Everyday Cheapskate: How Long Can You Make It Last?
I want to tell you about a frugality wake-up call I had -- something I need from time to time. I'm sharing this now because my moment happened during the holidays -- just the time when you don't want a wake-up call! Well, it happened, and it reminded me that it's so easy to get sloppy, especially since we're surrounded by abundance and a seemingly endless supply of everything.
It was the morning of our big annual Holiday Dinner Party. I had limited time and many things to do. On my list was "clean patio chairs," because we would undoubtedly need them for additional seating. I wanted them sparkling clean and presentable. I grabbed my supplies only to discover I had just one roll of paper towels, and it was partly used. This would be a three-roll job at the very least. I don't count out one or two towels; I just spin off a big wad.
Normally, this shortage would have sent me on a quick trip to the store. But, as you may recall from previous columns, I do not have a car. By choice, I share a car with my husband. On this day, he was at the office, and I wasn't. I did not have time to walk to the nearest store, so I decided to go with the only choice I had at the moment: Make do.
I carefully tore off three towels. I scrubbed and cleaned. Then, instead of tossing those wet towels in the trash (my first inclination), I opened them up, straightened them out and cleaned some more. At first I was irritated, but it didn't take long to turn this into a game to see how long I could make the towels last. I worked my way through the chairs and ended up with clean white chairs and towels on the roll to spare. I was downright proud of myself.
My experience with the paper towels made me think: What if I approached everything with the same sense of scarcity and fear of running out? Would the milk last longer? Would I measure the laundry soap instead of eyeballing it? Would I be more careful with errands if gasoline was scarce? Would I be careful to wear an apron in the kitchen?
What if this was the only tube of toothpaste for the foreseeable future? Could I make it last? Would I throw away half a pot of cold coffee or freeze it in ice cube trays for later? Would I use the tea bag to make two or three cups of tea, as if tea was in short supply? How long could I make other things last -- items that seem so ordinary and available that they're easy to waste?
Something else to consider is container size. If I didn't have Costco-sized jugs, bottles and bags of nearly everything in my kitchen and pantry, would I savor those items more? Would I take care to not eat so much in one sitting in order to save them for a special occasion later on?
How long could you make things last -- not because you have to, but because it's just the right thing to do? It's good for the Earth, your attitude and your wallet, too.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.