General ramblings

Thoughts on Thrift

I had a tweet from the MAD Blog Awards the other day, telling me that My Make Do and Mend Life had been nominated for one of their blogging awards, in the Best Thrifty Blog category.
I was naturally really excited to hear about it (thankyou if you nominated me!), and it’s always lovely to get nominated for any kind of award, but I also remember thinking “but my blog isn’t a thrifty blog”.
Or is it?

On the MAD Blog Awards categories page, the ‘blurb’ for the Best Thrifty Blog category states:
“When you’re a parent, every penny counts and these blogs are packed with tips on saving cash and making the most of what we have.”

So the ‘thrift’ element here certainly seems to be focussed on money saving, and this certainly seems to be the modern interpretation of all things thrifty.
But when this blog started and we spent our first official year Buying Nothing New, it was never with the intention of saving money. In the end, we did actually save over £2000 over the course of the year, so this was a lovely by-product, but for me, the focus has always been saving resources, rather than money.
So it was really interesting to discover that the Oxford English Dictionary definition for thrift is:

The quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully

This fits much more with my mission for the blog (and for my life!).
For me, thrift is all about using all our resources carefully, and not wasting them. With the end goal of living more sustainably. Oh, and saving the world via Making Do and Mending, obvs 😉

Making Do and Mending, and tea. One of my favourite combos!

Making Do and Mending, and tea. One of my favourite combos!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think that saving money is necessarily the same thing as thrift.
The definition above states that it is the quality of using money carefully and not wastefully. In our modern throwaway society, buying lots of cheap ‘disposable’ stuff, be that fast fashion, or cheap electronics, might save money, but often it’s done with very little thought. Things are bought on impulse precisely because they are cheap, and aren’t bought carefully. Effectively, we are often wasting our money when we buy cheap mass produced goods, as they are not designed to last. And before we know it, we will need a replacement.
This is not really thrifty, in any sense of the word.

As I see it, for the truly thrifty, by using resources more carefully, the almost inevitable consequence is that we save money at the same time.
I choose to save resources by making most of my purchases second-hand. 99% of the time, this is also cheaper than buying new, so is a win-win on the thrift stakes.
However, when I do choose to buy new, I now do so much more deliberately and consciously. And even though some of my choices are sometimes a more expensive initial outlay (everything from organic food to ethical shoes), I think that by being more aware of the impact of everything I buy, I buy less, but I buy better, and over time, I end up spending less.

I think the modern interpretation of thrift has drifted from what I see as it’s true meaning.
Being thrifty is sometimes seen as a negative thing, being ‘tight’ or ‘mean’, or not wanting to spend money.
I’d love to see a return to the dictionary definition. To thrift being a badge of honour (as it was during the Make Do and Mend era of WW2), that shows the world we are being thoughtful about how and what we consume, what we buy, and how we dispose of it.

Visisble Mending

My very visibly mended jeans…

So now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your thoughts on thrift.
Is your primary focus saving money, or saving resources?
Or do you love the way that one seems to lead to the other.



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  • Reply Bill O'Connor April 26, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    The economist Steven Landsburg once wrote: “There is nobody more generous than the miser — the man who could deplete the world’s resources but chooses not to.”

    • Reply Jen May 1, 2016 at 9:52 pm

      What a great quote! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Julia Nyanyo April 16, 2016 at 8:13 am

    For me it’s that I can’t shake off the influence of my nan, she was the thriftiest person I’ve ever met! Nothing was wasted and everything was mended and most of all valued. it just makes sense, if you value what you have you don’t constantly need more. So I think for me thrift is valuing resources , all of them.

    • Reply Jen April 26, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      That’s great to hear Julia, and so lovely that your Nan is still influencing the choices you make everyday!

  • Reply French Toast Tasha April 13, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    I agree that if we as a society focused more on thrift as conservation of all resources, we’d be better off in a lot of ways! I think of it that way for sure, my primary goal is to be thoughtful in what I buy, and make the best possible choices. And that almost always ends up saving money as well.

    • Reply Jen April 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      Totally agree and love the bit about thoughtful choices. So much of our buying and consuming involves no thought at all. Slowing down and making more thoughtful purchases has so many benefits.

  • Reply theFIREstarter April 13, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Yes yes yes!
    Couldn’t agree more. It winds me up no end when people look upon saving resources as being tight when it should be common sense to anyone with a brain that is capable of thinking into the future longer than next week. Many of the people I know who are like this have children as well which is ironic as they don’t seem to mind trashing the planet for their own descendants.

    I agree that being thrifty with resources comes first and any money saved is a nice bonus that follows naturally in most cases.

    Cheers Jen!

    • Reply Jen April 13, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Yay! So pleased that lots of you seem to think the same way. It’s easy to think it’s just me..!

  • Reply Amandine Alexandre April 13, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Jen, I agree with you. For me, being thrifty is not wasting any resources. By following this rule, you also end up saving money.

    • Reply Jen April 13, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Hurray! Thanks Amandine 🙂

  • Reply Tass April 13, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Also, it’s not surprising that the general understanding of thrift has changed. These days if you want something you can just spend money to get it (and the end producer is far removed from the prod that it’s easy to turn a blind eye to any exploitation).

    Rewind to the first half of the 20th Century and if you needed something, the chances are you’d be directly involved or know the person who was, whether you were raising a pig, making your clothes, walking to work/school and so on.

    When you’re that close to the process, it’s natural that you look after what you have and ensure it’s reworked until it’s totally worn out.

    • Reply Jen April 13, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Brilliant point Tass. Yes, we are so far removed now from the people doing the making, that as you say, it is very easy to turn a blind eye.

  • Reply Tass April 12, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    The OED definition, rather than the modern ‘take’ on thrift, was in my mind when I nominated your blog on the MAD site. I guess I wasn’t alone in this.

    I grew up in a household that was thrifty in the true sense. Items were carefully selected for their ability to be mended or reworked. Recycling was the norm, long before the local.authority caught on. We were expected to create/bake presents rather than pick them off the shelf and also we had no TV to distract us.

    Like you, saving cash can be a byproduct of thrift (particularly useful when there’s less of it around) but it isn’t the driving force. We just take pleasure in the whole Make do and mend / sustainable living approach.

    Keep blogging and inspiring us!

    • Reply Jen April 13, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Oh wow Tass, thankyou so much for the nomination 🙂
      So pleased to hear that you are carrying on in your family tradition. My family weren’t natural thrifters at all, so I’m hoping that the approach we are taking with our own kids will rub off on them!

  • Reply Joanne Scrace April 12, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    Yay! i hadn’t seen your beautiful shawl before i don’t think. I adore the colour. Is it onion dyed?
    I must admit I’ve always thought thrift was resources as well as money. It goes hand in hand but I’d always associated it with smart purchasing and reusing rather than buying cheapest.

    • Reply Jen April 13, 2016 at 8:59 am

      This shawl was before my natural dyeing epiphany Joanne! Although I am thinking about doing another using shades of naturally dyed yarn for an ombre effect. Such a lovely pattern-I enjoyed making it so much!
      So pleased to hear that the general consensus (of my totally unbiased readership 😉 ) seems to be leaning towards resourcefulness rather than money saving!

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