Lately I've been talking to two types of people: (1) those who are depressed because, after paying their bills, they don't have any money for holiday shopping, and (2) those who are depressed because, after spending their money on holiday shopping, they don't have any money for their bills. Just for the record, I have done zero shopping. That's easy for me because I grew up in the home of a woman whose bills were her priority twelve months a year. She would put up the aluminum tree, turn on that multi-colored rotating light at night, and didn't give a hoot because the floor beneath the tree was empty. But we had food to eat and the lights came on every time we flipped the switch.
I wanted to create a message about Mama's frugality but have been fighting a cold for the last month. Lo and behold I stumbled across a message my sister Gail and I composed back in May 2010 but never sent. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am sending it now. Merry Christmas to all!
Most of us grew up with the basics. That's just the way our parents lived. Almost everyone we knew had a two bedroom home. If you had three bedrooms, shoooot, your family was doing something! For years my family lived in a two-bedroom home. Mama and Daddy had a room and my three brothers shared the other room. The place where Gail and I slept was a dining room by day and our bedroom at night. We never thought anything of it. We were excited to have a hideaway bed; after dinner we would scoot the dining table to the side and roll out our bed. The next morning we'd roll the bed away and pull the table out for the day.
Our parents did not spend a lot of money. All my life they had the same refrigerator, stove, iron, ironing board, washing machine, and in Mama's house there was no need for a dryer because we used the clothes line. We would not dare wash dishes and leave the water running unless you wanted a whipping. We turned the lights off as we left a room. We did not turn on the heater and then open a window because it got too hot. Back to the ironing board - we had the same ironing board cover too; when it got worn and thin, we covered it with a pillowcase. Speaking of towels, we used the same towels for 18 years. And bed sheets. And blankets and bedspreads. When Mama died in 2004, she still had some of those same towels and blankets and sheets and pillowcases. Everything got recycled in Mama's home. Clothes were passed down to the younger siblings. The week's leftovers were turned into a pot of soup on the weekend. Jelly and mayonnaise jars became drinking glasses.
We had two pair of shoes: church shoes and school shoes. Every Easter we got a new pair of church shoes. Every September we got a new pair of school shoes ... from Boys Market. We removed our shoes after school and played barefoot outside. We rarely went to the doctor. Anything inside the body was cured with castor oil, cod liver oil, ginger ale and crackers or a down-home remedy. Outer injuries were cured with a glob of Vaseline. If it were really bad Mama would apply alcohol to the wound. We had one phone in the house and we knew better than to make a "toll" call.
People bought cars as needed. There was no such thing as an upgrade. Our kitchen was the hair salon. Mama cut my brothers' hair. There was no need to stand in the pantry for 20 minutes trying to decide what we wanted because potato chips came in two flavors: regular and barbecue. We had one television and when it went on the blink, we used a coat hanger as an antenna. Oh yeah, the television had seven channels: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13. We were never too tired to go to school because television stations signed off at a certain hour. Oh how times have changed. No longer will you find a family of seven living in a 2-bedroom home. But you will find a family of two living in a 7-bedroom home.
Have you ever added up the amount of money we spend on things our parents never used? Get a pencil and paper and total the what you spend monthly on cell phones for everyone in the family, high speed internet, internet for the cell phone, hair stylist, barber shop, fingernails, toe nails, don't forget the designs, XM radio for the car, cable television for every room in the house, pop tarts, Captain Krunch, fruit roll ups, frozen burritos, fruit cups, soy milk, organic vegetables (Daddy grew his own), IPods, IPads, $150 tennis shoes to match every outfit, designer clothes, weaves, Victoria's Secret, fruity smelling soap for the wash room, gourmet coffee, electronic games, more games for the electronic games, McDonald's, Chick Fil-A, Dominos, Haagen Dazs, trash can liners (we lined the can with newspaper), paper plates, paper cups, napkins, paper towels, bank fees, credit card fees, PayDay loans, family vacations, furniture bills, dog food, and Christmas presents most kids don't appreciate and/or deserve. Perhaps this is the reason why many of us earn six figures and barely live from paycheck to paycheck. (Dang ... I made myself say "ouch!")
We can survive The Great Recession. In 2011, let's go back to the basics.
Be all you can be!