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If not played with care, thriftiness game can sometimes be losing proposition

By June Mathews

Like most folks these days, Jimmie and I pinch the heck out of our pennies and do our utmost to stretch our dollars.

We don’t eat out as much as we used to, and when we do, we’ll frequently order one large platter and split it. Leftovers go home in a doggie bag for one of us to enjoy the next day.

Though we’re far from extreme couponers, we clip and save grocery coupons with the best of intentions. Our problem is forgetting to take them along when we shop. But we’ve found that buying store brands often saves more than using coupons on brand name products anyway.

And if we don’t like a store brand, we’ll return to its brand name counterpart the next time, coupon or not. Sure, we like to save money, but when it comes to food, sacrificing taste is not our style.

Our home is heavily decorated with items we’ve found at flea markets and auctions (I call it Early Attic décor), and our clothing often comes from clearance racks. Used book sales or online deep-discount sites fulfill our constant craving for good reading material, and though my Kindle (bought on sale, of course) is well-stocked, most of the selections are either freebies or not much more.

While we rarely do without things we really want – within reason, that is – we comparison shop and will even buy secondhand if the quality and price are right. Thriftiness is the name of the game, and we’ve grown increasingly adept over the past few years at playing it.

But sometimes it backfires. Like last Saturday, for instance.

Since I’d spent a considerable amount of time the night before in the paint department of our local home improvement store, amassing the supplies for a batch of homemade chalk paint, I was in the market for something to paint. So Jimmie and I set out bright and early to visit a favorite thrift store in a neighboring town.

I’d been told that old ornate picture frames make for good practice on the kind of finish I’m hoping to perfect, but there were none to be found. So I headed over to the book section where Jimmie was browsing to let him know I was ready to go. On the way, I got sidetracked by a rack of blouses in the women’s clothing section, some still bearing their original tags. At only a few dollars each, I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

But go wrong, I did. I bought two and waited until I home to try them on. Sadly, neither fit. Figuring it would be worth neither the time nor the additional gas it would take to return them, I stuffed the blouses into the discard bag.

Strike one.

Later in the day, Jimmie and I headed to a local grocery outlet to pick up a few items we regularly use that are available only at that store. While there, we decided to pick up some produce on sale, including what appeared to be a perfectly decent bag of apples.

Upon arriving home, Jimmie decided to prepare the apples for juicing. So he opened the bag, reached in for a piece of fruit, and found himself holding a handful of mush.

Strike two.

As we do most Saturday nights, we went to an auction and wound up winning the bids on a rusty metal urn and a cute strawberry jar. We didn’t spend but $8, but we have absolutely no use for either item. Six months from now, they’ll be sitting in the same spot in the basement where we placed them when we got home. That’s approximately when we’ll pick them up, put them back in the car and return them to the auction house for reselling, probably for even less than we paid for them. On top of that, we’ll have to pay commission to the auctioneer.

Strike three.

You know, some days it just doesn’t pay to be thrifty. In fact, I think the thriftiest thing I can do at this point is save myself a bit of time and trouble. Next Saturday, I’m staying home.

Email June Mathews at jmathew120@charter.net

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