A Life of Thrift

Roger - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Entered on February 14, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in thrift.

Being born into a family of primarily German heritage, I learned early why asking each person to pay their own way is called “going Dutch.” My father reprimanded us for leaving a light on or not turning the heat down when we left the house for the day—this is before air conditioning for the middle class. My brothers and I did not have as many clothes as some classmates, and nice clothes were handed down from one to the next. We drove cars until they gave out and seldom took trips, much less vacations. At the time, we resented my father being so “cheap.” Yet, we all learned to use his thriftiness in positive ways. He died before retiring, but our mother enjoyed her retirement.

When my wife and I married, I was in the Navy just back from Vietnam. We received some furniture from each family, but not enough to furnish our four-room apartment. We bought a new car, refrigerator and bed, because my father had taught me that necessary items should be of lasting quality. For the rest, we went to the Waterfront Mission in Pensacola, picked up things from off the curb or out of dumpsters, and made a table by covering a utility wire spool with cloth to the floor. By repairing, sanding, painting and sewing, we had an attractive home.

We found inexpensive places to eat out once a week. Being infrequent, we looked forward to McDonalds. We continued to shop at thrift stores, use coupons and buy during end of the season sales. We spent vacations with family. After having children, we learned to exchange hand me downs with friends. We took trips to parks and outdoor attractions with little cost. As expected our children also complained about our being cheap. However, by not having the latest and most fashionable in clothes, furniture and cars, we were able to invest in property and savings accounts.

I had worked thirty-two hours a week for most of my college career. It taught me a lot about life. Therefore, we paid for our children’s tuition, fees, room and board (only the amount dormitories charged). They had to earn enough during the summers or with part-time jobs during school to pay for their fun times and luxuries. They also learned about life and thrift.

Since becoming empty-nesters, we travel more, but stay in places that are nice but not luxurious. We still shop thrift stores, finding wonderful items others have given away (many times my good fortune is a widow’s misfortune). We have not tried to keep up by moving up from one home to another.

We face retirement out of debt, with sufficient savings for a comfortable lifestyle and some travel. We do not think about what we “deserve.” Instead we rejoice in the blessings we have received. But most of all, we remember times when we had far less and treasure what we have now.