Friday, September 20, 2013

The Upside to Economic Downtimes

Last night my family spent an hour wandering around a thrift store.  Yep, a thrift store.  My boys called it "The Treasure Store" because I told them they would have to hunt to find a treasure (something cool and useful) while in the store. I know many people shop at thrift stores, but it wasn't something I did growing up.  While my parents are by no means rich, we always bought things new.  We always ate name brand food. We always had fairly new cars. On the weekends we went out to eat and went to movies. That's just how life was for me.  And for the first four years of my marriage, that is how my husband and I lived too. We just weren't "thrift store people".

My favorite piece of repurposed furniture. Actually, my favorite piece of furniture.
Then in 2008 when the economy went south, so did our budget.  We moved twice within the next year: once to a different state and the other time into our newly built house. We had a baby in 2008 and another in 2009, so needless to say, by the end of 2009, our savings was drained.  We suddenly had three kids under four to take care of and two of them were in diapers...and our income had only increased marginally. It was the first time in my life that I realized the store brand of food tastes (in most, not all cases) like the name brand and it is usually quite a bit cheaper. Even though I have a degree in Family and Consumer Science, it was the first time where I went to the grocery store and had to add up everything I put into my cart to make sure I didn't go over budget...because there was no leeway in our budget. I remember feeling completely run into the ground and perhaps a bit angry that this had happened to my husband and I when we had both worked so hard to get our Bachelor's Degrees. 

In talking to several friends and neighbors, I've realized I am not alone in this trial.  These economic times have made a lot of us reevaluate our perspective on life. As the years have gone on, I have realized that there are so many lessons to be learned by going through economic downtimes.  First off, I began to really budget. I thought we'd been living off a budget before, but we hadn't. I learned that you really have to count where every dollar goes, not write down some ball park figure you hope to spend in each category.

One has only to look on Pinterest, to see that many of us have reevaluated the usefulness of older items.  There is so much repurposing and refinishing going on! I believe it is happening because thousands of people just like me are realizing that you don't always have to buy new.  We are realizing that with a little hard work, we can have what we want for a fraction of the price.  I truly think this repurposing movement is amazing! People are learning the value of being thrifty...isn't this recycling at it's finest?

Six years ago my husband and I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a large office desk.  Really, it was ridiculous...ridiculous to the tune of about $1500. (To be fair he was making good money and we didn't have many expenses). 

Our old computer desk was on its last leg, and since we were close to graduating from college and would soon be looking into buying a home, we felt that we needed a nice piece of furniture.  It never once crossed my mind to go look at a thrift store, and if by chance I would have gone to a thrift store, all I would have seen was junk.  It wasn't even on my radar to think to repurpose an old desk. That monstrous desk eventually became an eyesore to me and all I wanted was something simple and sweet. I had my husband move it to the basement and for awhile it just sat.  About six months ago, we repurposed a desk and the price difference between the big desk and the refinished one was about $1450.  I'm sure you can guess which desk I like better.

Another upside to down economic times has been learning to sell items I don't need or want.  I grew up always taking our unwanted items to donate to thrift stores. While this is a fabulous way to rid yourself of clutter, I never once thought that I could actually sell some of my more useful items.  A lot of our home improvement projects have been funded by me selling off things.  I like that it gets the clutter out of my house, and it is money that isn't part of my budget so I can use it at my discretion. I know I'm not the only one that has realized this as I am always hearing about awesome things people have found at garage sales or bought offline from someone.  

Even though the past few years have been trying at times, I'm thankful that I've learned to be thrifty.  I'm thankful that in all of this there is an upside. I'm happy to see that so many people are realizing the same things as me.  There really is something satisfying about using your talents and time to make something at a fraction of the price.  Its wonderful to see so many people being so creative with things that would have been discarded in years past. My hope is that my generation can pass on the value of thrift to our children, so they can avoid a lot of the wastefulness that comes when the economy is good.

1 comment:

  1. It is funny how you start out and all things need to be new and later you realize that isn't the case. We started out with all hand me downs and looked on them as placeholders until we could get something new. Now (thirty years later) things have changed and I'm glad my children are thrifty as they start out on their own.