As the daughter of a truck driver and stay-at-home mom, my family lived very frugally (and very happily). As an adult, I see the wisdom in the frugality of my parents. Below are the frugal ideas my father always espoused.
- Work smart, not hard. My dad believed in hard work. He constantly put in 60 hour work weeks, and somehow still managed to be active at church and in the community. The trick is that Dad never wasted effort. He constantly innovated to keep working smart.
- Don't make special trips. Dad understood that cars are big, deceptive, money-sucking machines. He understood that every time he fired up a personal vehicle, money was going down the drain. As a result, it was a family policy not to just run out for an item.
- “It took me X hours to get that!” Whenever Dad bought something, he thought about it in terms of how many hours of work it took him to earn it. This left him walking away without whatever item he was thinking about buying several times. He often applied this to TV as well. He realized the time suck that TV can become.
- If you can put off buying it, put it off. My parents never had a car payment. They drove junky cars that they could buy with their savings. Even if the car was going to die in the near future, my dad understood that if he could put off buying a new car for another month that was one more month they had to save and put off paying for tags, registration, new insurance coverage, etc. Sometimes the cars would last way beyond expectations. Right now my dad is driving a 1992 Oldsmobile with 200,000 miles on it. He expected it to die two years ago, but it just keeps on ticking.
- You have to take a risk sometimes. Now that I'm old enough to care about investing, I've learned that my dad took some pretty big (yet calculated) risks as an investor. As a young man he lost money in the stock market because of his risks. He's changed his risk strategy over his lifetime, but still takes risks. He was really the first one in his family to start investing, so he basically learned from scratch and is continually taking his calculated risks.
- Don't be afraid to ask. My dad is not shy. He is never afraid to ask for help. This often took the form of borrowing. We had a large garden growing up, but never owned a tiller. My dad always borrowed one from a neighbor. He would ask his pipefitter friend for plumbing help. Even today he is not shy about asking my husband for computer tips and help. He knows what I have come to know: most people like to help, you just have to have the guts to ask.
- “That UPS truck just ruined my whole vacation!” My dad has worked for UPS for years. Whenever he was on vacation if one of those iconic brown trucks went by he'd say with a smile, “That UPS truck just ruined my whole vacation.” My dad liked his job, but he understood the need for rest. One can't go on working 60 hour work weeks without rest. He always took a little of his vacation time just to hang around the house so that he could be ready to keep working later.
- Invest in yourself and your family. Dad understands that the only thing in this life that really matters is people. Ultimately all of our things can be taken away from us by governments, fires, and mismanagement. As a result, he knew the only sure investment is investing in yourself and your family. He helped all three of his children get through college in various ways. He continually improves himself with books, online research and asking questions. As a lifetime truck-driver he could have stagnated in his personal growth and still made the money he is making, but he chooses to keep improving himself.
- Let people feel the consequences of their actions. My dad did show grace to his children, but he also understood that we needed to feel the consequences of our actions. Around age nine, every January we had to present him with a yearly budget for our allowances. It included a variety of things like school supplies, clothing, spending money, camp fees, and incidentals. We would negotiate the yearly amounts, and then get that portioned to us on a monthly basis. I remember quite vividly one month my sister ran out of money about a week before allowance day. Instead of giving her money to go out with her friends, he let her stew for a week. I don't think that happened much after that first incident.
- Eat to get not-hungry. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but even as a little kid I can remember Dad saying, “We don't eat to be full; we eat to not be hungry.” It took about 15 years, but I am starting to understand the deep wisdom in this. First, eating to get full is a fast way to become overweight, and being overweight has a whole set of financial ramifications. Secondly, focusing on food is not healthy. People who eat to be full on a regular basis are often consumed (pardon the pun) with food. As Get Rich Slowly has addressed in the past, the food we eat has a whole set of financial ramifications.
- People come first. The final overriding wisdom my father has imparted to us kids is that people come first. You can see this theme throughout the other parts of this list. My parents have a generous giving plan and believe in putting people first, above the environment, above animals and above material possessions.
Ultimately, my dad found what was important to him in life and put his money where his heart was. As a result of this he lives frugally and is deliberate with his money. This money philosophy was imparted to me at a young age and helps me to live frugally. As a result, my husband and I are getting rich slowly.
What did you learn about money from your parents? What do you hope to teach your children?