Skill with money was a lesson I learned very early. I was given an allowance for helping in the kitchen, doing chores, dusting, ironing, sweeping, weeding, picking vegetables, picking up rocks and sticks in the newly cleared field, feeding the animals, cleaning the barn and more, $2.50 each week. We were expected to contribute to the upkeep of the household in the form of work in order to receive any money. With my allowance, I was supposed to purchase all my clothes and shoes, tickets for the movies, etc. Saving enough for a new winter coat or a new dress for school was difficult. Though my friends thought my allowance was a lot, their parents bought their clothes and paid for the movies. Little did they know that I did without a lot of things I wanted because I could not pay for them. A trip to the movies took a week’s allowance and left me with nothing to spare.
I budgeted a certain amount of cash for each type if expenses, divided into envelopes marked clothing, entertainment, school needs, tithing, miscellaneous. Sometimes I would have to borrow from one envelope to make a payment needed in another category, clothing being a big ticket item. Thus I became a thrift store shopper. The only one around when I was in junior high and high school was Goodwill off Boren Avenue in Seattle. I can remember getting dresses there from Saks Fifth Avenue. Some of my favorites were dresses by Lanz which was popular at the time. Many of the clothes sold there were outdated and I didn’t want them when I was in high school. They just weren’t cool, but if you really “shopped” the store you could find some wonderful treasures. Fads and fashion were what it was all about and you needed to find the most recent craze so folks didn’t know that you purchased it second hand. Later I furnished my first apartment entirely from second had goods.
When I was in junior high, my parents devised a method so TV wouldn’t take up all our after school time. We were not allowed to watch until evening after chores and homework were finished. We were given an allowance each week which included a little extra for “pay TV.” We each got an extra quarter. Each program was 5 cents. Most programs were a half hour. We could watch more than five programs, but the extra shows came out of our regular allowance at a nickel each. I saved all mine and skipped most of the programs. My sis always ate through all her allowance. Needless to say this plan didn’t fare very well with either of us.
The consequence of my being frugal as a child is that I now am frugal as well. Because I can stretch a penny endlessly, I don’t need a lot of money and therefore do not work as much as most people. This has been the bane of my life. If I had worked more, even full time, for most of my life, I would have a better, more comfortable retirement, or even a retirement. As it is, I tell my husband that I will have to work until I die to make ends meet. Most of my adult life I have either been self employed or worked part time. Consequently I have not garnered the retirement most create by working full time. Social Security is greatly decreased and my “retirement accounts” are abysmally small compared to the full timer.
But…I can still stretch that penny. Because I make food from scratch, can and freeze a lot, because I shop at the thrift store and seldom purchase new goods, because we do not travel extensively or have expensive tastes, the minimal retirement that we do have goes a long ways, for which I am thankful.
My parents idea of teaching me to frugal as child did not necessarily work out as an adult. I am willing to do with much less. I save as much as I can and spend little compared to my contemporaries, I am satisfied with little, I work hard with small resources to create a happy and prosperous home environment, not a wealthy one, but one that comes from hard work and frugality.