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.