There is something to be said for ingenuity, especially if you are frugal by nature or strive to be.
The trick to frugal-driven ingenuity lies in patience and letting the solution come to you. You need not be highly creative or an artistic genius, but you do need patience.
Case in point, after renovating my bedroom and buying all new furniture, the freshly painted walls remained blank for a very long time. Many months in fact. Without a bunch of small photos and pictures (that in retrospect were lost on the expanse of large walls and vaulted ceilings), the walls showed their true potential and were clearly made for large-scale art. With three creamy white walls and the ‘Kauai’ blue accent wall and, along with our mutual love of the sea, the walls clearly were clamoring for some ocean-themed art.
Patience is its own virtue but all those months of shopping, scavenging and thrifting came up with plenty. Plenty expensive that is. We could simply not find something we both loved that did not cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
So, I dug my heels in and waited. I shopped and researched and looked but mostly, I waited.
Ingenuity finally came knocking in the form of an unlikely photo snapping moment. We were visiting my father, celebrating his 91st birthday, and decided to drive 90 minutes from Olympia to Ocean Beach, Washington. The weather was dicey — pretty typical for that part of the country — but we were hoping it would clear up so my dad could fly his new kite. Nothing doing, the winds raged and the beach, well, I’d never been so close to a beach where half the beachfront was gone and the waves thundered and crashed down, 20, even 30 feet high, right down onto the sand. My partner and dad stayed in the car but I simply had to get a photo of it. The beach, however, was too dangerous to walk out on as evidenced by the huge wave that actually came all the way up the sand and past where I was standing and I was positioned plenty far inland. So, I used my camera and got what shots I could, wind whipping wildly and the sound of waves smashing against the sand pounding in my ears. Wow. Now I know how they must feel in Florida before a hurricane makes landfall. And, as my father would explain the next morning at breakfast, the huge waves were apparently due to a rare phenomenon called a ‘snow moon’ where the moon is its closest to the earth, tugging hard on the ocean tides.
I didn’t think much of my three minute photo expedition until I downloaded the photos on the very same day that a vendor I’d used to make a photo album (Valentine’s gift for the boyfriend) sent me an email with a real juicy offer. They used to call that kismet. Any canvas size for under $60. Any size? any? Try the monster, 48 by 32 I thought. That’s just the size I needed for one of my bedroom walls. I then spent a few minutes working on a chosen image in Photoshop (I have serviceable skills on this software but I am no graphic designer by any means). I made sure it was high enough resolution to render at that size I was ordering and sent it off. I figured that for $60, it was worth the risk.
A few weeks later, a positively HUGE package arrived. Bob being Bob, simply placed it in the hallway and waited for me to come home and explain. One glance at the five foot tall cardboard monstrosity cluttering up our hallway and I sputtered, “Honey, I can explain.” Bob, being Bob, was no doubt amused by my latest surprise monster project and patiently waited for the unveiling as I hastily outlined my strategy, pointing out that it was a $60 risk and this when we’d been without wall art for months now and…how did it look? How did it turn out? We both took a step back and pondered the results. Those soft blues and misty grays against the sand with thrashing, curling waves that faded in the background?
Perfect. It was perfect.
Bob, being Bob, was suitably impressed and I was pleased as punch. Besides not spending a grand on mass produced art, the incredibly thrifty art I’d created also now represented a beautiful, shared memory. I couldn’t wait to hang it. Once done we again, stepped back to ponder the results.
“So,” Bob said, titling his head for effect. “Didn’t you say that we would need another piece of art on the opposing wall?”
Patience, and I think this bears repeating, is a virtue. Like the time I bought fresh, new lighting fixtures for the bathroom and dining room from Habitat for Humanity with no clue when I was going to have them installed and not realizing that in the case of the bathroom fixtures, they may not even have the right fittings. Luck was on my side that time as five years later, my contractor said they were a perfect fit and was able to install them easily. Whew. I learned a lesson however. Don’t buy lighting fixtures unless you are sure they will fit. I simply got lucky,
If I think about it, I have many other examples of how ingenuity trumped spending money each and every time. I needed storage in my teeny, tiny kitchen and while at a hotel liquidator, found a large tv display cabinet with tons of storage. It was an eighth of an inch too long for the space I needed to fill but that did not deter me. I somehow got the behemoth home, painted it and our friend Todd showed up armed with an electric saw. “Don’t worry!” he said cheerfully as he eyeballed the narrow bit he sawed off without hesitation (or measuring). “You can remove the rest of the trim when you use it for something else but meanwhile, it won’t show.” And darn if Todd, another ‘make do’ kind of guy, wasn’t right. We managed to wedge that monster into the kitchen where it houses a lot of cook books, kitchen appliances, bakeware and even provides another, much needed kitchen surface. Custom built-ins would have run me in the thousands. The solution I came up with cost $125 and some leftover paint. Todd’s goodwill and ‘make it work’ approach was, of course, priceless.
So remember the next time you think you need to spend a bundle on something. Don’t. Wait. Let inspiration come to you in the form of frugal ingenuity.