More commonly, though, you learn money-saving habits through the efforts of someone else. That someone is often older; sometimes their knowledge came as a result of living through the Great Depression. Sometimes they had to learn to survive. And sometimes it just comes down the branches of your family tree.
My Frugal Roots – My Dad
I was lucky to inherit the penny-pinching gene from both sides of the family. My dad’s ancestry was pure, unadulterated Dutch — and the best variation: Dutch farmers. He grew up taking care of his parents’ chickens and garden, then had his own acreage as a young man before going into the Army. When he was discharged, he met my mom (and me, incidentally), and purchased his own farm.
Dad’s everyday clothes were his work uniform (with “Pete” stitched on the pocket) and heavy, clunky work boots. He only wore other clothes on nights out, or to church. He liked to eat, but even better, liked eating the beef, pork and vegetables his farm and garden produced. (Going out to eat was reserved for birthdays and other rare occasions, until the folks were retired.) He read voraciously — but got his books at yard sales, or as Christmas presents from his daughter and wife (who also purchased them at yard sales or thrift shops).
Travel? That meant driving to see his kids, and only occasionally, somewhere else. He only took a plane ride a few times in his life, and refused to go out of the country. (“I like staying home,” he said.)
I’ve written about my dad before. He taught me how to dicker, trade and swap for the best deal. (Being “a real Hollander” was one of the highest compliments possible in the DeVries household.) But most of all, he taught me the value of life quietly and ethically lived.
My Frugal Roots – My Mom
Mom’s side of the family was anything but quiet. Her relatives enjoyed a good, loud discussion with their opinions amply expressed. (Dad would just listen and grin.) My grandpa had a steady (though low-paying) job during the Depression as a mailman — and he and Grandma lived on the same farm my mom now owns. (Dad died more than three years ago.) Many of their cousins, uncles and aunts didn’t have work. So where did they go? To live for a few days, weeks or months on the farm.
That taught my mom two things: how to stretch your food wisely, without wasting a bit, and the value of hospitality. She is a genius as soups and casseroles that mix frugal ingredients, yet are tastier than T-bone steaks. She taught me to bake pie, bread, biscuits and cookies — something my grandma was a genius at, when she fed the threshers (and umpteen relatives) at the dinner table. But even more, Mom taught me that hospitality doesn’t have to be either lavish or expensive. Good, simple food is just fine, as long as it’s made with quality ingredients (like fresh produce and meats we grew, raised or hunted ourselves), the coffee’s hot, (especially for ‘coffee break’) and it’s all shared with people you love.
Mom loves to travel, so we did it — a lot — when I was growing up. But we drove, camped wherever we went, and Mom cooked our meals outside on a gas stove. (I can still feel what it was like to wake up and smell coffee perking and bacon cooking, mixed with the aroma of tent canvas.) And, of course, you don’t always go alone– you travel with friends or another family just as much as you go by yourselves. With eight kids in the original family (and now grandkids and great-grandkids), there are always weddings and graduations and funerals to celebrate. Mom’s family taught me the joy of doing that together.
You’ve learned good stuff. Why not pass your frugal knowledge on to someone else? Think of it as a valuable gift that may benefit for generations to come.