It has happened again. Because of the ailing economy, my local television news is reporting another story on how to save money. Very helpful, yes, but what got my ire up was the tone of the broadcast.
This particular story detailed the local rise in people shopping at thrift stores. The report left me with the feeling that these people were indeed ashamed to be at thrift store.
People should not be reluctant to shop at thrift stores or – for that matter – feel guilty for taking the time to look closely at prices and consider how to spend their hard-earned money. We need to start admiring our thrifty habits and be proud of the value we squeeze out of each shopping trip. In short, I’m not sorry to be frugal.
Before I was thrifty: Not that long ago I barely saved anything and spent almost my whole paycheck by the time it was payday again. Where on earth did that money go? I remember how panicked I was. What if my car broke down and needs expensive repairs? What if I lose my job and need to move?
Thanks to our current, more careful purchasing habits, our life is easier simply because we go through our money less quickly. I’ve found we even need fewer things, consume less and, therefore, we save money.
We have simply said “no” to new clothes at every turn, cable television, using the car every time we go somewhere, and buying a new house when we wanted it. Here’s how it shakes out:
- Shopping for most clothes at thrift stores – There are a few items I can’t find – children’s pajamas – and some I would rather buy new, like underwear, but the rest of our clothes comes from thrift stores, gifts or hand-me-downs. In the four years we’ve tracked our clothing purchases, thrift-store shopping has been 85% of our total clothes shopping, but just 30% of the total cost. If we had purchased the equivalent amount of clothing from regular retail stores, we could have spent more than $600 per person per year.
- Only broadcast television – We live in an area where we are able to get a clear broadcast signal. Thanks to this, we save $45 a month on the standard package of channels. It has been more than 10 years since we have paid for cable, and trust me, we still watch plenty of television. All told, it’s a total savings of $5,400.
- Bike to work – My husband took up riding his bike when he was too hurt to run for fitness anymore. During last year’s huge rises in gas prices, this practice especially made sense. In 2008, his biking to work saved us an average of $80 for every fill up on our full-size truck. By halving the need to fill up the truck, we saved $960.
- One of us works at home – Talk about saving on gas, clothing and food! This is another big lifestyle change our family took on when we decided to have children. Happily, I have a profession that could translate to home and we were able to cut our childcare costs in half. If I had remained working full-time outside the home, we could have easily spent another $400 per month for the average full-time preschool in our area, which would have been another $24,000 per child for the five years needed.
- Movies at home – We love going to the movie theaters several times a year and we always have a lot of fun. However, if we went to a weekly premiere like my husband and I did when we dated, our family would be poorer an average of $40 for every movie (including tickets and refreshments). Today, we rent a movie almost every weekend and try to patronize our local Redbox for the $1 per night movies. Compare $52 a year on movies to $2,080 a year and you’ll see why we steel ourselves to wait until the DVD release.
- We chose to stay in our home – We are grateful every month for our reasonable mortgage payment. It is small because my husband bought our house more than 12 years ago. If we had found something we liked and purchased another house two years ago when we were looking, our mortgage payment would have at least doubled. For us, it would have cost another $800 a month, or $9,600 a year.
As you can see, we are penny pinchers for sure. Our lifestyle isn’t full of travel or meals out several times a week, but what my husband and I have is a shared sense of financial responsibility that we hope to pass onto our children.
I urge you, too, to be proud of your thriftiness, not ashamed. It’s a good thing you’re doing. Keep up the good work.