Decision Making, Part 3

by teresalaynebennett

photo of almost completely used toothpaste tube

“It’s almost empty. Pitch it, for Pete’s sake.”

Once you start reading it, you may wonder why this post’s topic wasn’t part of Living Well, Part 3, because it sort of fits under the umbrella of little decisions that most of us think don’t matter. But then again, it takes off in a completely new direction. Since it isn’t an exact fit, it stands alone as Decicision Making, Part 3. (Goes to show you get special treatment when you don’t fit anywhere else.)

Here’s the pay-attention tip
right up front:
use what you pay for.

Since this is a fairly straightforward and logical statement, you’d think we’d all grasp this concept. Instead, it seems a devilishly slippery one for our society – at least today’s American society. Our forebears living before the Industrial Revolution got it; no one had to explain this concept to them. We, it would appear, are living on another planet.

FYI: Bill Bryson’s lengthily titled Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States is a delightful read with an added bonus that directly applies to our use-it-up concept. He describes how our society functioned during pre- and post-Industrial-Revolution times, succinctly illustrating why people didn’t throw away any resource they had paid for with time or money, prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Unlike our pre-Industrial-Revolution ancestors, though, we have an abundance of everything. In fact, we have too much of everything. “Not quite. We don’t have an abundance of money,” you say? What a surprise. We have houses and apartments stuffed to the rafters, but not enough money. Do you suppose there’s a connection?

But, I digress. I want to stick like glue to this use-it-all concept. Let’s get started by using some REALLY little examples. Promise me you’ll stay with me to the end. Roll your eyes if you must and if it makes you feel more hip, but just stay with me. Okay?

First, a little reminder
of what I – and you – pay for.

I pay for the WHOLE tube of toothpaste – the part that squirts right out of the tube and the two-weeks’ worth that won’t squirt out, leading me to pitch it into the trash. Colgate doesn’t say, “Aw shucks, we’ll just give you that last bit that we’ve made almost impossible to get out. It’s on the house.” I’m quite certain no one at any level of Colgate-Palmolive’s vast management tiers has said that.

That last quarter cup in the slimy-sided mayonnaise jar? I paid for it. When I throw it in the trash, I throw away food (make that a food product) I’ve paid for. (I’m also dooming yet another jar to the dump instead of the recycle bin.) Kraft didn’t throw in a little extra “at no additional charge”; they charged me for every bit of product – plus the jar, label, and lid. Businesses don’t absorb these costs; they pass them on to us.

Oh, pleeeease. Using up the last little bit of toothpaste?? That can’t make a difference,” you say?

Of course not!
But that’s not the point.

Scraping out every smidgen of the mayo won’t make a difference either. Neither will sloshing water around in the shampoo bottle or laundry detergent jug till not one bubble comes out. Neither will rinsing out the ketchup bottle with water and throwing the resulting goop into your home-made soup. None of these little habits make a difference – on their own. They allow you to stretch toothpaste, shampoo, mayo, detergent, ketchup for just a few more days or weeks, and that’s all.

This simple idea that if we pay for something, we should use it – all of it – involves, for the most part, making little decisions. Now here’s where we come full circle to Living Well, Part 2: THEY ADD UP. When we apply the use-it-all principle to all our buying decisions, the effects begin to add up. Adding this use-it-up habit to your lifestyle results in collective, very real savings. And that, as you know, is what helps out the old bottom line.

The reverse is also true.

The mindset prompting the mayo’s premature death in the landfill also prompts you to throw away plenty of other resources you paid for, and that doesn’t help the old bottom line. I don’t have to tell you how important the bottom line is; sitting down to a stack of bills every month has already taught you that. But there’s one more reason that use-it-up habits are worth incorporating into your mindset.

Quick. What’s the number one cause of marital problems, according to the majority of marriage counselors? Right. Money. Not too much of it, as a rule; the problem is that one or both partners are pretending they have too much of it. Okay, so we have a rampant cash flow problem, along with an astronomical divorce rate, in “the richest country in the world.” How did that happen?

One answer:
we throw away
an awful lot of stuff
we pay for.

(We also buy boatloads of stuff we definitely don’t need, but I’ve already covered that (sort of) in Saying “No” – Practice, Practice, Practice and Just because we can doesn’t mean we should, Part 3.)

Not many small- to mid-sized businesses can stay in business operating on the fiscal principle that they’ll just throw out

  • that last batch of plastic,
  • that last dozen boxes of fan belts,
  • that last five bolts of upholstery fabric,
  • that last….

You get the picture. But husbands and wives (CEOs of household “businesses”) try to do it all the time – and set themselves up for fiscal and marital failure.

I may as well come clean.
Several years ago,
I was not paying attention.

I was already sloshing water around in the ketchup, mayonnaise, shampoo, and detergent bottles; it was the rinsing required by our city’s recycling policy. But then, I was pouring all that goop I’d paid for down the drain. Are you doing the same thing? Well, then. Why not use the product instead of throwing it away? I was already halfway there to developing the use-it-up habit, and so are you.

Pay attention to your own use-it-up habits – or lack of. Try this concept for a while. See if this use-it-up habit doesn’t make sense. If you agree it does, make it your own.

Then look for a mate who either already knows and uses this concept – or “gets it” when you tell him. You’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.

Already married? Try – do try – to get on the same page. Decide you’re both willing to adopt new use-it-up habits and whatever else it takes to ensure a profitable bottom line for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Smith & Associates.

As you might have guessed, for a very long time now my husband and I have practiced habits that were common before the Industrial Revolution and even during the Great Depression. We were doing all this well before frugality became the new chic way of living after the Great Recession. But even now, even with a growing number of our society regarding frugality as du jour, our use-it-up habits mark us as freaks to a great many of our peers. They roll their eyes and say “Oh, pleeease.”

Don’t care. Know why? Because it makes a difference in our bottom line, and we’re always tickled about that. Others’ labeling us as freaks? Of no consequence.

Pay attention: use ALL of the resources you pay for.

Next up: my ever-so-humble take on how our misconceptions about resources get us into sooooo much trouble.

©2015, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” – Anonymous

A Yankee gem from an old German (?) proverb