My parents are cheap thrifty. Have you ever read the book, The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley? This book makes me think of my Dad. My parents raised five children on the income of a school teacher. Today they are retired and sitting on a good sized nest egg… though my Dad isn't the kind of person to talk about his various investments and net worth and I'm not the guy to ask for details. Last night my Dad called to inform me they are buying the house next to their own as an investment. It has me thinking about how a school teacher become wealthy…

My parents understood that wealth accumulation isn't so much a factor of how much money you make but how much money you save. Living “within” your means was thought to be extravagant and seeing how much money could be socked away was more of an inner competition than a simple goal.

Now that I've given my parents some props I can get in the reminiscing part of this article by sharing a few examples of the cheapness ability to save money we experienced.

Cereal Timelines: At some point in my childhood it was determined that we, the children, were eating too much cereal each morning. At that point forward when a new cereal box was opened my Dad would write an “expected use date” on the box. If that cereal was consumed fully before the hand written date we went hungry. When the date arrived a new box could be opened.

Lunch Money: In younger years I packed a lunch or came home for lunch. I wasn't familiar with the concept¬†of an allowance. When I got to Junior high it was no longer practical for me to return home for lunch so my Dad devised a new system. If I did my chores and was generally well behaved then I was given $0.50 per day in lunch money. At the time a “hot lunch” at school was running about $1.25 (a reminder here that my Dad worked in the school district and was intimately aware of the cost of lunch). The $.50 was enough to buy the leftover cheeseburger or hotdog from the previous day's lunch and thus it was deemed sufficient. This “lunch money” was paid out monthly by check which I had to deposit/cash in my own bank account.

Paying Rent: After high school I began to pay rent to live in my parents house. Over the years I've met other people who have had similar requirements… but if you also had to pay rent after graduation you and I are among a select group of “special” individuals.

Reusing Dryer Sheets: My mom had an algorithm by which she determined the number of uses any single dryer sheet was good for. One unused dryer sheet was good by itself for a load of clothes. Two dryer sheets having been used once could be used together for a load of clothes. Four dryer sheets that had been used twice could be used together for a load of clothes and etc.

Ziploc's and Tin Foil: Only in my adult life did I find out most people don't reuse Ziploc's and Tin Foil. After a dinner of baked potatoes we each carefully folded the tin foil that had wrapped our potato and put it in a designated drawer for reuse. Ziploc's were put in the sink to be washed along with the dishes for the next use.

You Only Need Two Squares: My mom operated under a belief that under any circumstance a person should only need two toilet tissue squares to fully cleanse oneself in the bathroom. To use more than two squares was considered wasteful and was against the rules.

Milk From the Store: As I grew older and started to have sleepovers at friends homes I wondered why their milk tasted infinitely better than the milk at my house. The reason? Because my mom made all our milk from powdered milk which was purchased via some mail-in catalog in 50 gallon drums. Each week a few cups of powder were mixed with water and presto… we had milk.

On the Street is Free: My dad was famous for picking up stuff in the street. He came home with a lot of broken and not so broken tools, clothing, appliances, and other unidentified objects. Mostly he picked up a lot of aluminum cans because they could be cashed in at the recycling center.

The Cold Water From the Shower: Recently my dad has a revelation. With a five gallon bucket on hand, he can capture the cold water that comes out of the shower in those few moments when you are waiting for the water to heat up. This water can be used later to flush the toilet. His regret is that he didn't figure this out years ago so his children could be forced to comply.

I was the youngest of five children and it is worth mentioning that my older siblings likely have much better examples to share! In my youth I likely complained about these and other things but now I'm grateful to have been taught frugality and money management.

Please share examples of your cheap parents in the comments below.

2 Comments

  1. Mark Tenney on October 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

    Jacob,
    Thanks for writing this article. I grew up the second oldest of seven kids in my family with my dad as a school teacher. There was never enough, or so we thought, but we got by and nobody starved or had to sleep out in the cold. There was always something for Christmas morning, and we always worked, saved, scrimped, and wondered what it would be like to have cold cereal to eat like our friends did. I’ve drunk my fair share of powdered milk and worn enough DI (Deseret Industries) clothes growing up for 100 Halloween costumes.

    Each one of these examples is now a fond memory for me because each has helped me realize that whatever I get out of my life I need to put into it. I also realize that my parents were doing the very best they could with the challenges and opportunities they were managing at the time. I am grateful for all they did for us.

    My girls have never wanted for anything, and to a certain extent, we’ve probably not done enough to require more from them. In the end, the lesson for us as parents and our kids is: it’s good to sacrifice. It’s good to go without. And it’s good to work hard for something you want. Thanks for the terrific article.
    – Mark Tenney

  2. Shauna Paulsen on March 19, 2016 at 9:34 am

    I am one of those “cheap” parents. On the rare occasions when our family went out to dinner, no one was allowed anything to drink except ice water – no soda, etc. I remember many years ago a former Colorado Governor’s children complained about the same thing – their dad only allowed water to drink when eating out. They also called him “cheap”. Way to go!

Leave a Comment