My Frugal Manifesto

Peg-at-Independence-HallThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines manifesto as “a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.”

So, here goes…

My Frugal Manifesto: 8 Principles for the Good Life
by Peg Cheng

1. Live your values
My core values are creativity, service, humor, compassion and frugality. If I could not live these values, I would be unhappy, I would be lost at sea. Thankfully, I am able to live these values pretty much every day and they’re reflected in how I spend my time and money. What are your values? Are they reflected in your everyday life?

2. Live below your means
Don’t spend more than you earn. Simple way to live free and stay out of debt.

3. Pay yourself first
What this means is put a specific amount of money away into your retirement account and your savings right when you get paid. Then, live off the rest. I admit that I’m good at putting away for retirement but not always for savings. It’s something I’m trying to get better at.

4. Pay with cash, not credit
Truth be told, I do order some things online that I can’t get in stores. It makes me feel better that when I do this I’m using a credit card that gives me points (which I’m saving up to trade in for a flight to Europe). But on a daily basis, I use cash for my purchases. It’s the simplest way to avoid debt and understand the value of the dollar. Marcus and I take out a specific amount of cash each month for groceries, supplies, going out, etc. When we run out of cash, we stop spending. If you’ve never done it before, try it for a month. You’ve got nothing to lose and only knowledge to gain.

5. Quality over quantity
I don’t like having a lot of things and the things that I do have, I want to be things that I love, that will last a long time. As William Morris said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” You tell ’em, William. Buying quality means I might spend more money up front, but I will spend less money in the long run because my things will last longer.

6. Used can be just as good as new
If you don’t believe me, you need to go to a Goodwill in a rich or well-off neighborhood. You wouldn’t believe all the great stuff people donate! Of course, don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. Buy it only if you need it.

7. Health is #1
When in doubt about something you want to spend money on, ask yourself, will this improve or preserve my health? If yes, go for it. Your health is the most important thing. Without it, you’re either dead or miserable or on your way to one of them.

8. Relationships matter more than things
I shouldn’t have to explain this, should I? Okay, fine. The relationships you have with people you love matter more than money and things. If you find yourself surrounded with money and things but not good people, then it’s time to change. Stop spending money and instead, spend time with people that matter to you.

That’s it. That’s my manifesto. I hope you find it helpful to your own frugality journey.

It seems appropriate that I include a photo of myself standing in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, at the site where our founding fathers debated the Declaration of Independence, for my last post for Super Frug. I mean what is the Declaration of Independence but a manifesto for our nation?

Yes, Super Frugers, you heard that right.

This is my last post.

I’ve blogged about frugality and the joys of buying less and living more for the last three years. I enjoyed writing all these tips and I hope you enjoyed reading them. Now it’s time for me to move on.

Curious what I’m up to next? Go here for my latest projects, passions, and gigs.

I wish you all the best, now and always!

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home by Bea JohnsonI love Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.

It is exactly the kind of smart, stylish, practical, frugal, minimalist, conservation home guide that I’ve been looking for.

But I didn’t know I was looking for it until I happened to run across a little blurb in Sunset magazine that said that Bea’s family of four only produces one quart of garbage per year.

That’s right.

One quart.

Can you believe it?

I had to find out more. Which led me to this slide show article on Sunset’s web site called “The zero-waste home.”

After looking at the inspiring slides and reading the article, I put Bea’s book on hold at the library. I checked out her blog and her top tips. When the book came through after a few weeks, I devoured it in a day. Then I read it again.

Zero Waste Home is chock-full of great tips and examples of how Bea and her family have been able to reduce waste, reduce consumption, save money and still live a fabulous and fun life. It is a book after my own heart.

I’m so inspired by this book that my next blog posts will detail how I’ve put Bea’s tips to work in my home and in my life. Stay tuned. In the meantime, check out the book!

NOTE: The book links on this page are affiliate links, so if you end up using any of them for your own online shopping, Super Frug will benefit (thank you!).

Sticking it to The Man!

Cheshire_Cats_headI love this picture from the book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where the Executioner and the King are arguing about whether they can cut off the Cheshire Cat’s head. And the cat is watching, thoroughly amused.

Sometimes I feel like the Cheshire Cat.

I’m amused when I read about or observe people who spend money on things they don’t need or on things they could buy or make for a lot less.

They waste their money and then they complain about not having enough money! It’s enough to make me sit back and smile my Cheshire Cat grin.

You don’t have to live your life according to what you see on TV or in the movies or in a magazine!

That’s the Man talking! And a great marketing team talking! (Or maybe it’s your mother or your sister or your coworkers or your frenemies, in which case you need to learn to tune them out!)

You can live the life you want, the way you want to.

As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or hurting others, you are free to live your life the way you want to (especially here in the United States and in many other democratic countries).

You know what I think keeps people from living the way they want to live?


They are so stuck in what they should be doing.
What they should look like.
What label should be on their clothes.
What they should drive.
What they should live in.
Where they should live.
What they should be eating.
What they should be drinking.
What school their kids should be attending.
What lessons their kids should be taking after school.
What kind of phone their kids should be talking on. (Ugh!)
The list goes on and on!

Should, should, shoulds!


F*ck what other people think! Instead, focus more about what you think. What you feel inside every day. What you feel when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. Again, as long as you aren’t hurting yourself or hurting others, live your life the way you want to live it.

For me, I love living frugally and knowing that my money is well spent, well managed, and that Marcus and I are taken care of in the present and in the future. Frugality is a value that I live by.

Every time I find a better way to do something for less money (or no money!), I feel like I am sticking it to The Man. And boy, is it a glorious feeling.

For example, for the past year, I’ve been researching recipes for DIY health and beauty products. So far, I’ve made lip balm, hand lotion, face scrub, facial moisturizing oil, a solid deodorant for Marcus, a spray deodorant for myself, and scented bath salts. I know it may seem small, but every time I make a health or beauty product for mere pennies, and it works just as good as something I used to buy in a store, I get a boost.

What about you?

Do you want more freedom? Are you hung up on trying to please others? Are you trying to live up to other people’s images (or some brilliant marketing team’s idea) of what you should be or what you should be doing?

It’s time to break out. One step at a time. Think of one thing that you can do this week to start living your life the way you want to live it.

Then do it!


My Perfect Day

sunset-parkI give advice for a living. To pre-lawyers. That’s right–people who want to be lawyers.

I’m not a lawyer. Never have been. Never will be.

But sometimes I work like one…and give myself ulcers. Well, not really, thank God. But I do work so hard sometimes that I cause myself lots of anxiety and painful IBS episodes.

You see, even though I tell my prelaw students all the time, balance yourself, I often forget (or avoid) doing that for myself.

And what’s even more ironic is that I often recommend to my clients and others an exercise called My Perfect Day, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done it myself.

My Perfect Day is an exercise that helps you pinpoint what you love, enjoy and desire.

You simply write down what your perfect day looks like from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. It helps to be detailed. Write down what you want to eat for breakfast on your perfect day. What you would do in the morning, what you would eat for lunch, what you would do in the afternoon, etc., and on and on.

I ask that you not put in anything that needs lots of money or prestige or connections to make the perfect day happen. Include only things that you can readily get or make happen.

Why do I put that parameter in there?

Because I find that people often think “perfect” needs to be crazy, wild or fantastical. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, when most of my clients do this exercise, they include simple pleasures that cost next to nothing. Then they wonder why they don’t do these things more often.

Today, I woke up and realized that I had been working too much, too long and putting way too much pressure on myself. I realized this because I woke up this morning and my stomach and bowels were once again in pain. I needed to take my own advice and remember what’s important to me and to my well-being.

So, here goes.

My Perfect Day by Peg Cheng

8:00 AM:  Wake up without an alarm clock

8:15 AM: Eat a savory breakfast that is actually leftovers from last night’s dinner. Chicken and zucchini stir fry with carmelized onions sounds good. Read the newspaper while I have breakfast.

9:00 AM: Take a shower that’s not too long and not rushed. One that only takes ten minutes but makes me feel refreshed and renewed. Sing in the shower! Get dressed in my super comfortable yoga pants, a hoody and a t-shirt.

9:30 AM: Sit down at my desk and work on my latest creative writing project. Could be a short story or a novel or a screenplay. *

10:45 AM: Get up and take a break.

11:00 AM: Check and respond to emails.

11:40 AM: Leave for qigong class.

12:00-1:10 PM: Qigong class at Embrace the Moon.

1:30 PM: Back at home. Heat up a tasty homemade frozen meal and have that for lunch. I don’t like to cook breakfast or lunch on weekdays and so I make big dinners and freeze smaller portions to have for lunch at a later time.

2:00 PM: Read for pleasure. I love, love, love to read for pleasure. When I go a day without doing it, I feel off. Funny how many times I don’t even give myself this simple pleasure.

3:00 PM: Facebook post, tweet, read twitter feed, etc.

3:30 PM: Meet with a client over the phone/Skype and/or edit clients’ essays. Get up from desk and take a break at about 4:30pm.

5:00 PM: Check and respond to emails.

5:30 PM: Cook dinner. Let’s see…I think today I will make cod baked in foil with thyme, green onions and white wine, roasted bell peppers with garlic, and jasmine rice.

6:30 PM: Eat dinner with Marcus and talk about our day.

7:00 PM: Watch one of our favorite TV shows on Netflix. (If only every show was as good as Life on Mars, I’d be happy.)

8:00 PM: Go for a walk with Marcus around our neighborhood. Look at the flowers and trees and breathe in the slightly salty air. During the summer, watch the sun set over the Puget Sound.

9:00 PM: Rest and relax at home.

10:30 PM: Go to bed and have deep, wonderful sleep.

This is my perfect weekday. Weekends would be different. Notice how my perfect weekday only includes two hours and 40 minutes of work. I know this won’t work for every weekday, especially not during my busy season, but it’s a much healthier mix for those days when I don’t need to do client calls or essay edits around the clock. It’s a good reminder to me of what’s important to me and what “perfect day” things I can include in my daily life.

Does your daily life give you energy and pleasure? Or has it been depleting you?

What does your perfect day look like?

I hope you will try this exercise. Take just 20 or 30 minutes and write down your perfect day. I hope it will inspire and motivate you to include something from your perfect day into every day of your life.

*  Special thanks to the Kick Ass Critiquers Brenda Olson and Mary Bell for always encouraging me to keep writing. The KAC rules!

Sunset photo taken by Marcus Donner on the evening of our wedding engagement.

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel

YouCanBuyHappinessbookCan you imagine giving away most of your possessions and then moving into a custom-made 128 square foot house on wheels?

Does this sound crazy?

Does it sound enticing?

Either way, you should read You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel.

I read this book in two days. I couldn’t put it down.

I found Strobel’s journey to simplify, reduce her consumption, and create a life that she loves absolutely fascinating.

Her writing is friendly, straightforward, and honest – she shares her triumphs and accomplishments along with her mistakes, misfortunes, and faulty ways of thinking. I really appreciate that.

Chapters include:

  • Buying Things Will Not Make You Happy
  • The Stuff You Own Owns You
  • Changing Your Relationship with Stuff
  • The Power of Debt
  • Sell What You Can, Give the Rest Away
  • The Joy of the Small House
  • Reclaiming Work
  • Time is the Only Real Wealth
  • Money vs. Experiences
  • Relationships Matter, Not Things
  • The Art of Community Building
  • The Power of Tiny Pleasures

Strobel doesn’t just share her story, she also peppers the book with stories from other happy, interesting, and independent people who have also simplified their lives. Also, she’s done her research. Throughout the book are enlightening and often shocking factoids on happiness, consumption, debt, personal finances and more.

This not only an inspiring book, but one with tons of resources for anyone who wants to live a more frugal and intentional life. Whether you would ever live in tiny house is beside the point. This book is worth reading just for all the simplifying, life-altering, happiness-inducing ideas and strategies.

Check it out when you get a chance and let me know what you think of it!

NOTE: The book link on this page is an affiliate link, so if you end up using it for your own online shopping, Super Frug will benefit (thanks so much!).