Sunday, January 20, 2008

Generations of frugality

Yesterday I made my weekly pilgrimage to the charity thrift shop in my hometown. It is a joyous occasion and I look forward to it each week. What will I find? Will I use it now or am I saving it for when I need it? Plus the prices beat most anywhere else as where I live is in deep winter and garage sale season is months away.

This trip yielded two children's books for a future niece or nephew ($0.10 a piece), three pieces of size 10 clothing for my nearly six-year-old niece and a waffle maker (I saw it last week, passed on it and decided to buy one if still there this week). The clothing will go to my niece for her sixth birthday party. The two shirts and a skirt were in good shape and kept me within my budget for gift giving. I love it when a plan comes together!

At the same time I was hitting the library and then my thrift shop, my mom and my youngest sister were making their own pilgrimages to not one but two charity thrift shops. Why? My sister just signed the lease on her first solo apartment. She had lived with roommates in college and has been living with our parents at their house and commuting 40 minutes one way to her job. This allowed her to save money (if not car wear and tear) while she figured out where she wanted to live and what options she had. My lucky sister is leasing a two bedroom apartment in a eight-plex with underground heated parking. I never had a two bedroom place before my house and heated underground parking was a luxury I did not have before I was 30. She's only 22. Of course, I went to grad school and she wanted to forge ahead into the working world so two different choices and two different pathways.

Since she has only shared living spaces, she does not have enough furniture to furnish a place herself. So, like when I leased my first apartment, Mom was taking her shopping at local thrift shops to buy furniture. Both places had 50% off, but the first had no furniture left. The second, my sister did not like what she found.

My mom shops at these stores regularly. She finds clothing for all the grandkids, various toys and books for the same grandkids and occasionally, a furniture steal. My mom is quite frugal--when raising five kids, you have to be. My dad is a farmer and my mom was a stay-at-home mom for many years. One income is a challenge any time. One income that varies month-to-month--even more so. My mom knit mittens and hats, sewed and repaired clothing, canned fruit, froze vegetables, made jams and jellies, grew her own produce in the garden and learned to wallpaper and refinish furniture. Over the years, she has spent a lot of time finding and buying antique furniture, refinishing them and proudly displaying them in her home. I have two dressers that my mom refinished and they were great buys and look fabulous.

I know her mother attended estate sales and auctions to buy items at discount. She raised four baby boomer children and experienced World War II. My grandmother did know the value of a dollar as well and I suspect my mom received some frugal tutoring from her mother.

In turn, my frugal nature was nurtured by my mom. I do not have her knitting or wallpaper skills, but I did refinish my own wood trim for the window I had installed--and then stained and varnished the bare wood window. I plan on trying to refinish the top of a wood veneer table this spring and reusing the wood trim that was removed from the window (another refinishing job). I took a summer school sewing class when I was 15 and have used that skill to great advantage. During high school, I sewed about half my wardrobe. I learned to quilt about ten years ago and would like to learn how to crochet. I hope to try canning this year and am planning what to grow in my small garden bed. I also have a great contact when I have questions about things.

So learn from your mom or grandma or aunt or uncle or anyone who demonstrates frugal ways. They can help guide you and give you ideas on how to integrate frugality in your life!

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