The spirit of thrift

It’s easy to get carried away this time of year. The festive decorations, the lengthy wish lists from kids, the padded advertisements from sales-hungry retailers. Each holiday season I spend more than I intended. But this year, I’m trying to adopt a new spirit of the season—the spirit of thrift. 

For inspiration, I turned to Lori Blatzheim, a mother of two and grandmother of two, who started a thrift club in Chanhassen where participants share their money-saving ideas. She also writes about frugal living strategies on the “Thrifty Living Today” blog at

Kara McGuire: Do you think thrift is misunderstood?
Lori Blatzheim: Absolutely. When I told people that I wanted to start a Thrift Club, they looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, “What is thrift?” They thought of the car rental company or a store. Thrift also does not prevent a person from spending money and resources. Thrift provides the opportunity to use money saved to improve what a person has now and in the future. 

KM: How do you define thrift?
LB: It’s a way of life. Those who believe thrift will lead to a better life, do the following:

  • Save and eventually develop an emergency fund
  • Think before spending
  • Consider needs versus wants
  • Know and care for their resources/ their land, home, vehicles, businesses, and
  • Determine whether an object can be repaired before replacing it

KM: How do you teach kids the value of money?
LB: Teach them to recognize the value of coins and bills, save money, take out a bank account, and learn the differences between credit and debit cards.

KM: How should parents combat our throw-away, junky plastic toy culture?
LB: Discuss toys and video games with the child—why these are wants, not needs. Encourage children to donate their “old” toys to organizations that can take them. We could also ask them to save their money and participate in buying the toy.

KM: If you had to pick three behavior changes/tips for becoming a thriftier person, what would they be?
LB: First, establish a budget. This can be a simple listing of input and outgo. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. Next, pay off credit card debt. In my opinion, credit card debt leads to indentured servitude. Finally, save a portion of earnings or other forms of money and develop an emergency fund.

KM: Do you think that if and when the economy recovers, Americans will go back to their spendthrift ways or is thrift here to stay?
LB: That is a terrific question. Will we stay frugal and thrifty as people did following the Great Depression? I know I won’t go hog wild on my spending. I hope that our citizens think before spending and come up with a good result.

Kara McGuire is a personal finance writer and a St. Paul mother of three. Send comments, questions and story ideas to