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A Time to be Thrifty


Fri, Nov 28th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Because I was born in southwest Iowa in the very middle of the Great Depression, and have never been even moderately wealthy, some of my favorite places to shop are the Salvation Army stores, Saver's, Saint Vincent DePaul, and the Depot. Having grown up wearing clothes my mom made from things my aunts passed down, and even after marriage, being the grateful recipient of nice clothing salvaged from the Chicago aunt and cousins who wore something for a year or two, then tossed it into the "missionary barrel," I have no problem purchasing used items. When my mom was in the nursing home, it made great sense to buy her harmonizing pants and tops from Goodwill. She always looked attractively dressed, and the communal laundry was not a worry.

Many of the things you discover in thrift stores are actually new---the left-overs from stores at the end of a season, or a pattern. Years ago, one of my good friends purchased eight or ten beautiful china dessert plates, donated by an expensive department store. None of them matched, but folks thought she was really clever. Actually this is rather fashionable now. And why would anyone buy things like glass ovenware new, when you can find perfect, gently-used baking dishes for a fraction of the price? Seasonal decorative items are another good buy. If I were a nicer size, I would purchase attractive clothing there more often than I'm able.

On a recent trip to Goodwill, I found a lovely crystal water pitcher, in perfect condition, for a couple of dollars. Use it or gift it? Another type of item I like to purchase in thrift stores is baskets, attractive and handy, for a dollar or less. If you're concerned about sanitation, they can be washed. So can most stuffed toys, which when dried in a dryer, look brand new. One of my favorite sets of ironwood pottery has been accumulated, a piece or a few at a time, from used goods stores.

A few months ago, I read about a nation-wide organization whose members pledge not to buy anything new for a year, other than food and medicine. Even some foods can be purchased "reduced for quick sale" or with dates almost expired, or in the day-old bin. There is nothing wrong with these, just use them soon or freeze them when you get them home. How many days does it take you to eat up a loaf of bread? So why do you have to have one baked today instead of a day or two before?

We are in a fearful economic decline, and many people younger than sixty or seventy no longer know how to cut corners, how to live with no credit cards, even how to sew, or garden, can and freeze, or just plain do without. Even though we feel pinched, we are still many, many times better off than most of the rest of the world. We can all learn some good lessons about living with less, and help others to have enough.

Returning to the thrift store topic, don't forget to take with you when you go---good, little-used items, attractive clothes you don't wear or that don't fit. Be sure what you take is something clean and in good condition that someone else would need and enjoy. Don't ever feel ashamed to shop there; feel wise and sensible. Maybe I'll see you!

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