A forgotten Golden Era virtue, Thrift

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Kahuna, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    Like nearly all on this forum I have a strong attachment to the cars, clothing, music, home furnishings, etc. of an earlier era. But when I look into the prices on some of these things I just can't bring myself to buy them. I know there is a premium to pay for things that are well made and I respect that and try to buy things that will last. However, I think if I was able to tell my late parents that I was considering buying a $300 fedora or a $500 coat their response would be something along the lines of, "What! Are you crazy?!"

    My mom & dad were born in 1912 & 1913 respectively and, as such, suffered the full brunt of the great depression. As a result they had a lifelong tendency towards thrift and lived by their mantra of "Use it up, make it last, make do, or do without". I guess some of that rubbed off on me because by the time we were in our early forties my wife and I had had saved enough for both of us to retire early. For the last 20 years we have done nearly all our clothing shopping at thrift stores for reasons of greater selection as well as thrift. In thrift stores you're not held captive to racks and racks of the latest fashion, no matter how ugly that may be. I don't attach myself to having to own any one thing but merely keep my eyes open and wait. I find that if it's "meant to be" sooner or later that item will come along at a price so low that it would be stupid not to buy it (my usual "rule of thumb" is 10% or less of retail). Sometimes there are very long waits till the right price comes along but the delayed gratification only makes the find more sweet.

    We live in an era of instant gratification and many of the younger generation, having been brought up in a time of plenty, have kind of an entitlement attitude towards being able to own anything that their heart desires. I think we are approaching a time where things may not be as easy to come by and I think thrift needs to make a speedy comeback in our society. I hope I'm not the only forumite that feels that way. Anybody else have similar feelings?
     
  2. Pompidou

    Pompidou One Too Many

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    I want it all. I just don't feel entitled to handouts. I'm not so much a fan of thrift as I am of ostentatious luxury. I enjoy having big, expensive things. As long as I earn them, I'm happy. My grandparents would drive a mile to save a nickel. I pay in spades for shipping and handling so that I don't have to leave the house.
     
  3. TheBeak

    TheBeak One of the Regulars

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    Yes and no.... I do feel a little off considering a couple hundred bucks for a hat - but consider when hats were the norm - they were what 10 - 12 bucks right? but what did cars and homes cost? hats (and likely decent coats) were pretty darn expensive then, but considered essential so it was all OK.

    I think a cell phones in the US might be a good comparison now. everyone has one, including our parents, and our kids. You can pay a couple hundred bucks for a nifty deluxe model, or 20-30 bucks for a simpler model, but they are basically essential to life as we know it.

    I think if you tell the average person today you spent 300 bucks on a phone, they are going to respond along the lines of "cool, what apps do you have for it?" while a similar expense on a hat brings more questions, or disbelief. go back 50 years, phones were cheap and kept at home (obviously) if you told someone you had paid big money for a phone they would have thought you crazy, but a big money hat would have brought on the "oooh let me see the features" of today's phones.

    I think its not a matter of thrift per se, but a matter of time appropriate priority's.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2011
  4. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    According to this Sears ad from 1927 their higher priced hat was $4.95. Using the Inflation Calculator found here http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ that works out to $60.63 in 2009 dollars. That's a big difference from some of the $200 to $300 hats I see talked about here.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Ditto.
    Pizza and ribs delivery.
     
  6. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I was raised by Depression people as well, and more than that, I'm a native of Northern New England, descended from flinty Scottish stock. That being so, I won't spend a red cent I don't have to. I can sit down and make a dress that fits me properly for ten dollars worth of fabric and a few hours of time, or I can spend who knows how much trying to find something in a vintage booteek that will probably have to be altered anyway, so how dumb do I have to be to spend the extra money?

    The one item of clothing I won't skrimp on is shoes, and that's for a thrifty reason too: good shoes that fit properly and *last* are a much better value than cheap shoes that fall apart after a year of wear and have to be replaced. Sometimes the lowest price isn't the best buy, and the real skill in being a cheapskate is knowing when this is the case.
     
  7. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    Well said. I've learned the hard way that true thrift isn't always achieved by buying the cheapest thing at Walmart.
     
  8. Foofoogal

    Foofoogal Banned

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    Well Kahuna. You sound like a very smart man. I was raised by depression era parents who passed in the 1980s. We have actually had a thread here on making do and mend etc.
    I am an antiques dealer but believe me when I say I can make a penny scream and try my best not to waste as taught that.
    I would rather have 1 great thing than 10 cheap things. Especially shoes. A good pair will outlast many bad pairs.
    Welcome to the FL.
     
  9. My great grandparents survived the depression by hiding their money in a trunk instead of a bank, so they did well during the depression, but as witnesses to what went on with their friends and neighbors they instilled a thrifty attitude in my grandfather. He was a very successful business man, but was very protective of his money, shopping at Fedco, etc. When it came to clothes he did shop at Brooks Brothers and always bought beautiful shoes, but wore a Timex all his life. Unfortunately his children didn't learn these lessons very well and what was passed down to me was a very unthrifty attitude. However, now that I'm older I'm much more like my grandfather. I will spend money on things that I know will last (pots and pans, shoes, clothes), but shop thrift stores for things first. I don't own a cell phone, because I think they're ridiculous and unnecessary. I shop as much as I can at mom & pop stores, because I hate institutions like Walmart and I think it's much more important to pay more money and help our economy rather than spend it on goods that are cheaply made in another country. I'm in the process of learning how to grow my own produce and eventually will learn to can. I bake my own bread and deserts and try not to purchase anything processed, because not only is it cheaper, but better for you. So yes, I would say that I'm thrifty with a conscious.
     
  10. Pompidou

    Pompidou One Too Many

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    Baking your own bread? I wouldn't call that thrifty even if it was - hot fresh baked bread just tastes damned good. I'd say the same to Lizzie Maine and her ability to make things. If I could make cooler outfits than I can buy, I definitely would. To me, it's not about price, but about the quality. I want the results. The cost is just a byproduct. I want my 600.00 cell phones, but I'm happy to sign up for contracts I'd be getting anyway to mark them down to 400. Growing your own produce is a good idea too. I'm a foodie. I pay top dollar when I go out to eat because I want to eat the stuff that tastes the best. There's no skimping on good taste. We grow tomatoes, and our friends tend to have gardens, and I can taste the difference.

    Funny you mention cell phones being ridiculous and unnecessary - not directly funny, but funny to me because before my parents got a microwave, that's what they were. Before we got a computer. Before we got internet (free dialup). Before I got my parents a subscription to cable internet. Before they got cellphones. That is one very familiar sentiment in the Turpin family. The sentiment that follows is always, "how did we ever go without?". At the end of the round of cable internet that I paid for, I offered to go back to free dialup again (that was the NetZero heyday), and you can imagine the answer. I forgot where I was going with this...
     
  11. Actually it is cheaper to bake your own bread.

    As far as the cell phone, I do think it's ridiculous for me. I'm a housewife, what do I need it for? The cable... we've gone back to basic, because there's nothing on TV worth watching that isn't on the regular networks. A microwave? I don't use it. The computer? I'm on here (the FL), yes, but I found it doing research on the 40s, because no one makes an encyclopedia that covers everything, but I'm buying enough books slowly to make up for that. I also use it for music, but I'm trying to fix that too. I enjoy being on the internet obviously for different reasons, but if it died tomorrow I'd be just fine. I also hide all electronics that we do have in our home, because I think they're ugly.

    Oh and I drive a 51 chevy truck that doesn't have air conditioning or a radio:)

    Forgot to add that I'm learning how to sew, but because no one knew how in my family (that was still alive) that could have taught me, it's a slow process.
     
  12. Pompidou

    Pompidou One Too Many

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    I did learn to sew buttons, because I had taken my coat to the dry cleaners to have two pocket buttons sewn back on. They said, "Five dollars a button". I pulled out my credit card. They said, it'll take a long time - 3-4 days. Took me 15 mins. 5 mins on google and 5 mins per button, being careful. Not going to wait 3-4 days for a 5 minute job.

    I've got a 95 truck that doesn't have air conditioning. I don't know how either of us can stand it. The radio/cd player is largely out of commission as well, but I can use my iPhone for music. Summers are miserable though.
     
  13. Good for you! See, you can be thrifty too ;)

    I have those side window thingys that you can open, so it's not bad unless it's 100 out and you're at a stop light.
     
  14. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    Good for you, Rue. I was hoping someone would put forth the idea that cellphones are not indispensable. Except for a couple years when we were taking care of my mother-in-law and needed one for medical emergencies we have been living happily without one for years. When I see the anxiety that some people go through when they're deprived of theirs it makes me glad I never came to rely on one.
     
  15. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    Quality is definitely important but try this. If you are going to buy something and the prices range from $10 at the lowest end to $200 at the highest end, ask yourself whether you would get 20 times the enjoyment and value from the high end article as you did from the low priced item. It rarely pays to buy the absolute cheapest item you can find, things poorly made don't tend to last as long. On the other hand at the top end of the range you are often paying for a prestigious brand name on the product. Very often the best rated items at Consumer Reports are not the high end products with the well-regarded name but something from the middle of the pack. The trick is to find the point at which you feel satified with the value and not spend a penny more.
     
  16. Kahuna

    Kahuna One of the Regulars

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    Congrats on learning how to sew buttons. It may seem like a small thing but every little thing you learn to do yourself that you would ordinarily have to pay someone else to do is money in the bank (provided you don't spend it on the latest gizmo ;))
     
  17. Yeps

    Yeps Call Me a Cab

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    Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, Thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent!
     
  18. Michael Carter

    Michael Carter One of the Regulars

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    I'm of the opinion of buying the best you can afford so you don't have to buy it twice.

    There's no sense in throwing away money on junk, when for a few to several dollars more you will have something that outlasts the warrantee.
     
  19. TheBeak

    TheBeak One of the Regulars

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    Tampa Bay area, FL
    Just be careful with consumer reports. I lost all faith on their integrity when they did a comparison on washing machines some years back. Kenmore as a brand does not make much of their own product, sears re-badges other vendors models as Kenmore. When consumer reports gave vastly different ratings to two identical machines (save brand label) it pretty much killed the last of what little trust I had in them.

    Oh, and for what its worth, we can sew, bake and have gone whole weeks on ramin for lunch at work to save money - but cell phones, not on the top of the cut list if things get tight. We haven't had a home phone line in years, and we do consider them a necessity.

    Our biggest savings come from not paying for any sort of service. Nothing. I fix our cars and home myself (wiring, electrical, plumbing, all of it), I cut my own grass, with a mower that I maintain, I even cut my own hair.

    Thrift to me is about saving money when you can, not saving money at a price of depriving ourselves of everything.

    I knew a guy once that owned a Corvette, and spent a great deal of time "hyper-miling" or striving to get the best possible gas mileage by being very careful with the accelerator pedal. What's the point of owning a great performance car when you drive it like that? Wouldn't it make more sense to own something that got good gas mileage in the first place? money saved on top of money saved then. I guess my point is that its always possible to save money, but sometimes the result isn't worth the cost.
     
  20. Foofoogal

    Foofoogal Banned

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    Location:
    Vintage Land
    We have had many threads along these lines on the FL. I think it was LadyDay that said it cost $1.00 to make a loaf of homemade bread.
    I have one exception to the cell phone. I have one that I pay upfront to have and the very basic plan. I have to do this as we live in tornado alley and when I go into our hidey hole storm shelter I want it just in case.
    If I was to state one thrifty thing people should have it is a freezer. Buy bulk meat when on sale and fill it up. Get white wrapping paper. Veggies are better than canned also and buy them if they are on sale. I am a freezerholic.
    Learn how to cook beans. I am astonished how many do not know how.
    Pay cash and if you cannot save till you can. Credit cards are poison to those who do not know how to use them or self control themselves.
    Learn how to use a crockpot if you work. Stops having to stop at fast food on the way home.
     

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