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It’s Time

By on March 12, 2007

As frugalitarians, we often sacrifice and make do. You know the frugal mantra “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” While on the frugal path, you might want to take notice and occasionally accept that “it’s time” to replace an item or purchase something new. There’s “no shame” in buying new items as needed.

Why is it that there sometimes seems to be guilt associated with it? Here’s a gentle nudge. It’s time. Sometimes purchasing a new item will lift your spirits, improve your frugal outlook, and help keep you on the frugal wagon. Sometimes the tightwad belt is on too tight and it’s time to loosen it a notch. It’s ok. Really.

Pop Quiz

*When is the last time you got a haircut?
*Are you still using the same hairbrush since the 80′s?
*How used is your toothbrush?
*How worn out are your shoes?
*Please go through your underwear drawer. :D
*How many pairs of pants are you making do with? How many shirts?
*How worn is your wallet or purse?
*Are you making do with banged up rusted pans and half melted spatulas?
*How old is your pillow? ;)
*How are your bath towels? Is it time to put some of these into the rag pile?

I rarely spend money, but have decided that in order to have balance (read: live a little), I have got to learn that it’s OK for me to do so. I have lived as a minimalist for over eight years and recently I was in deep thought about whether my approach toward frugality was actually a healthy one. How can I advocate frugality well, if I’m an extremist in many areas? Being a seasoned frugalite, I tend to delay spending a little too long.

As an example, I’ve been living with this incredibly cheap $10 two slice toaster for years. It toasts. The problem is the frustration that it brings whenever I need to make toast. The lever is stubborn and doesn’t always want to stay pressed down. It often takes several attempts before it finally works. I have been making do with this for years. In the back of my mind, I’d think “it’s time” to get a new toaster, but I wouldn’t because the toaster was still working.

Wellll, guess who got a new 4 slice toaster this weekend? I haven’t been this excited about a purchase in a long time. Should I feel this giddy? I feel like I just purchased a brand new car. It was time. Weekend breakfasts will no doubt be less frustrating for me.

How do I know I’ve taken frugality to an extreme? When I get a new toaster and the old one is in such poor condition that I wonder if it has the potential to catch fire. It still works, and my spouse asks me if it’s ok to throw it away, or if I have plans on saving it for my son, who is seven years old, to use when he goes to college. (jokingly) The mental ping pong went on for a few minutes and I let go. I had to stop thinking whether I could use any parts in the future or if I should keep it as a backup. It was time. R.I.P. old toaster.

My point is that sometimes it’s ok to loosen that tightwad belt. There has to be balance. Don’t ignore caring for yourself or putting off simple purchases that can really cut frustration or time in your day. It’s not worth it! Life is short. Please live it and enjoy it. Allow some flexibility in your frugality. Reward yourself for your frugal efforts.

If you are down to one pair of work pants and they are ripping, yes you CAN tape them, patch them, and mend them, but acknowledge that it might be time to get a new pair. It’s time.

Some of you radical frugalites know what I mean. Maybe you have a gift certificate that was given to you. You head to the store. You can’t even think of something to buy for yourself. Maybe just once instead of debating a purchase to the point of putting an item in the cart, back on the shelf, in the cart, and back on the shelf…maybe it’s time to keep it in the cart for a change.

Each person is an adult and capable of making their own decisions. We’re all at different levels of frugality. For me, somehow I think the world won’t come crashing down, if I finally spend a buck on a new spatula. ;)

Share with me something that you’ve been making do with for a long time or something that “it’s time” for you to break down and purchase.

If you’ve recently bought something after making do for a while, tell me what it is and how you feel now.

When do you accept that “it’s time”?

Additional reading:
http://www.hgtv.ca/entertain/quizzes/quiz.aspx?quizid=744

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About Sara Noel

Sara Noel owns Castalia Coffee Roasting Company, Follow me on Twitter

28 Comments

  1. AheeK

    3/12/2007 at 6:32 pm

    I actually laughed when I read about the towels…some of mine are so threadbare you can actually see through them, but hey, they still work, right? Same with my shoes; so the soles are barely hanging on…they still cover my feet, don’t they? I usually admit that “it’s time” right about the time I walk through a puddle and have to run home to change my soaked socks.

    Congrats on the new toaster! :D

  2. baxjul

    3/12/2007 at 7:31 pm

    You got me on the pillow! Guess I’ll buy myself one this weekend! I don’t have any problem spending money on my family, but I never buy myself anything, you’re right, it’s time! Thanks!

  3. emily_hope

    3/12/2007 at 9:34 pm

    Funny that you wrote this article. This past Friday I bought new pillows for everyone’s beds! They were all so flat. My neck hurt every morning. No neck pain since Friday. I thought… why was I doing that to myself. We also need new bath towels and I need a new hair brush… thanks for the reminders! LOL!

  4. frugalwitch

    3/14/2007 at 3:42 pm

    I can only assume that you have somehow infiltrated my home and put all my dirty secrets on public display! DH has quite firmly insisted that it is time for me to purchase all of the following for myself:

    Underwear
    Socks
    Pants
    House shoes
    Tennis shoes

    I have no problem buying him clothes, I enjoy it actually, but I don’t enjoy buying clothes for myself. Yesterday a favorite pair of pants finally gave up the ghost. I bought them 8-9 years ago marked down from $54 to $16 and have worn them at least once a week, I just loved those pants! A threadbare area in the crotch finally became a hole and DH carried them to the outside trash still warm from my body.

    We do need new pillows as currently going to bed involves “jellyrolling” our flat-as-flapjack pillows into something with enough bulk to keep our heads at least slightly elevated from the mattress.

    Frugalwitch

  5. Sara Noel

    3/14/2007 at 4:44 pm

    Aheek, I need new towels too. I have some that are a sad shade of gray. We had overnight guests arriving and I quick ran out to get new towels. I don’t like to force my frugality upon others. lol Especially family I’m just meeting for the first time. Ya think I could buy a few? No. I bought only two. I have bath towels here that are well over 15 years old.

    My last pair of shoes I only bought because my husband told me I really needed to. I felt about 4 years old, but finally caved and did it. I couldn’t toss the old out either. Garden shoes, right?

    Baxjul, New pillows are my vice. I have a squeamish reaction to old pillows. I HAVE to have new pillows. You know the common question on the forums “What won’t you do for frugality?” I won’t keep a pillow for years. No no no no no.

    Emily, Hairbrushes I wash them and they always look so new again. lol Then one day they were all missing. My kids were younger and played with them and then they were mia. I HAD to get new brushes so I did. I found one in the car and was mad that I had just bought a $3 new one. lol

    Frugalwitch, It’s time. ;)

  6. Mel Rimmer

    3/15/2007 at 7:16 am

    Hi, I found your blog from searching technorati for “frugal”. I write about similar issues to you – frugality, ethical living, “green” issues. My blog (www.bean-sprouts.blogspot.com) is more angled to sustainability and vegetable gardening, but there’s a lot of overlap.

    I’ve added you to my links list. If you’d like to link back I’d appreciate it, but of course it’s up to you. I’ve also added you to my bookmarks so i’ll be visiting the site again. Thanks for a great read.

  7. Sara Noel

    3/15/2007 at 3:50 pm

    Hi Mel,
    Thank you. Added you too. Nice to “meet” you. :)

  8. mrsvargas

    3/16/2007 at 12:41 am

    I feel your pain, were you secretly watching me a few weeks ago as I tried to re-glue for the 50 millionith time the separaing soles on my sneakers. Dh got on my case and said I needed a new pair. I claimed of course not, I love the way these fit my feet. Well, I gave in last weekend and bought a marked down pair of Nikes. I put them on ysterday, and who was I fooling, I felt like I was walking on air. I guess I really did need them!

    As for the pillows, I know I need new ones desparately, but its always wait until next payday.

    And well, a haircut, past cutting of the ends myself, about 3 years ago, and then only because my aunt paid for it.

  9. Amy

    3/16/2007 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve just found your site and I will definitely be back! I’m guilty of being too frugal when it comes to towels and clothes. All of our towels are threadbare things that are at least 10 years old, and I probably only have about 2 pairs of pants and 2 pairs of capris that I wear regularly (largely because I’m trying to lose weight and it seems silly to invest in clothes I hopefully won’t be wearing too long). So many unexpected expenses are always coming up so these have been the last priority for me. We did finally replace our 5 year old pillows and sheets just recently!

  10. bridge

    3/20/2007 at 4:41 pm

    Ok, Too funny!! Sara I want you to come and remove your hidden camera from my house AT ONCE!!

    Yes, I did go buy 4 new “wonderful” bath towels and yes I still have the old thread bare once sqished in the towel shelf!! We might need them…..
    Ok, Ok when I get home from work I will put the old towels & the old pillows that I just replaced in a bag and take them to the animal shelter. They can always use those type of things. Plus I have some Purina points & ink cartridges to donate.

    Good job Sara!!
    I have been wanting to splurge and get a manicure, but have been “convincing” myself it was a waste of money. But you know what I think I am worth it and I am going to do it this weekend!!

  11. Marie78

    3/24/2007 at 1:36 am

    I had to smile and shake my head in agreement at this article. I just had an eye exam last week and got myself a new pair of glasses and contacts (it had been several years) it was definitely time :) . Last month I bought a new bath mat after the old one didnt’ quite survive the millionth washing. I like to use it up and wear it out make do or do without!

  12. i.m.cheap

    3/31/2007 at 12:44 pm

    This is too funny, and TRUE! I recently had to take a one week trip out of town with my dd (age 10). While packing, I realized neither of us had enough underwear for more than three days. I do laundry nearly every day. I had to go buy new undies for us both, and a couple of bras for me, just to have enough to pack. I got a hair cut while on the trip (we were attending a funeral) it was my first haircut in over six months. Dd got hers cut too, for the first time in over a year!

  13. frugalfriend

    3/31/2007 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks Sara! I just had to laugh at your toaster story! We have a toaster oven that I got as a bridal shower gift from co-workers 18 years ago and it finally died. It had been giving us problems for some time, with the glass door slipping off the hinges, then it finally just stopped working altogether. It sits in the garage and I haven’t replaced it yet. I just asked my husband last night when I realized I needed it to heat something, if he was sure it wasn’t working, maybe I should plug it in again and try it!! LOL! I will definitely go out and buy a new one and throw the old one out – IT’S TIME!!

  14. PrairieRose

    3/31/2007 at 3:26 pm

    Oh I hate to admit this but sometimes my underwear get so hole-y that you couldn’t catch a mad cat in them! I have had to recently, due to weightloss purchase new ones. Now I don’t have to worry about being caught in disgraceful underwear should I be in an accident ;) Yeah, sometimes we carry this frugality thing too far. I admit I have in the past.

  15. Lady_V

    3/31/2007 at 8:08 pm

    I still have the same brush from high school (class of ’90) I had the same fry pan from my first apartment (also ’90) … it was so worn, I couldnt tell you what brand or even what COLOR it was originally… I had it… until I read your post…

  16. Seraph

    4/8/2007 at 12:07 pm

    This is something we’re coming to terms with in our household right now. After nearly a decade of living so tight that there were times we could barely breath (and have developed a disliking for spaghetti), we finally have a little give in the budget. Things are still “too tight” by my standards (MUST get that savings and EF back up!!) but now there’s a lot of balancing and “splurging” to do. We’ve had the same towels for 13 years, we’ve had a blanket hanging over the master bedroom for 9 years, we’ve had the same set of pots for 15 years, I stopped baking 5 years ago because it was driving me crazy having to completely wrap my rusting pans (12 years old at that time – they were pans I had in high school) with alumumin foil before I could use them so I threw them out, and clothes… yeah, I just won’t go there other than to say that while I buy new basics for the husband and child on a yearly basis, I’ve not bought new panties for myself in 9 years (though I do buy myself new socks every 3 or 4! You know… when the old ones simply will not fit or stay in place any longer.) Little things, surely, but somehow vital to making us feel like we’re not completely depriving ourselves. Frugality is one thing, feeling deprived by our frugality is another.

    Thanks for a great post.

  17. Jennelle

    4/8/2007 at 8:00 pm

    Happy Easter, Sara!

    Love,

    Jennelle

  18. Darling Diva

    5/24/2007 at 4:56 am

    Well gang
    I am still a new frugal doer…my towels are not new nor are they thread-bare…my tooth brush a mere splurge (4 for $1…the local dollar mart) is changed quite regularly…pillows purchased also at Zellers for less than $10 …change yearly…
    My undies though the elastic may go …if they rip …they are replaced same for socks …I just wont wear those with the toe peaking through

    so my confession…isnt really mine at all..
    its my hubby
    he wears those socks
    those holy undies (and I dont mean blessed)
    and wont part with torn grey (used to be white) T’s
    or track pants
    or shirts that no longer fit
    he rarely buys for himself anything
    unless its movies or books…he always finds money for that
    but myself as a diva…
    am more thrifty than frugal…if it can be found cheap
    I will find it
    I could be a professional shopper
    but that would take the fun out of it

    Recently I re-did my basement as a movie room for hubby.
    DID the whole room for bout $200 bucks
    That includes furniture, candles and curtains and carpet
    YOU would be proud
    WOULD have liked to spend a little more but Hubby said NO
    and I am between jobs so he is right of corse.

    frugal wanna be … describes me best
    working on a budget of no money to spend.

    Darling Diva

  19. Noella

    8/8/2007 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Sara Noel,

    Love your name! ;) I have to right there with you. There’s alot here that NEEDS replacing. Pillows tend to get repalced once a year during stomach flu season. But towels(ummm… 13+ years), sheets, second hand and had at least 13 years..lol.

    Unfortunately, bigger ticket items eventually need replacing too. I have a stove with an oven that the thermostat is irratic, which relaly sucks when I’m a baker, do our bread cookies, sweet breads, biscuits, it’s never the same twice. The bottom drawer is unusable because if you take it out, it won’t go back in. So I’m saving my pennies, because I have decided that I’m getting a new stove.

  20. LC

    9/20/2008 at 12:21 am

    I cut my own hair and have the same work pants everyday! I work we we have uniforms. I own 6 skirts and buy tops on sale and mix and match them. I eat Raman soup and tuna sandwiches and try to spend less! I am trying to sock away as much money as I can!!!

  21. LC

    9/20/2008 at 12:22 am

    Can you believe the price of underwear anyways?

  22. Phoebe

    10/27/2008 at 2:22 pm

    I think I have finally found my own kind – serendipitously! :)

    I have had the SAME metal nail file (I don’t think they even make them anymore) for over 20 years! (Hey, it’s still perfectly serviceable.)

    My last hairbrush I had for at least 15 years finally broke. (It was a Goody, with stiff plastic bristles.) I’m pretty sure I replaced it with one as closely alike as possible – but I can’t remember for sure, b/c I’ve had this one for at least 10 years! hahahaha

    Honestly, I’d be embarrassed for anyone to see some of the underwear I still put on…

    My favorite pair of sneakers are beginning to separate between the sole and the uppers. (I laughed when I read the comment about not thinking about replacing shoes until it’s raining out and I step in a puddle!) I have two other pairs of shoes (a pair of oxfords and a pair of hiking boots) that I can no longer wear, but I refuse to throw them away b/c really all they need is to be re-soled and I’d probably get another 10 years out of them!

    And that one plastic mixing spoon I have that doesn’t go with any of the others and it sometimes hurts the palm of my hand b/c the handle is melted at just about the exact spot with which I grasp it (and I still remember exactly what I was cooking and who was in the kitchen when I melted the sucker – in 1998!) – I haven’t been able to part w/ b/c the spoon part still works just fine! LOL :D

    Really, I had no idea how frugal I was until I stumbled upon this site; I like to think of myself as “practical.”

    Where I don’t skimp, however, are pillows and bath towels. For some reason, I need to be comfortable after my shower and in bed. God bless us, everyone.

  23. mummy2

    5/28/2009 at 12:30 pm

    I had been using the same steak knife as a regular kitchen knife for 7 years, no other knives in the house, that is untill it broke on a turnip, good thing Dh was renovating a kitchen and came home with another steak knife!!

    Towels that are too ratty to be used as every day bath towels get retired to a life in the sun, Beach Towels!! 2 small kids and towels can go missing during a day at the beach!

    I only have one pair of shoes and I am quite happy with them!

    My undies date back to the first pregnancy, I some times get weddgies.

    Bras are either bought at the Bulk warhouse 3 for $10.00 or handed down from my Mother!!

  24. James

    7/22/2009 at 12:03 pm

    Your column was published in The Gaston Gazette relating the story about your ancient toaster. I hope you are enjoying the new one! Many times with appliances these days, you have to weight the energy efficiency against the operating costs of the old one. My mom recently replaced a sixteen year old washer with a new model. I wish I had a way to compare the electricity usage between the two but I am sure it is significant. Although the tips below aren’t specific to appliances, I thought they might be helpful to your audience. Thanks for the advice in today’s paper and I look forward to reading your ideas in weeks to come!

    James C

    1.I bought a set of hair clippers and thinning scissors that I use to cut my own hair. I have successful groomed my hair this way for over two years, and I still get a surge of satisfaction each time I avoid the barber knowing that my savings keep adding up!

    2. I use a bucket to collect the cold water that cycles through before warm water arrives from the hot water heater in the shower. I use this clean water to sponge wash my car and to water landscape plantings. I started collecting rainwater from one of four down spouts on my roof in a sixty gallon barrel. I use this water to refill a toilet tank instead of using municipal water that costs money!

    3. I have a rewards credit card and a gas credit card that I use for nearly every purchase. I pay the balance off when due so not only do I enjoy the rewards from each card, my money earns a few extra cents of interest while sitting in my bank account for a whole month until the charges are due for billing!

    4. I ladder my long term savings in three certificate of deposits and shop around for the highest rate to yield the best interest rate. For short term savings, the money sits in a high yield savings account with Emigrant Direct.

    5. I canceled collision insurance on my car since it is over ten years old.

    6. The Fall means raking leaves from deciduous oak trees in my yard. These carbon based resources are mixed with nitrogen rich grass clippings in a 70:30 ratio to form the best soil for growing fresh vegetables.

    7. A local alcohol distributor has an aluminum can recycling center where they paya market rate for cans. Since there is no deposit charge in North Carolina, this is like an extra coupon for your aluminum beverage favorites.

    8. A number of stocks I own pay a high dividend so not only do investors capitalize on the rise in equity with the stock market, reinvested dividends purchase more shares each quarter!

    9. I use an Internet program to file my own taxes. This saves hundreds of dollars!

    10. Instead of washing clothes after each use, I wear them again if they were not dirtied in my day’s work. When they are washed, a clothesline naturally dries the clothes for the most part when the weather is nice. A fluff up in the dryer softens the clothes back to normal.

    11. We junked the disk washer that came with the house opting to wash dishes by hand. New cabinet space fills the void occupied by the old washer and the water saved by hand washing is great.

    12. I bought a plastic bucket from Lowes that you attach to your dryer exhaust duct in the winter. This converts your exhaust into indoor heat and adds humidity to the room since water in the bucket is used to collect the lint escaping through the filter.

  25. Milly

    7/22/2009 at 12:05 pm

    Dear Sara:
    I saw your article in a Sierra Vista, AZ paper, before tossing it. I’m a minimalist I am told by one daughter. No my hair brush isn’t from the 80′s, I bought my Fuller hair brush in 1940 with the first money I earned, it wasn’t cheap. In fact my dad said: “they saw you coming”, ha. It has boar bristles and it’s getting thinner as well as my hair. I keep it clean and will keep it, On the other hand my down pillows are just 6 years old. Also I’m on slow track with Internet and will cancel it one of these days. I’ve been divorced for forty years and on minimum SS. I have great children who care.

    Milly K.

  26. KK

    7/22/2009 at 12:06 pm

    I have a handheld Sunbeam electric mixer, given to me by my oldest sister, as a wedding gift in 1964. She took me to the store and had me pick out a $10.00 item, which, as a widow with three growing boys, was what she could afford. I chose the mixer, rather than a toaster or blender. I have used it all these years and continue using it. I love to cook, especially desserts (lol) and it does the job. It is a little yellow with age, but cleans up nicely. I think of my sister, Eileen, every time I use the mixer. She passed away from cancer in 1981, and I still miss her very much.

    Love your column and will use this website as I am a frugal person from the word go!!!

    Thanks for listening to me.

    KK

  27. Robin

    7/22/2009 at 12:07 pm

    Boy could I relate to your column about the toaster. I still have my $6 one, but I seldom make toast so whenever I think about replacing it that is what stops me.

    But then I thought about my pots and pans. They are the copper bottom Revere. About 3 of them I got for graduation in 1980. The rest I got from my parents, when they got new pans. These are from 1953. I sometimes think, oh wouldn’t it be nice to have new pans. But the truth is, these work just fine and look pretty darn good too. Guess there were made to last.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about these things.

    Robin T.

  28. Robin

    7/22/2009 at 12:08 pm

    I think almost all of my baking pans are glass. Got tired of the non-stick coming off or rusting. If I make a big mess in the glass, it can soak.

    Dishes. I used to have several sets, not sure why. Last winter I decided to clear out, boxed up at least 3 sets and took them to the auction. Guess which ones I kept. The 20 year old Corelle, also missing a bowl. I have had many kitchen gadgets over the years, but usually end up using the plain old knife and pan. I usually find I do not like cleaning the handy little things. So I have really tried hard not to buy new gadgets for a while now.

    Look forward to reading more of your columns.

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