Shannon Bardwell: When is enough, enough?

January 23, 2010 10:49:00 PM

Shannon Bardwell - [email protected]


Seems like everyone I talk to is doing some form of "cutting back" on expenses. I am no exception. Over the years I''ve gotten the reputation for frugality. My mom said I acquired this attribute after leaving home because I certainly never had it while living with them. I say, "Better late than never."  


Rather than get a job that pays more, I found more satisfaction in learning to live on less, thus widening the gap between income and outgo. That''s my personal definition of wealth. 


Practically everything I wear has been worn before. It''s sort of like having your own personal shopper. Somebody has taken the time and effort to pick out the garment. Many times if you find your size and style in a thrift or consignment shop you will find several outfits, because someone has cleaned out their closet. Jackpot! A new wardrobe for a fraction of retail. 


I regularly discard "fashion errors" by taking them to Palmer Home Thrift Store, and I usually come out with a new thing or two. There''s a consignment store in downtown Columbus that has great stuff. They very often have a 75 percent-off sale and feature jewelry and home accessories as well. I went in there once and told Brenda, the owner, I was looking for a "new look." It had been a long time since I had worn dresses, and I thought I''d try a few again. I combed every inch of the shop and came out with a new dress wardrobe for about $60. Even Brenda said, "Honey, you did good!" Brenda is packed with personality. 


In Starkville there''s the "Mint" featuring furniture and fashions. From there I redecorated the guest room. I bought two bedroom-sized wing back chairs before the previous owner could get them out of her car. They also have unique home accessories. To top that they give you "bucks back" each time you make a purchase. Thrifting, like everything else, can get out of hand so if you are trying to be frugal you better make a budget and stick to it. 


Frugality applies to food too. Almost nothing gets thrown out of this house unless someone absolutely refuses to eat it; then it might be recycled into something else, or at least it goes to the birds or cats. My family doesn''t always trust me because a few times I have stretched those "manager''s specials" just a bit too far. They''ve started checking expiration dates on me.  


For seven years I''ve been packing a lunch for work, sometimes using leftovers from the night before. At $8 a meal I''ve saved about $14,000, which of course I spent on consignment clothes, furniture bargains, manager''s specials, a used car and a chunk for savings. 


Just today, my friend Caryl and I ate at Zachary''s. They give you two large wraps and a side with one order. We split lunch at $6 apiece. At the Peking Restaurant my husband and I order the very same meal every time because predictability suits us. The waiter calls out our order before we do: drinks, soup, appetizer, entree with "sauce on side." We split the meal for a dandy $13.. We always tip waiters generously since we chose to be frugal on the meal. 


G.K Chesterton summed up the art of frugality well, "There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less."

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.