By Mary Hunt
Dear Mary: Recently, we were invited to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday at an expensive restaurant. My brother informed us that he cannot afford to buy us dinner, so we will have to pay for our own meals. My husband and I would like to get the “birthday girl” a gift but feel a bit strange about the invitation. What is the proper response? — Deborah S., Wisconsin
Dear Deborah: Here’s a principle to live by: Be cheap with yourself but not with others. If going to this party would improve your relationship with your brother and his wife (even if it’s already great), that’s what you need to do.
If paying for your own dinner means not eating out for the next three months or skipping a couple of new outfits, that’s a small sacrifice for all the good this will do in the long run. Take a nice card and a small gift if you can swing it. If not, just being there and participating in a fabulous meal will be a wonderful gift. It will demonstrate your love and generosity.
By the way, these days I don’t think this is an unusual or strange invitation. I think we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of creativity as more and more people are facing tough times.
Dear Mary: It is important to me that I feed my family an organic diet. I feel that it is an investment in our health to avoid foods full of artificial ingredients. We go vegetarian a few nights a week to help with costs, but is there a way to save at natural foods stores? My local supermarkets leave a lot to be desired in their organic food choices, and Whole Foods is expensive. Do you have any tips for being a frugal and savvy organic consumer? — Holly, e-mail
Dear Holly: You can shop at Whole Foods. Just make sure you only buy things when they are on sale. Plan ahead. Peruse the weekly specials, and plan accordingly.
You also can grow your own food. Yes, it’s a big job, but if you are committed to an organic diet, do the work yourself and reap the financial benefits.
Consider joining a CSA — which stands for community supported agriculture — in your area. Find one that specializes in organic products. Go to http://www.LocalHarvest.org/csa to find a CSA near you. Here’s how it works: A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Interested consumers purchase shares, or memberships, and, in return, receive boxes (or bags or baskets) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
Here’s another idea: Go in together with friends or neighbors to purchase a side of beef once each year. Check with a local rancher or butcher shop to learn more about organically raised beef in your area.
Do you have a question for Mary? E-mail her at email@example.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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