To Market, to Market: How to Save a Penny and Your Soul in 2012

A need for frugality and passion for all things retro has seen a return to pastimes
that owe more than a hint to yesteryear. Jump on the bandwagon and not only will you save a dime, the whole process will bring you back to yourself to your soul’s home…maybe!

Last year I took a voluntary redundancy so that I could spend more time with my partner and our young child—an agonizing decision given the dramatic financial effect it was bound to have on our already ‘laugh-out-loud-or-else-you’ll-cry’ household budget, but it’s one I know I won’t regret: yes, having enough money is vital, but time with an effervescent child whose soul can’t stop wondering at the quirks of the world is, as they say, priceless.

And so, with a deep breath, I embarked on yet another financial cycle of life. Having survived my college years on the sadly clichéd combination of leftover take-out, hand-me-down threads and furniture that was either begged, borrowed or stolen from an unwittingly generous great aunt, I had graduated into a fun career that allowed me to accessorize my unencumbered twenties with the sort of “luxuries” I knew I deserved—luxe clothes, spontaneous holidays and good—no, great—food. But now, as a member of the “responsible thirties” (my twenty-year-old self just shuddered at that term), I once more need to call on my creative college wiles to put food on the table and clothe my family, my home, and myself—all the while maintaining the standards I’ve become accustomed to, of course.

Not surprisingly, it’s taken time to adapt to one income, adjust our non-essential spending habits and adopt simpler ways to appease my human condition without resorting to mindless spending, but it’s actually been a fun challenge and one I’ve been helped with along the way by the trend toward what I’m calling retro-living. All of a sudden it seems we’ve entered an era where resourcefulness, frugality and belt-tightening is hip.

Yes, hip, and with more than a passing nod to communalism—but not in a scary, Marxist kind of way. It’s more of a 1960s sharing and caring, soulful vibe. Everywhere I turn it seems someone is tending to their neighborhood’s very own allotment garden, hosting a clothes-swapping party or brandishing a recipe book that is more a homage to home-cooked meals than a celebration of what’s happening in the celebrated restaurants of New York, London or LA.

And I LOVE it. The Cancerian in me is embracing the home-spun magic of my new simple life—the engagement with my neighborhood, the knowing where my food comes from and the fact that, for a fraction of the price I used to pay, I am getting not just beautiful items of clothing, furniture, and everything in between, but sustainable pieces and products that have a meaning and a character that you just can’t get from a soul-less production line.

And because this home-grown movement is happening everywhere it’s not hard to jump on the bandwagon.

Here are 5 simple ways to find your own local mecca of merchandise:

1) Buy local:

Scour your local paper and council or borough website for details of upcoming markets and fairs. Without commercial overheads, like rent and personnel, the prices of clothes in particular are generally a fraction of the retail cost, and best of all, because they’re often made by fledgling designers they’re almost always unique. Clothing (new and vintage) and produce markets are often held on rotational weekends or months so create a roster on your calendar to ensure you don’t miss out.

2) Grow local:

Contact your local council or borough and ask if there is a communal or allotment garden near you that you can help maintain, or an undeveloped plot that you and other interested neighbors can create. This is a great way to access fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables at little or no cost, other than your time. Plus, they’re generally insecticide-free and digging away is a great way to engage your kids in healthy food, gardening and the great outdoors.

3) Spring clean your wardrobe and have a SWAP party:

We all have beautiful items languishing in our wardrobes that we no longer wear: maybe it’s a pair of perfectly-good pants that we’ve outgrown, or a lovely coat that reminds us of an old love, but whatever the reason, it’s now taking up valuable practical and emotional space in our lives that can be eradicated in one evening of fun and gossip. So invite your girlfriends over and share some styling tips over a few wines! Anything not claimed by the end of the night can go to your local charity.

4) Find your inner domestic goddess:

With gorgeous recipe books, food apps and cooking shows at your fingertips, there is bound to be a food mentor who speaks to you at your level of expertise. Find them, master their ten best recipes and you’ll never (well, almost never) want to eat out again.

And finally,

5) If you build it, they will come:

To paraphrase a line from that great flick, Field of Dreams, if you can’t locate the product or service you need, generate a demand for it in your neighborhood. Encourage local suppliers to come to you—by either sourcing their product online and letting them know of upcoming markets where they can spruik their wares, or, if you’re commercially-inclined, look to distribute the product yourself.

Up-ending my career brought about a major lifestyle change, and it wasn’t all pretty, but I was surprised at how much I learnt about myself, my ability to prioritize, and my own resourcefulness when it came to saving a few pennies. But most of all I found my soul again. The cynics working in finance often say that there’s a market for everyone; well, in my case, there’s more than one and I encourage you to find yours too.

Francesca’s recent life changes have made her consider all things more seriously. The birth of her first child bought up many feelings and bought her closer to the child within herself, which has often been confronting! The innocence of children and the recognition of our soul in this essay about the human soul has bought much enlightenment.

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