Spending Freeze Challenge: Finding free entertainment and food

Spending Freeze Challenge: Finding free entertainment and food

Call it tough love: The Problem Solvers challenged three families to live with a month-long spending freeze.

KATU Problem Solver Shellie Bailey-Shah checked in with the families halfway through the challenge to see how they're coping. Each family was allowed to buy a month's worth of groceries and fill up their gas tanks once before the challenge began and but that was it.

Two weeks in, retirees Pat and Paul Buescher were staying the course - no long distance driving to Paul's weekly camera club in Forest Grove and no more eating out.

Instead, they were cooking at home without the assistance of their specialty cookbooks.

“Mostly the tried and true recipes because I can't run out and pick up the saffron for that risotto recipe or something like that,” explained Pat.

Their supply of fresh fruits and vegetables was dwindling, with the exception of bananas. After posting a photo of banana peels on Facebook, a mysterious bag of bananas arrived on their doorstep from the “banana nymph.”

But to make it through the rest of month, the Bueschers are inviting friends to a frugality potluck.

“I suggested if someone was inspired to bring a hostess gift that they check with us to see what we're out of, so instead of flowers, a crown of broccoli,” laughed Pat.

At the Zoutendijk home in Newberg, Kim Zoutendijk is relying on bartering rather than the charity of friends. Knowing her firefighter husband Gert would be the weak link in the Spending Freeze challenge, Kimberly made up I.O.Us with this deal: pick up the lunch or bar tab for Gert, and she'll bake for you.

On the day we visited, friend and co-worker Al was picking up cookies just out of the oven.

“Did that work out for you?” asked Bailey-Shah.

“That's fine,” said Al. “I'm comfortable with (the arrangement). I think it's cool.”

And by the looks of it, Kim's been baking a lot! 

Still the Zoutendijks are saving money. As extreme couponers, they have a stockpile of baking ingredients, all bought at a deep discount.

Michael, 15, bartered, too.  He mowed the lawn of a neighbor who owns a pet store in exchange for a dozen crickets for his pet frogs.

And what about Justin and Jillianne Hill and their two young children in Hillsboro?

“Little bit of cabin fever?” asked Bailey-Shah.

“A lot of cabin fever,” replied Jillianne.

Jillianne admits to having an “ah-ha” moment regarding her spending.

“I feel like the spending is something that I do because I'm bored,” said Jillianne.

But because of the “Spending Freeze Challenge”, a whole world of free entertainment has opened up to the family.  For example, they’ve taken advantage of their local library for movies, free attraction passes and story times for the kids.

Justin has taken advantage of the free ride that's been gathering dust in the garage: his bicycle.

But the key for the Hill family may be not going anywhere at all.

“(Gregory’s) gone outside more in the last month than the entire time we've lived here,” said Justin.

“I want to teach (the kids) that we don't have to leave the house to have fun,” reflected Jillianne.  “This is our home, and we all need to be okay being together at home.”