The New Thrift

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines thrift as "thriving by industry and given to or marked by economy and good management." Today, in the midst of a recession, the concept of thrift - as originally defined - is gaining in acceptance and popularity among people of all walks of life.

New Thrift is as much about developing an industrious attitude as it is about adopting fiscally-sound approaches to managing resources. Joan Jensen, president and CEO of The Central Credit Union of Illinois offers some of her recommendations on getting started with a New Thrift approach to navigating today's economy.

Prioritizing Wants and Needs

Learning to distinguish between a true need (clothing, food, housing, savings, etc.) and convenient want (new wardrobes, latest video game, cigarettes, etc.) is the single most important step in achieving real thrift. Yet, for many, the benefits of learning the differences and properly prioritizing them remain ignored while for others, knowing where to start presents an obstacle.

Suggested Strategies

Take your spending off autopilot and start from zero. Before you buy, ask yourself if the purchase is a need or a want. If it is a want, delay your purchase. If it is a need, ask if you can simplify and meet your need with a smaller outlay of money. For example: If you need something to wear to a holiday party, you might want a new dress. But, you may have other options-wearing something you already have; or buying new accessories to update what you already have; or buying something from a consignment store that is like new but costs a fraction of something new. Before spending money on wants, meet your needs, pay down credit card debt, and set money aside for savings. Discipline your spending by making a list of purchases to make before you leave home. Don't make unplanned, impulse purchases.

Thrift Technology

Technology plays a key role in any pursuit of information. And the computer is the single most important piece of technology available in the pursuit of thrift. If you own a computer, put it to thrifty use. If you don't own a computer, head to the library, but start formulating a plan for purchasing your own. Prices on laptops, notebooks and desktops are more affordable than ever and this valuable tool will pay for itself in short order.

COMPARISON SHOP ONLINE to find the best prices and the best products. You can then decide whether to shop online or at a brick and mortar store. Sites like and are good places are quick ways to check find attractive prices.

COMPARISON SHOP RATES on certificates of deposit, credit cards, and other financial services online to find the best deals. is a good site for many financial products. You can also use these prices to negotiate a better rate from your current provider.

SEARCH FOR COUPONS that you can print out or coupon codes you can use online. Search for the item name and coupon or try or

USE ONLINE MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS and go green. Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions that can be accessed online for free or at a lower cost.

SEARCH ONLINE to find special products, consignment stores, product ratings, etc.

  • Confirm the site is secure before giving personal information
  • Do not store your credit card information online
  • Order from companies you know and trust
  • Find out the shipping and handling charges and return policy and fees

NEW PLACES TO SHOP: Thinking Outside the Box

DON'T PAY FOR NEW: Buy High Quality Used or Rent the Item

An expanding inventory of leased and used cars is creating dramatic savings opportunities for the savvy auto shopper. Also include sales at rental car companies when comparison-shopping.

Consignments shops have upgraded and can be a quality resource for high-end 'gently used' clothing. Other outlets offer thrift savings on baby equipment, sports & exercise gear and other essential household items.

The Library offers free movies, audio books, magazines, newspapers and of course, books

Rental companies are good places to look for items that you will use for a limited time-- extra tables and chairs for the holidays, power washers, and carpet cleaners.

SKIP THE MALL –Consider Other Shopping Options

Big box warehouse stores have some great deals on groceries, toiletries, and household products. If your family is small, join with other friends or family and portion out super size packages.

Check out outlet stores, Dollar Stores, Big Lots, Tuesday Mornings and other discount stores. Dollar Stores are great places to shop for gift-wrapping, paper goods, small toys, and containers.

SAVE MORE WHEN YOU SHOP – Explore All The Savings Options

Be sure to use frequent-shopper Plus card. The plus card offers reduced prices on various store items, many of which are specific to your purchase history

Wait for items to go on sale. Plan meals around sale items

Use coupons whenever possible



Concerts in the park or at schools and colleges

Ice skating, sledding, cross country skiing, biking, or hiking

Museums and the zoo—check out days for reduced admissions

Old fashion game night or cards with friends and family


Discount Entertainment Booklets with coupons 2 for 1 dinners

Community plays

Day trips with local park district

Entertain pot luck style and if you like to cook start a neighborhood gourmet club and have theme night pot lucks

Share DVD rentals

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