With the economy being what it is, and what looks like more rough times ahead of us, it's a good idea to learn the art of being "frugal". However, if you were lucky enough to have had parents like mine, no lessons are needed!
All that is required are refresher courses! In some cases, minimal frugality has become a way of life, woven into the very essence of us, childhood experiences that developed into adult behaviors. When I was a young child, (yesterday) my mother and father struggled to "make ends meet".
My father was a milkman and worked long, hard hours, and my mother worked at home. (She was a housewife, mother, bookkeeper, seamstress, chef, well... you get the picture). I don't know if we were below the poverty level, I never felt deprived. I saw my mother, scrimp, save, recycle, stretch, pinch, substitute, do without, for most of my childhood. I don't think I ever saw her throw ANYTHING out!
It never occurred to me that this was anything but normal behavior. There were drawers full of used aluminum foil that had been washed and folded to use again. There were butter tubs that were used for anything from cereal bowls and leftover containers, to small hardware organizers. There was a drawer for plastic lids, of every imaginable size; empty coffee cans under the sink, out in the garage, down in the basement.
Everything was used until it just couldn't be used anymore. Every scrap of cloth was saved, washed, sewn into either a quilt, curtain or sofa cover; clothes that had rips and tears were patched, socks with holes were darned. We were able to buy new clothes for school occasionally, but hand-me-downs from older cousins were the norm for many years. My mother used to "stretch the milk" (yes, even the milkman's family had to pay for milk!) by adding Carnation Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk to each gallon that we drank. I used to love the little milk cartons we got at school with our lunch because it was "straight milk"!
I have to give my mother credit, she always came up with something for us to eat; we thought we were getting a treat when we occasionally found a jelly and butter sandwich in our lunch bag. She would cook a ham, chicken or roast beef on Sunday and then make the leftovers last for days. Hot dogs and beans were served on Saturday's and many times we "fished" for our dinner, when my father had time; weather and tides permitting. Trips to town were consolidated, even before the gas crisis of the 70's.
Christmas must have been so stressful for them! My fathers' handmade doll chair, door stop and numerous other wood carvings, treasures that now come to mind when I think of how they managed to make our holidays special. It must of killed them to watch my brother and I pour over the Sears Christmas Wish Catalog knowing that they wouldn't be able to give us what we had written on our Santa lists. We were such selfish children! Later, when my father became ill and unable to work, the money that mother had managed to save, kept them from total despair.
So, as I sit here clipping coupons and doing my best to follow in some incredible footsteps, I can be thankful that I am in a much better position than my mother and father were all those years ago. I am thankful that I have the knowledge of how to be frugal; although I do not possess the many talents that my mother has, to do what she did. I can't make couch covers, or quilts, but I can stretch a dollar and I do possess the willpower to live within my means. And I also have a drawer of lids, and a few folded up pieces of aluminum foil tucked away.