Frugality Is a Good Thing

Douglas had told me that his parents were frugal when he was growing up, which I interpreted as being parsimonious, or unwilling to pay money or use their resources on what Douglas and his siblings wanted. But, I learned that he was right, as their refusal to spend money on things others took for granted, especially considering how wealthy they were, bordered on the extreme.

For the months we lived with them before I found a teaching position, I was appalled at their measures to save a buck. For example, if we had chicken for dinner and you had any leftover, the next day, that was your breakfast or lunch. Also, his mother measured just how much food each person would need and cooked and served no more than that per diner! I was always hungry!

I could not understand it, for they were rolling in dough, and both drove cars older than 15 years, and not fancy cars, but very plain, everyday autos that a typical middle-class person would buy, someone who couldn’t afford the Mercedes and Porches that they could have bought. There were towels that were older than me, and the comforter on their bed was made by Douglas as a gift to them while he was in college!

Having grew up poor, I just assumed that rich people went shopping all the time, for my dream had been to shop until I dropped, if I ever had a lot of wealth. Truth be told, I did it anyway, and I spent most of my adult life in tremendous debt, something that never happened to my in-laws. So, I have come to appreciate their frugality and see it as a good thing.

They did not buy their kids cars when they turned age 16, as some of Dad’s fellow doctor friends did, and often those same friends tried to get loans from them later in life. Douglas and his siblingsĀ had to buy school clothes and supplies from the allowance earned from doing chores. This instilled in the children a strong work ethic and the knowledge that nothing in life worth having comes free of charge or effort. Douglas’s bosses were so happy when he returned to work part-time recently, for the department he was in had declined since he left.

So, I must give my in-laws their due, for they were married nearly 71 years before Dad died, and part of that longevity was a lack of disagreement on money issues. Their marriage was not a case of one spender and one saver, but of a mutual decision to spend wisely so that they would have a great retirement, and they did. They went all over the world in their 60s and 70s, albeit budget traveling, but they would not have been able to realize their travel dreams had they spent recklessly and ostentatiously in their younger days.

Maybe being raised in the Great Depression was a factor, or that Mom grew up poor and never wanted to experience that again. Whatever fueled their parsimonious ways, they set future goals and saved accordingly. I wish that I could say that I had done the same, but money tended to flutter away in my haste to have things, as I tried to overcome the dearth of things I did not have growing up.

Today, I wish I had that money, but I thank God for what I do have and for parents-in-law who have taught me, by example, to reflect on every purchase, asking myself, “Do I really need this or can I save this money for our next trip?” They were not misers; they were realists. We should all think about our financial health as much as we do our physical or emotional health.

Fandango prompt is Due. Word of the Challenge is Parsimonious. Daily Addictions Prompt is Flutter.

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