Being frugal begins with being a saver of useful things

I am a saver. Not a hoarder who never throws anything away and finds herself trying to find a path to the front door among piles of old ice cream cartons and stacks of newspapers. I save things that just might have another use. It still means that as I get older, I worry about when it is time for me to clean out truly useless stuff and save my children the chore.

My son seems to have inherited this habit as well as the trait of frugality (i.e. not wasteful, not spending freely or unnecessarily). As I have said before, those with more money than time, spend their money saving time, and those with more time than money, spend their time saving money. In this prolonged global economic downturn, there are many people with lots of time and little money.

So I will share my son’s serendipitous story. He discovered the plastic buckle was broken on his otherwise perfectly good North Face nylon hiking/travel cargo trousers. He took the pants to a seamstress who was not interested in finding a buckle to fit the belt, which was attached to the pants. He didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good pair of pants, and a couple of days later he remembered that he still had the Pfaff sewing machine that I had given him years before when he thought he would sew leather items. He looked in his garage and there it was. He shopped and found a buckle and sewed the belt himself. The total cost was $4. There is not just satisfaction in giving a piece of clothing a new life,
there is downright pleasure in feeling self-sufficient and almost like you have beat the system that says throw away and replace. He is now re-reading the book of instructions that came with the sewing machine.

I allow that there are people who take great pleasure in spending enormous amounts of money on some luxury. Probably the pleasure comes from the knowledge that they can afford it.

But not all who can, do. My friend Sandy doesn’t need to be frugal, but after years of living in Africa working for an NGO, she is well aware of the difference between wants and needs. And she, like I, feels the joy in finding exactly what she is looking for (and likes) at a bargain price, new or used.

Thursday, after a visit to my dentist, I stopped at the Magnolia Restaurant in the Casino Colonial for one of their very tasty and bargain ejecutivo lunches. This time it was black bean soup, meatballs with tomato sauce and mashed potatoes and vegetables, plus flan for dessert; all for just under 3,000 colons ($6). And then, in the restaurant, a sign of the times: a young woman in shorts and very high heels was at another table. She excused herself to go to the ladies room. She walked a couple of yards and returned, not for her purse, but for her cell phone. Texting has replaced touching up your lipstick, I guess.

And then, what comes under lost in translation, perhaps. I have written before that in my experience the best bathrooms in the city are in the casinos. The Colonial is a prime example, except that there are no hooks in the stalls to hang your handbag. (I know, cell phones don’t need hooks.) I have suggested to them that they should put hooks on the doors for this purpose.

Thursday I was pleased to discover a nice shiny silver colored hook on the door of every single stall. Unfortunately, they had put the hooks on the outside of the doors. Who, I wondered, did they think would hang her purse on the outside of a stall door and then lock herself inside. I was laughing so hard as I tried to explain to one of the employees, I am sure she had no idea what I was driving at. I can hardly wait to discover what new creative place they will have found to put the hooks (if they even bother with this crazy Gringa’s suggestion.) I really enjoy life in the city.

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