My dad grew up during the depression and told stories of putting newspapers in his shoes to cover the holes and keep his feet dry. As a child his family didn’t have much money, and he was determined that he, his wife and children would have a better life. He wasn’t going to lose sight of that goal, even after he contacted polio and became a quadriplegic. We rented a room in our home to student teachers. He had my brother and me clip coupons. He watched the sales and stockpiled nonperishables and he saved money . As a teenager, I was quite embarrassed to go grocery shopping and purchase thirty rolls of toilet paper at one time. We wore hand-me-downs and purchased used clothing. My brother and I sold greeting cards, he had a paper route, and I sold Fuller Brush door-to-door. I babysat and worked in the local grocery store during high school and my brother sold shoes in a high-end department store. I was barely out of grade school when Dad had me sitting at my mom’s desk writing checks for bills that needed to be paid. Mom would sign the checks and I’d put them in the mail. I had my first checking account in junior high school. Dad taught me all about household finances.
When I read MMM’s postings (www.mrmoneymustache.com), I think about my dad. He definitely would have approved of MMM’s spending habits. Dad didn’t buy new cars. He watched the classified for demos or models just a few years old. He knew all about the depreciation of a vehicle once it left the showroom. He read “Consumer Reports” before purchasing new items, and he purchased used items as well.
He taught me never to buy consumables such as food, liquor, cigarettes or gas on credit. I always adhered to that lesson with the exception of gas. It is much more convenient to purchase gas with a credit card, especially since gas stations changed to self-service. He preached never to purchase more on credit than you could pay off the following month when the bill came due. If you couldn’t pay it off, you didn’t buy it.
He was frugal. Many might say it was out of necessity and that would be absolutely true in the early years of his disability. There were medical bills and any savings had gone to living expenses until Mom went back to work. But later, when financial pressures had eased, he was still frugal. I think that most people who lived “without” during the depression never lived far from its shadow.
Dad spent most of his days reading. He read the local daily paper and the Wall Street Journal, biographies, novels and magazines. He had little patience for daytime television and, although cable existed, popular cable wasn’t launched until the 1980s. I’m not even sure that Dad would have been willing to subscribe to cable. I think he would have been more apt to purchase a VCR when movies became readily available for rent. Mom wouldn’t take him to movies with sex, swearing or violence. These restrictions limited his movie viewing. He could have watched some awesome movies while Mom was teaching!
Not only was Dad up on current events, one of our friends would say, “he could talk about anything to anyone” whether it be automobile mechanics, the Viet Nam war or the stock market. Dad taught himself how to invest starting with a handful of stocks. By the time he died, Mom and Dad had been living on the earnings from their investments and banking Mom’s teacher’s salary. He had prepared them for a comfortable retirement.
I learned his lessons well about budgeting, spending and saving. I wish he had been alive to teach me how to invest. By the time I had a career, some savings and a 401K, he was gone. It is one of my goals to learn how to invest prudently in retirement, and I think of him constantly as I read articles, blogs and books on investments and wonder “what would Dad have done”.