Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Frugality for a Better Life

Last week Trent from Simple Dollar had a post about frugality called The Little Things That Make You Happy. His point was not to cut out the things you love, but instead, find ways to make those things more frugal. One of his examples is for a daily latte lover to look at purchasing a smaller size, checking out other coffeehouses for better deals, etc.. Now, I'm all about this kind of thinking! If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I don't believe in sacrificing the things you love in the name of money. Even as broke as I am, I still make time (and money) for things I care about. At the same time though, I do look at ways to make them more frugal. I love to dine out, for example. One way I can do that on a frugal budget is to accept Mystery Shopping assignments for restaurants. I write up a report on the service I received, they reimburse me the cost of my dinner. It's a great system!

One thing Trent didn't talk about, but I mentioned in his comments, is that what some people don't realize is that frequently the more frugal alternative can be better that its more expensive counterpart. This goes right back to the post by Frugal Chick that I mentioned last week. She mentioned that at one point in her life she never thought she would give up her frozen pizza, now she can't imagine ever going back to it! It isn't just that her homemade pizza is less expensive to make, it is that it tastes so much better!

I was reminded of this concept recently when I was looking at my plates...

Shortly after my husband and I got married, I hosted my very first Thanksgiving dinner. Naturally, I wanted everything to be perfect, so I was trying to plan every detail. One of the things I realized was that I didn't have a butter dish or a cream and sugar set. He and I had gotten a set of dishes when we were married, but we just didn't happen to be given these particular pieces. The set had come from Bed, Bath and Beyond, so a few days before the holiday I hopped online to see if I could order them. Ordering them wasn't a problem, but the cost was! The sugar and creamer set was over $35 on its own! I should say that the dishes themselves were pretty middle-of-the-road as far as price was concerned, we're not talking fine china here. So I was shocked! $35 for just a sugar bowl and a small pitcher to pour cream?? There was no way I was going to pay that.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I had gotten out of work early and was driving home. I still hadn't come up with a solution to the problem. Then I had a brilliant thought - I quick turned my car around and drove over to a local antique shop. I love vintage glassware and I figured I might just be able to find something there. It turns out, I was right! Almost right away I found a beautiful little clear cut glass creamer and sugar set for $6. I didn't find a proper butter dish, but I did find a small 4" round clear cut glass shallow little bowl with feet. I decided to soften the butter then scoop out balls of it with the small end of my melon baller and pile them in the little bowl - just like getting little molded butter pats at a high end restaurant. The best part? The bowl was gorgeous... and only $2!

So, for just $8 I had all my serving pieces. While they didn't match my plates exactly, in my opinion, vintage glassware goes with anything. These looked like family heirlooms - all the more appropriate for a holiday dinner with family.

Now time has passed. When my ex and I split up, we split those dishes right down the middle, however, I kept my little cut glass serving plates. A few months after the divorce, my ex bought new dishes for himself and so he gave me back his half. These dishes are absolutely fine. They are nice and sturdy, and I still like the colors. I will probably keep them a long time, but honestly, they don't mean as much to me as my little cut glass pieces. I like them not only for themselves, but I love how they have a story. Not just my story, but other people's stories. Who knows where these pieces came from originally? Where they someone's grandmother's wedding set? When were they made? Who has owned them? I find it's delightful mystery.

In fact, I haven't bought another serving piece for my original set, even though Bed, Bath and Beyond occasionally has them on sale - and I always have a coupon. I have however, bought more cut glass pieces. The beauty is that I can pick them up at garage sales, thrift stores and antique stores for just a few dollars. I don't care if the patterns match, in fact, that they don't match, it adds to the charm. Last fall I picked up a cute relish dish for $1 a garage sale and just a couple of months ago I got a big serving platter at a thrift store for $2.50. I tell you, you can't find many treasures for those prices in a big retail store!

Frugality is great for the pocketbook, but I also think it makes us more creative. We do more on our own, make our own memories, add our own special flair. Not only that, but it is frequently better for us - and our planet! It isn't just about the pennies saved, though that is important, it is also about finding better ways to do things.

Photo by: SnowRiderGuy


getting stuff done said...

its practically my whole lifestyle! although I did once dream of having a set of bone china mugs. all matching. am feeling all abit pleased with myself at the moment for finding some towel racks at a car boot sale. they were exactly the ones I was thinking of paying full price for!

Simplelivin' said...

That's a great steal! Thinking outside the box is def. a great way to save money. And the butter balls...what a great idea!!!

Slinky said...

I love old dishes and china! A lot of it is prettier and nicer than what you find now. I'm hoping my grandmother will pass on her china when she passes the title of holiday hostess. :) She has this style of china, but a different pattern.

Frugalchick said...

Your glass dishes sound beautiful! Aren't thrift/vintage stores the best? I have found some of my favorite dishes at thrift shops.

Incidentally, I have a post today about the lattes I've been craving lately and how I indulged on the cheap at home.

Dawn said...

Getting Stuff Done - Good for you! That is great about the towel racks!

Simplelivin' - What is the old saying? Necessity is the mother of all invention? Us frugal folks can get pretty creative when we need to.

Slinky - I agree - a lot of it is prettier than what we have now. Those dishes are lovely! I think much of the vintage stuff was made better too.

Frugalchick - I just got back in, but will go back and check out your post! And I'm with you - thrift stores rock!