Don’t buy it


Buy, buy, buy.

Being frugal, and especially in these tough economic times, those are precisely the words I don’t want to hear.

So the day my husband David came up with a plan to construct a much-needed hay shelter out of recycled materials, I was game. In his construction job, he’d torn down a customer’s old shed and hauled off the debris, intending to take the scrap metal to the recycling center. He was sorting through the materials when I told him that our neighborhood farmer saw the square bales stacked in our attached garage and suggested we build a hay barn.

“He’s right,” David said, and he set to work framing the shelter with lumber scavenged from yet another job site. He finished the work in a matter of days. Before loading the shelter with hay, I caulked the nail holes in the metal roof, hung the tack inside and lugged the feed container to the back.

In the end, the hay barn cost us $35 for the 2-x-6-inch roof joists. Our two horses whinnied as we crammed 80 bales into the little addition. The cats love sleeping on the hay. The grandkids want to have a campout.

For David and me, the satisfaction comes from knowing the shelter was sustainably built. By reusing materials, including old nails, our project took less energy and resources to complete. For more on this concept, read Michael Van Hall’s ingenious ideas in Fuss. Talk about frugal! They don’t call him the Cheap-Ass Curmudgeon for nothing.

Remember, sustainability is not something you buy, but a goal for the way you live. If you must buy things, go to flea markets or yard sales first. Buy locally. Think about the energy that goes into producing and transporting the goods you buy. Experiment. Do it yourself. Check the free items at

And if someone tells you that you have to spend green to be green, don’t buy it.

Bobbi Buchanan

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  1. I love this sensible notion. It’s bothered me for a while that “going green” has to be marketed, like a car. More and more, I think about how my grandparents and parents lived – making do, doing it themselves, putting it up. Living a common sense life. Thanks for the reminder, Bobbi.

    I feel proud of New Southerner!

  2. My favorite stories as a child were those of the Box Car Kids. I love resourcfulness.I was green long before it was cool…just an old hippy at heart…love re-making items to give them new life as something else. Raising three children as a single parent,with no real family of my own, made being frugile necessary. But, ny children grew up thinking I could do just about anything. If we needed something…I just made it out of something else! Im not a pack rat, but I save everything. I dont call it clutter…I call it “inventory”! Once, when my son was home from college he said…”mom…step away from the trash…it’ll be ok!”

  3. Shirley, I loved all your comments, but I deleted the last two because it seemed you were having a bit of technical difficulty and they were simply repeats of your first beautiful sentiments =)

  4. i was raised frugal, oldest of 9
    we grew what we ate and made everything else
    the cow barn was made from salvaged sheet steel from burned out factory
    covering trees we cut out of the woods and trimmed by hand
    whole thing cost $15 cuz we didnt have any used nails yet
    moms house is built from a salvaged cattle shed with rough shaped logs for rafters and roof supports
    theroot cellar we dug by hand and framed with logs, then nailed on slabs ripped off logs with a chainsaw, covered with visqueen we found in dumpster

    so yeah, i learned to live green and frugal, its how i like it

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