As I was doing some baking for my annual New Year's Day brunch, I managed to finish up a jar of ground nutmeg. I have a tin of whole nutmegs, and I was glad to finish off the ground stuff so I could switch over to the less-processed variety. A friend of mine was hanging out in the kitchen with me, and I told her it made me feel virtuous to have used the whole container. "Huh," she replied.
This friend (who is a fellow-traveller in trying to reduce debt) earns about three times what I do and has about the same amount of monthly expenses, but is often caught short on bills and definitely lives paycheck to paycheck. A little while after the nutmeg discussion, she mentioned that she would like to buy some new eyeshadow. I had some sort of reaction which led her to say that she didn't think that using eye makeup until it was empty was a virtue. This got me thinking about waste and want.
I do think that using something up is virtuous, and that throwing something away that is perfectly good is a waste. I have eyeshadow that I remember buying in 1994 -- it doesn't go bad, and it really does last almost forever.
As I've been becoming more frugal and mindful about spending, I've tried to separate needs from wants, and have tried to examine what I really want when I think I want a thing. Is it really eyeshadow that is wanted, or is it glamour? Is it really new shoes that are wanted, or is it to give the appearance of wealth and sophistication? And every time I give my hard-earned money to someone else, I try to be conscious that the same money could be going towards bill payoff or savings so that I won't have to work as much in the future. Certainly, I need groceries, I need heat, electricity, etc. And sometimes buying a new pair of shoes (or eyeshadow) feels great! But in consciously wasting as little as possible (by not throwing things away, by using things up, by buying just what i need for groceries, and cooking up what's in the fridge), I notice that my wanting is also reduced.