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Frugal Frustrations

We – my husband and I, that is; our son, not so much – believe in living frugally. Living that lifestyle helps us to keep our priorities straight, and helps us to do our part to save Planet Earth. Recently, we had two events happen that brought us to our frugal knees, struggling with which was the right decision.

I’ll start with the trackhoe.

Boys and big machines

If you have a boy in your home, you likely understand the young male fascination for big machines like bulldozers and cranes. Benjamin started noticing them when he was a toddler, learning their names with ease when he couldn’t remember the name of his neighbor friend (Sam) whom he played with every week.

In case you missed the post on my previous blog, we have had a couple of guys here lately excavating for the earth-sheltered house we hope will be built by the end of June. One of the guys actually works for the property manager of the several-hundred acre property next to ours, and on more than one occasion when Jerry and B were taking a walk on that property, they encountered the other piece of machinery that is being operated there: a trackhoe. Much larger than our digger guy’s backhoe. A couple of weeks ago, B was able to stand just off the edge of our property and on the other one to see it in action.

And he was entranced.

So entranced, that he took it into his head that he had to have a “realistic toy trackhoe.” He has a set of small wooden machine toys, which includes a trackhoe, that he received for Christmas several years ago. But that was no longer good enough. No-o-o.

He asked for us to see if we could find a realistic toy trackhoe online (note his insistence that it be “realistic”). I sighed, but relented after extracting a firm promise from him that he would play with it for longer than a week. After all, we purposely don’t give him many gifts for his birthday and Christmas so that if he asks for something special during the rest of the year, we feel freer to buy it.

I went to amazon.com, typed in “trackhoe”, and sure enough, there were two or three.

The cheapest one was almost $67.

It was large, I give it that – almost two feet in length. But it was $67! And that was for the plastic one! The metal one, which I believe was a Tonka, was ninety-nine dollars.

When did toys get so expensive?

You can probably guess my first answer to B’s request.

He actually cried. He doesn’t cry very often. He whines, cajoles, and argues, but usually doesn’t cry.

The frugal solution

Then Jerry reminded me of the $50 his dad has been sending Benjamin every Christmas since he was one or two years old. We’ve only used the money twice, I think, to buy him something. The rest of it has gone into our bank account.

My plan was to keep track of how much Grandpa gave, and then give B the total when he was in his late teens.


Well, I guess not.

So I ordered the consarned thing, making a point of subtracting the cost from the $300 we estimated that we had saved from Grandpa’s generous gifts.

It took about a week and a half to get here, and you fellow parents can imagine the excitement and impatience B expressed several times a day until then. “When is it going to be shipped?” “Why does it take so long?”

Here is B playing with the trackhoe a day or two after it arrived:

bandtrackhoe bandtrackhoe2

For a few days, I felt I had failed in my commitment to frugality. But it did, after all, come out of B’s Christmas money, not ours.

So all was well.

Then, this happened…

Catastrophes with cameras

When we were engaged, my 35-mm camera’s battery died, and Jerry bought me a Nikon digital camera. That was about ten years ago. And it worked great until about a week ago.

Then, one day, I went to transfer some photos onto my computer and got a message that the USB port was having all the power sucked out of it. The mouse quit working (we use a mouse with the laptop because the touchpad is annoyingly sensitive), and would only start working again when Jerry clicked on the message and restarted each port manually.

At first I feared that there was something wrong with the computer. But the NEO2 worked fine, the FlipCam worked fine, and the mouse worked fine as long as I hadn’t just plugged in the camera. We bought a USB external port from Staples, but ended up returning it because it did not solve the problem.

It was the camera.


I became frustrated and angry. We just paid the last bill for my broken arm, and I did not want to pay for a new camera – even  though they are a lot less expensive now than they were ten years ago.

The frugal solution

My husband to the rescue once more. “I think there’s a way in the video editor to turn video clips into photos.”

Sure enough, there is.

So now, when I want a photo of something, I video it with my FlipCam, put the video in the editor, click the camera icon when I get to the screen I want a photo of, and save it as a jpeg.


(That is how I got all the photos for this post, and my last garden post.)

It works well, as long as I keep my hand steady while I’m videoing.

Have you had any frugal living conundrums lately? If so, I hope these stories will inspire you. (And if you know why the camera all of a sudden started drawing tons of power from the port, please comment below and explain it!)

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