Growing up on a Michigan farm meant my parents were anything but millionaires. Over the years, though, their insistence on keeping a budget, growing much of their own food, and investing their money wisely meant that they lived quite comfortably in retirement years. The Mama was reminded of this when she attended an alumni luncheon recently. Her old high school friends, many who came from much wealthier families, were barely living on Social Security, or depended on the help of adult children and other family members to keep them going. “I was so surprised,” Mom told me. “These women had so much more than us!” (And they spent it, I added quietly to myself.)
My folks never specifically gave speeches on frugal living. But their daily life was an open book on getting the most out of every dollar. My brother and I benefited from those lessons; it kept his family going after he lost a job and began a new business. That same knowledge helped sustain us through a few job layoffs and a low-paying-for-years position.
Now I watch our children dealing with college and learning to live on limited money. Our nephew and niece and their families are doing it, too. We’ve talked about frugal living in college over the years, but now’s an especially important time to pass on what we’ve learned.
Forms of Frugal Knowledge
I keep an eye out for extra copies of the best tomes in good condition, and gift them for Christmas. (Our nephew thrilled my soul when he opened his present and started cheering — turns out he’d wanted Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Revisited for ages!)
I’ll give a group of these for wedding shower and graduation presents, too, sometimes in a nice basket or storage tote, and often with a gift card. I can afford the extra; these books generally only cost $1-2 each from our local thrift shop or library’s used book room. Many are available from Amazon or Half.com for pennies on the dollar, too.
Knowing you should save money is one thing — actually saving is totally another. But sometimes what’s keeping others from doing it is not knowing where to begin. It may help them to know how you got started, how much you saved, and other specifics about your financial life.
Don’t be afraid to share your missteps, as well as your successes. You’ve learned from those decisions. Why not let others learn without having to make the same mistakes themselves?
This is also the perfect time to get grandparents and older uncles and aunts involved. Their experience may have inspired you — let them pass it on before it’s too late. (Record them, if possible, so that wisdom is preserved for decades to come.)
Tell your favorite person about a bargain found at a sale, or scooped up at the thrift shop. (In my family, this is called “Being a Hollander,” and is one of our favorite hobbies. A particularly good deal gives you bragging rights for months to come.) Start when they’re young, if possible. Mention specific instances of saving, and how you used that extra money. Encourage them to begin a savings plan — if you can, even offer to match any funds deposited, up to a certain amount. Listen to them.. Encourage them. And as they grow older, continue to talk about the importance of spending money wisely. Be honest.