t for the economy. Love crossses that ever so thin line and turns to hatred. Divorce may be on the slide, but I’m guessing domestic violence will see a big upturn, mostly in terms of verbal abuse, but don’t count out battered bodies along with the scarred souls.

We don’t like to talk about mental health issues in this country. Only the “weak” can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps ( or whatever cliche you’d like to insert.) Guess what? A lot of strong, responsible, caring human beings will find themselves tested beyond their limits. Some may throw themselves in front of trains, but more of them will throw their pain at others or internalize it and self-destruct (drugs, alcohol, affairs, gambling, over-eating.)

If there’s ever an issue that you can’t be frugal about, it’s your brain. A mind IS a terrible thing to waste. Find a means to shore up your mental health during these horrific financial times. Reallocate dollars and maybe you can try a Relationship Boot Camp. Too steep? Buy the book. Watch Dr. Phil. Search the internet. See what services your community offers. Find a way to save your sanity, if not your relationship.

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Ten (frugal) Valentine Ideas for Him and Her

It’s almost that day – you know the one that comes well before you’ve paid off the Christmas card debt. What’s a strapped budgeteer to do? Jewelry? Out of the question. Romantic dinner at a 5 star restaurant? In your dreams! Maybe Burger King with a buy one/get one free coupon… Nah. I want to live!

If you can’t impress your sweetie with monetary things, why not overwhelm them with love – you know, the real thing, the stuff that says “I’m thinking of you, I appreciate you, I respect you.”

Here are Frugal Fiction’s top ten ideas for making that perfect partner feel special, and truly, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is supposed to do?

1) Send an E-card.   You say boring, cheap, unimaginative. No, because the WORDS are yours, personal, not some paid marketeers idea of love. Besides, remember, we’re working on overwhelming here folks. You don’t get to do just ONE thing on this list! And, as for creative, why not send 2 E-cards. The first is obvious. The second, maybe not so. How about a thank you card? Love and appreciation expressed. Big winner. Cost savings – $3 – $6.

2) Make a card. Whether you use colored paper, marking pens and glue, or, for the more advanced, the trusty ol’ computer where you insert a favorite picture with hearts and flowers, it’s again, personal. You know how you save all the kids’ art projects? The “aahh” warm-fuzzy feeling you get when you look at them again? Bet your honey will feel the same about your effort. The key word? EFFORT. Again, $3 – $6 savings.

3) Be THAT guy in the commercial.  I can’t tell you who the ad’s for, but he’s telling her he thinks her toenails need another coat as she’s lounging on the sofa. Pedicures are sensual, relaxing for the recipient (ok, for most). They make a seriously ignored and abused part of the body feel good. It’s an indulgence. Girls – don’t think you’re scott free on this one. Give him one, too. Once he sees how great it feels, maybe he’ll harp less about the money you spend when you do fork over $30 – $50. Loving, creative and big cost savings.

4) Complete a “Honey-do” Item. This has a two-fold benefit – immediate gratitude for doing whatever the task was, and even better, there’ll be no futher harrassment on the issue. This is also gender-neutral. We all want our partners to “do” something for us. Girls – maybe it’s cleaning out the closet of all those sizes that haven’t fit in awhile so he has more than 3 feet of space in a 1000 square foot closet. Guys – maybe the running toilet really does wake her up. You know what IT is. Do it. 

5) Try some Kitchen Loving. No, this has nothing to do with countertops. We’re talking G-Rated ideas. Cook cutey pie their favorite meal. Bake some of those heart-shaped sugar cookies, do the grocery shopping, cleanup the mess. Everyone has their own kitchen standards. Do something outside your box to say “I love you.” Girls, if you cook and he cleans, hand him the remote and do both one night. Guys, if she cooks, send her to the tub for a quick soak while you grill up some steaks and open a can of peas. Right or wrong, food says love. Savings vary.

6) Send your message with a massage. I can hear you now. “Ya, Ya, I used to do that, you know, in the beginning…”  Look, everyone’s tired these days and it is work – a good one is anyhow. But, everyone’s more stressed. Make the effort. Cost savings, what $80 – $100+? And, a relaxed partner? Priceless!

7) Give ’em a break. What? A break? Valentine’s Day is all about cuddly, smoochy, huggie time. That’s marketing folks. How better to show respect for your best friend than to give them a little quiet time. Take the kids to the park so she can veg with a book, or he can work on his ’57 ragtop whatever in peace. Send her out to lunch with her friends while you take care of that week’s laundry, or send him out to the boat show with his buddies and you handle dog poop duty. Again, do something that deviates from your normal roles so the other gets a break.  PS: It’ll destress them so that massage will be easier.

8) Chocolate. Ok, ok, you’re supposed to give chocolate. It’s like required. Truly, how many of us need more chocolate on our waistlines? Let’s compromise. Pick up some of those 3 or 4 for $1 chocolate mini-hearts and leave them on the pillow (like they do in fancy hotels.) Chocolate requirment covered. Savings, what maybe $6 or more. I don’t buy boxes of chocolate.

9) Flowers & Stuffed Animals. This is another one of those “I must” Valentine rules. She gets poseys, he gets some stuffed singing bear. Or she gets both and he’s rewarded with those “I’m hot” boxers. Please, isn’t it time for this tradition to vanish, kinda like dinosaurs? Between you, we’re looking at spending probably $30 at least. If you have to do flowers, buy ’em at the grocery and hand deliver them. You’re gonna save a fortune. Besides, the florist doesn’t offer a deep, soul-piercing, longing look as he says, “These are for you.”  Ladies, pick up the $4 cute little whatever – I got the love bug. They can sit on his bathroom counter where he’ll see it daily, travel with him, hang out in his locker at work – all constantly saying, “I love you.” Stuffed bears that hug and smooch can’t. Savings each – let’s say $10 – $15.

10) And, of course, the Special Night. Best utilized when you can farm the kids out for an overnighter. Just the two of you… You figure out the rest. If that’s not possible, farm ’em out for a few hours. Who says the sitter has to come to your place?

The key isn’t about how much you spend, it’s about investing yourself in the relationship. Pick five or six of the above and I’ll bet your frugal expenditures will deliver a return on investment that would make corporate execs drool. Happy Valentine’s Day!

WARNING: This advice is not meant to provide happily-ever-after, nor is it intended in any way to give the reader remedies against said writer should things go awry, and… you know,  whatever other legal stuff I’m supposed to write here to cover myself.