Monday, October 12, 2009

A Thrifty Lifestyle as the Counter-Culture of Today

We live in an age when society has been spoiled by plenty, and many things which were considered “indulgent” during the Great Depression are now commonplace. There was a time when products were made to last. That was expected. People were more interested in value than in having the latest and greatest, and they lived within their means, not lines of credit. Presently, rather than developing the habits of saving, reusing, and fixing, we have become a “throw away” society. I contend that, for the majority of us, this ideology will no longer work. The secret to living on less is finding pure pleasure and contentment in what we have, and the enjoyment of taking care of it, preserving it, and needing nothing else. I have always said, “The more you have, the more you have to worry about.”

During this recession we have seen our grocery bills nearly double, our home values fall, and our investments in the stock market disappear, while many of us had become accustomed to using a large amount of consumables, the cost of which is now eating away at our household budgets like moths. Although I don’t consider toilet paper or facial tissue an indulgence to be eschewed, I am willing to challenge the use of disposable dust cloths, disposable toilet bowl scrubbers, disposable floor cleaning pads, disposable diapers and wipes (unless absolutely necessary, like when traveling) disposable disinfectant wipes, and disposable bibs; and I think much care could be taken to reduce or eliminate the need for zip top bags, paper napkins, paper towels, paper lunch bags, paper plates, tin foil, wax paper and plastic wrap.

The indulgent culture of today is also hidden under the guise of supplying nourishment. Many of us have fallen to the habit of eating too much, eating whatever we want, whenever we want. A person’s propensity toward this is well served in society. There are snack cafeterias in almost every grocery and department store. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous, as are the billboards for them. I was aghast when I saw a billboard sanctioning a “4th meal”, and appalled even further upon seeing a billboard stating “your stomach doesn’t know what time it is” advertising a 24-hour fast food restaurant. As our appetites for pleasure are stimulated by advertising and availability, our self control is challenged. Our health as well as our budgets will feel the impact of these choices.

Here are some money saving tips to wisely counter an indulgent, throw away society:

  1. Give yourself permission to ignore fast food. Just because it’s there, and you think you might be hungry, so what. Just ignore them. They can make a living without you.
  2. Eat a healthy snack or a meal before you go out shopping, and allow time to regularly eat at home.
  3. Plan a meal out every once in a while, and don’t eat out unless you’ve planned to.
  4. Don’t fall for the latest advertising campaign, the newest best product; let it stay on the market awhile. If it isn’t that great, it will disappear. If it stays, the price will probably go down. Let someone else’s money field test it.
  5. Pack lunches in lunch boxes and use Tupperware style containers for sandwiches and chopped fruit.
  6. Buy a big pack of dust cloths or microfiber cloths, or cut up old t-shirts, or old diapers. Use them with solvents for cleaning, and have them handy for spills.
  7. Try using cloth napkins, at least for one meal of the day.
  8. Remember that a little extra work is exercise. Go to the trouble. It will make you feel good.
  9. Make a goal never to throw away food.
  10. If it breaks, fix it. If you don’t know how, check the internet. Someone knows.

Finally, some families have tried a “30-days without buying anything” experiment. Of course, this excluded fresh food and gasoline. It has given people perspective on their own buying habits, and ways that they can do without certain things. Personally, I think this would be fun. I am get tired of trying to find a place to put things away…..but that will be my next blog.


  1. I have become my parents! Not really, but I used to think that washing out ziplock bags and re-using paper bags was an extreme measure my mother used. This past year I took stock in the amount of ziplock baggies and plastic wrap we used and decided to cut back. The stories of harmful toxins emitted from plastic further encouraged me to use other options. The initial cost of "safe plastic" and glass storage was hard to swallow. I still buy some bags, yes re-use them when possible, but have had to buy so much less and feel better about it not filling a landfill. This has also helped me with the above concept of not wasting food. The food is in a ready to re-heat container.

  2. I love the cloth napkin idea! We started using cloth napkins 2 years ago. We only use paper ones for meals that stain, like spaghetti. We fold and flip the napkin for the next meal and I put them away in the order I removed them from the table so I know whose napkin it is for the next meal. I would like to start making my own so that they can be a bit smaller and more manageable.