The traditional role of the women in our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations was less about earning money than about spending it. Most women of their era were adept at working within and stretching the household budget to feed, clothe and care for the everyday needs of their family. Whether they had a degree in Home Economics or not, most women of those generations gained their doctorate in financial proficiency through managing the economics of their own homes. For most of us, our mothers indelibly influenced attitudes about many aspects of life, money included. What did your mother – or grandmother – teach you about managing your monetary resources?
I certainly learned some financial lessons from my mom. Here are two of them:
- Women can manage the family finances. Her mother may not have taken this role, but my mom was the keeper of the purse strings in our family. When it came to purchasing insurance, vehicles, furniture and the like, paying bills and keeping the checkbook, it was all Mom. I grew up knowing that women can not only handle money but stretch a dollar, purchase wisely and save. Money was tight and she taught lessons in reusing and repurposing that became deeply ingrained in my psyche and still influence the way I handle finances.
- It’s possible to be too generous. As much as I admired her intelligence, resourcefulness and adeptness at managing our family finances, I likewise admired her generosity. That generosity, however, created financial challenges for her later in life. As we grew up and flew out of the house, Mom soothed her “empty nest pangs” by feathering the nests of her children. At the point in her life when they finally had money that didn’t need to be spent on the family, she continued doing so. Instead of saving for their future and their own rainy days, she insisted she’d rather see us enjoy the things she continued to provide for us. At times they experienced financial hardships because Mom was being so generous to us. This taught me that while generosity is admirable, it’s important to take care of your own financial needs first and foremost.
Many of the habits we grew up with were never identified as “frugal” – they were standard operating procedure. We used what we had – materials, knowledge, talent and creativity – as well as money to do and get what we needed; and we certainly weren’t the only ones. Here’s a list I’ve compiled from friends and family of frugal tips and practices learned from their mothers and grandmothers:
- Used what we had instead of buying other products (like vinegar rinse for hair and window cleaning; used newspaper to wipe the spray)
- Used the library
- Reused paper lunch bags, baggies and containers around the house
- Wore clothes more than once before laundering
- Made homemade treats (Kool-aid ice pops in ice cube trays and popcorn)
- Rationed snacks and sweets for occasional distribution
- Sewed homemade clothing and altered hand-me-downs for siblings
- Collected rainwater in trash cans to hand water the garden
- Cooked dinners specifically for leftovers
- Dried laundry on the clothesline
- Saved change (wrapped pennies in coin wrappers and took them to the bank)
This traditional financial wisdom of our mothers and grandmothers is often forgotten or disregarded in our modern world. These frugal lessons and wise money management practices are even more important now, however, as we realize that our planet’s resources are no more infinite than our financial ones. Listen to your mother – there’s a lot you can learn!
What did you learn about money and frugality from your mother and grandmother?