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Saving and scrimping like its the great depression [Thrift]

Drizzt here. Personally, I haven’t been badly hit during this past year, other than the portfolio. I’m poorer but by no means am i very badly affected. Here in Singapore more i see are.

Last week, I had the whole week off, went to the local mall, another neighboring mall,Vivocity. This week i went IKEA. They are still pulling in the crowd.

But i do not make a mistake that we won’t be affected. Its sooner or later. We are an exporting economy and we are going to get pulverize for some time. Therefore, what one needs really is to watch what you spend on. we spent the large part of our working lives not caring so much about preservation of what you haves, and spending on what you need and also what you want.

Sometimes the trick to getting more out of that salary is to focus on what you can conserve back home.

Over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house. You remember. And perhaps you also remember the house.

Plastic slipcovers on the furniture. Mothballs in the closet. And in the cupboard: a little ball of string, scrap tinfoil or balled-up rubber bands.

Grandmothers habits were formed during the Great Depression, where thrift was paramount. Furniture, clothes, food whatever it was, it had to last as long as possible.

And you smiled as she balled up each bit of string, thinking how tough it must have been to grow up in an era before credit cards, throwaway products and throwaway income.

Well, somewhere up in heaven, Granny is laughing her head off.

The current economic crisis is sparking the return of habits even institutions long thought dead and gone. The layaway plan that antique form of consumerism where you actually pay for the goods before you take them home has made a smash comeback, with stores like Kmart, T.J. Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory offering step payment plans this holiday shopping season.

Throwaway society

Meanwhile, homemaking experts are coaching the current generation of spendthrifts on how to mend instead of discard, how to hoard instead of waste and how to save their pennies for the rainy day that now, finally, seems to be upon us.

Were a throwaway society, says Pat Brennan, a certified financial planner who teaches adult-education courses with names like What to Do in Scary Economic Times for the Rutgers (N.J.) Cooperative Extension.

We dont repair anything anymore, Brennan says. We dont repair appliances, we throw them out. We have built-in obsolescence. Thats kind of like a public policy.

Consumerism, for the boomers and Gen-Xers, has become a civic virtue just as blood, toil, tears and sweat were for our grandparents. I encourage you all to go shopping more, said President Bush in a December 2006 speech. And two weeks after 9/11: Get down to Disney World in Florida.

Penny pinching

It was a very different world when Anita Rejmaniak, 88, was growing up.

She was 9 years old when the stock market crashed in 1929; during the Depression and the world war that followed, she was taught to squeeze a penny so the saying went back then until Lincoln grinned.

We couldnt be frivolous and just get something and throw it away, Rejmaniak says. If you didnt have the money, you had to save up for it, so much a week. I remember … there was a dress I liked it was $5. I had to wait five weeks. I saved up a dollar a week.

Others could tell you stories, too, of belt-tightening and penny pinching; of Christmas decorations made from construction paper; of table settings collected, one piece at a time, at the dish night of the local cinema; of oleo margarine that had to be kneaded by hand.

It came in a plastic bag, Brennan recalls. There was an orange spot in this lump of lard, and you pressed it to release the color, and you kneaded it to look like butter. It was too expensive to get real butter.

Theres no question that most of us will be seeing difficult times in the months ahead. And now might be the time to revisit some of those quaint habits of our grandparents that might not be so quaint after all.

Its a lot about going back to basics, says Barbara ONeill, financial management specialist for Rutgers Cooperative Extension. When youre buying run-of-the-mill things, pay cash for them. What a concept.

Using cash

Teaching cash consumerism to three generations of Americans used to bingeing on credit cards is a daunting prospect, ONeill says. Though the modern credit card was introduced in 1950, it was not until the 1990s that buy now, pay later really got out of control, she says.

In the decade of the 2000s, the average household credit card debt is over $9,000, she says.

In her co-authored book Small Steps to Health and Wealth, and in classes she teaches for the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, ONeill promotes the small behavior changes that can lead to a better and more frugal life. Turn down thermostats. Buy generic brands. Balance your books. And dont be in such a rush to throw everything out.

If the couch or chair is structurally sound but with worn-out upholstery, you could have it reupholstered, or buy a colorful slipcover, she says. And collecting bits of string?

OK, maybe things arent quite that bad yet.


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Sunday 28th of December 2008

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