Thrift for beginners – 5 ideas to get you started

Gorgeous! Re-cycled Owl by Jessica Olszewski


If you were to give my mother a call and ask her about my thriftiness you would likely hear a roar of laughter. She would probably say something like “Spendthrift is more like it!” You see, when I was growing up I was the kid who always spent every dime of her allowance sometimes even BEFORE it came in, which required a negotiation with Dad and the checking off of future allowances on the calendar. My sister was much better at saving her pennies and somehow even at a young age was able to understand the concept.

My personal interest in thrift generally only came into play when my wallet was light. Which, as Seneca rightly points out is not ideal.

Thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse. ~Seneca

I was always pretty proud of the fact that I could somehow make it to my next paycheck with less than $10 in my pocket for the better part of a week. I could eat those suspect canned goods at the back of my cupboard, locate every “free happy hour buffet” within miles and grab a ride with friends so I didn’t have to use my own gas. I’d attend clothing swaps if I needed something new (to me!) and take the time to clean all my drawers to find the occasional misplaced dollar to add to my kitty.

The stress this often caused was enormous. If I was asked out on a date I had to be certain the guy wasn’t going to suggest we go dutch at the last moment. Not because I didn’t think this was acceptable but because I really couldn’t have pitched in my fair share. I turned down invitations to many events under the guise of “other plans” because I never liked telling someone I just couldn’t afford it.

Fast forward to today. I am incredibly fortunate. I never have to worry about gas in my car or running out of money before buying groceries. We bought a smaller house than we qualified for precisely so we wouldn’t be “house poor” and would still be able to dine out and take nice vacations. Thrift is not required in my day to day living but yet here it is on my list of Bliss Habits.

Here is the definition I choose to use here at Bliss Habits:

Thrift – The delight and joy of frugal wisdom, the ability to thrive with less.

Employing thrift personally means that I am able to free up money for some of my favorite charities. I can be generous without the stress that used to permeate my choices when I was younger. On a larger scale, I believe in the green benefits of thrift and know that re-use, and the concepts of less and sustainability are needed to help our planet. Thrift can be powerful

As someone with a sketchy relationship with thrift, I understand that it can be hard to get started. Here are a few ideas that have helped me.

1) Track what you really spend. For one week, carry a notebook and write down how you spend every penny. Don’t adjust your spending, don’t analyze whether or not you “should” be spending the money. Just go about your business as usual. At the end of your week, take a look at the numbers. Usually it is pretty easy to see where some adjustments might be made. Try doing the log for a month for even more insight!

2) Think of Thrift as a game. Pick an area of living you’d like to impact. I like to use grocery shopping. Take your usual weekly budget and see if you can reduce it. Set a target of 10% off last week’s bill. Take the money you do not spend this week and put it in a savings account. Do not use the money on something else (yet! Celebrate with a little splurge on a date set in the future!) The next week see if you can take another 10% off, keep doing this until you reached your personal limit and/or it is no longer fun for you. Once your “new normal” is discovered, keep spending at the new lower level and continue to save the money you previously would have spent.

3) Substitute one cheaper thing for a higher priced item. Example: you like popcorn and use the microwave popcorn packets. Substitute popping corn and oil for the microwave kind. You can pop nearly 10 times as much for the same price and you also can control the oil and salt content giving you a nutritional benefit for your new choice. Dozens of these kind of choices can be made throughout our home. Commit to finding one a week and you will reap great savings by the end of the year.

Birdhouse made from Plastic Soda Bottle
(click image for instructions)

4) Think of 10 things you can re-use and re use them. This sings to my eco-friendly heart strings. Plastic and paper bags are an easy first choice. Take out containers can be used for storage of other items, toilet tubes can be used for craft projects, broken crayons can be melted and formed into new ones etc. etc. Here is a list of 100 ideas from Mother Earth News.

5) Collect thrifty tips. Become a magnet for thrifty ideas. Ask other people what their best ideas are and head on over to pinterest for even more inspiration. Not every idea is going to work for you, in fact many will seem down right stupid but for every silly idea you will bump into an idea that does work for your family. Adopt the ones you like and soon enough you will reap some thrifty rewards.

Thrift can be fun and make a difference for our personal budgets and for the planet. Let me know in the comments if any of these ideas are useful to you and/or please share your thrifty take on things!

6 thoughts on “Thrift for beginners – 5 ideas to get you started

  1. Learning or re-learning to do more with less is one of the very few advantages of the economic crisis. The good thing is that once learned it’s an ability which sticks with us so we have more money to use on what’s really important.. 🙂

    Happy weekend!

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