9 Forgotten Frugal Strategies – And How To Resurrect Them
When you were a kid, did you roll your eyes at the length of your parents or grandparents to conserve, save, and find new uses for old things?
I did it. But the older I get, the more I appreciate these almost forgotten frugal strategies.
With society’s renewed focus on green living and simplicity, we may only have to look back a few generations to find the way forward. Here are some frugal strategies worth resurrecting.
My aunt, who will be 88 this year, used to darn her husband’s worn-out socks and “turn” the collars of his work shirts.
Don’t know how to turn a shirt collar around? You’re not alone. This is how my aunt did it:
When a collar became discolored or frayed, she would untie it at the seam, turn it around, and reattach it. The worn part would become the invisible underside, revealing only blank fabric.
It seems to take a long time today, but his strategy has doubled the life of my uncle’s work shirts and saved his family money.
With the high cost of clothing, it’s time to rediscover this lost art of mending. With just a few sewing lessons and a used machine, you could extend the life of your clothes and stretch your budget.
2. Clothes hanging
Before electric clothes dryers, people dried their clothes on a clothesline. Imagine it: a cool breeze, no energy costs, no filters to clean and no static electricity. Even better, air drying is a way to extend the life of your clothes.
Although strict zoning regulations prevent air drying in some areas, air drying is still an option. If you live in an apartment or condo, consider using a drying rack. Clothes may come out a little stiff, but a five-minute tumble in the dryer will soften them right away.
When I was young, my parents planted a huge garden every spring. We have grown corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce and dill year after year. This garden took a lot of work, but it was also a source of pride and it cut our family’s food budget by a third.
The movement from lawn to garden breathes new life into the old idea of fresh, home-grown food. From window sill pots of herbs to neighborhood co-op garden programs, growing our own food is getting cool again.
Confused about how to grow good food? Start slowly. Cultivate a small plot in your garden or start a simple container garden.
For rural families around the world, canning fruits, vegetables and meats was once a way of life. The goal was food stability through long, harsh winters, not saving money.
But canning is a powerful frugal strategy that’s as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. In addition to cutting your grocery budget, canning lets you control what goes into your food (and, therefore, your body) and dramatically reduces packaging waste.
Intimidated by the thought of canning? Do not be. Learn to be able is relatively simple and the necessary equipment is usually available second-hand.
Exchanging one service for another or exchanging items for services was a proven method of commerce long before money became king.
But across America, barter is making a gradual comeback. People are finding new ways to save money, help each other, and build stronger community relationships.
A good friend of mine is helping a salon owner market his business online in exchange for a regular cut and color. Another takes care of his neighbour’s lawn in exchange for access to his apple trees in the summer. (The landscaper’s wife is a master pastry chef.)
Our grandparents would be proud.
6. Buy used
When my parents bought their house in the 1970s, they furnished it largely with second-hand items. The bedroom sets, desks, and sofa in the family room were all from auctions and estate sales. Mom and Dad have been able to find quality second-hand furniture and have selected each piece with care.
Amazingly, most of this furniture is still in use today, almost 50 years later.
Why is second-hand buying such a smart money move? First, it mitigates the impact of depreciation – the decline in value from “new” to “used” is precipitated.
Second, depending on the state you live in, items purchased from a nonprofit thrift store may be exempt from sales tax.
Third, there are fewer surprises with more used items – they’ve been proven to stand the test of time.
If you’re worried about buying used, start slow. Explore your local Salvation Army or Goodwill outlet and see what catches your eye.
Just a few generations ago, people seemed more mindful of the resources needed to manufacture goods. As a result, even the most modest objects have been valued and preserved for future reuse.
From rubber bands to barn boards and from jelly jars to flour sacks, salvage has played an important role in our history, especially during the Great Depression and other times of crisis. Maybe it’s time to reclaim this part of our national heritage and find new ways to save what surrounds us.
8. Creative reuse
Many years ago in Chicago, I had a roommate who kept used yogurt containers. When I first noticed dozens of them stacked in the kitchen, I remember thinking, “This guy either has the healthiest digestive system in town or he’s a hoarder.”
Later, I discovered that he used the containers to start sowing in the spring. As the beginnings matured, he replanted them in the garden. In the summer the whole place was alive with herbs, tomato vines and flowers.
This is a simple example of giving new life to an item that would otherwise be destined for a landfill. But there are countless others. Vintage mason jars can become unique pendant lights, ornate doors can be transformed into unique headboards, and old tires can find new life as classic swings.
Opportunities for creative reuse are everywhere; just look with a little imagination and inspiration.
Wait: This is the simplest strategy of all, but the hardest to stick to. In previous generations, major purchases meant significant deliberation. Waiting was the norm – waiting to find a better deal, to figure out if an item was a need or just a want, to consider how a purchase would affect our budget.
Today’s easy consumer credit has turned delayed gratification into an outmoded and old-fashioned notion. From shoes to smartphones, anything can be an impulse buy.
But there is real power in hitting the pause button. Building better buying habits helps us stick to our budgets, achieve bigger financial goals, and overcome the 24/7 marketing machine that has kept so many people in debt for decades.
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