'Be Thrifty': Guide to Living With (and Consuming) Less

It makes sense that a book titled "Be Thrifty: How to Live Better With Less" is selling for an affordable $14.99 in paperback. Editors Pia Catton and Califia Suntree are business journalists who interviewed over 100 experts -- home improvement and real estate investment experts included -- about how to live well during recessionary times and not compromise while still on a budget.

And as the book cover suggests -- being thrifty doesn't mean living cheaply."Be Thrifty" is a compilation of money-saving tips that can be applied at home. Catton and Suntree aim to cut costs without sacrificing lifestyle and to put readers in a position where they become smart consumers. The idea is to be forward-thinking and not waste resources. The Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles-based authors understood that to sell thrifty as chic, they'd have to spin it as in vogue. And when you have to cut costs, what better way than to tell everyone how cool it is to go and channel their inner miser?

"Pretend you lost your job," suggests Catton. (This game is only fun if you still have one, however.) "Without a regular paycheck, you are able to reduce what you spend significantly."

Here are a few tips to apply at home:

Make your own household cleaning products
All you need is baking soda and vinegar. Catton doesn't waste her money buying the plethora or products that stores offer to clean everything from toilet and tub to floors, sinks and counters separately. The baking soda and vinegar combo is all-purpose. Forget Lysol, the answer is Arm & Hammer. (The authors also give instructions on how to go DIY for haircuts, mayonnaise, facial masks, yogurt, plus other other low-cost-to-make/high-cost-to-buy items.)

Cook at home
Eat out and order-in less. Catton's favorite at-home cooking is to make her own pasta. While the cost isn't much different from a cheap box of store-bought spaghetti, the quality is significantly different when it's homemade. When you cook at home, you're less likely to waste food as you do in restaurants and with takeout. Also, forget about bars or spending money on wine classes -- bring the bar to your home and buy bottles of wine for home consumption and as DIY learning tools.

Fix it yourself
The book contains instructions on how to fix things like your toilet or lighting -- if you can do it yourself you really should. But another big lesson is that if you can't figure out how to do it yourself, DON'T TRY. The damage made due to a botched attempt at fixing something can be tremendously costly.

Know when to buy in bulk and when to shop like a European
We tend to buy in bulk strictly based on sales, but do we bother to evaluate whether we need that much of something? Catton suggests surveying the scene to see what you need a lot of, and what you don't. Sometimes we end up consuming more of something simply because we have so much of it. And if we have too much of something, it often ends up going to waste if it stays in the pantry too long.

Rely on friends
Both authors moved to new homes while working on the book. The most valuable thing they learned was what an important tool their friends were. Their friends became the community they relied on while making the new transitions. "There is no way to repay a friend who you stay with for two weeks, but it was something that saved my life during that time," says Catton.

It's important to recognize that being thrifty isn't shameful. As the tips indicate, it can foster community and a less consuming, greener existence. The true definition of "thrifty" isn't synonymous with "cheap."

"The word thrifty derives from the word to thrive," says Patton. "It's not meant to deprive you. When you're thrifty, you are looking ahead to a better life. Embracing your inner thrift can be the road to happiness."

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