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Good to the last drop

This morning I squeezed what could have been the very last bit of toothpaste out of the tube. That was after I applied my "ringer routine" of flattening the tube to the thickness of a sheet of paper. For most people, that tube would be empty. But I know that somewhere in there, there is just enough paste for one more brush and I'm going to get it out. Old habits die hard.

What's the point? The point is, we are in a recession and most of us are working very hard to get the biggest bang from every buck we spend. This is not a time for waste.

How many times can you reuse a square of aluminum foil in your home cooking? Somebody reading this column, somebody who uses the foil very carefully, somebody who wipes it off, folds it, stores it and uses it over and over could give us an amazing answer to that question.

I remember a time when the tires on some farm wagons were so poor they couldn't hold air anymore and were filled with oats and driven many more miles. Now that is what you would have to call getting the last glob of toothpaste out of the tube. The only way to take that process one step further would be to make oatmeal out of the oats when the tires finally gave out completely. Do you suppose a couple of years and thousands of rotations in an old rubber tire would affect the taste of that oatmeal?

There was a time when the extremely thrifty would save any length of leftover string longer than about three inches. Then the pieces would be spliced and rolled into a ball. Whatever string was needed, there it was -- you didn't have to go out and buy any. I doubt that anybody is saving pieces of string these days, but they might be.

We have seen many recycled greeting cards. Birthday cards that mildly insult the birthday guy or gal are too good to use only once. You simply cut off the former signature and put on your own, but only when you don't care enough to send the very best.

Holes in your socks? My mother, bless her, used to darn our socks. Darning isn't exactly the same as patching, it's mending with interlacing stitches. My socks don't get holes anymore, they just seem to wear so thin there is nothing left to darn. Does anybody still darn? Maybe the recession isn't deep enough yet. Or is darning a forgotten skill from an earlier era?

We have a top notch shoe repair guy in our town, but some shoes are made never to be repaired. I had a pair like that with some sort of plastic soles. I paid enough for them, but when a sole cracked, it couldn't be fixed. We need to watch what kind of junk we are buying. Shoe repair should not become another forgotten skill from an earlier era.

My late father-in-law, Clarence, could fix anything from giant tractors to tiny watches. And he repaired all of those things at one time or another in his life. His last career move was to become a jeweler who repaired watches. He had a little magnifying lens attached to his glasses. His tools were miniature wrenches. In those days, watches were powered by springs, not batteries and they had to be repaired by an expert. Clarence was that expert. Today, when a new battery won't get the watch running again, it's probably going to be thrown away because if there was anybody who could fix it, it would probably be too expensive.

Yes, we're in a different era. To the extent that anybody talks about thrift in 2009, they're talking about life without a flat screen TV, life with a two-year-old cell phone, life taking pictures with an old film (non-digital) camera or shopping with a low limit credit card. We still have a lot to learn.