Can You Get By for Less?
PRICES keep going in one direction—up! The soaring cost of living today threatens to wipe out what little savings some have managed to scrape together. Especially hard hit are people on fixed incomes.
Is there anything that you can do to neutralize the impact of rising prices? Let us consider approaches to the problem that certain persons have found practical.
Must You Have It?
When thinking of buying something, you will find it profitable to ask: “Do I really need it?” Does the use you get out of an automobile, for example, offset the expense of buying it, paying for insurance, keeping the car fueled and in good repair, not to mention the loss through depreciation? If you really do need a car, could you cut back on its use by planning errands in advance, or by occasional use of public transportation? And how about car pooling—not just for men going to work, but for friends arranging to go to market or to share in other activities?
Could you meet your clothing needs less expensively? When a housewife in Santiago, Chile, noticed one day that her coat was wearing out, she became perplexed, being unable to afford a new one. She explains: “One day I commented favorably about the coat of one of my friends. ‘Oh,’ my friend responded, ‘this is just my old winter coat turned inside out.’I tried the same thing and found that it is not at all difficult to take a coat apart and sew it back together inside out. Simply following the old seam markings, along with some small changes in the collar and pockets, made my coat look like new.”
When this frugal housewife notes that the elbows are wearing thin on sweaters, she switches the sleeves, exposing an entirely new area of material to the wearer’s elbows. Could similar procedures save you money?
Can You Buy It for Less?
Even when you really need something new, you may get by for less by watching for sales. In some countries there is a yearly pattern to “clearance sales.” By acquainting yourself with the pattern, you may achieve considerable savings.
While better stores have better sales, many try to move their sale materials quickly. They may sponsor one- or two-day sales at drastically reduced prices. A word, though, about quality: Better-quality goods, especially in long-term, heavy-wear clothing such as suits, will prove to be less expensive in the long run than clothes of poor quality at lower prices.
You gain further savings on clothes if you buy “imperfect” garments and repair them at home, or by buying secondhand items, which are often of better quality than new things at higher prices.
Have you ever tried bargaining for a better price? A housewife who is an experienced shopper relates:
“After living for two years in lands where bargaining for a better price was a daily procedure at the market, I returned to set up housekeeping in the United States, where the practice is almost unknown. Needing several lamps, I searched the newspapers for sales, finally locating one at a well-known department store. I winced, however, upon hearing the total price of the lamps that I wanted.
“It then occurred to me that I might bargain for a better price. Summoning the store’s ‘buyer,’ I explained my needs and how I felt about the cost. We were able to agree on a better price. So, don’t think that it is bad manners to bargain in this way. If there is nothing wrong with merchants raising prices, there is nothing wrong with customers trying to get them reduced.”
Do you live in an area where you can purchase things through a mail-order catalog? This may result in considerable reductions on last season’s merchandise, or items that have not moved well.
In many communities “trader” papers are distributed free to householders. These papers include a wide variety of things that local residents wish to sell or trade, sometimes at great savings.
Food Storage by Home Canning
Food costs are especially high today. Could you save money by storing food? An inexpensive way of doing this is home canning. The process destroys yeasts, molds and bacteria and also prevents chemical action that causes food to go bad.
Most home canning involves the use of glass Mason jars. A rubber ring fitted over the top of the jar serves as a “gasket.” The metal cap is screwed down onto this, creating a seal that prevents air and bacteria from getting to the contents. In some countries people can buy special equipment for home canning, including jars, sealing lids and other utensils. However, if you live in an area where these things are not available commercially, you can improvise your own equipment. A housewife offers this advice that she personally tested:
“Save jars with screw-on lids. First, though, run your finger around the topmost edge of the jars to make sure that they are completely smooth. Any nicks or cracks will prevent proper sealing. Then, from a source of rubber, such as a blown inner tube, cut out rings that will fit over the jar’s opening. Test your workmanship by screwing on the lid. Does it fit tightly? Can you fill the jars half full of water and turn them upside down without leakage? If so, you are ready to begin canning at home.”
Preserving low-acid foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and common vegetables, requires special steam-pressure canning equipment. But high-acid foods, including nearly all fruits and most (but not all) tomatoes, can be prepared simply with boiling water.
The first step is to wash all containers, rubber rings and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse and boil these utensils, setting them out to dry in a place free from draft.
Be sure that the food you select is in perfect condition, without blemishes and not overripe. Place it snugly in the jars up to about one-half inch from the top and cover it with boiling liquid, still leaving about one-half inch of space at the top. The liquid may be juice from the fruit, plain water or may contain a small amount of salt or sugar for flavoring. If you are canning tomatoes, you do not have to add any liquid. Just pack them tightly until they are covered with their own juice.
Make sure that the sealing surfaces are free of food particles that could prevent a tight seal; then screw the caps down tightly, provided they are the type that releases the pressure built up during cooking. The filled jars then go into a kettle of boiling water, deep enough to allow for one to two inches of water above the jars and another inch or two of space above the water level to permit vigorous boiling. The jars should rest upon a rack that raises them slightly above the bottom of the kettle so that boiling water may circulate under them.
Cover the kettle and let the contents boil. The time required for boiling will differ according to the type of food. Ten minutes is sufficient for tomatoes. Information on correct canning procedures can be obtained from good cookbooks, manufacturers of home canning equipment and from bulletins published by the Office of Information, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20025.
When you remove the jars from the boiling water, set them upright on a towel or rack to cool. As the jars cool, watch to see if the center of the lid draws down, making it concave. If it does, and you handle your jars gently, the food will keep for months. If it does not, eat it in the immediate future, for it will not keep without refrigeration.
Could a Freezer Help You to Save?
Next to home canning, freezing is one of the most widely used methods of preserving food. Could a freezer help you to get by for less?
That depends on several factors. As pointed out in Changing Times of May 1974:
“On the average a freezer costs around $30 to $50 a year to operate, so to net any savings, you’d have to save more than that on specials you were able to take advantage of because you had the freezer to store the food in or by growing foods you could freeze.”
If you buy everything that you put into a freezer at retail prices, it is unlikely that you will save. However, if you grow your own food, buy it in bulk quantities, or take advantage of special in-season sales, savings may result.
Food Preservation by Drying
Much of the earth’s population preserves food by drying; and it need not require any equipment. Almost anything can be placed upon a clean surface or be hung up, perhaps covered by a thin cloth to discourage flies. The air and sun will do the rest. But what if the climate is too humid for this? An experience of a woman from the western United States is interesting:
“I had laid out some figs on racks to dry. But, as the humidity here was about 84 percent, some of them deteriorated. I had been baking, and the oven was still warm. I figured that the air in there would be dry enough. So in went the figs for 10-15 minutes under high heat. Then I turned it down low for an hour, and finally off, leaving them in there until the oven cooled.
“As some batches produced juice, I matched it with equal parts of sugar, brought it to a boil and dipped each fig and returned it to the rack for another brief session in the oven. When sticky dry, figs can be bagged (preferably in cloth) to hang in the air . . . for months.”
You do not even need an oven for drying food. Roy Dycus, writing in Organic Gardening and Farming, points out: “A cardboard box can be converted into a drier for apples, peaches, beans, pumpkins, squash, beef and venison jerky, fruit leather, raisins, prunes and tomatoes. If you’re in a hurry, it will even dry seeds and herbs.” How is all that possible?
The article explains that food strips can be suspended on sticks that are run through the box from end to end. Heat for drying comes from a lightbulb that protrudes into one end of the box. Simple?
Saving money amidst rising prices is admittedly a challenge. But if you are willing to exchange convenience for hard work, you can get by for less.