There was a time when what we call frugal was just a way of life. Women cooked from scratch, hung clothes on the line to dry and mended clothing and everything else as a matter of course. Most women stayed home and raised their own kids. They might have even mowed the lawn or fixed a broken lamp. They saved money without even thinking about it.

Then came the times of prosperity, women's rights and daycare for the kids. A woman went to work outside the home and bought more convenience food because she was tired. She bought a dryer because who has time to hang clothes outside when they're gone all day? She threw out worn clothing and linens and bought new. Those things cost more money so she worked longer hours or went back to school to get a better paying job.

She needed better clothing to wear to her now more important job and she needed a better car and she needed to pay daycare. So she worked harder and sometimes, smarter. And so it went.

Ask most working women now and their response is that they can't afford to stay home. It's actually true in some cases. In others, women are shocked to learn that they are paying out almost as much as they're making.

Not you, you say? Here's a challenge. Write down the cost of daycare. Add to that about half the electric bill. Add to that about a half the cost of gas (I'm letting you off easy here). Add to that a quarter of the cost of clothing, makeup, shoes, hair cuts and other self pampering items. Add to that half the cost of food.

What's the total? How much do you make each month? Let the numbers speak for themselves.

If you're actually helping the household financially, good for you. If you're not so much, take another look and see. Do you want to take lunches? Renovate last year's office clothing? Turn off the AC? Use alternative transportation? Or stay home?

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image courtesy morguefile.com