Ethical Frugal Homemaking

You will find the self-proclaimed icon of frugal homemaking in the shopping district of any western community - the dollar or discount store. But discount stores are not always the bargain they first appear to be. Despite what we have been led to believe, frugal living is NOT just about paying the cheapest of everything. In fact, always buying the 'cheapest' often costs us more in the long run, in more ways than one.

Frugal living should never come at the cost of ethical living.

Discount/Dollar Stores

Right now, I actually refuse to shop in dollar stores with one exception - if I would have bought the exact same product elsewhere for a higher cost. Here are my reasons why:

1. When I buy a cheaply made product, I will have to replace it more often than if I had bought quality - wasting my time and the world's resources. It also means that I will produce more waste. The first principle of thoughtful waste management is reduce, not recycle.

2. Many of the products sold in discount stores are made in sweat shops in third world nations. This include products that are simply cheaply made, and chemical products that will have been made in unsafe working conditions. (I know that there are expensive items made in sweatshops too - and I don't buy them either when I am aware of them.) I have a lot of trouble with the idea that I should fulfill my material wants off the backs of underpaid and abused third world labor.

3. Anything made with chemicals (e.g. cosmetics, personal care items, cleaning products) may be made with the cheapest and the most dangerous chemicals allowed by law. Because of the lack of regulation of these industries, and the lack of proper labelling - none of this stuff comes into my house, and it probably shouldn't go into yours!

The real costs of buying these products are: wasted resources, unnecessary garbage, human misery, and toxins in our homes and the environment. To me, saving a few dollars is not worth the cost.

What are Dollar/Discount Stores good for?

Here are the things that I do purchase at discount stores that fulfill my definition of ethical frugal homemaking, generally I look for North-American made products and avoid anything made in Asia:

1. Snack foods that are nearing their 'best before' date.

2. Household items that are from 'last year's stock', and are perfectly good, but the department stores won't sell them because they only have room to carry the 'latest'. Notebooks, wrapping paper, and greeting cards are good examples.

3. Clothing items/household linens that are from the previous year (or two's) stock. Nothing wrong with them, but they are the wrong colour, pattern, or style.

4. Clothing items/household linens that are slightly irregular - especially towels, socks and underwear.

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