Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!
COUNTRYSIDE: This old adage is as applicable now as it was for past generations--maybe it's time we consider what it means for us, now.
Somewhere, someone's great-grandmother must have come up with this little ditty which was a tenet of the beliefs of our pioneering ancestors, and was rolled out again, through need, during the Great Depression. Now it might just be time to bring it out and dust it off for a new generation. Really, what's so wrong about the values this saying represents?
Use it up ...
I don't understand why people wouldn't do this. Is this not just plain common sense? If you're going to buy something, use it up! "Waste not, want not" is another way of putting it, and there is so much waste in our society. Everything from the last scraping of peanut butter, to the last squeeze of toothpaste. This is what I am trying to teach my boys, who insist that a tube of toothpaste is "done" when you can't squeeze from the middle to get any more out of the tube. Typically, you can get several more brushings from a tube at this point, with a little effort by squeezing from the bottom.
Some things you should make sure you use up:
* Toiletries: Toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc. All of these should be used until there is no more left. Sending partial bottles of products to the landfill is not only wasteful, it's expensive!
* Condiments: Leaving the scrapings in a jar of peanut butter or mayonnaise might prove to be two or three servings. Buy yourself a rubber spatula if you don't already have one, and use it. Turn that bottle of ketchup upside down and let what is on the sides drain down.
* Spices: Spices are expensive, but well worth their cost in what they do for your meals. Don't waste them. If you buy your spices in bulk or in plastic bags, take them home and put them into recycled jars with tight-fitting lids. Store them out of direct light, and use them. Spices lose their potency over time, so use them up.
* Cleaning products: Make sure you use all of the product before chucking the container. If you use liquid laundry detergent, tip the jug upside down over a cup after what you think might be the "last" use. (Ed. note: Or rinse it out a few times, and use that soapy water, too.) I bet you'll get another load's worth of detergent out of that bottle.
... Wear it out ...
So, maybe it's not this spring's fashion, but just what is wrong with last year's jeans, or a sweater from three years ago? Our society, as a whole, has developed a horror of using things until they are absolutely, completely worn out. For our ancestors, that was just stage one. When items were too worn out for their original purpose, they were often given new life as something else. For instance, flour bags (the cloth bags that flour was purchased in) made many a new appearance as a skirt or dress for a girl, or as shirts for boys and men, quilts, curtains and towels.
Some things you should wear out:
* Clothing: Children's clothing is often outgrown before it's worn out. If you have no other children to hold "hand me downs" for, why not arrange a children's clothing exchange in your community? People bring what they have, take what they need, and what is left goes to a local charity or women's shelter.
* Small appliances: Why do you need a new toaster? Curling Iron? Hair dryer? Unless these things die, is it really necessary to replace them as often as some people do?
* Household decor: It's not necessary to change furniture every five years. It's certainly not necessary to redecorate every two or three. Buy the best quality furnishings you can afford, decorate simply, and wear it out before you send it to the landfill.
* Vehicles: The average new vehicle will only be in the original purchasers name for about two years. Two years. There is nothing wrong with driving a five, six, or 10-year-old car. Maintain your vehicles and make them last. The best way to make a vehicle cost the least over time is to own it for a while, and not just lose money in depreciation before replacing it with another, brand new, model.
... Make it do ...
In my grandmother's day, household items served multiple purposes. A pot on the stove might be boiling water for tea (or laundry) right now, but at dinner-time, would be full of soup or stew. Grandmother's apron protected her dress (probably one of two or three she owned), but it also served as a pot cloth for protecting her hands from hot pots, a duster to wipe down the sideboard as she passed, a sling to carry baby or an orphaned lamb, or to bring in potatoes and vegetables from the garden.
Grandpa's "best" suit was, typically, his "only" suit. He wore it to church on Sundays, to weddings, and funerals. Sometimes for years. When it got to be too threadbare in the seat, knees and elbows, Grandmother would cut it down to make pants or jackets for boys, or a good winter coat for a daughter. The worn scraps became quilt squares, or filling for pillows.
Being creative with what you've got is one of many ways to stretch your budget in lean times. Don't have yeast to make raised bread? Make muffins, biscuits, chapati or tortillas. Don't have nonstick spray? Use a bit of oil on your fingers. I have been known, in our leaner financial years, to undo the end of a vacuum cleaner bag, empty the bag, and re-roll it, stapling it shut. When the $10 it costs to buy new vacuum cleaner bags is an issue, it doesn't mean you can't vacuum.
Look around your home for items that can serve multiple purposes, and always, always, always consider a new purchase before making it. Is there something you already have that can do the job, or can you purchase the needed item used? Not only will this save you money (that you may well not have), it also cuts back a little bit on what we're throwing into landfills.
... Or do without!
This is both advice and a warning from those wise women of past generations. If you don't adhere to the first three, you will probably end up doing without things that you might otherwise be able to have due to your thrift. It also means "do without" as a piece of very wise advice. Look around your home, what are you stressing over losing? Or what are you struggling to afford that you could do without? A second vehicle? That vacation to a sunny southern resort? How about that new set of skis you wanted, or a cell phone? There are so many places to save money, things that people have come to expect as the "norm" that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who raised families during the Depression with little or nothing, would laugh at us for worrying over.
I'm not saying we all need to live without everything that gives pleasure or lightens our load. However, it would do many of us a great deal of good to be a little wiser and consider what it is we really need to be happy and comfortable in our homes. It may serve us well in future to have a financial nest egg, rather than a new carpet, or to invest in practical resources, rather than a new car.
Lastly, in his book, How to Survive Without A Salary, author Charles Long gives one of the best pieces of advice for "conserver" thrift I've ever heard: don't look at what you think you need, look at the problem you're trying to solve, and get creative about solving it with less financial output. Essentially, think outside the box. The problem may not be "I need a new car," the problem may be, "I need transportation to and from work." A new car is one solution, but perhaps not the only solution, or the most viable solution available to you, if you get creative and recognize that throwing money at a problem isn't always the only way of solving it.
As a society, we've become used to buying solutions, or buying what the marketing gurus tell us is the solution. Our grandparents were geniuses at stepping back from a problem, and finding a way through it with little or no financial output. Perhaps it's time for us to relearn that particular skill.--Tracy Rimmer, Manitoba, Canada, www.newcenturyhomestead.com