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Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!

January 14th, 2008 at 03:55 am

In response to an entry posted on Somer's blog at http://somer.savingadvice.com/ I mentioned something my mother used to say to me, generally after a discussion of wants vs. needs. After she'd coached me about knowing the difference between a want and a need, complete with examples from her own life, she'd pause then say, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!"

Oh, how I detested that momism! It was something I absolutely dreaded hearing and each time she said it, I'd roll my eyes (inwardly of course, I didn't dare roll them visibly!) and sigh a little. After all, I knew that as a single parent receiving a small amount of child support she provided most of my support. I knew that although she had a good paying job, it couldn't be easy raising a girl or two or three. She made sure we had a nice and safe place to live, electricity, water, and food, bought us good quality clothes, and gave us allowance. And she always had a good car to drive, carried nice purses, wore nice clothes, and seemed to have money for extras, too. Another momism she would pitch at us was "Quality over quantity!". But we weren't rolling in the lap of luxury, by any means. We wore our clothes until they were outgrown or not good for much but the rag bag. We ate well but we didn't eat expensive foods. Our houses were safe and in good parts of town but they weren't large or new. Most of our furniture was in great condition and was treated well so that it could be sold later at a garage sale.

It wasn't until years later that I learned that although we got brand new clothes, her own clothes often came from thrift shops. And that most of the nice purses she had were given to her by friends. And that a lot of our furniture and household goods that were sold at garage sales came from garage sales. Or that she wore her nice looking thrift store shoes until they had no support left, at which time she'd throw them out and get another pair. I suddenly understood why she used foil and plastic wrap several times if she could, why she saved the brown paper bags from the grocery store, and why she insisted that although we could have two servings of the main course at dinner, we couldn't pig out on it. She apparently took "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" seriously.

As the years passed and I married then became a stay at home mother of three kids of my own, living on the small income from my husband's job, I greatly appreciated the momism I'd detested so much in my youth. I found myself remembering it when I was tempted to buy something we didn't need. I even said it to my own children a few times, though not many. I did try to teach them that when they wanted to buy something, it was good to not buy on impulse and to just wait awhile before purchasing it. I also taught them to consider if they already had something that would do the job of the thing they wanted to buy.

Now that my kids are grown and it's just me and my husband trying to pay bills and save for the retirement we always thought we'd have time to save for later (see my previous entry entitled "The best ways to ensure you'll be and stay broke") I think of those words my mom practically drowned me with as a kid and I'm thankful. I'm very thankful.

I think of them every time I wipe clean a piece of foil, dry it, and save it to use later. And I think of them every time I buy clothes at a thrift shop. Each time I add a few more cents to my challenge money, I hear those words and appreciate them again.

So here's to moms and dads and other folks who irritated us with their sayings and adages about money and thrift. May we irritate our own kids...and theirs..and theirs....

11 Responses to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!”

  1. JanH Says:

    Very well said!

  2. luxliving Says:

    I do believe I heard that one MANY MANY times!!

  3. denisentexas Says:

    And did it irritate you, LL? lol

  4. annab Says:

    For me, it was my grandfathers who talked about frugality. They were real DIY kind of man too: did gardening, canning, hunting, fishing and home repairs.

    But as a kid, I was afraid I'd shrivel up and die if anyone from my school saw me at the thrift store! I went to school with a lot of well-off kids. And homemade stuff wasn't as good to me. But when I started taking a look at the money I'd save, well the thrift store started looking pretty darn attractive! And now that I'm on my own, I miss those homemade things and how good they were. Smile.

  5. annab Says:

    Oh yeah, and quality vs. quantity? My grandmother's sister had bought some suitcases and a sewing machine. She used them until she died and I'm using them now. And they're older than I am! But they were built to last, and I think we've gotten our money's worth.

  6. luxliving Says:

    Yes, Denise, it did! HAAA!!

    Especially when after all my not-so-subtle hints my Dad still refused to get rid of his old VERY UGLY green International Harvester pickup that refused to DIE!!

    I was soooo embarrassed by that ugly old truck! "You can drop me here" (6 blocks away from school). We kept it until it was a goner, all used up!

    Nowdays, guess what? I drive a green truck, my second one, and I'm planning to drive that puppy into the ground!

    http://luxliving.savingadvice.com/2006/08/23/why-tinker-with-a-good-thing_13313/

    Funny the front end looks very similar to that old ugly truck of Daddys.

    *don't follow the link in there it takes you someplace other than originally intended.

  7. denisentexas Says:

    Ahh, so I'm not the only one who got to hear the stories of how things used to be and how wise it is to save this, re-use that, etc. I didn't think I was. Wink
    My granny raised chickens and canned them, whole, and those were the best chickens I'd ever tasted! She made homemade dumplings to go with her chickens and although we've all tried to reproduce them, we can't seem to touch Granny's delicious chicken & dumplings. She saved everything, even little pieces of thread. Of course, she was part of the Depression era and that affected her.

    LL, I'd love to see the truck you have! Smile I remember being embarrased by some things, too, anna. One time one of my best friends admired a skirt and top outfit I'd worn for about a year. I was ready to pitch it and she asked if she could have it. I gave it to her but every time she wore it, I felt embarrased. I don't know why - she seemed okay with it but it made me uncomfortable!

    Yep, they are/were wise folks! May I be as wise someday. Smile

  8. Broken Arrow Says:

    Hehe. My mom is the frugal one in the family, and it used to bug me when she kept hounding us kids about frugality....

    Now I appear to be doing the same. Big Grin I picked up other things from my dad, but I'm glad I picked up my mom's frugality.

  9. campfrugal Says:

    Ahh, but frugality can be taken a little too far, as in this story, but she is not my Aunt.

    The “Frugal” Aunt

    I have a dear old aunt. She experienced the Second World War and knows how to be frugal. It is second nature to her.

    At her latest birthday, she got a couple of boxes of chocolate. A week later I visited her. She had a bowl of hazelnuts sitting on the kitchen table. I thought nothing of it at the time.

    During my visit, we had a piece of chocolate. My aunt took one bite of the chocolate and took out the hazelnut inside and placed it in the bowl. “I don’t like hazelnuts, but it would be a waste just to throw them out”

    Realizing what she had just said, I got sick to my stomach, mainly because I had eaten from the bowl.

    Too funny.


  10. denisentexas Says:

    I read that, cf, and agree that frugality can be taken too far but that's a subjective thing. Apparently, to the person in the story, that wasn't too far though it was too far to the author. And to me! lol

  11. Broken Arrow Says:

    "Realizing what she had just said, I got sick to my stomach, mainly because I had eaten from the bowl."

    Ewww. Disgusting but funny!

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