Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheap versus Responsible

As a self-professed cheapskate, I sometimes struggle to find a balance between being budget-friendly and being a responsible consumer.

I think this is an issue for a lot of people, and here's why.

Everyone likes to get a good deal. That's why coupons, sales and discounts are so popular. Stores realize this and offer things like frequent buyer programs, loyalty bonuses for customers and free gifts or discounts to keep consumers coming back.

I used to be the queen of discount shopping--if there was a good deal to be had, I could find it. I used coupons for groceries and only shopped at the double coupon places. I could find cute clothes and accessories at discount places and always had new outfits to wear because they were so CHEAP!

But several years ago, after starting to try to live more simply and frugally, I realized that buying things that are inexpensive isn't always the way to go. Cheap clothes wear out fast and more importantly I learned WHY they are so cheap in the first place (does the term 'slave labor' ring any bells?). Coupons that I had used weren't useful for me anymore once we started to shop for organic and local foods more, and traditional foods less. And all those sales on beauty products and accessories didn't do me much good, as I tried not to buy a lot of things I didn't really need, just for a "pick me up".

Still, even though I've heard other tightwads explain how it makes much more sense to buy really good quality clothes and not replace them for years, I couldn't get on that bandwagon either because:

A) I'm too cheap to spend the money on really good quality stuff and
B) My tastes change way too frequently to invest in things--I get bored often and want something new and different to spark my creativity.

So what's a tightwad to do?

My solution has pretty much been this: Shop at thrift or resale stores. You can find great quality merchandise at these places without breaking your budget. AND it's the ultimate form of recycling. I will often bring bags of clothes to the resale or thrift shop, and then do a little browsing while I'm there. Find a Goodwill in your area and check it out even if you're convinced you don't like used stuff. The one closest to me has TONS of brand new items, everything from nice bed sheet sets to new towels and cleaning products.

This doesn't solve all my problems of course. There are still things like fair trade chocolate to consider which is especially hard around holidays like Easter and Christmas. Still, I'm hopeful. It looks like Cadbury, the makers of the infamous Cadbury Creme Eggs (one of my favorites!) will be changing to Fair Trade.

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