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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Thrifty, frugal or cheap

My grandma used to pride herself on being frugal.  She had a house full of antiques, yet she often bragged that she didn't pay much for any of her things.  She loved yard sales and finding a new use for old things.  She kept and found a use for things that others would toss away.  And she never bought things just because they were "in style."

I remember once going with my grandma to the cemetery to take care of  grave sites.  In the bushes someone had tossed some fake flowers.  Grandma grabbed these fake flowers, brushed them off, made them look nice again, and put them in front of my Great Grandpa's gravestone.

Grandma was thrifty. She could take an old shoe that was worn, tattered, ugly and that other people would have simply tossed and she could make it look nice again and she'd even wear it. She loved to go to yard sales and purchase "junk" and she'd fix them up and use them to decorate her house.

If you looked closely the picture frames holding the many pictures on the walls, you would have observed upon close inspection that most of them had a chip.  If you looked at the many books you'd observe that many of them had torn and tattered covers.  Grandma found value in being thrifty.  She appreciated what she had and didn't yearn to have something just because everyone else had it

Once she showed me a magazine article that showed that Michelangelo's Angels were now in style.  Everyone was rushing to stores to buy things that had the angels on them.  Yet grandma took me to a closet and pulled out some pictures of the angels that were hundreds of years old.

She said, "I got these at a yardsale several years ago for a nickel because I valued them.  Someone got rid of them because they were out of style.  Now the angels are back in style, and while I still have these old ones I valued all along, other ladies are buying the angels new just because everyone else has them."

Grandma, and grandpa and even my dad would often lecture me if I wasted money.  If dad found a penny on my floor he'd make sure I was aware that a penny saved is a penny earned.  Mom and dad, thus, had the same thrifty spending habits as grandma and grandpa.

Mom told me that she never in her life ever bought anything on credit.  If you want something you pay cash.  If you buy something on credit because the economy is good, or because you have to have the NEW thing that's being advertised, or because interest rates are low, or because a loan looks attractive, you become a slave to the lender.

Dad made it clear that how much money you made is not what makes you rich, because if you make any wage or salary, and you are thrifty with it, you will create more value out of what you have.  If you spend beyond your means, then you become a slave to the person you borrow from. And if the economy eventually tanks, then you are the person who will be most affected by the recession or depression.

Frugal people, those who are thrifty with their money, those who don't spend beyond their means, those who don't live on borrowed money, will be far less likely to feel the effects of the ups and downs of the economy. If they lose their jobs they will have money in the bank to fall back on to keep them on their feet until they get a new job.

Yet, despite this wisdom, most people today think of thrifty and frugal as being cheap. Most people are taught  and even encouraged by politicians and businessmen and teachers that they need to spend all the money they get on all the things that are advertised on TV.  In fact, politicians expect you to spend your money to keep the economy afloat.  They encourage you to spend, even when they know spending is the antithesis of freedom.

We are told we must have that new car, or the new computer, or the new iPod or whatever is the new in thing.  We must spend our money to keep the economy going.  We must show how cool we are by flashing all our material items.

My dad owned a car lot and could have driven any brand new car he wanted.  I asked him why he drove around an old junk car once, and he said, "My happiness isn't determined by how new the car is I drive.  Cars are meant to be driven and used, not to be used as a social status."

My dad would lecture me about pennies.  My grandma would lecture me because I left one penny on the floor, and my grandpa would lecture me about pennies too.  It got to the point I became annoyed about getting lectured about a stupid penny.

While in college I got caught up in the new Mantra encouraging Americans to charge our way into wealth.  We have been convinced that this is the way to economic prosperity and wealth.  Yet then one day I woke up to a big debt and less freedom.

I decided it wasn't too late to heed the advice of my dad and grandma and the founding fathers and get control of my debt.  I read a book by Dave Ramsey, and his advice was the same as what my dad taught years ago.  While other people might think financial experts have something new to teach, what they teach is what our parents were taught in school.

Soon I was out of debt and started saving.  I realized first hand the value of the saying, "A penny saved is a penny earned."  Isn't that one of the wit and wisdom of Ben Franklin in his Little Richard's Farmer's Almanac.

I was able to spend money at will without going into debt.  I realized that through being thrifty I was more free than I ever was when I was in debt up to my neck.  I realized that I should have listened to my parents from the get go, yet instead I gave into those who aim to brainwash us into spending what we don't have so they can obtain wealth.

Yes, that's right, by you spending over your head you are losing freedom and you never obtain wealth.  The people who gain wealth are those in power.  The more you spend the more power politicians have over you.  The more you spend the more trapped you become and the less freedom you have.

We as a society have been convinced it's okay to spend over our heads, and our government is no different.  Government leaders have convinced us the way to wealth is through spending so they can do the same.  For many years people didn't even note the massive government debts because we were convinced it was okay.

While we didn't have to, we have learned that government spending is not a measure of wealth, it's a measure of erosion and loss of freedom.  To pay for the massive debt politicians are talking about increasing our taxes, and that gives us even less freedom.  Instead of you deciding how to spend your money, the government will do it for you.

And since you're now working to feed other people, your sense of worth and self esteem declines.  You no longer work to obtain freedom, you are working so other people who do not work can take the money you make.  By being thrifty we could have prevented this current crisis.

The American founders saw thrift and frugal the same way my grandma and my parents saw it.  They made due with what they had and made things last, and it didn't matter that it was old, torn and tattered. My grandparents, like the founders, knew that thrifty was freedom and liberty.  This is what they learned from their parents, and from their teachers.

Thrifty means you don't live as a slave to a debtor, and you don't have worry about ups and downs of the economy, and you don't have to worry about other people to lift you up.  Thrifty is self reliance and individual responsibility.  Thrifty is not cheap, it's wealth.  Thrifty is liberty and freedom to buy what you want when you need it.

Despite the ongoing mantra, wealth is not defined by spending, it's defined by savings.  Personal savings is the door to personal liberty and freedom.  Personal savings is not being cheap, it's being smart with your money. Frugality and thriftiness is liberty and freedom.

This is the wisdom that once was passed on from generation to generation by parents and teachers.  Now it's not taught in school because the program teachers must follow is determined by people who want you to get trapped and stay trapped in the system. 

Yet wisdom is freedom. 


1 comment:

nrhatch said...

Excellent essay. I agree completely.

Living paycheck to paycheck to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like makes us slaves.