The Principles of Thrift

  • Reimagine what you already have. Can it serve another purpose? Can you use something you already have instead of buying something new for this purpose?
  • If it’s broken or damaged, can you fix it? Can it be repurposed?
  • If you own it but don’t want it, can you sell it? Repurpose it? Give it to someone in need? Recycle it?
  • Multipurpose is better than single-purpose, as long as all purposes are served well (if it’s inconvenient or doesn’t do the job well, you’re not likely to actually use it that way).
  • Keep an item's cost per use in mind. Reusable items are better, more sustainable, and ultimately cheaper than single-use ones.

Part 2: Shopping

  • Avoid buying things you could make yourself, especially if it would be quick and/or inexpensive to do so. (Don't make it yourself if the materials can't be had for less money than the item in question, though—sometimes craft supplies are really pricey.)
  • Unless the item is a necessity, wait to find something you genuinely want and enjoy instead of settling for something that’s just okay.
  • Be honest with yourself about why you want it. If you can’t think of at least one way you’re likely to use and enjoy it, you probably don’t need it.
  • Avoid paying full price.[1]
    • Get to know your local discount and resale options (Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, TJ Maxx, Craigslist, architectural salvage, consignment shops, etc.).
    • Always check for coupons and freebie opportunities before you buy something. Sometimes there are online coupons that you can use in the store by showing them on your phone or printing them out.
    • If you want something that’s full price but won’t be upset if you can’t have that exact thing, wait for a sale or discount of some kind. (Patience, grasshopper.)
    • If the store has the option, buy online and pick up in store for free; it's often cheaper because you can get online discounts and avoid paying for shipping. I often do this at Target, which actually has lower online "full" prices that are lower than the prices in the store! If you happen to go near the store on a regular basis, this is likely to be more fuel-efficient than having something delivered to your doorstep, and it's a pretty quick errand.
  • Do your research.
    • Google prices to compare retailers and make sure you found a good deal.
    • Read reviews (for the best info, skim to find detailed, coherent reviews with paragraph breaks, and reveiws with 2–4 out of 5 stars).
    • Search for online-only or app-only discounts before you buy something in the store.
  • Don’t buy things you don’t really want or need just because you can get a discount.
  • If you bought it but it’s not what you expected, try to return it. Return policies are often more accommodating than you might think.

Part 3: Online Shopping

  • Use a browser plugin like Honey to find deals and discount codes quickly and easily.
  • Avoid paying for shipping! You can search your email or the Internet for free shipping codes, buy with a friend or family member to hit free shipping thresholds, or wait for the retailer’s free shipping promos.
  • If you have to pay for shipping, add the shipping fee to the cost of the item. Is it still a good deal? Would you pay that much in person?

  1. EXCEPT if it's for a service. People deserve to be paid as well as possible for their time, effort, and skill, regardless of whether they're a waitress or a web designer. In many cases, it's actually a better value to pay extra for labor, because people can choose to add value to their services. It's worthwhile to be the kind of customer they want to work hard for. ↩︎