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EmilyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 22-Oct-14 15:57:44

Tips for Meanies

Jane Thynne tells us why being thrifty is the next big thing. Why shouldn't we make things stretch a little bit further? And you don't have to be poor or old to be thrifty, she says. Being frugal is a lifestyle choice and she reckons we should all be doing our bit to use less and save more.

Jane Thynne

Tips for Meanies: Thrify Wisdom from The Oldie

Posted on: Wed 22-Oct-14 15:57:44


Lead photo

Jane Thynne

Some time ago, at the height of the recession, I was enjoying a ‘credit crunch lunch’ with Richard Ingrams, editor of The Oldie Magazine, and discussing the fact that the Girl Guides were about to resurrect their badge for Thrift. Richard said that had he ever been a girl guide he would certainly have won the badge for his scrupulous saving of spare bits of string and his frugal way with teabags. I countered this with a recipe for chrome polish using lemon peel. We carried on swapping odd and ingenious uses for household items and wondered if Oldie readers ever did the same. And, intrigued, I carried on researching.

Anyone who has ever kept candle ends in a drawer knows that thrift is about more than money; it’s hard wired into the DNA. You don’t need to be either old or poor to be a Meanie – indeed it’s a common virtue among the very rich. John Paul Getty, while the wealthiest living American, installed a payphone for guests in the hall of his Tudor mansion. The Queen, recently photographed enjoying her breakfast cereal from humble Tupperware containers, is probably the patron saint of Meanies, and Diana Fox, wife of the governor of the Bank of England, blogs about the joys or re-using gift wrap and re-purposing Mason jars.

Anyone who has ever kept candle ends in a drawer knows that thrift is about more than money; it's hard wired into the DNA.

Why should it matter to know that hotel shower caps make brilliant containers for storing shoes in a suitcase, or that salt water makes a perfect, and practically free mouthwash, or that it’s better value to fill up your tank in the cold because the petrol will be more dense? Or that a squirt of hair spray can cure a grease stain without the expense of dry cleaning? I’m not sure, but every tip I learn gives me a little thrill of satisfaction that I’m fighting back against a culture of instant obsolescence and conspicuous consumption. Thrift satisfies something deep within us. Now that recycling and repurposing are ecological virtues, Meanies can claim brownie points for saving the planet, but my hunch is that the impulse is far more primitive. Perhaps it goes back to our caveman days when we had to make every scrap count. Either way, it’s always fun to learn more.

But would such a column for Oldies be seen as teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs? We worried that passing on wisdom about unusual uses for loo rolls and silica sachets might seem presumptuous for a readership raised on make do and mend. Yet as soon as the column started, the tips – some brainwaves and some frankly bizarre – began to pour in. Meanies, it seems, are never averse to learning new ways to save.

Thrift is certainly in fashion, as TV programmes like Super Scrimpers prove, but I think it’s more an attitude to life itself – one that’s inventive, ingenious and deserves to be celebrated.

Tips for Meanies by Jane Thynne, illustrated by Martin Honeysett, is on sale from Square Peg, £6.99

By Jane Thynne


Ana Wed 22-Oct-14 16:00:55

I'm sure we had a thread along these lines some time ago.

I bet she pinched loads of her tips from GN!

ffinnochio Wed 22-Oct-14 16:49:02

Agreed Ana grin

...and it's not mean to be frugal. Sometimes it's a necessity, sometimes it's a lifestyle choice.

Meanness is a character trait, not a financial state. #crossaboutheading

thatbags Wed 22-Oct-14 16:54:49

"Meanies" is a silly name for using things with flare and care so as not to waste stuff. It's on a par with all those books for "dummies". Such a negative way of looking at life. Why do we do this? Why do people think it is amusing?

Candle ends are very useful for strengthening cotton sewing thread. Who else was taught that at school? Who else has a candle end in their sewing basket?

Grans, we need a different name for this flare and care behaviour. Suggestions?

MiniMouse Wed 22-Oct-14 16:58:43

Candle ends are also very useful for unsticking drawers (as in chest-of, not the underwear grin)

janerowena Wed 22-Oct-14 17:06:14

I am not 'mean'.

I am 'not wasteful'.

All my old candle stubs get melted down and put into old pots to make new ones.

Ana Wed 22-Oct-14 17:10:15

My candle stubs are what I call tea-lights...

rosequartz Wed 22-Oct-14 17:28:52

Household Tips?

and this one puzzles me:
or that it’s better value to fill up your tank in the cold because the petrol will be more dense?

So what happens if it is a hot summer or you live in a warm climate anyway (puzzled).
Just run out I suppose.

Why is decanting your breakfast cereal into Tupperware mean?
Just don't get it.

Coolgran65 Wed 22-Oct-14 17:36:39

I always considered 'mean' to refer more to being mean minded or mean of spirit. I.e. just not very nice. IMHO

rosequartz Wed 22-Oct-14 17:39:13

I was told off by a boyfriend when we were cooking together in a student dump flat for throwing away a match after using it once to light the gas.

Needless to say he did not stay the course.

Gagagran Wed 22-Oct-14 18:32:38

Surely we are thrifty and not meanies?

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 22-Oct-14 18:48:05

Look! The poor woman's got a book to flog! Be nice.


annodomini Wed 22-Oct-14 19:07:30

When I'm not being profligate, I am economical - never mean!

Elegran Wed 22-Oct-14 19:13:24

Rosequartz Did he think it was a magic match that would light twice?

GillT57 Wed 22-Oct-14 19:17:59

Being careful/not wasteful/environmentally sound is a fine characteristic and to be applauded. Being mean is a horrid character trait and is often accompanied by a lack of humour. Not a person I would wish to spend time with. However, if this thread was about saving money as a pleasing side effect of not being wasteful I am happy to read about it! On thing we always do is snaffle the free shower caps in hotel rooms, they are great bowl covers when proving bread dough. smileAlways got gift bags in the drawer, carefully folded ready for recycling.

Granny23 Wed 22-Oct-14 19:22:29

I claim the title of thriftiest Gransnetter. I have just saved £6.99 without any effort whatsoever.

annsixty Wed 22-Oct-14 19:50:11

Oh how right you are Granny 23 we could all make money by publishing everyone elses money saving tips and charging for them. Very clever idea.

NanKate Wed 22-Oct-14 20:05:19

I can't bear people who are mean (this is different from being careful).

When I go out with two old friends for supper twice a year the one with the most money never wants to give the waiter/waitress a proper tip. My other friend and myself make the tip up to the correct amount.

I always say 'these young people are not paid much you know' to no avail. Maybe that's why she is rich in comparison with us two.

thatbags Wed 22-Oct-14 20:15:43

I have just made a salt cellar filling funnel with an empty and washed out piece of plastic toothpaste tube. I already have a larger funnel made of the top end of a two litre Ribena bottle.

I will let you know if everything tastes of toothpaste.

This is not meanness. It is problem-solving inventiveness. smile

petallus Wed 22-Oct-14 20:33:02

Granny23 grin

whenim64 Wed 22-Oct-14 20:51:05

This is a useful thread (don't like the meanie title, though). Like Gill I always ask family to bring back hotel shower caps for proving my bread dough. I save gift bags to recycle, and when I buy new ones I don't always write on the tags, expecting the recipients to want to use them again, also. Candles are good for sticking zips, too.

When nail polish is getting too low to reach with the brush, I add the contents of another almost empty bottle, swilled round with a few drops of nail polish remover to make it more fluid again. I wash out plastic trays with lids from takeaways - they're handy for putting leftovers in. has great forums with saving tips. You don't need to spend £6.99 on a book. Alternatively, pick it up in a charity shop next year when it's 50p grin

rosequartz Wed 22-Oct-14 21:02:10

Ingenuity by Gransnetters seems to be the theme (more ideas for her next book?) smile

And I like Granny23's money saving tip.

Elegran I think his thinking was that, if one gas was lit you could relight the match from the hob and light the others when you needed to. hmm

Elegran Wed 22-Oct-14 22:42:07

And light the end of your fingers with it too.

You can prick out seedlings in yoghurt pots with a hole or two stabbed in the bottom, and plant sweet pea seeds singly in toilet roll inners stood upright in rows in a plastic box and filled with compost (and extra ones in the spaces between the rolls) Plastic milk bottles with the base cut off can be pushed into the soil upside down beside plants for directed watering.

FlicketyB Thu 23-Oct-14 09:42:35

Surely it is a moral duty to be economic with the world's resources. They are finite.

henetha Thu 23-Oct-14 09:50:00

I agree with FlicketyB. When we are thrifty it not only helps us but helps the worlds resources to last longer too. There is a huge difference between being careful and being mean.
I love being thrifty, I was brought up that way, and I find today's materialism and extravagance hard to understand. But, life is for living so don't take thriftiness too far.
I love some of the above tips, so thanks girls.