We have been concerned about conserving our resources at home, and have had some very interesting observations.
While some things might not seem to cost much, when you consider the cost next to the family income, it is really high. For example, something that costs a dollar at the dollar store is more expensive to a family with a limited income. It is equivalent to just a few cents to someone who has a lot of money coming in. That really needs to be taken into consideration! Just because something costs a dollar, does not mean you should spend a dollar on it. Have a good look at a bottle of shampoo, for example. It will cost a dollar at your local dollar store, but at a place like Wal-Mart or even the grocery store, it can go on sale at half the price.
You can also use less of the shampoo each time you wash your hair, and make it last longer. When the container is empty, add water and get one or two more shampoos out of it. I remember sort of laughing at my own parents who used up every bit of everything, including rinsing out tomato-sauce cans and adding it to the soup, but later I found that because they did not have to go out and replace everything as quickly, they were able to save money. Later, when young people began to feel that they could not afford anything, it was these people, these men and women who had saved things like rubber bands and old pencils, instead of buying new packages of things, that had enough savings to help their children with a down payment on a house.
The bright side of seemingly silly frugality, is less tension over money. If you have a dollar, you won't be persuaded to part with it easily, and then if you get another dollar you add it to that one, and soon you have some cash for something that is lasting.
We snickered a little to see our elderly grandmas wash and hang a plastic bag on the line and wondered why she didn't just throw it away, but she didn't buy a roll of plastic bags, even if they were only a dollar. I admit you can get a bit ridiculous about cutting costs, but there will be times when you realize that it is better to scrounge around and find something that will work in place of buying something. When you buy something, even if it is a dollar, it usually costs more than a dollar to go and get it. These people are in fact, the old folks who had money in the bank to care for themselves. Now, I do wonder at the elderly men and women who get reverse mortgages and take their pensions to the gambling casinos. Their children will find it a greater burden to care for them, especially if they have ruined their health with drugs, and alcohol and a poor diet.
The bright side of buying less manufactured food and more real food, will be good health. As poor as one gets, it is never wise to buy de-valued, de-vitamized food, which is what happens to it once it gets in a box or a can. An apple is still quite inexpensive for a snack, and if you have small children, it can be divided among several of them. The key to good health is to eat food as close to its original form as possible.
You might find that Little Debbie's or Hostess apple pies are cheaper than a bag of apples, but they do not have the health benefits of the fresh apples and can in fact, reduce your health. Just because something is cheaper, does not mean it is better. One of the advantages to watching your money more carefully is that you discover the difference between something real and something artificial; the difference between natural and processed. Natural food has not been through a process. The one exception might be cheese or butter, but that is still a ancient natural process, and is not as harmful as all the cheap concoctions that pass for cheese and butter. Natural food is the apple, and the processed food is the apple confections. If you get back to real food, you can make your own desserts with the real apples, and not have all the artificial ingredients in it that are in the processed foods. Lunch meat is also processed. You can make your own lunch meat by slicing home cooked meat and fish thin enough for a sandwich. The taste is beyond comparison.
If there is one thing I would never scrimp or cut down on, it is high quality food. I would not buy the cheap bread at the store: it has very little food value and takes tons of it to satisfy you and can give you heart burn to boot, plus cravings for more. You can make your own bread quite easily, even without a bread machine, and it is such a wonderful, loving treat for the family. The bright side of this kind of frugality is that a home starts to smell like a real home and the kitchens left unused when you were away, will get a real workout. Your family will be so much healthier and won't have to worry about the diseases that people are contacting, if you have good bread. To my plain bread recipe, I add flax seed meal, wheat germ, and various herbs and spices depending on the flavors I'm trying to produce. I never used bleached flour, but have found natural flours that are light. A friend of mine bought a grinder and has another friend who grows wheat. She buys the wheat, grinds it and makes wonderful bread. The family doesn't eat as many slices when one slice is hearty enough to satisfy the appetite.
Another bright spot in frugality is the cost of transportation and telephones. People will write letters to each other which are always such a thrill. The "progressives" who put more and more taxes, interest charges, socialized this or that, on us, will find society going back to basics. Those who hate the Victorian era will find that their own policies will drive us back into that family style of life, where people made their own clothes, women stayed home and guarded the house, and men provided and protected that home. The high cost of everything will make us go back to being enterprising, and trading with one another. High costs of housing will make families pull together and become closer, and help each other out more. The great fear that some of the powers-that-be have of going back to a Victorian lifestyle, will actually be forced on us by their high interest rates and high prices. Living with our families together, longer, we will be exercising more courtesy, which will then flow outward into society. We will expect people to be true to their promises. We will be more inventive, more innovative. We will be more distinguishing between good quality and poor quality. We will focus more on what is best for preserving our marriages, our families, our property. We will not be willing to go into debt for things that deteriorate with time. We will surely want what is important in life, which costs very little.
One bright side of frugality is that people will learn to accept each other for themselves, rather than the shoes they are wearing or the sunglasses they are wearing. I saw a ridiculous show about the newest bags. The commentator said, "Up next: it is time to buy one of the fabulous new bags." She showed some high priced, ridiculously designed bags that were nothing more than squares with handles on them, which were selling at the "terrific bargain" of $150.00! Sometimes the morning shows tell women that a skirt is a "must-have" at $49.00. Are they kidding us? It has about two dollars worth of fabric in it. And will any sincere person admire you more and think more of you because of the bag you are carrying? You can put two pieces of decorating fabric (the kind used for curtains or couch covering) together, sew up the sides and make a handle, and get the same results. We sold some of these years ago when my daughter was learning to sew, and brought in a little extra income. I saw a lady in the fabric store the other day who had a beautiful patchwork square bag. Another woman asked her where she could get one. The lady gave her a business card and told her to go to her website and order one from her. She then showed her the inside of the bag and the outside, explaining what kinds of fabrics they were--some antique, some ordered from England.
I have seen women go to garage sales, yard sales, and pay $80.00 for a dresser. They think they have a bargain because the ones in the new stores are $200.00. My limit for a used piece of furniture is twenty dollars, but even at that, I feel better if I only pay five. Every price should be considered relative to YOUR income. If you are on a higher income and trying to cut down, maybe $80.00 for a dresser would be a bargain for people who are used to paying more. To a poorer person, $80.00 is equivalent to $800.00. So, be careful of bargains, and make sure you are getting a good ratio with your income.
Another bright side to frugality is the absolute beauty you can make of everything. Instead of getting a new table, you can paint your old one. Learn to use the various wood glues to stabilize loose legs and arms on chairs. The old wood is better than new wood, which is often made up of various glues and chemicals, so you are better off with your older pieces anyway.
One of the brightest sides of frugal living is that family and friends will begin attending church again, reading the Bible again, and valuing things beyond the superficial, materialistic life of the busy world around them.