Thrifty Living in Tough Times

By on January 1, 2013
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by SUSAN MARQUEZ

The extravagance and excess of the holidays is over and many are making resolutions to slim down—both their bodies and their budgets. But that doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love. It’s time to get creative and look for thrifty alternatives that will add up to some extra jingle in your bank account. There are myriad ways to save money in all aspects of your life that can actually make stretching a dollar a fun and rewarding challenge.

After food and shelter, clothing is often the largest budget item for most people. What’s a fashion maven to do if trying to look, well, fashionable while saving money? Jacqui Katool of Madison regularly shops area consignment stores and has found some great finds over the years. The stores she shops are spacious and clean, and the clothes are carefully chosen for quality and current style. “I’ve found some incredible deals on name-brand apparel. Often, someone purchases an item and they get it home and it doesn’t fit right or they decide it’s not right for them. They may have good intentions of returning the item, but for whatever reason, they never do and it eventually ends up at a consignment store. Much of what I’ve purchased still has the original tags on it.”

One of the consignment stores Katool frequents is Repeat Street in Ridgeland. Michelle Austin started the store in a small space on Highway 51 several years ago, then moved it to Ridgewood Road Extension as it grew. Today the sprawling store is located in a former outdoors store on Highway 51 in Ridgeland. In addition to clothing and accessories for both men and women, the store carries furniture and home decor.

Katool once bought four skirts and two pair of slacks for $32. “The skirts were from premium stores like Harold’s, Banana Republic, and Chico’s, and the pants were Izod—and most were brand new!” None of the clothes had to be altered, but Katool said that if something doesn’t fit just right, it’s worth the effort to take it to a good alterations person. “You still come out ahead.”

The items in the consignment stores come primarily from local residents who clean out closets, drawers, and rooms in their homes. They can clear the clutter and make a few bucks at the same time. In most cases, if an item hasn’t sold within a specific period of time, the owner can come back and reclaim it. They can also choose to allow the consignment stores to donate the unsold items to charity. It’s best to call ahead to find out what days/hours the stores accept merchandise, the type of merchandise they will take (most won’t take clothes out of season), and what their payment policy is.

Nicole Davis’ Private Collection opened in 1990. Women’s clothing, including shoes, purses, jewelry, and other accessories are never more than two years old, and her policy of keeping items for no more than 60 days means the inventory is constantly fresh. The customer gets a substantial discount, and the original owner pockets 40% of the selling price. Located in Madison on Highway 51, Private Collection definitely offers upscale quality at a great value.

There’s a new breed of housewives who are not only very Internet savvy, but thrifty as well. They share their ideas for homemade items such as laundry detergent and repurposing items on sites and blogs like pinterest.com, thriftyfun.com, and ourthriftyideas.com.

Thethriftycouple.com features the parents of five children who found themselves with over $100 thousand in consumer debt, not counting their house. Together, they tackled the debt, paid it off, and now share their ideas for thrifty living on their website.

Being thrifty can extend into all areas of your life. Such simple things like using leftover pasta water for houseplants and turning off the water when brushing your teeth can add up to savings on your water bill. Filling 2-liter bottles with water and putting them into the freezer helps the freezer to work more efficiently. The frozen water bottles can then be used to keep items in an ice chest cool.

Entergy has a “Save Money on Your Bill” tab on their website (www.entergy-mississippi.com) that allows customers to tour a virtual house to save money. The first of three no-cost ways to save money on your power bill, according to the Entergy site, are to set your thermostat to recommended winter and summer settings (68 degrees in the winter, 78 degrees in the summer). This simple solution can save you up to 15% on your monthly energy bill. Next is to adjust the water heater thermostat to produce as much as a 10% savings on your bill each month. And managing window shades and drapes makes a big difference. Just the simple act of closing shades or drapes on a window in direct sunlight in the summer will reduce radiant heating of your home by as much as 45%. In the winter, opening window shades or drapes will help heat a room. There are plenty of other money-saving ideas on the site on topics such as lighting, appliances, electronics, and home maintenance.

One of the easiest ways to save money is by using coupons. With television shows such as Extreme Couponing, the awareness of how much money can be saved has grown. There are websites dedicated to couponing, but before getting started, it’s best to read the “Coupon Etiquette” article on the couponing.com site. Locally, Hope Staples teaches a “Couponing 101” class. Staples, a Madison resident, now gets many of the things she and her family needs for free or at drastically reduced prices. “I had certain things I bought each month, such as laundry detergent and shampoo. I figured it was about $60 each month, and now I get those same items for about $7. That’s not generic, either—all the items I buy are name brand!”

Do-It-Yourself Laundry Detergent

Cleans 576 loads of laundry for $6

Equipment needed:

  • large pot
  • cheese grater
  • funnel
  • long spoon
  • 2 plastic jugs (1-gallon each)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bar of soap (any kind)
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 2 gallons of water

Grate the entire bar of soap and put into the pot. Add 1 gallon of water and cook over medium heat until the soap dissolves. Add the Borax and washing soda and mix well. Bring to a boil. Mixture will coagulate somewhat. Turn off the heat and add the second gallon of water. Mix well. Then, using the funnel, divide the mixture between the two separate gallon jugs.

Use 1-2 tablespoons for each load of laundry. The detergent will not make suds like commercial detergent, but there will also be less soap residue on clothing after washing. This mixture works equally well in hot, warm, and cold water.

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