‘I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 dollars in my pocket’… sung Macklemore.
Every time I hear this song, two people spring into my mind. One is my mother, and the other is my mother-in-law. I guess they are from the same thrifty generation.
Penny Pinchers, tight wad’s, cheapskate’s, the uncharitable…whatever you call them, we all know that frugal someone. But as the price of living rapidly increases, more and more people are taking to this thrifty way of life.
My mum is so thrifty, she could give Miss Money-penny a run for her, erm….pennies! When we stay for long weekends (I can’t last a week!) during the bitterly cold winters, we all sit shivering our hand-knitted jumper-wearing butts off! Apparently, the inflation in electricity costs are just too high. If we’re lucky, she’ll fire up the free-standing gas heater and sends us off to bed with a hot-water bottle. “In my day, we didn’t have the luxury of heating, we all huddled together for warmth!” She’d dispute. “We are people from the developing world, not some penguins in the Antarctic!” I think to myself, lips too frozen to speak.
Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
And then there’s the darn water meter. I daren’t shower for longer than 5 minutes, knowing she’d be stood outside, stop-watch in hand, monitoring my water usage. I can’t even brush my teeth without her yelling through the door “I’m on a water meter, you know!”…and if I hear the words “There are more lights on than Blackpool illuminations!” one more time…
“One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up”… Macklemore’s words ring true. I can’t take my mum to the recycling centre anymore. She’d be smuggling all things she considered ‘too good to skip’ into the back of the car. Ultimately, we would end up with more junk than we started off with, defeating the whole objective of recycling!
Shopping trips with my mum are rarely enjoyable. I have to suppress my urges to buy all the pretty things of my dreams. Even if they’re jumping up and down on the shelf, screaming “BUY ME, BUY ME”, I must resist! It’s torturous, but I need to prove that I’m in control of my spending. Rather than shoving my receipts into my undergarments, I slap on my happy face and hit the thrift stores in search of some bargains.
My mum loves a bargain. Whether it’s a ‘buy one get one free’, a 70% off sale or straight from the bargain bin itself, her eyes grow excited and in the basket it goes! She longs for me to share her bargain-seeking passion, but, unfortunately I lack her enthusiasm! In fact, I despise those poor-quality manufacturing shops. If I see a pound sign, my heart sinks and I think to myself “must we?”. Images of innocent children in sweatshop conditions, slaving to make these pieces of plastic, fill my mind.
Someone who does share my mum’s enthusiasm for all things cheap, is my 9-year-old daughter, Phoebe. A weekend spent in the company of her Nan, and she comes back with a suitcase bursting of JUNK, courtesy of the car-boot-sale. Once, she brought back hideous china dolls. Their haunting eyes followed me for weeks. They had to go! So I smuggled them into my mother-in-law’s store-cupboard …I hope they don’t give her a fright! *Sarcastic face*
On the topic of my mother-in-law…
My mother-in-law is Mary Poppins, minus the magic handbag. She’s the type of person who can make anyone feel inadequate because she can do just about ANYTHING! She can make a dress from a pair of curtains, carve a table from a piece of wood (you think I’m joking?!) and transform a pile of junk into an intricate piece of art.
Despite being perfect in every single way…she’s as frugal as a banker! She takes thrift to a whole new level. Now, we’ve all heard of hand-me-downs. My mother- in-law has an attic-full of hand-me-down down downs! It gives her such satisfaction dressing my children in musty-smelling jumpers she knitted up in the 1980’s. There’s no denying the lady’s a dab hand at knitting, but these jumpers smell like a war veterans, moth-invaded wardrobe!
My mother-in-law also takes the term recycling a bit too literal. If something can be reused, she recycles it, and recycles it, and recycles it once more! God forbid we use a tea bag just once. To get its full potential, we must ‘share a bag’. It means we have to drink tea as weak as cats p***, but at least we can feel good about helping a worthy recycling cause.
As they say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The mother-in-Law has difficulty letting things go! Why buy a new cooker, if the one she bought 50 years previously, works just fine? It might smell like burnt rubber and blow out black clouds of smoke…but “It works jusssst fine!”
Why buy gifts, when you can make them? Come Christmas time, the knitting needles are out. There’s no disguising the sheer excitement on my husbands face as he unravels last years wrapping paper to reveal …..yet another hand-knitted scarf! As the kids unwrap their Christmas jumpers, my son asks, “Where’s my train?” “I’m sorry, son, but the only train you’ll be getting this year is the one stitched onto your jumper!”
Why purchase food, when you can grow your own?. “Can we have a biscuit granny?” the children beg. “How about a turnip instead?” granny says, as she uproots a turnip the size of a small baby from out of her vegetable patch. Vegetables aside, she is the queen of baking. There isn’t a cake this woman can’t make. She’d certainly give Nigella a run for her ….erm, dough! (Terrible I know!). Using only the contents of her pantry, she could make a 14 layered Christmas cake, complete with marzipan dancing penguins and a fountain of ice, over-spilling onto every tier on the cake in its glistening glory.
I am sick of these thrifty ways. If it’s yellow, don’t let it mellow…give it a flush! And no, sharing bath water is not economic, it’s called ‘bathing in other people’s dirt’. And shoot me! I haven’t got ‘bag for life.’
It’s time to BACK AWAY FROM the previously owned fur skin coats! It’s time to fire up that heater once again, it’s time to…
wait a Minute….
*Opens electricity bill*
Scrap that! *Turns off all the lights*
When floating electricity bills are dominating my dreams and we don’t have enough money to cover the weekly food shop, it becomes clear why people take such drastic penny-pinching measures to stay afloat of their money situations. Because what may seem like a little drop in the ocean, can actually help you save enormously over the period of a year. “Every penny makes a pound”, as my mum famously says. The terrifying truth is; living costs are increasingly rising. Although I’m not ready to trade my central heating for baggy jumpers just yet, it won’t be Long until I have no other choice than to jump up on the wagon of frugality.