In these economic down times, many people try to save here and there in order to make ends meet. Paying the same bills with less income asks for cuts. The first cuts hit everything labeled entertainment. Trips, nights on the town, toys, even our favorite java, all will first be reduced, then chopped off. What was fun before is now erased from our wish list.
Next on the chop-block is decoration, whether it’s our yard, car and house, or our personal appearance. Less is better, cheap is more, less and cheaper is best. Bargain hunting bears a new meaning and can advantageously replace what we used to consider entertainment, at least as long as the gas prices remain low enough to make it worthwhile.
We look at the money we saved and we think we did a great job. Then we look at the stack of bills to pay and at the balance in our checkbook, and we realize that one needs to become yet more creative in the downsizing game.
What is left? Clothing that we fancy, as opposed to clothes that we need. Thrift stores thrive. Their balance doubles, triples or goes through the roof. Also, people learn again the great art of repairing clothes. Miracles can be done with needle and threat, with buttons, zippers and iron-on patches. For those who have limited knowledge in sewing there is still the good old stapler. Maybe we will soon sign up for twelve-step programs where we learn how to fix our broken clothes, linens and shoes.
The balance still didn’t turn positive? There is only one thing left: food and drink. Food banks and charities can provide for some of our needs. Granted, it’s not health-food and often tastes like – well – cans, but at least it fills the plate and the bellies. Luxury foods are out. One learns to brew the coffee a bit lighter, re-use tea bags, make sure to leave any fast-food joint with a couple extra creamers and sweeteners, and generally switch to plain water for drinks.
It is tough cutting back on food, or on the taste of it. But food is resilient and the taste can be cheated. My grandmother, who lived in Europe during and after WW II, knew how to stretch butter. She would take a piece of toasted or older bread (the trick works better when the bread is slightly hard) and softened butter. First, she would scoop a nice helping of butter on the bread. Then, she’d start spreading. She’d spread it and spread it, and spread it some more. The butter topping would get thinner and thinner. She would start scratching rather than spreading and end up with even more butter on her knife than what she’d started with. She would plop the glob of butter back into the butter dish, and eat her “buttered” bread. Curiously, the tongue would taste butter on the bread, even though the eyes could clearly see that all the butter was back in the dish.
Nice trick, grandma!
Now… if only I knew how to get the meat back out of the hamburger without anybody noticing.