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4 Self-Esteem Lessons to Learn from Bargain Hunting


Whether you're proud or embarrassed about bargain hunting, here are some new ways to look at it.

Do you have judgments about yourself or others who often go for bargains or freebies? Here are some new ways you can look at and feel about those behaviors.

1) Find creative ways to stretch what you have. I’ve always liked getting something for nothing, or feeling like I got double duty out of something. This morning, it felt like I won at kitchen Bingo! I was wondering what to have for breakfast and I thought of eggs, but didn’t feel like fried or boiled eggs. I’d rescued a few-days-old loaf of homemade bread from being disposed of by a more fussy housemate than I am. And, thrifty saver that I am, I’ve kept various jars of nearly empty jam, mustard, pickles, etc. that get left when roomers move on. So I got a 3-for-1 this morning. I used an egg and bread to make French toast and topped it with yogurt and the contents of the now-empty raspberry jam jar.

Now it’s true most people might’ve thrown those last tablespoons of jam out, but they didn’t get the smug satisfaction of being bodaciously resourceful or thrifty (some might call it tightfisted or pennypinching). Besides, one more glass container made it to recycling instead of being hidden in the garbage so someone could avoid cleaning it. I’ve said often enough, as a reason for my overly frugal habits, that I must have died of starvation in a former life, and am making up for it big time in this life.

2) Consider  freebies a gift; say thank you! I consider a housemate’s leftovers like many would view a surprise gift. It’s not that I’m on a tight budget or can’t afford what I really want. It’s just the childlike serendipity of the unexpected. I’m sure I’m as pleased by David’s Thai food extras from his workplace as my granddaughter Kayla is by the plastic McDonald’s cup that makes a burping noise when you touch the straw. And when Bruce passes on the fresh organic spinach stems he doesn’t use (but he knows I will), I feel like I’ve done my part in saving the landfill from overflowing, or at least in not wasting a potential spinach salad and spinach soup—both of which taste quite good with (bacon) soy bits, by the way.

The ultimate in 2-for-1s is the Entertainment book I bought for $40. There are many more restaurants and theaters and recreational activities than I’ll ever be able to use, but the hundreds of coupons give me such a feeling of luxurious plenitude. And when I hand one over to a new guy I’ve met through the personals when we go out for lunch, I don’t feel any do-what’s-fair need to pull out my billfold to pay my share. It’s a fun way of discovering new places, too. I sometimes trade coupons with other book buyers, so I have duplicates for Baskin Robbins, West Seattle restaurants, Seattle Center places I use with Kayla, and more. That is, until my billfold, a repository for most-likely-to-be-used coupons along with the green stuff, showed up missing. Fortunately, I had also obsessively stuffed coupons for each section of the city in separate envelopes. It’s much less bulky to take the Capitol Hill envelope than the 1 5/8” thick book of coupons.

I can feel quite generous sharing a coupon with a friend. A $10 off coupon, even after tax and tips, has saved each of us $5.00 when we split the bill. Connoisseur of bargains that I am, if my meal partner orders a $10 entrée and I was going to be thrifty with an $8
meal, I now feel totally fine going up a notch to a $10 meal, since the same price or cheaper meal is free.  (I'm squirming a bit here about potential judgment).

3) Be as open to  using found objects as you are to appreciating Nature's bounty.  I am intrigued about the maze of intricacies that go through my mind on the subject of saving money, reusing resources, reducing waste. I learned thrifty habits on a farm, where my parents, with a houseful of nine kids, reused plastic bread bags, served leftovers till they weren’t, made towels from cloth flour bags, and didn’t think twice about hand-me-downs. Perhaps I have raised it to an art form. For example, though I haven’t read it in the three years since I bought it at Bookfest, I had to buy the book about living from dumpsters. I admire a family, though with some distaste at the thought of it, that gets its food, clothes, furniture, and more from dumpster diving. The few times I’ve checked dumpsters out of curiosity, I’ve been appalled at what has been thrown away, and delighted at what I salvaged.  (I'm squirming again).

When a housemate pulled unopened boxes of 8 X 11 envelopes and stationery from a dumpster where the company was moving, she and I gave some to preschools and held on to more because “we might need them some day”—a definite 2-fer, maybe 3-fer, since the schools and the environment and we all gained. When a housemate no longer wanted his 24-cubbyhole paper-storage unit, I found a place in my office. When fruit got brown spots or softened, he no longer wanted them. Boy, do I relish the juicy fruit after I’ve removed the brown bits. I’ve trained housemates to put their “enough of this” items in my fridge, and I can grin with the pleasure of a person holding a metal detector that suddenly clicks that he’s found a quarter. 

4) Be an explorer, and celebrate how you've made your life fuller.  I find this baring of my unabashedly frugal soul cathartic. Here I am, with enough scrap paper and socks, plastic bags and bedding to keep me supplied till my house falls in upon itself. I’m aware I may have some unmet need around holding on to things. Is that called “understatement”? But I could make my own booklet, not to compare with 14,000 Things to be Happy About, just about all life’s 2-for-1s and something-for-nothings. There’s the playhouse across the street that Kayla loves to be domestic in, and I get to do a bit of writing or reading while I watch her arrange and manage her little queendom. There are the lilacs I gather from other yards…usually with permission… to add to my own, the apples and plums and pears that would otherwise go to waste that we process into dried fruit or sauce or pig out on through all-day fruit buffets. There is the satisfaction of turning down the furnace to 58 each night and being comfortable during the day at 65. And oh, how pleased I am to take an otherwise frivolous trip when I get to use a housemate’s bus pass that otherwise would not be used that day.

I’m very sure I’ve missed recounting many freebies, but that jam jar today also afforded me this nostalgic trip into the meandering memories of who and how I am. That's a gift any day of the week.

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