Some of you may find it difficult to believe I was raised by a dad who lived during the Depression, but it’s the truth. I was born when my dad was 52. He was born in 1924. You do the math.
Growing up with a father who had lived through the Depression and fought in World War II wasn’t something I really thought much about until I was older and realized not everyone had been brought up the way I was brought up. One of the biggest differences I noticed was that I was “naturally” frugal. The things people did to save money weren’t revolutionary to me because I lived it all through my growing up years.
As I was perusing Pinterest the other day, I ran across an article about Depression Era frugality. I clicked over and read through a rather ridiculous list of money-saving tips, some of which would not have applied back then. (Sometimes the internet is full of nonsense – there’s a Depression Era tip for ya…)
Having grown up with a dad who lived through those years FOR REAL made me realize I had a WAY better list of tips that came naturally to me but could actually help someone who didn’t have the benefit of living with a dad born in 1924. So, here goes…
#1 – Don’t use the lights if you don’t have to, and use the lights with the least amount of bulbs when you do.
We can talk all day long about energy-saving light bulbs, but it’s even cheaper if you just don’t use the lights. When it is daylight, use the natural light by opening up your windows. When you do use the lights, use lamps or the switch with the least amount of bulbs in use. As a kid, I don’t remember having the overhead lights on very much, and if you left a room (even if you were only stepping out for a moment), you better have turned the lights off. (You might think we used candles instead, but my dad only allowed candles in the winter because they give off heat. Yes, really.)
#2 – Utility bills are meant to be a challenge.
Every utility bill that came through my dad’s hands was looked over carefully and scrutinized. There was no mindless paying of bills. If he thought we could lower the bill, we would. The next month would be a challenge to economize beyond what we were already doing.
#3 – Fix it yourself, but have the sense to know when you can’t.
My dad was a farmer who bought older equipment and kept it running himself rather than buying new and hiring someone to keep it running. However, when it came to car repairs, my dad knew when it was time to take it to a shop and let someone else fix it. Being frugal can get expensive when you don’t know what you are doing.
#4 – Every financial decision starts with, “Do we really need it?”
And if we did indeed need it, then how could we go about getting the best deal. There were no impulse buys.
#5 – Live like you don’t have money, and act like you don’t care.
It wasn’t until I was applying for college that I realized we were upper-middle class. I had no idea my dad had managed to amass that kind of stock portfolio and annual income because we didn’t live like we had that kind of money. Yet, we also didn’t live like we didn’t have any money. We lived like it didn’t matter. We lived well below our means, and we weren’t trying to impress anyone (although, my dad did buy a bigger, nicer house when I was in elementary school that I’m pretty sure was sort of a “dream” home for him). We didn’t buy brand new fancy cars or machinery, we didn’t wear designer clothes, and it wasn’t a “woe is me” situation. It just was the way it was.
The people I know who are overly concerned about their financial welfare tend to be people who “feel” poor or grew up “feeling” poor. My guess would be their parents were not quiet about their financial woes, and more than likely tended toward “the-grass-is-always-greener-in-someone-else’s-pasture”. That attitude doesn’t do anyone any financial favors.
#6 – Kids don’t need stuff, they need you.
I remember how badly I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll. I begged my parents for one. They told me to save up and buy it myself. Ugh. Well, I DID! Actually, I saved up and before I got all the money together, I found a knock-off at a craft fair for cheaper, and bought it. And I was happy!
My dad didn’t gave in to whims. He wasn’t swayed by what “all the other kids” were doing. I would like to add that anywhere lots of kids are together for an ongoing amount of time (youth group, public school, corporate classes, etc), you will find a hotbed of covetousness. Kids do not like to be different, and some kids like to point out differences. It can make cracking down on finances quite difficult for parents.
My parents were always very matter-of-fact about what I could and could not have. If I was ever angry about it, I certainly got over it. My parents spent A LOT of time with me. In fact, I pretty much went everywhere with them. I didn’t need stuff because I had them.
#7 – Even splurges were never splurges.
Lest you think my family never bought anything new or never went out to eat or never took vacations, let me dispel that myth right now. However, even something that would be considered a “splurge” was not cause to throw all caution to the wind and spend like there was no tomorrow. Many of our vacations came about because my dad was on various boards and we went with him when he attended the conferences. Things we purchased new were done so after much research and finding of the best deal. (We did go out eat fairly regularly, but my mom was mortified by how little my dad tipped. You can be too frugal.)
#8 – Owe no man.
My dad was a farmer who managed to keep his head above water because he operated with very little debt. He wasn’t living from bank loan to bank loan like many other farmers. He didn’t buy new equipment because new would require him to go into debt. He managed his money well, and did not make foolish purchases. He lived out the Biblical admonition to “owe no man.” He didn’t like the feeling of being beholden to anyone…including a bank. If you never go into debt, you never have to get out of it.
I’ve also posted about how these things specifically affect my own family today and how we manage our finances with a MUCH larger family than I grew up in – you can read that post here. You can also take a look at my other Frugal Living posts here on Raising Arrows, and my Frugal Living board on Pinterest.