Many of us did not have to wait until these times of economic trouble to live a life of frugality, to search for sales, to set leftovers on the table, keep the thermostat at a less-than-comfortable temperature, and drive that automobile well past 100,000 miles. It was a way of life where I come from, perhaps because of the strong influence from those who lived through the “Great Depression,” causing people like my grandparents and parents to “make something out of nothing” as they invented and re-invented – “recycled” before it became a buzz word in America. For many in my family it was a game they would play to see how much they could save, how far they could stretch the budget, even in those later times of economic prosperity. My grandmother would always say, “Don’t throw that away; we might need it one day.” And thus, she covered her family on cold winter nights with pieces of old clothing she had sewn together to make warm, lovely quilts, ones that were stitched with love and memories from the past.
As you might have guessed, I have one of those old quilts in my closet, so raggedy now I don’t use it for fear it will completely fall apart. Instead, I just look at it once in a while and let it be a reminder of Grandmother’s wisdom. And so, it probably will not surprise you that my favorite places to shop are consignment stores and Peddler’s Malls throughout Kentucky, stores that make me salivate like Pavlov’s dog when I pull up to the door, anticipating the bargains, the little treasures inside that are but a fraction of the cost of new items.
The other day as my friend and I were walking through the Georgetown Peddler’s Mall, she said to me, “This is like a journey to the past.” It was her first visit, and while she was not overly impressed, she did find a few useful items including a nice baking dish.
It was one of those with the little blue flower on the front, just like the ones I received as wedding gifts and still use today. One man’s trash is not always another man (woman’s) treasure, but I ended up with several “treasures” including both kitchen and decorative items. I have found everything from rocking chairs to deacon’s benches, pictures, lamps, cookware, tables, bedroom furniture, rugs, purses, coats and wonderful shoes.
Speaking of shoes, I came upon a pair of nice Italian-made shoes in Versailles many years ago. It seems a lady had ordered them, but when they arrived they were the wrong size. She took them to the consignment store; I purchased them and wore them for several summers until one day the heel developed a squeak. “Oh well,” I thought to myself, “I will just take them to Goodwill and be thankful I had a pair of expensive shoes that I got for 10 bucks.” They still looked pretty good and were wearable, but the squeak got on my nerves a bit. It was a few weeks later in the grocery store that I heard that familiar squeak. I turned to see a lady walking in my old shoes! She had found her own little treasure at the local Goodwill Store.
Perhaps my favorite story is of my frugal husband who bet he could save hundreds on the grocery bill. And so, for nearly a year he shopped for all of our groceries, searching out sales, finding manager’s specials, and stretching a good piece of meat into three meals as he added variety and created his own recipes. When spring rolled around he had saved enough money from our grocery budget to take the family on a Florida vacation. He had proven his point, but much to my disappointment he quickly returned the grocery shopping to me. While I fall far short of his food- shopping expertise, I do manage to stock up on “Senior Day” at Kroger, putting my health in jeopardy as I step onto a battlefield, dodging those reckless drivers in motorized carts, tripping over canes in the aisles and food that eager shoppers have grabbed for and dropped on the floor. I am there to save my 10 percent just as the others, realizing that the 10 cents out of each dollar can soon add up – perhaps not to a Florida vacation, but maybe for a few trips to the consignment store!
English poet and critic, Samuel Johnson, (1709-1784) said it best when he wrote, “Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty.”
Consignment shopping is becoming a phenomenon in America as frugality is becoming a way of life, perhaps this time out of necessity, but in the future I hope out of choice as more people realize that saving money is not being “cheap.” On the contrary, it is being wise just like Grandmother.