“Being saving”

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Have you heard that phrase – "being saving"? If not, you might have thought there was a typo or that I've forgotten the rules of grammar. But actually, it's a phase I grew up with. it might be a "regionalism" – a word or phrase whose use is limited to one part of the country – or an antiquated phrase. When I searched online, I found two books from the early 1900s that used it. One even had an entire chapter on it!

To help you get your head around this, think of how we talk today about "going green." Now, the grammar of "being saving" may make more sense.

I remember my grandmother saying this. Maybe other people used it to describe my grandmother, too. To me, it meant using things with care so they weren't damaged or worn more than necessary, or stretching things to make them last. "Being saving" is the opposite of being wasteful.

When we talk about ways to reduce expenses, we usually focus on how to shop wisely and things we can give up or purchase less often. But this concept from my childhood is another way: using no more than is needed and taking care of possessions so that they last longer. The end result is saving money.

I used to teach an activity about ways to save money that was in the earlier editions of University of Illinois Extension's All My Money curriculum. It had several categories of ways to save money, and you were supposed to come up with ideas of what you might do under each one. The list included doing without, sharing, substituting something else, a few others I can't remember, and using wisely. Using wisely? That could be the same as being saving!

I can picture my grandmother doing small things that were labelled as being saving. When she sewed on her treadle sewing machine, she used scissors to snip the threads close to the fabric instead of leaving a tail of thread. 'I'm being saving," she'd say. What she meant was, she was using as little thread as possible so that it would last longer.

She was a skilled quilt maker, and she was renowned for saving even the tiniest scrap of fabric. Many of her quilts were made with pieces that were "pieced on paper" – a technique where each quilt piece was itself pieced together from multiple smaller pieces of fabric. She was being saving – getting the most use possible from the smallest amount of resources.

The photo above is one of her quilts. But this one used "whole" pieces.

Now, you and I may not sew very much or know how to piece on paper, even if we quilt. (I learned many needle arts from my grandmothers, but piecing on paper was one I could never quite understand.) But there are other ways to "be saving."

Here are a few ways this philosophy has influenced me:


  • In our kitchen, I store leftovers in containers that have lids. I rarely use plastic wrap to cover a dish that's going in the fridge.
  • Before I cook, I change out of my good clothes or – here's another old fashioned idea – wear an apron to protect what I have on. I'm "being saving" with my clothes, taking care of them so that they last longer.
  • I cut vegetables, meat, and bread on a cutting board so I won't dull my knives or damage my countertop.
  • I try to protect the things I own. For example, I put my gardening tools away before I head back indoors so they'll won't rust from dew or rain. And they won't accidentally get run over by the lawnmower.
  • I rarely get in the car to run a single errand or to buy a single item, to reduce the amount of gas I use.
  • We try to use up the fresh produce we buy and eat up our leftovers, so that we don't have to throw away food. My goal is to throw out as little food as possible. (Are you curious about how much food is thrown out by households in the US? Check the results of a 2016 research study by Ohio State University https:\\news.osu.edu/news/2016/07/21/food-waste/.)


Some of my examples of "being saving" may strike you as extreme or having so little benefit as to not be worth the effort. That doesn't mean you can't "be saving" in other ways. The first step is to become aware of where the opportunities are to "be saving." Then weigh the benefits versus any inconvenience or extra effort it requires.