My Grandparents - adults during the Great Depression
My grandparents on my father’s side owned their own home and a nice cottage on a lake. My grandfather worked for the phone company, the railroad, and the hospital.
He was a skilled laborer, paid reasonably well, but he never had a lot of money to throw around.
My grandmother watched the finances and kept house. That was their agreement – he made the money and she focused on money management and management of the household.
Late into their retirement, my grandfather was surprised to learn that they had accumulated so much money. He had never imagined that to be possible. So how did they do it?
My grandparents were successful money managers. They understood the basics of the money game. Their skills were used to build wealth and live debt free:
- They bought a small house, a shack really, and added on to it when they could afford to do so. They hand dug the basement, doing all the work themselves.
- They paid cash for most everything. I never knew them to have credit cards. They never spoke of credit cards. They lived debt free.
- They bought canned food at fire sales where the salvaged merchandise was pennies on the dollar.
- Grandpa worked longer than the normal retirement age, and received retirement benefits from more than one employer.
- They had good training in how to "rough it" when times were hard. My grandfather wouldn’t eat corn as an adult because he ate so much of it as a kid – it was easy to steal from nearby farmers.
- They were cautious savers, not risk taking investors. My grandmother was the real penny pincher of the family. She was known to hide money in several places around the house. She knew that if it was stashed away, then it wasn’t available to spend.
- My grandmother learned how to be an entrepreneur at an early age. She would sing and play the tambourine while her father played the piano. After the performance, she would "pass the tambourine.
- Saving was important. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They learned to save.
- They combined recreation and food gathering to save money. My grandfather always brought home holiday dinners when the family gathered at the house. Whether it was pheasant or rabbit, he was usually back home from the hunt and downstairs cleaning the game before most of us were out of bed in the morning. He had a strong sense of being the provider.
- Both of my grandparents were fond of fishing and stocked their freezer with fish caught at their cottage on the lake and waterways local to their residence.
- They focused on their needs first, and their wants last. This was a key to their debt free life.
- They always had a garden at their home and at the cottage. Nothing went to waste. Kitchen scraps went to the dog or into the garden. Fish entrails went into the garden to sweeten the soil for next year’s tomatoes.
- They seldom took trips or vacations. They stayed at home mostly and enjoyed very simple living like playing the piano, reading, knitting, household projects, and visiting with friends, family and neighbors.
Their needs centered on providing for their family. I can’t recall at any time thinking that my grandparents were not well off, even though they did not indulge themselves with respect to their wants, and they were debt free and lived simply. Christmas was filled with gifts, an abundance of food, and family around the table.
The life of my grandparents was a clear snapshot of frugal living at its best.
By today’s standards, some of their actions seem almost unimaginable. Who would hand dig a basement and eat scorched canned goods from a fire sale today? No one I know.
This is a testament to the prosperity of America and the financial troubles that haven’t been seen for several generations, yet we still face many and varied financial challenges – just as real, and just as difficult. And most people aren't debt free anymore.
I’ll always think that my grandparents made wise choices. They dug dirt to make a basement, but they never had to dig themselves out of debt. They ate damaged canned goods, but they paid for them with the money they earned.
They used their imagination and innovation to make their own way and live a debt free life.
They lived through tough times and they made it out of them just fine. I remember them in admiration. They are examples of a can-do spirit. And, you can do it too. You can live debt free.
Done with My Grandparents, back to Debt Free Training