In my day to day life, I naturally gravitate toward frugal options. I prefer to make a meal at home rather than eating out. I prefer to buy store brand options for most things. I love hitting sales in the produce section. My idea of a great family vacation involves camping in a national park, particularly when we have a free national parks pass. I love digging for bargains. I love the lack of stress that comes from not having any debt and earning more than we spend and having some money in the bank.
But what made me have that mindset? What kinds of things shifted my thinking in that direction? Obviously, at other points in my life, I was much more of a big spender. What brought about that shift?
I started making a list of the factors that made me frugal. I realized pretty quickly that some of the elements really did pre-date my turnaround – the foundations for the change were in place even as I was spending big. However, it took a few more elements for everything to really click into place.
So, without further ado, here are ten things that shaped my sense of frugality and my overall financial outlook, in roughly chronological order.
1. My parents
This story really has to start with them.
My father was a “jack of all trades” kind of person. He worked most of the time in a factory making construction equipment, but he was often laid off from his job, particularly when I was younger. To keep things afloat for our family, he seemed to constantly have all kinds of side gigs going on. He was an avid gardener, with gardens on an incredible scale for an individual person. He was a small scale commercial fisherman. He raised small amounts of livestock – pigs, chickens, goats, and rabbits. He did all kinds of odd jobs, from small car repairs to welding to foraging for things like fungi and wild ginseng. He always made sure that there was food on the table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our backs.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom and a frugal powerhouse. Her goal was to seemingly spend as little as possible in a given week so that we’d have money available when bigger moments came around. She did this by constantly doing things to cut our spending. She would do laundry and hang it out on the line in any and all weather short of a downpour or freezing temperature. We virtually never ate out and often had meals centered around what came out of the garden or the deep freezer or what was on sale at the grocery store. She was an avid reader, but we didn’t go to the book store for books, we always went to the library.
They each set financial examples for me, but in different ways. My father showed me the value of having a lot of skills and a lot of different income streams. If one faltered, you could always pick up another if you had a wide range of skills. My mother showed me the value of frugality and watching where pennies went.
Those values were embedded deep in me. In some ways, my years of “big spending” were something of a rebellion against them and an attempt to explore other avenues, but the underlying values were still there.