Thrifty Ways

clothes-in-closetWhen I was a child a friend of my mother’s gave me the dresses that that her twins had outgrown. Because they were dressed alike, I had to wear two of whatever came my way. In the days when I was growing up, thrift meant making do with what was available. Aside from the fact that while my family had enough, they weren’t exactly wealthy, there was a war on and many things, including clothing and shoes were rationed.

In addition, in the years that followed, my mother had to stretch what my father earned to cover the needs of the three more children born after I turned eight years old. I remember how excited I was when in my sixteenth year I got a pair of Bermuda shorts. They were newly fashionable and I felt very special to have a pair. Although they were wool, I wore them all that summer and for a number of summers after that. For a long time they were my only pair.

Growing up in a thrifty household inclined me toward a thrifty lifestyle as an adult. When I was raising my own family of five children I had to stretch our food dollars to try to nourish as well as please my family. I learned all kinds of tricks to make inexpensive cuts of meat palatable and I baked cookies by the dozen so the children would have treats. Home made was far less expensive than store bought. My sewing machine hummed as I made dresses for my daughters and even some outfits for my sons when they were small.

Judging from the advertisements I see today, thrift is not especially fashionable. Bargains, of course are. However what is considered a bargain by some standards is not by others. When I was growing up the annual church fair rummage sales held in local churches were the best places to find inexpensive, serviceable garments. My mother was a faithful customer.

I do not remember there being consignment shops or other places one could find good second hand clothing when I was a child. When we got together I introduced Stephen to consignment and thrift store shopping, and he embraced it happily. I find it more fun to shop that way because you never know what you will find and the prices are far more reasonable than what other stores charge.

Over the years, I have amassed a wonderful collection of clothing. Much of it has come from consignment or thrift stores, the rest from sales. Certain garments have endured the test of time and I wear them joyfully in the appropriate season. Others get rotated back into the mainstream to be discovered by someone else who enjoys saving money by shopping wisely. What is especially nice for me is that now I can have a number of pairs of shorts for the price I would pay for one bought new, or a cashmere sweater that someone has passed on, at a fraction of the cost in a regular store. Perhaps this is a kind of payback for the days when I wore the twins’ hand me down dresses over and over again.

Tasha Halpert

The Gift and the Wrapping

by Tasha HalpertKathy's Christmas tree

Being somewhat uncoordinated when it come to things like wrapping packages, I have always struggled with trying to make my presents look reasonably attractive. Some people are really creative with how they wrap their presents. I envy them. I wish I had that kind of creativity. My mind tends to run along more utilitarian tracks and I don’t always think to add the trimmings.

I have a friend who does lovely wrapping. She told me about the finishing touches she had put on the colorful hand made gifts she had crocheted. She went on to tell me that someone said to her that the decorative packaging she had purchased to do this was extravagant, asking why she had spent so much money on something that would soon be discarded.

I understood completely why she had wanted to do this. Her gift was special and she wanted it to look that way. Her expenditure made perfect sense to me. While I tend to be less decorative in my thinking I can admire someone who knows how to do up a package and make it look special. My artistic friend has very clever fingers and knows exactly how to fix up a package to make it look extra special. I wish I had her skills.

The care with which a gift is presented says something important about the giver as well as the gift. Stephen and I accumulate presents for family and friends all during the year; my wrapping though not fancy is part of the caring. I used to have a dreadful time wrapping presents until a friend who had done professional wrapping for a department store showed me some useful tricks. Now I can make my packages look much more attractive.

There was a time when wrapping paper for Christmas gifts was not as inexpensive or as available as it is now. When I was a child we used to save all our Christmas gift paper from year to year and reuse it as often as we could. The use of scotch tape was discouraged and gift paper was sturdier as well. I remember one special piece of wrapping paper that appeared every year on a different present. It had an elaborate design and was very lovely as well as quite durable. In her elder years as the Christmas presents were opened my late mother would spend her time folding the wrapping papers. I expect this brought back vanished memories of when we were all young.

At this season of giving many feel compelled to spend money they don’t have to buy gifts for others who probably don’t need them. The simple gift of a hug and a plate of home made cookies or a hand made card might do just as well. Even young children need to learn to be content with less rather than yearn for more. Whatever I give at Christmas is primarily a token of my affection, and it need not be expensive or fancy. I will, however, wrap it with care and love because these are the real gift I am giving.

Indulgence Versus Overindulgence by Tasha Halpert

  Stephen plopped another load of catalogs from the postman on the table. “The poor mailman must be tired having to lug all this stuff around,” he said as we prepared to recycle most of them. “I agree,” I said, “And it’s amazing how fast they found us at this address. We’ve only been here a few months and already we’re getting all kinds of stuff from our former address and other places too.” As I glanced at the shiny covers before dropping them into the wastebasket I thought about the catalogs from my childhood.

I remember when the number of catalogs my parents received were few and far between, not the quantities that arrive annually in the mail from October through most of December. For me as a child they were fun to look through and very helpful. My opportunity to shop in actual stores was rare. Young people growing up today have no idea what it might be like to have one car in the family, limits on gasoline, and no malls–only local stores.

Today’s plethora of opportunities for shopping indulgence can easily make for overindulgence. Tempting ads in catalogs, shiny online images of pretty items plus the ease of online shopping–not to mention the heaps of catalogs the postman delivers present would be Santas with a banquet of goods. Credit cards–buy now pay later, make it even easier to spend more than might be wise given one’s resources.

I remember how good I felt a number of years ago when I got my first credit card. Now I didn’t have to wait to buy something; I could have it right away. Prior to this I had to put things I couldn’t afford to pay for immediately on layaway, which meant waiting until the item was paid off to take it home. The opportunities to spend as well as the ease of access to goods makes for a potential for unexpected debt. It is amazing to me how even small purchases add up to a grand total that always seems more than I anticipate.

In addition, while the items in a catalog or online might seem quite wonderful by description, the reality may be quite different. I have all too often been disappointed in the actuality of the gift once it arrived and was opened. This is also true of food from catalogs which often is not nearly as tasty as it appears in the pretty pictures. It is not only easy but also more tempting to be less choosy when one is not putting limits on one’s indulgences.

However, as well as a downside, there is also a good side to this situation. The opportunity to indulge with limits rather than overindulge without them, can present a chance to practice restraint as well as detachment. Life, that marvelous daily Buddha, offers us many opportunities for important spiritual lessons. Reining in the appetite for spending as well as choosing wisely the absolutely perfect single gift can be a marvelous chance for spiritual practice as well as a way to save.

Deb's party food 2