I'm not cheap, I'm frugal. (Or maybe I'm cheap...but I'm okay with it.)

All of my grandparents lived through the blessing and the curse that was The Great Depression.  I call it a curse for obvious reasons, but I call it a blessing because I think it taught that generation so very much about finances and material possessions.  And how to be resourceful.  And how to appreciate what you have rather than coveting what you don't.  And how not to overextend yourself financially, because, well, Hello Great Depression.

I will admit to being excessively frugal.  It pains me to spend money.  To the point that even when I need something, I try to figure out a way not to have to buy it.  I am 99.9% sure that this is a result of the way my parents were raised, and in turn raised me.  But when I say "my parents", I primarily mean my mom.

My mom's frugality was her contribution to our single-income family.  She did her darnedest to make sure that every dollar my dad earned went as far as it possibly could.  We did our back-to-school shopping at the Village Thrift Store and Ames.  Needless to say, we didn't wear name brand clothes.  We ate every meal at home, excepting Sunday after church when we'd splurge on Taco Bell, McDonalds, or maybe Subway.  She didn't make impulse buys.  She couponed.  She went to seven different grocery stores in a week to buy the cheapest things that were on sale at each one.  We drank Little Hugs in our lunch every day (which I'm pretty sure is the least expensive beverage to ever be manufactured and sold). If I wanted a treat while we were out grocery shopping, she would lend me the money for it, and she would leave a post-it note on my dresser at home as a reminder to pay her back (i.e. - "Owe Mom $0.33 for Snickers Bar").

And none of that seemed at all weird to me.  

That was life.  

Then I entered middle school.  Apparently middle school is the era in a person's life in which one can only be considered cool if wearing Doc Martens and a Greenday t-shirt.  (Oh dear, I think I'm dating myself here.)  At any rate, it was the first time I became aware of the "need" for name brands.  So I did what I thought any tween would do.  I cleaned houses and saved my dollars to buy my very own pair of Reebok Classics, the first name-brand anything I ever owned.  I bargain hunted for the entire summer and finally bought them at Marshalls because they had the best deal.  And I loved those shoes.  

Times have changed.  Maybe that's not what the typical tween would have done then, but it's certainly not what the typical tween would do now.  I defer to my post about entitlement.  Most tweens would just ask their parents.  And a lot of these parents would simply say "Okay, sure."  But I've already said plenty about that.

Today, I just want to express my appreciation for my mother's frugality.  It all came flooding back to me this weekend as I prepped to send Ben back to school today.  He was toting his washed and good-as-new bookbag from Pre-K two years ago, wearing his Target shoes, and sporting some shorts out of which we were lucky enough to get two summers worth of wear (and I swear they still look great).  His shirt is new.  (We got it on sale at the Gap outlet...with a coupon.)  And boy did he look handsome, if I might say so myself - my big first grader and his two silly sisters.

I don't claim to be perfect.  I enjoy Dunkin' Donuts coffee more regularly than I care to admit.  And while a $2 coffee is hardly a Coach purse, I still feel guilty for indulging.

The point is - I appreciate my mom for her penny-pinching.  Strange as it may sound, I don't feel that I missed out on anything because I didn't have Nikes when I was 6 years old or Abercrombie jeans when I was 16.  Because when I type it out like that, it sounds kind of like a no-brainer.  I didn't miss out on anything.  I had everything I needed.  I appreciate, in retrospect, the fact that she put zero emphasis on having the most expensive clothing, the fanciest toys, or the nicest vehicles.

Oh, the vehicles...I could write another entire post about those.

Let's just say, when my sister passed up this free '79 Corolla on her 16th birthday, I was elated because it meant I could have it...five years down the line.  And that is how I ended up with my Green Machine.

I hope I pass a small portion of this frugal-mindedness on to my own kids; though maybe not to the extreme that my mom did.  I can probably spring for a candy bar now and then without fear of ruining them or breaking myself.  And I hope some day I can buy a pair if jeans when I need them without sweating about it.

In the meantime, I'll spring for that DD coffee every once in a while, and smile as I think about my mom and her crazy, imparted ways - because that guilty feeling I get at the drive thru comes from her.  And, for some inexplicable reason, I'm grateful for it.


Denise said...

I think your mom did a fabulous job where finances are concerned. Our children really have way more than they NEED. My husband always worried about my girls with money and work ethic. He always said if we give them everything they will not want for anything and therefore won't want to work for anything. Don't know yet how that logic worked...they're just getting grown. We shall see.
Loved the post and high five to your mom!

Sherri said...

I love this post, and it sure rings true this time each year, when the kids NEED so many things for back to school that they really don't need. My parents were pretty frugal as well, and it's second nature to me. It isn't a big thing with my son really, but my daughter is heading to 7th grade and has serious jonesing for the Abercrombie stuff. So I figure out what I would be willing to pay for a Target t-shirt, and she has to pay the rest if it's that important to her...so sometimes it is, sometimes not.
Kudos to your mom, she did a great job! And I remember being so jazzed that I could squeeze 3 summers out of my son's Target shorts once! Love those adjustable waists!

Lorilynne said...

My parents were horrible with money and as a result, I'm super frugal. I hate parting with my money even when it's for things I need and I have a tendency to over agonize over purchases. I remember my first pair of name brand shoes were Reebok classics too! I babysat for many hours to earn enough money to buy those darn shoes and I loved them.

Debbie said...

Yet another reason for me to like that mom of yours! I agree with everything that you said in this post, Jennie. I relate too well. I have the same guilt over the new jeans. (Of course, my biggest problem is that the size is always so, um... temporary... that it hardly seems frugal to buy them at any price.)

Great post, as usual. Your mom raised a wise daughter. I am very confident that you are passing the quality along to the next generation.

Katie said...

Yes the whole post was great, but those of us that were lucky enough to know the Green Machine would love a whole post about it!

Danielle said...

Love this post. I am extremely frugal myself, but almost to a fault! Thanks for encouragement with my son and kindergarten. I'm sure down the road with high school and then college, I'll think Kindergarten was nothing!

FrouFrouBritches said...

I couldn't agree more. My mom did buy on sale and use a few coupons. She wasn't totally frugal all the time, but when we totally cut out eating out and buying new clothes in high school to pay off all the credit cards, I started to "get it". We started hearing a whole lot more no's than yes's. I am so glad to have gone through that. It prepared me for the real world. Now, a LOT of my kids clothes come from Target or I make them, which isn't necessarily cheap either. But they never get toys unless it's their birthday or Christmas. While I HATE having to tell them "no" all the time, I think they appreciate their stuff much more than their cousins who get new stuff constantly. As for spending money on myself, I almost never do. I spent less than $50 on myself for clothes this summer and I felt guilty about spending that. Great post!

Christina said...

I SOOOOO remember your dad driving that car!!!! I too am a penny pincher, though I know I could do without half the crap I buy with a coupon! But I sure do my darndest to be thrifty! Good for you girlie!

Kristen said...

I can tell our age difference by your post - my early teen years you had to have an Esprit or Benneton something to show style. Great post with a great reminder.

Post a Comment

Before you go, I'd love to hear from you! Let me know what's on your mind! (Please and thank you.)

Back to Top