Different Thrifty Strokes For Different Thrifty Folks: An Ask the Audience

retrochick.JPGIvy says:

It all started over a month ago when Heather and I were having a conversation about whether it was ever cheaper to go to a restaurant over cooking at home. My example was Logan’s Roadhouse with their $13.99 deal for two people. If you get water, even with an appropriate tip, you’re still looking at less than you can generally buy 2 steaks of similar quality and size. Heather disagreed, saying she could easily beat that price since she has a cow cut up in her freezer.

Learn more- How To Live On Less: A Guide To Thrifting

It’s an idea that has rolled around in my head for awhile. Because, not everyone has the time, money, space, etc. to be able to have a cow in their freezer. That thought expanded to other things that not everybody could do, like my post yesterday about shopping at warehouse stores. The fact is, not everybody can or wants to be thrifty in the same manner as everyone else.

For example, I have the good cable. That’s not thrifty. Or is it? I save money on going to a gym by doing workout videos on the on-demand section. I save money on going to movies by watching them on HBO. But I have friends who out-thrift me who don’t have cable at all and get workout videos and movies at the library. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make, though. (At this time. Naturally if Mr. Ivy or I lost our jobs or something, we’d reconsider the cable thing.)

Learn more: Thrifty Thursday: Make vs. Buy

Meredith had an interesting post up about the same thing. I laughed a little, because her 3 pairs of shoes per kid maximum sounds a lot like Heather and I. Heck, my kids generally only have one pair, unless someone has died and I need to get them dress shoes for the funeral.

So, Home Eccers, I ask you: what are some thrifty things you do that many can’t or won’t do? Or conversely, what are some decidedly non-thrifty things you do that work for you? Talk amongst yourselves.

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.



27 Comments

  1. Anissa Karvonen on May 21, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

  2. le corbusier on July 8, 2009 at 2:26 am

    we really need to economize almost everything today. we this kind of circumstances in the world, we really need to be wise in using our money. preparation for something more important is all that matters now

  3. Heidi Cykana on June 19, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    My parents are insanely thrifty. My husband’s parents… not so much (although they are very green). My parents will make almost anything they need, and his will purchase things that will save them time so they can continue being active in Special Olympics and other community events. Over the past 5 years, we’re struggled with trying to find a middle ground between these two philosophies. I buy almost all of my kids’ clothes from thrift store or from deep clearance racks at Target. There’s only a few food/household items I buy name brand on (soda, Q-tips, ketchup, laundry soap because I’m highly allergic). We make a lot of our own cleaners. I use the library A LOT. We just got cable again after a year without, mostly because we need the internet and would have had to put down a whopping deposit to get it without getting a package deal.

    I just got a new job, and moved from Wisconsin to Texas in a week. We could have either paid $1500 to have it all moved (or rent a truck a move it ourselves). After looking around at what wouldn’t fit in the car, there wasn’t $1500 worth of stuff left. And I’m about 45 minutes from an IKEA now. We got new pots, pans, dishes, glassware, etc for around $100. Beds for the kids (bunks) were $200 with the mattresses. I bought a living room set (matching furniture!! that’s something new) on closeout from a leasing place for 1/4 of the retail price. I’ve basically refit our entire house for what it would have cost to bring our old, worn out stuff along. I recycled/donated/sold everything we left behind. Some might not find scrapping nearly everything all that thrifty, but it sure saved a lot of my sanity, we have a lot less un-needed junk, and it was fun finding the best deals on all the new stuff we got. After an incredible hard couple of years, my husband and I are calling this Life 2.0. Not hauling around old junk with more bad memories than good seems like a bargain to me.

    With my new job, I’m going to need better clothing. I recently lost a bunch of weight, so not only are my clothes too warm for down here, they are way too big. I have tried the thrift stores around town, but Southern Mom seems to be the going style down here.. and that’s just not me. There are, however, two massive outlet malls in the next town over. I think I’m going to try to make due with what I’ve got for now and take a couple hundred from my first paycheck and get some decent pieces that I can get a lot of wear from up there.

  4. Arctic Gypsy on June 15, 2009 at 2:13 am

    We grew up with a whole lot of not much, so buying more for less has always been a big thing for me. I absolutely ADORE thrift stores, especially since we moved to Anchorage. There’s a little thrift store here called Bishop’s Attic… I’m in love with the place. A lot of times they’re as bad as many other shops (that don’t seem to realize they are selling used items), but when items have been in the store for a certain amount of time they are slashed dramatically. Clothes, and most other items, are marked down to 1/2 price for one week, and anything left is marked down to 3 for $1 the next week. There is usually a good bit left for the 3 for $1 week.

    For these sales (which are going on every week) I score in many ways. I snag clothes for the family, of course, but I don’t overlook the things we can’t wear. Once it hits the super cheap rack I grab all I can find that is flannel, denium, or velvet(ish). With these I can cut out blocks and make: quilts, scarves, curtains, tablecloths… you name it (although my sewing skills are restricted to the easy projects). I keep the seams from the jeans and braid them for rugs. By the time we get through winter and breakup, last years rugs are ready for the trash, lol.

    We do utilize the libraries in the area, both for books and videos. However, Bishop’s Attic has a book sale during the third week of every month. Paper backs are 10 for $1, and hard backs are 40 cents (Unless they’re marked, then they’re half of that price). I don’t go book shopping often, but when I do I shop by the box load.

    On shoes it depends on who we’re talking about. My husband has to have steel toes, so we end up paying for those, but they seem to last a while. My youngest son can tear up shoes like crazy, so we stick with the cheaper brands, unless we find good ones at the thrift store. I soak them pretty good with lysol, and then put them through the wash. My shoes go the middle road. I work as a waitress, so I can’t settle for bottom of the barrel shoes, but I don’t go for high line brands. I did pop for some good arch supports from The Good Feet Store (around $85, I think) but they’ve lasted the last 3 years, and don’t show any signs of stopping.

    Our newest foray into thriftiness is making our own laundry soap. 2 gallons of water, a bar of soap and some baking soda. It doesn’t suds up like commercial soap, but I’ve learned that the suds aren’t actually that important. Plus at 1/2 cup per load (unless really soiled) it lasts a good while. I want to start making my own soap, but have to wait until we move so that we can have a wood stove (need the wood ash to make lye).

    Our biggest and best project, though, is taking place over this summer and next. After TONS of looking we found some property that suits us, for a decent price. A couple that we’re friends with are buying the connecting property. We have some building materials that we’ve been collecting (Craig’s List and yard sale left overs – a good bit has been free). They have TONS of materials (windows, doors, pipes, studs, insulation – a lot of the high dollar stuff). They have medical conditions, though, that will keep them from being able to handle a lot of the physical work in building houses.

    Soooooooo, they’re putting in most of the materials, and we’re covering most of the heavy work, and between us we’ll both have a little house. The well/septic tank guys are willing to cut prices if we do all at one time, so this summer we’ll be working on the property and saving up for the well and septic that can be installed next summer. We’re probably going to have to go with an outhouse for this summer, just so that we’ll have facilities of some sort while working on the property.

    There’s more, I’m sure, but I just noticed that I’ve been typing for quite a while, lol.

  5. Mom4nell on June 7, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Shoes – I usuually have to buy our daughter’s shoes new because she has cerebral palsy and her feet are two different sizes and a wide width to boot (no pun intended). I wear mens shoes (just buy one size smaller than ladies).

    Exercise – We qualify for a reduced rate at the YMCA because of our low income. They maintain the pool and have more exercise equipment than we could pay for or have room for. Medical conditons make membership a necessity.

    Internet and Computer – Gave up my monthly haircuts and the newspaper to pay for these.

  6. Stacy on June 6, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Well, I am sort of in the beginning stages of becoming thriftier, although I have always been somewhat thrifty. Since having a baby and starting to work part time, it has become more important to cut back.

    Thrifty
    –learning to shop for grocery ingredients rather than pre-made food
    –not eating out much at all
    –all of my baby’s clothes, or almost all, are hand-me-downs or thrift store purchases
    –We carpool to work in a high-mileage car.
    –I don’t buy some of the groceries we used to buy, like soda and juice, except some O.J. once in awhile.
    –I go to dollar stores when I can take the time, to buy some toiletries and other staples.
    –I’m learning to use leftovers better.
    –I make my own breadcrumbs–it sounds silly, but I’m amazed at how much bread we would throw away that I now put to good use making something like Heather’s Fake and Bake or fish and chips…
    –We go to Costco when we have time.
    –My husband fixes our cars and pretty much anything at our house; he also does maintenance on the cars.
    –We switched to pay-as-you-go cell phones.
    –I’m talking to all of our utility co.’s to see if we can get cheaper rates
    –We heat our house almost exclusively with wood felled on our property or that my husband has collected. He started going on Craig’s List and looking for people who will give you free wood if you come and cut and/or remove the wood from their property.
    –And, I use Craig’s List and thrift stores somewhat regularly.

    Not-so-Thrifty
    –I really believe in organic and natural foods, so I am willing to spend more on organic milk, vegetables, etc. However, I’m also learning which items really should be eaten organic, and which are rarely sprayed or don’t normally include toxic ingredients. There’s a great website for that: http://www.ewg.org. For example, I have discovered that tomatoes don’t generally have a lot of pesticides on them, so I stopped buying organic there. On the other hand, we have a market in our area that isn’t that much more expensive, if at all, for natural and organic foods.
    –We have satellite TV because we live up in the mountains and wouldn’t get TV at all otherwise. I keep suggesting that we drop it, but my husband isn’t ready for that.
    –We have a long commute, which I know costs us. However, the job market such as it is and other factors have kept us at jobs not so close to home.
    –If I’m hot and can’t stand it, I turn on the A.C. If we haven’t started a fire in the winter, I turn on the propane-fueled central heating. Life’s too short to be miserable in your own house.
    –I don’t buy shoes often, but I’ve learned that often the more expensive shoes are more thrifty in the end. I wear them for years and years, compared with the practically disposable Payless shoes I’ve often bought. I do look for good shoes at outlet stores so it’s cheaper.

    There are other things, but that’s what I can think of right now.

  7. Milehimama on June 5, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Spendy thing we do: Super internet/fastest broadband we can buy. I alsu *used* to have very good cable.

    OTOH, I was working online watching TV and *had* to get certain channels anyway; with telecommuting (as a freelancer), homeschooling, and blogging (it does bring in a little money), the fastest internet I could get more than paid for itself.

    We also run our AC more than most frugal people would. Then again, my husband works in an unairconditioned shop all day (in Houston!). So it’s worth the expense to us.

    OTOH, we have a minimal amount of clothes and shoes. I have no problem accepting hand me downs. I refill our own print cartridges, even though it means black fingers. I cut the kid’s hair. Our van has no AC (in HOUSTON!)

    Frugality is all about saving $ in the way that’s the best for YOUR family.

    • Milehimama on June 5, 2009 at 9:53 pm

      My husband also has 2 pairs of steel toed shoes (and 1 pair of steel toed boots) that cost over $100 each, but he needs that equipment to bring home the bacon.

      I do tease him that his shoe wardrobe cost more than mine!

      I just throw the kid shoes in the washer to make sure they are clean. (We often get them as hand me downs from other families). If they fall apart in the wash, we throw them out!

  8. Tara on June 4, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I am working on being more thrifty. It’s my summer project.

    However, I took a 2nd job (I’m a school librarian, and single with no kids, so I have the spare time) at a clothing store I love to shop at. Now, I get full priced items at 50% off and sale merchandise at 40% off. I can look current and professional without bankrupting myself.

    I also am a big library card user. Since I am a librarian and LOVE books.

    I have not bought salad dressing at a store since I made it myself and discovered how easy, cheap, and tasty it is.

  9. Veggiemomof2 on June 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Thrifty:
    I prefer Redbox $1 movie rentals to DirecTv movie channels, going to the movies, & blockbuster/netflix mail movies. We can watch what we want for $1 for 1 night. If we like, we can go to Walmart for $15-20 to buy it. (My kids watch movies over & over)

    I prefer coupon & generic shopping at as many as 3-4 different stores in a 2 mile radius instead of paying full price at 1 convenient store.

    Non-thrifty:
    I pay $21 a year for a library card to our 2 closest libraries instead of buying books we will only read once. (Reduce the clutter!)

    I pay someone to change my oil (full service) because they can check all the gadgets while saving my husband time, energy, & patience.

    • Heather on June 4, 2009 at 9:13 pm

      The library card thing? Exceptionally thrifty. 🙂 Spending money does not equal wasting money. You might get 2 – 3 contemporary novels for that price at a full price bookstore – 5 -7 in a used. (Unless you’re into harlequin type romances those are ridiculously cheap, which always annoyed me)

  10. Bri on June 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Some things we are doing or plan on doing in the near future that our families and friends don’t understand:
    –we plan on cloth diapering our baby (due in September)
    –we are opting for only one cell phone (and a pay-as-you-go phone for the car in case of emergencies)
    –we don’t have, nor do we ever plan on getting, cable (a great source of mystry to both our families)
    –we did recently get internet b/c my husband and I are taking online classes, but we didn’t have it before…just used the internet at work when neccessary
    –we are not planning on ever getting a new cell phone through upgrades with our cell company…we hate feeling obligated to pay a bill (same reason we don’t have credit cards any more)
    –we don’t make car payments and we hope to never have to again

    Many of these things, our family and friends feel are neccessities and just part of life. We digress 🙂

  11. Small Means on June 4, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I was thinking about this after Meredith’s post, too. We don’t have cable, don’t use Netflix, don’t drive cars that cost more than $5000, don’t use credit cards at all, buy generic and shop thrift stores, but there are some things we spend more for.

    We live in a small town and the local thrift stores have never carried good shoes like the brands Meredith mentioned. Shoes are something I tend to buy new, though I always check the thrift stores first. I get a good pair of tennis shoes for each kid with room to grow each season. Dress shoes can be less fancy. But for myself and my husband, after years of Payless and thrift store shoes and dealing with aching feet and bad backs, I ALWAYS buy good shoes with good support. Most of the time, I use Zappos and spend about $100 per pair. I’ve been wearing the same pair of Keens for four years now each day of the winter, so the $80 I spent on them has been worth it. I wear the same SAS ugly faux birkenstocks each day of the summer and I’ve had them for 5 years. Not terribly attractive, but, again, my foot has good support and that prevents a host of other problems for me. I also have one good pair of dress shoes and dress sandals (both are Softspots — not the old lady kind, though) and they have fabulous arch support and padding. Again, I’ve worn them for three years.

    I now do not buy new clothes for my children UNLESS they are from the deep clearance rack at Target or Walmart AND they are special items like Easter or Christmas outfits. Although — I found an $80 Gymboree suit at our local thrift shop for $3 yesterday for my son. So the new clothes are not always necessary.

    One other place I spend the extra money is by shopping at our local grocery store. WalMart and Kroger are only about 10 minutes away, but my town really needs this store to remain viable. I want to support it and the standard of living we have here, so it is worth it to our family to spend a few cents extra per item. Yes, it adds up, but, again — it’s worth it to our family.

    And right now we are redoing an old house — a big house. We’re spending extra on geothermal heating/ air because eventually (please, God), we expect to get a return on what we paid for it. It’s interesting to be in that position for us, because we are usually cheap all the way through a project. But this one we want to live in for the rest of our lives, so we’re doing it a bit differently.

    Anyway, I’m too wordy today, but it reminds me of what Dave Ramsey says — “After all, personal finance is personal!” What is important to one family or person may not be to the next…

    • Diaper Cakes Becca on June 4, 2009 at 1:50 pm

      I totally agree on the shoes thing. Used shoes (especially when you don’t know WHO used them) are kind of scary. Each of our children has a good pair of tennis shoes, a mediocre pair of sandals/summer shoes and a pair of somewhat dressy shoes. (With five kids that is a lot of shoes, though!)

      I hope the geothermal unit works out. I have read a lot of good things about these types of home heating/cooling units!

      • ThatBobbieGirl on June 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

        Yes, shoes are one of our bigger expenses. DH has 2 pairs of identical Clarks shoes (over $100/pair) that he alternates to let them dry out completely and the shoes end up lasting longer. He has big problems with his back and feet and legs, and cheap shoes will just put him out of commission so that he can’t work.

        I have more shoes right now than I have ever had at one time in my life – a total of 5. Three of them are identical except for color, and one pair is my falling apart sandals that I cannot find an acceptable replacement for.

        You see, I’ve got something in common with Paris Hilton, and it makes buying shoes a huge pain. Keyword: huge. As in, feet. She wears an 11, I actually wear a 12. So, when I find good, sturdy, comfortable shoes that fit me, I buy them. Sometimes, I have had only one pair that I could go wear in public, other times, like now, I’ve been lucky. One top of having clown feet, I can’t just buy ANY shoes that fit, because this past year, wearing bad shoes threw my knee out of alignment to the point that I had to use a cane to get around, and I had to have my teenage son put on my socks and shoes for me, because I was unable to bend my knee without wanting to scream. I couldn’t work for over a month (I do occasional temp work at factories through Adecco, and I had to turn down assignments repeatedly, because they were for jobs I’d done before and I knew I was in no condition to do them with the knee like that)

        So, for me and my DH, cheap shoes are more expensive than expensive ones.

        I think I’d better get off the internet before I just take this blog over entirely…..

    • Malia on June 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm

      My husband is a Geologist and is quite enamored with geothermal. When the time comes for us to overhaul our hearting/cooling unit, that’s what we plan to do.

  12. Erin on June 4, 2009 at 11:43 am

    LOL! My boys used to be jealous of my daughter because she “had so many pairs of shoes”…in a way, they were right…they each had a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of sandals. She had a pair of tennis shoes and 6 pairs of $1 flip flops in “girl colors” (she’s girly)…when they started becoming aware of how much things cost per item, they agreed they didn’t want $1 flip flops and it was okay that she had them.

  13. christopher575 on June 4, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Two words: public transportation.

    I know it’s not an option in every city, but even in places where it is, some people just can’t let go of a car even if car ownership is ruining their lives.

    • Diaper Cakes Becca on June 4, 2009 at 1:46 pm

      Phoenix is slowly getting there…but for us in the suburb we have to solo ride it. They just opened up a light rail up in the city. We’d have to drive a ways to get there but would happily take it if our destination was within walking distance of a stop. They stopped the line (for now) 2 miles from the Zoo. Once the zoo is on the route I will be ALL ABOUT the light rail.

  14. Angela on June 4, 2009 at 8:47 am

    I buy my clothes new or make them myself, this stems from two things: I went to school with cousins that got pretty much whatever they wanted and it was spanking new, we could not do that and well kids notice those things and my MIL is a secondhandoholic and instead of buying one really nice thing brings loads of junk in to my house for every holiday. I just can not get myself to go into one of those stores, I tried a few years back and picked the wrong one, her prices were the same as going to the clearance rack.

    I guess as thrifty as I get is cloth diapering, I even spent a lot on that though and did not go the thriftiest was, but a way that works for us. When I do not have to change every diaper, that is a good deal.

    We eat wild game and buy beef by the half cow. Our wild game is free for us, they are daring adventures cooking them, but free meat.

    We live in a small house, helping save us some money, but we will not be this way for too much longer. We also keep the house cool in the winter and warm in the summer… I only like to run the A/C in July and August and love the months I do not need to run the A/C or heat. We are working on cutting the electricity and water down now.

    • Heather on June 4, 2009 at 9:52 am

      Living up near the Arctic circle I can’t imagine you need AC much at all. 😉

  15. ThatBobbieGirl on June 4, 2009 at 8:25 am

    What do we do that many won’t?
    Bread is one thing – it is extremely rare that we buy bread. Sometimes we get some for free, but mostly we bake our own. And we bake it from freshly ground wheat and oats we roll ourselves. And, on top of that, the wheat has been soaked, then dried, to make it more digestible. (It helps to neutralize the phytic acid that is in all seed – it’s the stuff that keeps seeds from just sprouting while they’re sitting around waiting to be planted. It also makes them harder to digest, and robs the body of the nutrition you could otherwise get from it. We do this to almonds and walnuts, too)

    Also, I don’t buy salad dressings. I make my own mayonnaise. We don’t go to doctors, preferring to cure ourselves at home. Don’t have cable (can’t get it) or satellite, and don’t go to movies. DH watches for incredible buys on DVDs on ebay, then I resell them when we don’t want them anymore.

    We don’t eat cold cereal at all. (I don’t think it’s very good for you, no matter what kind you get. It’s that phytic acid thing again – the grains the cereals are made from have not had it neutralized. Other reasons too)

    It’s also very rare that I buy anything at a store’s “regular price” – I shop sales and stock up on those so that I don’t ever run out of something and HAVE TO buy it at regular price.

    Oh, and every couple months, I shop at a salvage grocery store called BBs. Lots of my friends go there, too. The deals aren’t nearly as good as they used to be (I once got 5 banana boxes of canned tomatoes for a total of TEN DOLLARS). Lots more people are willing to shop at those kinds of stores now due to tougher times, so their prices are higher – but still worth the trouble on most stuff. I usually set aside an entire day, because it takes forever to sort thru stuff to find what you want.

    • Diaper Cakes Becca on June 4, 2009 at 1:43 pm

      Wow~!! I have to say I am totally impressed by BobbieGirl’s thriftiness. Lots of good ideas….I do wonder, though, is it possible to bake your own bread and have it turn out as soft and easy to cut as bagged sandwich bread?? What is the secret to THAT?? (Future issue to demystify for us Home-Ec101??)

      • ThatBobbieGirl on June 4, 2009 at 1:55 pm

        My all-wholegrain honey wheat oatmeal bread recipe is on Recipezaar. It’s a bread machine recipe, but I stopped baking it in the bread machine a while ago. I just use the dough cycle, then do the second rise in a bread pan and bake it in the oven at 325F for 30 minutes. It comes out even better this way, especially when you’ve got variation in air temps that affect how the dough rises.

        We use this recipe all the time for sandwiches, and my husband actually complains when I give him store bread rather than this. If I want crusty bread, i leave it out to cool. If I want to slice it for sandwiches, i wait about five minutes, then put it in a bag.

        To find it, google “thatbobbiegirl honey wheat oatmeal bread” and you’ll find it easily. I’ve also posted one that uses half wheat and half white flour. That was the original version – I came up with the wholegrain one later on. Oh, and sometimes I use maple syrup instead of honey — very yum!

      • Heather on June 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

        Bread that has cooled is MUCH easier to cut. Also rubbing butter into the crust can make it softer, too. Maybe not healthier, but softer 😉

  16. Becca on June 4, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Oh the thrifty things Becca will do…..

    I buy all of my clothes second hand. Really. I had one really hard year when Mr. Becca and I were separated and I was going it alone and I had no choice but to second hand it. Now I do not see the reasoning behind spending a lot of money on new clohes that could, quite likely, become ruined by grease and other kid detris.

    I refinish my own furniure. This way it all matches but I can, once again, buy the HARD pieces used. I am very picky about upholstered items (pesky critters, bed bugs, etc make me only buy these items new). But I have a sander of my own and a knack with matching stain. In fact I am turning a set of bunk beds my inlaws gave us into a snazzy white-washed beach-cottage flavored thing for my ladies. (It took two days of painting but I saved us TONS of money doing it this way instead of buying a similar set at some expensive furniture store).

    I buy store brand, all the time. Food is food.

    I bought thermal curtains for ALL my windows (the last of them arrive via UPS tomorrow). We will be living in a dark cave all summer but our electric bill will be significantly less becaus of it (it better be, anyway).

    I utilize craigslist. I buy things, sell things and barter things on this site. The beds my girls were in (matching sleigh toddler beds….) have a queue of folks lined up wanting them at the bargain price of $80.00 WITH the mattresses. After we are done with their room makeover we will have enough money in our pockets to fill up BOTH cars with gas!!

    I am a CHEAPSKATE and proud of it. Money wasted is nothing to joke about.

    (Oh….I never buy generic Mountain Dew. That is my one rule….the Becca needs the good stuff when it comes to caffeine)

    • Heather on June 4, 2009 at 5:05 am

      I’m with you on Craigslist (Well not ON Craigslist 😉 ). We needed a dehumidifier to help with a mold / mildew / allergy problem. The cheapest I could find a new, offbrand model was $150. The husband found a used Kenmore on CL for $38 bucks.

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