Archive for November, 2012

November 17, 2012


Thrifty: Using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.

Am I thrifty? Yes.

How? Well I don’t think I am thrifty in ways that modern folk use the word. I am probably closer to the thrift of the last depression than the new millenium. Scouring the internet to find the best price on a holiday or GHD hair straighteners is not my idea or thrift. My thrift would not even consider the need for hair things or a holiday.

I was brought up in a family where we rarely had brand new clothes as they were handed down to us or sewn by my Nan who was a tailoress. The only thing I actually remember shopping for as a child were shoes. We used to go to an amazing place called French’s in Southampton which was so much more than just a shoe shop. Shoe boxed lined the walls from floor to ceiling and there was a galleried upper floor also stacked with shoes. The assistants ran about here there and everywhere collecting shoes for people to try on then returning them to exactly the right place again. You can get an idea of the place from this video

Nothing was bought frivolously, my mum cooked dinners, cakes and biscuits from scratch and my dad fixed things or made things. One of my Nan’s sayings was “It’s only a bargain if you really need it” She would be wary of BOGOFs if she were still around! Another was “Measure twice, cut once” which unfortunately slips my mind sometimes. Now that I have four children and our family is still neither rich nor famous, this genetic thrifty reflex has kept the family fed and kept the wolf from the door. We’ve tightened the family belt by successive notches over the last ten years and we are now in a kind of lockdown thrift. Not everyone needs or wants to live like this but if you do, I have one tip:


Shopping when you can’t afford to buy anything but essentials is a sure way to frustration and gloominess. Don’t torture yourself! Go to a park or walk around the block if you want to get out of the house but steer clear of the high street!

When you do go shopping, plan what to buy and only buy what you have planned for. Would you pile up pond coins and keep them in your cupboards to look at every day but not spend? If you wouldn’t do that, don’t buy food you won’t eat this week or next week apart from spices and herbs.

I am so out of the habit of shopping that when we do have to head into the big city to buy something we can’t get in yokelville I am a bit bewildered and freaked out. Last week we needed cheap one-time-use black shoes for Miss Amoo to wear to the Remembrance Parade and some long sleeved t shirts for Miss Froo as hers are not reaching her wrists any more or covering her belly. A visit to Primark would probably solve all these problems in one go so we went there after a home ed meet in town.

Aargh! My eyes, my eyes! Onesies? What the heck?

So many clothes in so many colours and so many things I don’t want to wear – all in one place. Strangely I don’t feel like this in fabric shops or at the Rag Market possibly because I see all that fabric as a world of possibilities rather than an end product I don’t want.

We came out of the onesie hell with the t-shirts, a pair of trousers and the black shoes and me doing calculations in my head about how many dinners we could have bought with what I had just spent on inedible items and wondering who sewed these things and what they earned for doing so. My shopping gene has been well and truly altered and may never be re-set.

The other side of using resources carefully and not wastefully is this:


My desire not to waste leads me to hang onto things that I should let go. Stuff that we no longer use but is too good to throw away, scraps of fabric, odd bits of plastic, wrapping paper, clothes that don’t fit but could become something else… I think you probably know what I mean. And of course the metres of fabric washed and folded but not yet sewn, aka ‘The Stash’.

I am starting to work on this side a bit more and have started by bagging up all my scraps that I really won’t use this year and labelling them as Rags to take to my favourite charity shop who say they will take them from me. I’ve also cleared out the under stairs cupboard and got rid of broken cycle helmets, raincoats that we know don’t keep us dry, cleaning products I never use, odd gloves and too-small hats. Maybe normal people do this all the time but it seemed like a big deal to me.

What is thrifty in your mind? Is it something to aspire to or to endure? Is it an art form or a rod for your back?