Living Within One’s Means – A Review on ‘Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that oft times a person has the need to reach a hand into one’s reticule for a few coins. Whether it is the weekly grocery trip, or the one-time purchase of a new chaise lounge, a purchase is always waiting to be made.

Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift: An Independent Woman’s Advice on Living Within One’s Means is a thoughtful and fun little book. It is filled with little tips on saving, giving, and investing–all taken from Jane Austen’s writings.

Surprisingly, the book doesn’t glean lessons and habits simply from Austen’s best loved characters. We can still learn something from Lydia Bennet –who spends all her money and then asks her sisters to lend her theirs, so that she can buy them dinner, and buys a hat that is not very pretty because she ‘might as well buy it as not’, only to tear it apart and turn it into a more modish accessory later.

We can learn from Lydia to avoid thoughtless purchases, and to also be creative in re-purposing outdated items in our own wardrobe into more current styles.

Jane Austen’s Guide to Thrift: An Independent Woman’s Advice on Living Within One’s Means has chapters on how to stay stylish, travel, entertain, furnish a home, have a wedding on a modest budget, and give gifts.

While each chapter has quite a few ingenious tricks, nothing is ever delved into too deeply. For example, the chapter on investing shares a few tips, but the lady interested in learning further will have to find a supplementary learning source. This book is definitely not the final word on every matter it discusses, and sometimes it mentions things that should be commonsense (compare flight prices before buying a ticket, for example) but the Jane-inspired spirit lends a special charm to everything.

A few things that I enjoyed

  • If you feel like going into certain thrift stores will leave you feeling dirty or ill, the bargains are probably not worth the venture. Don’t sacrifice your health for a prospective bargain that may or may not happen!
  • The ideal form of exercise is the kind we don’t think about doing. Dancing is lovely, and walking is free! Walks are not boring if you take them in a park, a private garden, or perhaps the grounds of Pemberley? It is a great form of cardio that is easy on the joints –perfect no matter what fitness level or age you are!
  • Holiday hosting? Think tea or brunch instead of dinner. It is easier on the budget, and much more manageable.
  • Little details make the meal. Fresh bread. Real butter. Quality coffee or tea. Choose real deserts such as iced sorbets instead of the preservative riddled ice creams in the supermarket.  And absolutely no prepackaged bulk cookies!!  These are for the truly desperate.
  • What to do with all those bridesmaid dresses taking up room in your closet? Turn them into throw pillows — fantastic accent pieces as these dresses are usually in bright, vivid colors!
  • Beauty cannot be bought with fancy products. Simple regimes and a healthy lifestyle are best. Try organic coconut oil as a moisturizer, and lemon juice as a natural exfoliator.
  • Travel doesn’t mean giving up healthy, thrifty habits. The night before, mix together dried berries, seeds, coconut flakes and nuts of your choice as a wonderful snack-on-the-go.
  • Be a gracious guest. Bring a simple, modest gift if you can. Always make sure to clean up after yourself, and do not take uninvited tours of your host’s house looking for ghastly evidence of a dark past or ghosts–or even just to see how many closets they have. Whenever you can, offer to help!
  • Don’t slap on layers of makeup.  Let sea breezes be your blush, and brisk walks be your eye brightener. Choose natural makeup if you do need to touch up. But keep it simple and let your real beauty shine through.

Certain words will resonate more with certain readers, of course. For me, the most wonderful passage is to be found on the back cover which declares that Jane “…knew that wealth and grandeur had little to do with happiness, …that fashionable new dresses and reticules to impress Mr. Darcy simply were not the path to fulfillment…

As a lady with a weakness for clothes, and the guilty little vanity of wanting to always be pretty for myself and my husband (although he apparently does not particularly care what I wear!), this definitely struck a chord. The point is not to deny yourself –the book is quick to begin on that note, the point is that it’s alright to have little pleasures and vanities, but do not let your whims lead you onto the dark and unpleasant path of debt!

This book inspires us to take note of our own habits and how we can make little changes towards a more gracious style of living in harmony with the people around us, and the earth.

Jane Austen would approve.

This is the last of the guest posts I wrote for Chantel’s Adornabelle, and was first archived by Wayback Machine on April 27, 2015.
Be sure to find Chantel’s current writings on the web at Beautiful Song!

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