Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do or Do Without

My grandmother used to use this phrase.  It’s from the depression era, in a time when flour came in sacks that could be re-used to make aprons or other items. It was a time when food, clothing and work was lean.  People learned to re-purpose all kinds of items, and in some cases, adjust to not having an item at all.

I’ve become much less materialistic over the years.  Gone are the days of shopping for new clothes all the time, or having every gadget around the house I could think of.  There is some peace in having a simple life and a less cluttered house. It’s way too common now to just throw something away and go get a replacement.  So now I always ask myself – Do I WANT it? or do I NEED it? Can I make something else work in it’s place?  Chances are most things are not anything that I need (no, I do not “need” another pair of shoes or another handbag, even though I love anything leather).  Maybe, I can even DO WITHOUT.

Growing up on a dairy farm, we certainly weren’t rich.  But we never considered ourselves poor.  We had a big garden, plenty of food, and we never went hungry unless we decided not to eat what was on the table. My dad, the farmer, was adept at fixing something broken, or making something work without buying new. Farmers are the original DIYers.

There are all kinds of things your can do around the house:

  • Use what you have – if you haven’t touched an item in  a year, it’s time to give it a new home or re-purpose it into something you can use. Or give it to someone who CAN use it.  Most of us have far too much “stuff”.
  • Wear out your clothes, and patch them up when they need it.  We often wore jeans with patches as children…and not because having holes in your clothes was in fashion.  Along that line, learn to sew if you don’t know how, or get the sewing machine out of the closet and become reacquainted. Save and reuse jars and plastic items (great storage containers for bit and pieces, garden seeds, screws -nuts-bolts, etc).  Wear those sneakers and boots til the soles are thin. Use the small appliances you have until they quit.
  • Use up food before it becomes inedible – leftovers are a staple in our house for lunch the next day, and even converted into another whole meal. Sometimes an eclectic mix, but we eat what I have cooked.  If some food can’t be eaten, then anything plant based goes into the compost pile.  Other items the feral cats might want, and the local raccoon population eat just about anything!  If you have chickens or pigs, chances are they will like some leftovers too.
  • Use it up – mom always cut open the toothpaste tube (they were metal then) so we could scrape out every bit.  Turn those bottles upside down and drain out that last bit of honey or ketchup.  Use the mustard jar to make homemade salad dressing when there is just a bit left. Add some water to the shampoo and conditioner bottle and shake it up to get the last drop.  Make it a game and challenge yourself.  How long can you go without going to the market?  My sister and I call it “shopping at home” – empty the pantry and freezer and find what has been hidden or in there too long, and make a meal from it.
  • Sell it – if there are items that have value, but are things you don’t want or need, sell them on E-bay, Craig’s list, or advertise it on the local market bulletin board.  Then you have some money to put away for something that really is needed, or for something fun.
  •  Make it – there are plenty of items in the kitchen you can make rather than buy.  Mayonnaise, pop tarts, bread, laundry soap and dishwasher detergent. Google what you need around the house and chances are there is a way to make a substitute – and that homemade version probably is safer, has less chemicals, and will work just as well.  Turn old clothes into a quilt or pot holders (I have some my mom made me years and years ago, and I think of her often when I use them in the kitchen).
  • Lastly, if you don’t have “it” maybe you don’t need it – so do without. Often I wait a few days before clicking send on that Amazon Prime order to evaluate whether or not I should make a purchase.

I can’t just run out and buy things one trip at a time – I usually go several places in one trip, so I am saving gas by not making several individual runs for errands. And people who pay with cash spend less than a person using the plastic.  Real money is harder to let go of.

There’s a difference between being cheap and being frugal.  Our family members from the depression era learned to be frugal out of necessity.  Fortunately now we can make the choice to be frugal because we want to, not because we have to.