Kathleen Wiegman of Tacoma has a great idea: We’re all in this unpleasant economy together. Why don’t we have a public conversation on how to manage our way through it?
I’m on, Kathleen.
Let’s do it. Let’s trade the most home-friendly ideas.
We can spice them with a dash of rant now and then, but for the most part let’s just pull up our socks and make our way through it.
Kathleen is a stone soup master chef. She and her husband, the Rev. Eugene Wiegman, have worked for this community in education, social services and the Lutheran Church.
If you can stretch a resource tighter than the Wiegmans can, jump in. We need to know how you do it.
My fellow Kathleen and I have been training for this economy our whole lives. She brushed up against the tail end of the Great Depression as a child, then grew up under wartime rationing. She knows what we can do if we reset our notions of prosperity and shared responsibility.
And she’s got some nifty tricks: Use cloth napkins, and re-fold them and tuck them into a napkin ring for use at the next meal. Make the most of your oven’s heat by baking two meals at one time. Turn the thermostat way, way down at night and wear socks to bed to keep your tootsies warm.
Here’s the thing about Kathleen’s tips: She’s not telling us how to save when we shop. She’s telling us how to do more with what we already have.
That’s a throwback to her formative years. In the Great Depression, people had no money to buy things. Then, when the nation aimed its resources and manufacturing might at World War II, there wasn’t much to buy.
Call Kathleen’s style old-school sustainability: Whatever you had, you made it last.
Or call it cheap. These days, that’s a compliment.
I’m second-generation cheap.
I keep hearing references to a big recession in the mid-1970s, but I don’t recall it. If there was something bad happening to money, I was oblivious, because I didn’t have any.
I was apple-gleaning poor at the time. If there was an apple dropped on the outside of a fence, it was lunch. If there were apples unwanted on a vacant lot, they were sauce. I pretty much lived on tea, home-made bread, soybeans, my garden and applesauce.
It was a challenge, almost an adventure, albeit a near-polar experience during Montana winters.
I was working on Kathleen Wiegman’s model at a time when everyone else was running away from it as fast as their charge accounts would allow.
As I’ve gotten financially viable, I’ve swum with that consumer current and changed my definition of cheap.
Thrift is no longer about not spending money, it’s about the adrenaline of buying something I want, but don’t really need, at 75 percent off.
That has its advantages, especially if you are on my Christmas gift list. It’s not a bad deal for merchants who need to move their goods, pronto. And it’s a sop to the economists who are blaming this whole mess on a lack of consumer confidence.
Still, there is a basic flaw in consumer cheapness in the Age of Stuff: Spending is not really saving, even if the new coat is 90 percent off.
We second-generation cheaplings need to bring more discipline to our patriotic purchasing power.
Buying locally could be a good start. Scoring deals on housewares and clothing to donate to charities might help. Just don’t skimp on tips, which go straight back into the local flow of cash.
Kathleen and I are a good starter mix, but there’s more expertise out there. She, especially, would like to involve young people in the conversation.
What kind of cheap are you?
Can you get by without putting someone’s livelihood at risk?
Tips, full-blown strategies, rants, send them all, by e-mail or snail mail. Let’s get this conversation going on the home front.
Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677