Pretending to be poor is in some ways akin to living like your grandparents. I don’t mean you should start watching daytime television and microwaving leftover coffee (although this is much cheaper than the Keurig). Pretending to be poor is nothing new; it’s actually quite old-fashioned. From the Proverbs to the Greatest Generation, we can reclaim a wealth of thrifty know-how from those who have gone before us.
Speaking of grandparents, my dad tells the story of how he thought his family was poor when he was growing up. Turns out they were just pretending. (Maybe it’s genetic?). Their investments put their five children through college and allowed them to retire before they were too old to enjoy it.
This type of lifestyle was once relatively normal but now it’s weird enough to be the subject of blogs like ours. It sure feels ironic to blog about how you should live more like your grandma did. But stick with me. What did your grandparents do? Some examples:
- Cooked homemade food.
- Grew a garden (& canned it).
- Hung laundry instead of using the dryer.
- Clothed the children in hand-me-downs.
- Saved up for purchases.
- Walked places.
What didn’t Grandma do?
- Buy things on credit (except a house).
- Shop as a pastime.
- Eat at restaurants often.
- Develop an expensive coffee habit.
- Waste things.
I realize times have changed. The Grandparents didn’t enter the workforce with $50,000+ in school debt. Grandma stayed at home with the kids so she had “more time” for frugal fixes like sock mending and scratch cooking. (Although she also didn’t have a lot of time-saving products like no-wrinkle work clothes and a microwave oven).
Without rejecting modern technology, why not view the “extra work” of running your home without tons of convenience items and consumer debt as a fun & thrifty throwback? Are any Little House on the Prairie fans tracking with me? I would’ve made a pitiful pioneer but when I start getting crabby about hanging the laundry I try to feel like a domestic money-saving goddess instead. Of course the burden of household savings shouldn’t all be on moms. There’s plenty of work to go around. Kids have to help, too! And this could give them a chance to earn change for their give, save, and spend jars. (We’re about to launch this plan with our 3-year-old. Results coming soon.)
So are you ready to take the Live Like Your Grandma challenge for the next month? Here it is:
- Interview your grandparents or other older relatives. What was it like to run a household when they raised your parents? What was it like when they were children? (This might be the ticket if you’re young like me.) Older generations didn’t talk as much about money but see if there’s any financial wisdom they’re willing to share.
- Give your dryer a break. Hang-dry your clothes for a month and track how much you save on electricity. String a simple line or invest in an inexpensive drying rack. Try to get your kids to help you. (To decrease wrinkles in nice clothes, give them a good snap, fluff 3-4 minutes in the dryer, snap again, dry on a hanger.)
- Cook from scratch. Cut back as much as you can on frozen meals, prepackaged side dishes, lunchbox snacks, cereal, granola bars, and all the stuff your great-grandparents probably didn’t eat. While you’re at it skip the Starbucks & the K-cups & maybe even microwave some coffee.
- Don’t shop as a pastime. Recreational retail is a dangerous game until you develop a healthy aversion to spending, and then you won’t find it much fun anymore. Find something free and old-fashioned to do instead. Go to the library, the park, a friend’s house, ride bikes, take a walk, de-clutter & sell something instead of buying.
- Put your savings to work. The steps above could save you $100 or more. Track how much you save, brag about it in the comments, and then put the money toward one of your financial goals, like paying off debt or maxing out your 401k. If you want a reward, keep it simple & go out for ice cream. I’m sure Grandma would approve.
How do you make money-saving fun? What are your thrifty throwback ideas?