Depending on your age and circumstances, it’s likely your grandparents’ relationship with money was forged by some different (and probably tougher) financial times. My own grandparents have been gone for decades now, but their lifestyles were studies in frugality and sharp financial management that I remember to this day. In honor of all the grandmas and grandpas out there, here are ten financial lessons we’ve learned from our grandparents:
1. Pay Cash
My grandmother never owned a credit card. She paid cash for everything and tracked every nickel in little paper passbooks. We found dozens of them when she died. She was meticulous. She was frugal. And she was always in the black.
2. Take Care of Your Stuff
Today, we live in a throw-away culture where it’s easy and relatively cheap to replace most things we own. Not so for our grandparents. Every item was considered an investment, and therefore, everything was diligently cleaned, waxed, oiled, painted, patched, and repaired. Their stuff lasted forever — and that saved money.
3. Have Practical Skills
Doesn’t it seem like our grandparents’ generation was filled with renaissance men and women? My grandfather farmed, raised livestock, built his own house, repaired machinery, and — I kid you not — divined for water using the twigs of a willow tree. With that level of skill, I wonder if he ever needed to hire anyone to do anything. Today, developing frugal skills is still a great way to build self-reliance and save money.
4. Get Creative
Folks who grew up during the Great Depression had to channel their inner creativity to survive. Their ingenuity helped them feed their families, earn an income, keep their kids clothed, and maybe stash a few bucks on the side. It’s the same today; discovering ways to boost creativity can still positively impact our budgets and keep us engaged and inspired.
5. It’s Better to Own
With few exceptions, it’s better to own than rent, especially during tough economic times. Access to money-producing assets (land, a house, a paid-off car, and the like) helped many generations survive and build wealth.
6. Save for A Rainy Day
No offense Suze Orman, but our grandparents and great grandparents invented the emergency fund. The idea of saving up for a rainy day is just smart financial strategy. Because our grandparents lived through some very lean years, they never allowed themselves to be lulled into thinking that today’s prosperity guarantees tomorrow’s.
7. Get Dirty
Our grandparents taught us that, if we’re lucky enough to have a little plot of land, we better put it to work by planting a garden. Gardens stretch our grocery budgets, promote healthier eating, and get us moving in the great out-of-doors. Few activities pack such a holistic health punch. (See also: 4 Things a Vegetable Garden Needs)
8. Live Together
No…not in that way. In earlier generations, it was more common for households to include mom and dad, their kids, and grandma and grandpa. More people living under one roof through these multi-generational arrangements meant more child care resources, more household help, and more sources of income.
9. Keep Your Wants Under Control
Slowly creeping wants can easily choke our budgets. Our grandparents were able to afford what they needed by keeping their wants modest and entirely flexible.
10. Small Luxuries Are Still Luxuries
Even our grandparents’ generation knew it: little luxuries now and then are good for the soul. But pampering doesn’t have to cost a fortune. An afternoon off, a leisurely meal out, a mid-day nap all sound quaint by today’s standards. But with the right frame of mind, they can still feel indulgent and be entirely therapeutic.
The weird thing is, we are (or will soon be) the grandparents of tomorrow. The economic times we’ve recently weathered have already left their mark on how we spend, save, and invest.
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