Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Live Well On Less: Purchasing

Thrift need not be grim.

In fact, thrift should be anything but grim. A small budget demands that everyday life include color, beauty, fun. Perhaps even the occasional Aldi bouquet!

Will you have to work harder to create what others can simply buy? Yes.
Is it worth your effort? Absolutely.
Thoughtful purchases can add to our quality of life--regardless of price.

Remember a special meal--one that was as pleasing to the eye as it was satisfying to the palate. Imagine how much more you would have enjoyed that meal if it cost less than $5--or if it were free, from your own garden. How much more could you savor the experience if you knew there would be no credit card bill at the end of the month?

Living well on less means having the freedom to enjoy small pleasures. The tighter the budget, the more thoughtful our purchases must be. The pie may be small, but each slice can be delicious if we cut it with care.
*Consider what you really need. Eliminating wants is cheaper than finding bargains.

*Make your dollars align with your values. Refuse junk.

*Find the best quality for your money and time, whether that means making it yourself or buying secondhand.

*Anticipated needs are easier to fill on a budget than immediate needs. Spend a little now to save a lot later.

Are you intimidated by thrift? Frugality is not absolute. Start wherever you are...and then spend one level less! Challenge yourself to downscale further, or stop where your budget feels comfortable.

Cable--->network TV + Netflix--->network TV--->library DVDs
Furniture stores--->consignment shops--->thrift stores--->yard sales--->hand-me-downs
Professional caterer--->Sam's Club cake and deli trays--->made-from-scratch party menu
Stonewall Kitchens preserves--->Polaner all-fruit--->Bama jelly--->homemade jam

Today's assignment: Think of one product or service you routinely purchase, and find a way to spend one level less.


New to Like Merchant Ships? Here are all the lessons in our Live Well On Less week of study!

17 comments:

Jane L. said...

You inspire me to live more frugally everyday. Thank you for thoughtful and intelligent posts.

Anonymous said...

One level less.

We like cloth napkins, and those that I made when Dear Teen was a baby are now fraying.

So, last week, I cut out 4 napkins. (I need to replace about 30 napkins). Unfortunately, I had to abandon the project partway through, and they're still sitting in the need-to-work-on pile.

So, today, I went one level lower:

Napkins purchased from dept store: $1-$2 apiece (? I'm guessing here).

Home-sewn napkins from sale-priced fabric-store fabric ($2/yard): $0.50 apiece, plus cutting-sewing-pressing time.

Thrifted napkins. Bought this morning. For $0.25 apiece. I bought 32 of them for $8; those will last me a long time.

-- Jora

Happy Momma said...

we love all things thrifty...we travel to Roundtop, Texas and hit the pavement looking for that one of a kind bargain that I can come home and fix up....I have also dug thru my mother's garage..she is a PACK RAT to no avail, I swipped her kitchen table that she hated (yes she kept it from her divorce for over 30 years in her garage) came home shabbied it up with Bible Verses and now my neighbor wants to buy it from me for a ridiculous amount of money....one more kid and the table is hers!

Elizabeth said...

Well, I'm not sure this counts, but my current budget concious goal is to make sure that we don't leave lights on in rooms where we are not present. You'd think we'd have this down by now. But, we tend to move upstairs and down, from room to room, etc., as we go about the evening's activites. I, particularly, am bad about leaving a trial of light burning behind me as I putter through the house. I do need to leave just a few lights in some places for safety and ambiance, particularly now that Dad is staying with us for a while. But, I can cut back.

Julian said...

i love a bargain, and I am really happy you are posting these lessons. I shop at the thrift store often, and have been going to 2 different grocery stores, and comparing prices. I too, think that you can enjoy beauty on a little amount of spending. In fact, the less money, but in good taste, the more enjoyable it is!
christina

Susie said...

One thing DH and I did was that we switched from using an expensive cell phone plan (we're talking 100 per month for 2 phones) to a pay as you go (20 dollars every 3 months--it's for 1 phone and that's all we need). And I don't miss my cell, not one bit!

martha said...

Brava! I had greatly anticipated your contributions to the finishing school, and you're EXCEEDING my expectations! You really should write a book. Gratefully yours, Martha

Joannof10 said...

I have just discovered your blog and think it is wonderful. As the mother of ten children I find any information on the frugal lifestyle very helpful, and you info is just great.

Thank you for all the wonderful advice.

Anonymous said...

Meredith,
I agree with Martha - you really should write a book! -Melissa

It's a Mom Thing said...

Meredith.
As usual, your advice is excellent and presented with such class.

One thing I am learning is that the more I save and live below my means, the more I can give to others. In this country, we are so blessed. What we save by buying second hand can be used to provide basic necessities for people in very poor places.

Anonymous said...

I loved the bit on anticipating your needs. I have been able to get many cute, great quality things, esp. for my children because I got them before we truly needed them. Example: I paid $15 for a wooden bed at Goodwill for my daughter who is still in a crib. My husband thought I was crazy because we didn't need it yet, but we can pay $15 now or over $200 later. What would you rather pay? Mind you, I would not pay $200 for a bed. Also, I have always bought clothes for my children before we needed them. If I can get a dress that originally priced in double digits for $2.40 at Goodwill then why not? I love to let the others pay way too much so I can pay little and still let my little girl dress great! I am loving this week Meredith-Great job!! Elise

Anonymous said...

Today I am canning hot pepper rings and making hm rolls, I could just buy canned peppers and the bread but there is satifaction in growing and canning your own and baking your own bread. Your blog is very inspiring, thanks for all that you put into it!!
Dana C. in VA

Anonymous said...

Like one of your readers posted, I too LOVE cloth napkins. I took an idea I saw years ago on a Martha Stewart program and adopted what she calls "Lapkins" made from kitchen towels. When our K-Mart store cloesd in our area years ago I brought many many of her kitchen towels on clearance for $1.50 a pack of 5, some had 7 in a package. These are wonderful. They wash well, they are huge and do cover a lap for a person eating a meal. They fold well, look pretty after many many years of washing and use. I wash them every day. I often see these towels on clearance at Target, Wal-Mart etc. I have them in all the holiday designs too. Again brought after the holiday on clearance. Makes for a pretty table. Roxie

Debbie said...

I have some another level to add to some of your lists:

* library DVDs--->library books (don't require a player or TV)--->write your own stories/books/plays
* hand-me-downs (furniture)--->re-purpose furniture you already have (I've used a coffee table as a bench, a bookcase as a bookcase headboard, and a stereo cabinet as a craft cabinet.)
* made-from-scratch party menu--->potluck--->party that doesn't need food (is there such a thing?)

My favorite most Meredith-like step down was changing how I wrap gifts. I now wrap them in brown paper bags. Then (and you do have to wait until the last minute to do this), I pick some flowers and greenery from the yard. It's amazing how there's always something out there (though that's partly because I have rosemary). Then I tie it all up with fabric ribbon. The flowers and fabric ribbon make people feel like they are getting a special wrapping job. The ribbon can be bought on clearance.

I also recently made a list of all the things I want so that I can remember what I'm looking for when I am at stores and so I don't get too distracted.

Today's assignment: There's not much I routinely purchase anymore. However, I do buy energy bars (in bulk) for snacks at work, and I've been thinking of making my own snacks. Also, gym fees just went up, so we're looking for alternatives. So far we have: walking on a trail, walking through the neighborhood, walking in a mall (bad weather!), swimming, and preparing yoga/pilates/tai chi classes for each other in our living rooms.

Tracy said...

This might be over the top but gas prices really get me. I have started only taking the car out twice a week. We take one day to do our errands and another day for a fun trip and/or visit a friend. That is all. It takes more planning and careful shopping but it is really cutting down on our gas spending.

Jennifer said...

Love this point..."Eliminating wants is cheaper than finding bargains." I need to continue working on that myself and work to instill that in my children! I also love the *assignment* to scale back a level at a time. I'm going to pick an area or two to do that in this week. Thanks so much for these posts!

Nicole said...

First, love the blog! Draw in with the Finishing School and just haven't seemed to have the courtesy to leave!

But, what is Aldi? I keep seeing posts related to this "Aldi" but was wondering, who/what is this? Thank you.