Sunday, October 26

A new way to save money

There is nothing quite like the cast-offs from the affluent to make for good bargain hunting.

Moreover, it’s humbling to see the detritus from nearly 900 people’s families. It makes me realize just how wasteful we are as a society.

As I pawed through the discarded toys and games, I wondered why more parents don’t visit rummage sales. Not just because they could save money by buying there, but also because anyone at these sales quickly sees patterns that are very telling.

After the third, bulging Ziploc bag of Harry Potter Magic Trading cards, I began to wonder why parents even bothered. (I also wonder how Hoyle makes any kind of profit on playing cards – there were at least 20 packs of them there, and there’s usually two packs at any given garage sale. Who buys these things new anymore?)

Don’t parents know that what they’re buying will be quickly discarded? Most trends are. Remember Furbies? Tamagachi?

Then again, maybe the parents aren’t paying attention either. It would explain the three bread machines I saw for sale. And the five sewing machines last year. I won’t even try to guess the number of still-packaged candles and holiday decorations that filled various tables.

A lot of frugal bloggers talk about buying fewer things. Fewer buys means you keep more money. You also encourage less waste, which is good for the environment. Some PF bloggers advocate a very minimalist lifestyle.

For me, it’s a matter of being aware of my own limitations, as a procrastinator and a woman with a disability. I could buy a bread maker for $10 at a garage sale and call it a deal. But is it a deal if I never use it? Shouldn’t I take my cue from the fact that so many women are trying to get rid of these things?

I’m sure that there are plenty of women who consider their bread machines to be culinary staples, like a good set of knives. If that’s you, great. But it’s not me.

If I bought a bread maker, I would never use it. It would take up space and be a constant reminder that I wasted money. (This, ironically, makes me more determined to keep the item, since if I can make myself use it – which I so will any day now – then it wasn’t a waste of money.)

The fact is, my resources are limited. And I’m not just talking about money. We live in a one-bedroom apartment, so it’s easy for small items to become clutter.

I also have a very limited amount of energy. I don’t want to spend it feeling stressed and guilty about clutter. And I really don’t want to spend it cleaning up the clutter so that I can relax.

So I try to be conscious about what I buy. If I can’t be sure I’ll use it, if I can’t figure out where I’d put it, I don’t make a purchase. Whatever the item, I can usually get another one. I can’t get more energy or more space, at the moment.

I guess I just wonder what if more people thought this way. Folks into economic theory predict all sorts of fire and brimstone: businesses closing, fewer jobs, less money being spread around. But we didn’t limit ourselves and isn’t that what’s happening now?

I think that perhaps it would just lead to more competition in the more basic businesses. If people thought more about their purchases, it would lead to fewer unnecessary, easily discarded baubles and gadgets.

But that doesn’t mean the complete eradication of the entrepreneurial spirit. People who want to go into business for themselves can always find an industry. They can repair cars. They can offer computer support. They can sell any number of consumer goods that will always be in demand. And competition is always good for the consumer. So I guess I just really don’t see a downside to all this.

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Blogger DogAteMyFinances said...

That's the trading card model. Kids have to have the "good" one. So, they have to buy 10 packs to get the good one. They are then left with nine useless packs.

October 27, 2008 at 6:33 AM

Blogger J. Money said...

all i know is, Yard Sales = AWESOMENESS to the max :)

October 27, 2008 at 10:07 AM

Blogger Abby said...

J. Money,

I agree with you. I *love* yard sales. But there is also the danger of buying things you don't need, because they're cheap.

Still, I'll always be a sucker for those neon-colored poster board signs.

October 27, 2008 at 10:26 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Very true about the trading card model. Still, I think a lot of these are also just passing in and out of vogue. Kids get enthralled with it for a couple months, buy up a ton and then lose interest. So to the rummage sale it goes!

Either way, it makes me glad that Tim can just buy singles for Magic. That alone saves a lot of money!

October 27, 2008 at 10:34 AM


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