No Shame in the Thrifty Game


When it comes to the price/value continuum, not all moms think alike.

An old bunco buddy confessed years ago that her family didn’t eat leftovers since she considered them “used food.”

Even spaghetti casserole? Even leftover pizza?” I had to ask.

“You name it, we only eat it once,” she said. For this reason she had mastered the art of portion planning so that less was left over to hit the garbage bin every evening. (She was also a great bunco hostess, since she sent every last bite of food home with the guests that night). Still, it seemed like such a shame. I personally love the feeling of coming home to a dish that was proven tasty last night and is anticipated to be even better tonight. Where else can you free 30 minutes of time so easily?

Likewise, I know a lady who was offended during the early days of the housing boom when her realtor slapped a “reduced” topper on the “for sale” sign in her front yard.  “What does that say to a buyer?” she remarked in disgust. “I told her to take it down. It makes the house look cheap now.” This astounded me, since I generally have a positive reaction to red tags and the words “sale” or “clearance.” But unlike my excitement over a markdown, a buddy of mine used to say she hated “tag shopping,” meaning looking at the tag first. Furthermore, concerning clearance racks, her philosophy was, “Why would I want the stuff nobody else wanted?”

I suspect everybody is having to reevaluate their positions on value/basic utility vs. price/luxury.

Having always been closer to the value side than the pricey side, I am somewhat amused seeing the mindset come into fashion. When I receive a compliment on something that was a great deal or came from an unexpected source, the transaction isn’t over until I’ve shared the thrifty aspects of the purchase. This can range from “Thanks” followed by a whispered “Target!” with a wink, or, if we’re good friends, a condensed version of the epic journey that brought the Amazing Purchase into my hands. Isn’t this a custom that goes back thousands of years among all mighty hunters?

Now it’s become trendy to be thrifty, fashionable to be frugal. If you are new to the game, welcome. Being value-oriented doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate fine things; sometimes the most expensive items are actualy the better value because they last longer, require less maintenance, and are not subject to whims of fashion.

Think of this mode of operation as allocating resources: Money saved in one area means funding for another, more useful purpose, such as a savings cushion, college fund or a guiltless small treat. (The same argument applies to your time; a cleaning service may be money well spent if it frees your whole family to enjoy the weekend or have guests over.) Nowadays it’s a commonly accepted excuse that everyone is trying to cut back, so you can forego some of your previous indulgences without feeling deprived.

Now is the time to try things you might not have tried before. Explore consignment sales, either for buying or selling. Try a meatless recipe. Repaint a tiresome piece of furniture. Be reckless! When you’re less invested, you can take a few more chances and experiment.

Bring on the doggie bags.  Think of it not as used food, but as food that has already been prepared and paid for. Fire up the microwave and leave that money in your purse for another day.