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Friday, January 28, 2011


Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor.
~Samuel Johnson~

Here are some simple rules that I hope that we've instilled in our children.

1. Live within your means.
    This one is pretty self-evident, but very few people practice it.  Always base your expenditures     upon  what your income is today, not what you expect to earn in the future.  Don't let realty agents or cars salesmen, or anyone else talk you into spending more than you know you can afford.

2. Plan ahead.
    This is a good rule for everything from planning a shopping list to eliminate extra trips to the grocery store, to saving for a big car repair when your car has 100,000 miles on it.  You know it's going to happen, so start preparing now.  I know an acquaintance that lives on a fixed income.  She is diabetic and knows that she must pay for medicine, but whenever she has a few extra pennies, she spends them on goodies at the thrift store,  fast foods, and she never economizes at the grocery store.  She even manages to go on a vacation.  But then asks to borrow money because she doesn't have the money for her medicine.  I know it isn't fun to go without little luxuries, but the medicine is an essential.  Which leads me to the next rule...

3.  Know the difference between a need and a want.
     Take care of your needs first.  Prepare for future needs and then and only then should you indulge in a luxury.  Of course differentiating from a want and a need is difficult for some people.  You have to question every purchase, even something as mundane as a box of Little Debbie snack cakes.

4.  Don't try to keep up with the Joneses.
     You can bet dollars to donuts that they are in debt up to their eyeballs  trying to keep up with someone too.  You  simply cannot afford a $250,000 home, a new SUV, a trip to Disneyland, and a walk-in closet full of clothes on the wages of the average American (around $40,000). Which leads to rule number five...

5.  Be happy with what you have.
      Sure John Smith down the road may have more than you have, but you've got plenty.  My grandmother always said if you have a home and a car, you were doing alright in life.  There are many who don't.  Be grateful.

6.  Never a borrower be.
     I know that the average American cannot afford to buy a car with cash, but if you buy a less expensive model or maybe a good used one, you can pocket the difference in prices between that and the latest, greatest model.  Save that money and maybe you can pay cash for your next car, or at least put down a large down payment.  Do you really need a McMansion with a bedroom and bathroom for each child?  A den, living room, and media room?  Buy a modest priced home that doesn't cause you to break into a cold sweat each month trying to make the mortgage payment.

7.  Set goals.
     Whether it's how much to spend for Christmas or when you would like to pay off your mortgage, if you don't know what your goal is, how are you going to work toward it? Budgets and goals keep you focused.

8. Plan for the worst case scenario.
    Life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench in the best plans.  An unexpected illness, a job loss, or world events.  Right now I'm listening to the news talk about all the unrest in the Middle East.  What will that do to the cost of oil?  Can your family's budget stretch if gas gets to $4 or $5 a gallon?  What will the cost of groceries be if it does?  Start thinking about how to stock up a pantry, grow a garden, alternate ways of getting around now.  Maybe now would be a good time to install a woodstove (as we did in the 1970s when we had an oil embargo) It's a lot easier to plan when you are not in a crisis mode. Become as independent as you possibly can.

9. Be thrifty but not miserly.
    There's a big difference you now.  Being thrifty means not squandering your money foolishly.  Being miserly is to begrudge others and yourself when you can afford it.  I'll tell you the true story of one woman I knew who never would give her children anything in her house.  They had young  families and were struggling to make ends meet, but instead of giving them things they could have used when the needed them (and she didn't) she would always say "Put your name on it and when I die, you can have it."  The items would go into the basement and end up rusting or getting covered in mold. The children managed to establish their homes without her assistance.  Well, years passed and the woman grew old and feeble and had to be moved out of her home.  All those things that she had stored in the basement had to be thrown out.  The family now in their middle ages, had homes of their owns, bulging at the seams.  They no longer needed those things and they were unusable anyway.  The old lady was quite put out that no one wanted her old junk and it had all gone to waste.  The moral of this story is if that the time to give is when someone needs it.  If you can afford it, give when you are asked.  Even if you may need to sacrifice  to do so.

10.  Finally, enjoy life.
       Take up a hobby.  Learn something new everyday.  Be generous when you can.  Remember  what's important in life (and it aint things).


  1. Wow! I am going to post this at work and HOPE they will get a clue about THIFT. All I hear is how great their vacation was or the cool thing they bought and then without skipping a beat, they tell me they need a raise or promotion because they are in bad financial shape. With the way they handle money, maybe they shouldn't be working for me! Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. Well put, Jane!!! Plan ahead or for the worst case scenario is one plan that is used way too infrequently these days. Even when you read of a sad story of family out of work, most of their problems are not so much with the loss of a job but with a failure to have planned ahead. We are a culture that subscribes to "live for the moment". And then expects help from society in the future.

  3. Hi Sandy and Matty! Unfortunately when I ask some members of my family if they have any back-up plans, their back-up plan is me!LOL! That's why Jamie and I work so tirelessly during the summer. We are going to try small grain growing this year. OH well! Life is a fun adventure and Jamie and I love it.

  4. Hi Jane!

    Thanks for the simple rules! I heartily recommend these to everyone [perhaps because they are “comfortable” for me]! They allowed our farming family to survive through crop failures [hail, drought, too much water and shortened growing seasons], the economic variables associated with food production, storage and marketing, and the early, untimely accidental death of my father.

    I have tried to instil these principles in my children, too. It has been worth the effort, even though they were at times a bit unhappy with not “living up to the apparent standards” of some of their peers. Later on in life, I see that they are trying to practice the principles and pass them on to their children [both in word and deed], as much as possible under very differing circumstances. Having two households that use similar principles is helpful for the children, now, too.

    Number 9 really spoke to me! That has happened in our family. My children told me, “If you use the items, we will want to inherit them for the memories and stories they generate that we can share with our children as we use the articles, too!”

    Thrifty living has spurred me to look [on the internet] for new things I like or can learn to do that enhance the simpler lifestyle. It has been a wonderful journey for me with many more benefits than the traditional consumer lifestyle. Thanks again for sharing! Carol

    1. Happy Easter Carol! Hope you are having a lovely day!

      I think there's a certain camaraderie between people that live frugally, don't you? I'm glad you're children are passing on the thrifty traditions. I think it is one of the greatest satisfactions in my life to see how our values have been passed on to our sons, and that they are teaching their wives them too.

      I never understood the conspicuous consumerism that was so popular during most of my adulthood. What's the fun in it? I like the challenges of a thrifty lifestyle and it's a wonderful creative outlet.

      And living "simply" is a lot of hard work. You don't have time to be bored or discontented!

      Happy Easter again!


  5. Hi Jane!

    Happy Easter to you and your family, too, Jane!

    I think the camaraderie may stem from some shared values. For me, lack of shared values can put a damper on so many possibilities in life. How blessed you are to have your children embracing and sharing the values you have taught them! My prayer is that they have a community that will embrace, share, and support/strengthen them in their lives of stewardship.

    Two widows, my mother and Helen exchanged “talents.” My mother gave her children piano and organ lessons and she sewed our clothes. Mother knew how to sew, but it was more time efficient for her to give the piano lessons and have Helen sew our clothes. We didn’t know about the sites like that help one to find one’s best colors, clothing styles, but we knew how to “mix and match.” My sisters sewed at home, as they got older, but my jobs were the outdoor things, so I had no time to sew. After my first summer paycheck when I was in college, I went downtown and paid $2 down on a used sewing machine that had been traded in by a small high school’s home ec program. I made sure I paid for the machine before the summer was over. I didn’t have money to purchase cloth to sew much, but when I really needed something, I could make it for so much less than purchasing it. We didn’t have thrift stores in our area back then, only a donation box in the town where I went to college. I did like going into the expensive stores to see if there were any styles I liked. Then I would go to the fabric store to see if there were similar patterns and what selection of fabric was available. I even ended up making lots of improvisations and sewing my own wedding dress, since I didn’t like the fancy fabrics, styles or prices in the stores. It was quite fun! The final financial investment for me was only 5% of what I would have paid in a bridal shop and with a whole lot less stress and investment of time. The biggest pluses were that I got what I liked and it fit the way I wanted.

    For me, simple living is a whole mind-frame/ mind-set change. I find it enjoyable [until I have to cope with the outside world – the adjustment to “out-there” is sometimes not so fun], fruitful, challenging yet relaxing, healthier, and with boundless creativity options, too. I do agree that simple living is hard work. But oh! The joy! <3 [heart] ;-D

    Enjoy your Easter! And the week ahead, too! Thanks for writing!