I'm the proud recipient of a frugality hat trick. My grandparents lived through the Depression and my parents were raised during war time; I managed to wreck my college career, land a part-time job selling frozen meat over the phone, rent a rundown mobile home and become owner of an abandoned cat (who eventually abandoned me in disgust and moved in with the slightly-better-off family up the street). So I have zero compunction about looking through donation piles to enhance my wardrobe, vacuuming up free samples at the supermarket, or checking the sofa cushions for change at the bookstore.
When I was a kid, one thrifty relative (I won't say who since he/she isn't dead yet) taught us to check the return slots on gum machines and public phones for change, as well as to prowl under the stadium seats during sporting events in search of dropped money or objects of value. (We were too young at the time to bother looking up, in case you wondering.) We never found much cash but there were other treasures; sweatshirts, a dog collar which I traded for a really cool pen, and a pocket knife which was eventually confiscated by my parents. I also collected soda can pop-tops and strung them into a chain to decorate my room.
Actually, kids have no preconceived notions of "garbage". Anything is fair game; they'll eat dog food, a cupcake in the trash can, a stick of gum on the street. "But the wrapper's still on!" Bottle caps and cigarette butts are intriguing playthings. (I grew up in a safe country; my husband and his friends famously dragged home an unexploded WW2 bomblet in the UK.)
My mom's friend Nancy became a widow early on. She offered Mom some of her deceased husband's clothes, which were "relatively new". After that, Dad would periodically appear in the morning, dressed very nattily. "Look honey, I'm wearing my dead man's pants today!"
I didn't have any dead girl clothes but I did have something far worse - hand-me-downs. You may think that you're familiar with 1970s fashion, but did you know that some trends were so hideous that they died after a few months? Imagine having to wear them THREE YEARS LATER. The terrycloth jumpsuit. Yes, terrycloth, as in washcloth material. The knickers, which should have remained in the 1800s. The macrame, suitable for hanging plants but not Junior High attire. I wore them all, and was beaten up for it. The only kid worse off may have been Kathy K, who's mother knitted her a sweater from the family dog's hair. She tried to pass it off as angora until someone (there's always that one person) produced a picture of Bandit and held it up next to her.
Old habits die hard. I'm writing this while wearing my son's cast-off sweatpants from 20 years ago. My coffee mug advertises a prostate health drug - a freebie from a senior health bazaar. I use Vaseline for my skin, eyebrows, and to grease those noisy door hinges. I use teabags at least twice. I could lie and say that I'm concerned for the environment and trying to reduce my "footprint". But really, I'm constantly planning for the day when everything might disappear and I'll be forced to live on little or nothing. Those Doomsday Preppers have got nothing on me.