Last Tuesday, I spent an afternoon shopping with my wife.
On the surface, it sounds like something we would have done five years ago, charging out to the stores, credit card in hand.
Things were a little different this time, though.
For one, we came home with fewer items than we left with. For two, we spent less than ten dollars all afternoon.
What did we wind up with? A newly refreshed living room, materials for another handmade toy for our child, and some adorable clothes for our rapidly-growing daughter.
Here’s the big shopping secret: we went thrifting.
That morning, my wife and I went through all of our children’s toys and reduced the total volume by about fifty percent, getting rid of items that the children simply didn’t play with that we felt wouldn’t have a ton of resale value at a yard sale. We filled up a large tub with the items and departed, dropping those items off as a donation.
Of course, while we were there, we also looked around the store for clothes for our daughter, as she’s rapidly jumping up in sizes. We found several very nice items for her – including a few that still had tags on them, including items from Baby Gap and similar places.
We also went through their true bargain basement items and salvaged a few sweaters. Why? We utilize old sweaters to make Silly Snakes for our kids (and for other kids, too).
We came home with two small bags of items, having spent less than $10. We also came home to a much emptier family room, one that has more than adequate space for the new toys our children received for Christmas. We also got to spend a (rare) afternoon together, just the two of us.
This is how frugal people live their lives. It’s not weird or uncomfortable or un-fun. We do the same things everyone else does. We update our children’s wardrobes. We work on craft projects. We spend time together shopping.
The only difference is that we start our children’s clothes shopping at the secondhand store instead of at the Baby Gap – and we often wind up with the same exact items of clothing. We focus on projects that utilize materials that are extremely inexpensive to begin with. And when we go shopping, we consider it a virtue to get a lot of bang for every dollar we spend – and the most important part is the time we spend together.
The real trick with frugality in modern life often isn’t figuring out ways to spend less. It’s getting past the mountains of marketing messages and cultural norms that revolve around spending.
There’s almost always an inexpensive way to do the thing you want to do. The question is whether or not you can see it through all of the mixed messages.
Luckily, on a day with my wife, we work together on it.