The Money Saving Advantages of a Conservation Strategy by Robin Trimingham
Being a retirement transition specialist has also made me an expert on creative ways to save money. Interestingly, it’s not so much my ability to invent new ideas as my application of tried and true strategies in combination that allows me to stretch a dollar to new lengths.
I think I get this strategy from my grandparents. They had to figure out how to run a household during two world wars when many basic household items were unobtainable even if you they had the money to pay for them, which encouraged them to create ways to repurpose even the smallest household items multiple times. This “conservation strategy” became a way of life and many of their war years “re-cycling” ideas were still being employed when I visited their farmhouse in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
I can recall helping my grandmother rinse and dry tin foil for reuse which was carefully flattened out and folded into neat squares in the kitchen drawer waiting for reuse to heat up leftovers. A highly-prized collection of elastic bands was stretched around a paper towel roll, safety pins were collected from every item of dry cleaning, and even the twist ties from loaves of bread were carefully straightened and stored in a container.
Surprisingly, paper napkins and paper towels were used daily, but they were not discarded after a single use. They were collected in a paper grocery bag on the kitchen floor and used for all manner of purposes from wiping out ash trays to cleaning the mud off shoes to cleaning windows. They were then placed in another paper bag and finally used as kindling in the fireplace in my grandfather's study.
Worn down pieces of soap were collected in a plastic mesh bag on the bathroom window sill and once every year or so they were melted down in a pot on the stove with a bit of water and vegetable oil and then recast in to a block of utility soap which was used after gardening and other messy jobs. To dry your hands, a six foot loop of linen toweling created by sewing empty flour sacks together was always waiting on a rod mounted on the inside of the kitchen door. My grandmother had several of these which she rotated daily and hung over bushes to dry in the sun and reuse, instead of laundering them – after all how dirty could they be, if only freshly washed hands touched them?
This sort of practical evaluation of the myriad of frequently discarded small things that float through our lives has led me to learn enough about carpentry and sewing to save a fortune on curtains, curtain rods, book cases, garden furniture, clothing, pillow cases and duvet covers.
Yes, I like designer labels as much as the next girl, but I also like my things to last. Replacing buttons and zippers and altering hemlines are a great way to extend the life of the things you have and to radically update vintage finds. I have even converted a maxi dress into a skirt, and dated trousers into fantastic new shorts on more than one occasion. When someone comments that they like my outfit, I just smile quietly and omit any mention of exactly how long my pants and I have been travelling companions.
Taken on an individual basis none of these ideas will make any improvement in your household budget, but adopting a life of “conservation” as opposed to constant consumerism will help you get the most out of the things that you have. It will help you afford better quality things and make them last, and help you stop spending on the unnecessary, which will in turn help you start to have a few more dollars in the bank at the end of the month.
By Robin Trimingham