Thursday, 1 May 2008

Start at the Bottom

Since I’m an admitted tightwad and I write for my own amusement, you will be subjected to the more than occasional post about frugality; (and here I get to use my new phrase, acquired from studying the highly erudite writings of numerous blogs) “suck it up”.

One of the main tenets of tightwaddery I learned from the Tightwad Gazette, and several other books, was not doing without, but spending consciously, making informed decisions. I see lots of people sniff at the store brands, snobbily choosing the ‘premium’ brand, having never tried anything ‘less’. In fact, I’ve heard from several sources on both sides of the pond that in the canning factories the exact same product may often be found behind different labels. The price difference is likely a combination of the advertising costs to stamp their brand on your brain and of how gullible they think consumers are.

If you are one of those sad people who worries what your fellow shoppers think about the contents of your trolley, or you shop only at Sainsbury’s or Marks and Spencer’s because it’s what people ‘like you’ do, or you carry a bag from Harrods so that people will know you shop there, stop here. In fact, just get off my weblog, OK?

I’ve learned to start at the bottom and try the cheapest item on offer. Then, if I don’t like the quality I can chose the next one up and so on until I get what I want for the least amount of money. These are a few of the things I’ve discovered.

  • I think the best hair conditioner comes with in the boxes with the hair colouring. Clairol now sells a 57 ml tube of the stuff separately for 99 pence. My grocery store brand is 39 pence for 500 ml. It doesn’t have the nice scent and is slightly less creamy, but the outcome is the same if not better. Hairdressers often comment on the good condition of my hair; the trick is just to leave it on for a couple of minutes before rinsing. This is one of my excuses for taking long showers.
  • Tinned products such as beans or tomatoes come in a wide range of prices. I can’t say I know much about the quality of the name brands; the store brand suits us just fine, for 19 pence a can. When comparing prices of tinned or bottled foods consider how you use the product and decide whether the full tin or the drained weight is more appropriate.
  • I’ve no idea how much fresh milk costs here in the UK now, but my experience is that it sours in a few days; I know this from keeping milk at work for my coffee. In the US I bought milk by the gallon and rarely had it go off before it was finished. I gave up on fresh milk in the UK as soon as I discovered UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk in litre boxes. It keeps for months on the shelf and an opened box lasts at least a week or more in the fridge. The price jumped up this past fall from 35 to 38 to 44 pence a litre, which is still the best deal I’ve found and we go through at least a litre of skimmed UHT milk a day, so we save a lot by buying the cheaper product.
  • I can choose a brand name of dish soap and get 500 ml for 68 pence or I can get 1000 ml (a litre) for 19 pence; I decant it into the smaller bottle for easier handling. The latter is sometimes – but not always – a tad more watery. I’ve found the best way to make dish soap last and have satisfying suds is to squirt it on my sponge, not in the water. I know I’m one of the last people on the planet to still do dishes by hand. Even though I’m the laziest person I know, I can’t get excited about owning and using a dishwashing machine; I can’t explain it.
  • On the down side, I discovered that 20p per litre shampoo is harsh and unpleasant to my hair, so I buy the next brand up and pay 69p for 500 ml and get my choice of peach, apple or suntan lotion scents.
  • Shredded tuna is cheaper than tuna chunks, but Bill doesn’t care for the texture: it’s almost non-existent the pieces are so fine. There might be recipes in which you can’t tell the difference, but we buy the store brand of tuna chunks for 29p.

If all this sounds very picky and describes your vision of a down at the heels lifestyle, consider the fact that when the shampoo is used up and the food is eaten, you have nothing to show for what you spent at the grocery. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to convert anyone who doesn’t want to be, but I know I’d rather choose cheaper products such as these and have spare cash to pay off my mortgage, buy something I’ll enjoy that will keep it’s value, like antique furniture, or have a great holiday and make happy memories.

End of lecture. I really enjoyed that, didn’t you?

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

Funny thing, I find I have to read your writings a little slower to understand your musings. It seems you don't write in American much anymore and you really don't write in Oklahoman. BUT, you still have not lost your sense of humor. Keep it up.