By Matt Swartz
Very little of the money I spend to fill my refrigerator goes to waste. If I spend an extra dollar here or there buying products with fewer (and more easily pronounceable) ingredients, I’m happy to do it. If anything spoils before I get to it, inevitably it will have been a vegetable, and those are cheap.
The same principle holds true in my closet (or, more accurately my laundry basket, where clothing stays after I wash it and before I toss it on my floor). Now that I’m over 25, I’ve stopped buying shirts with writing or graphics on them, and that’s helped me spend a good deal less. If anyone misses reading my shirts, they’ve been kind enough not to say so. More probably they, like me, enjoy having one less bit of pointless text in their lives. Two pairs of jeans is enough, dress clothing is needed rarely enough that there’s no point in having two sets, and everything else is purchasable in bulk.
Add in the living room where I split basic cable three ways, and the (hypothetical) garage, where I park a car that I expect to turn the odometer over on one or two more times, and my house is a veritable fortress of thrift.
And for a long time, that was the end of my thrift, until recently I was felled financially by the porcelain room. For it is there where the marketers do their worst work. Dentists only recommend a pea-sized spot of toothpaste, but those horrible commercials show it covering the whole brush.
Until recently, I shelled out for another preposterous paste called “shaving-cream.” I guess the idea was that I could scrape the hairs off my face more efficiently if I couldn’t see any of them? I always went too fast and cut myself, which hasn’t happened once since I stopped using it; the steam from a hot shower softens the skin enough, as it turns out.
Similarly, I discovered an old product that dates back to the years before body wash commercials. It cleans the skin at a much lower cost-per-application. This old home remedy, called “soap” is still used widely for cleaning hands, but it works for the whole body as well. It’s basically body wash without the water added. And thank goodness! I just happen to be using the soap in a place where there’s lots of water, and this water, unlike the first ingredient in the body wash, I’m buying wholesale and in bulk.
If my aftershave bottle gets low, I refill it with rubbing alcohol or liquor, both of which are much cheaper, and the Old Spice has more than enough smell to go around, even when diluted. Add in the bar shampoo I bought a year ago (same principle as the soap, and that $10 has lasted for a year of regular use), and I’m starting to get a handle on the thing. I estimate that doing the opposite of what I see on TV means that I now send only half as much money swirling down the drain as I once did. Now, if I can just find a way to trim the weekend budget…