Living within your means

There’s an excellent article in today’s Vancouver Sun titled “Thrift is the key to retirement”.  The gist of this article is basically this: live within your means. As someone who was raised by the ultimate thrifter, it seems almost laughable to me that we have to state this. Isn’t that what everybody does? Clearly not. For people who have been living large, facing retirement with a smaller income is scary.

My mom, the Queen of Thrift

My mom is the person who embodies the phrase “get blood from a stone.” She’s one of the smartest people I know and given that she’s only got a grade 4 education, that’s saying something. We grew up living small: we lived in an apartment, she drove a 76VW bug and dad drove a used van, we wore clothing that came from thrift shops and dumpsters, ate hamburger helper, watched a black and white TV and read books that came from the library.

But it wasn’t all ‘doing without’. My sister and I went to camp each summer. Mom bought a used piano and we took lessons. We had a family holiday to the Okanagan every year. We went on camping trips to Barkerville and Disneyland. My parents didn’t have super high paying jobs. In our early childhood, my mom did “day work” (cleaned people’s houses) and my dad worked in construction. Eventually they moved up to union jobs – dad as a meat cutter for Fletcher’s and mom as a care aid in a senior’s home. But it was my mom’s frugality that enabled us to have the things I remember so fondly from my childhood but also enabled them to retire well.

My sister, me and my mom in Disneyland, like, 1979-ish. babes, eh?

As well as thrifting our clothes and household items, mom  cooked and baked from scratch, shopped food sales, cut coupons and canned food. I have vivid memories of mom canning cherries and peaches on our camping stove while on holidays – it was either that or take the fruit home and do it after work in our baking hot apartment.

I’ve incorporated a lot of this wisdom into my own life. I also cook and bake from scratch, shop food sales, cut coupons and can food (but NOT on my holidays!) I’ve learned that there’s something very satisfying about saving up for and having to wait for something you really want. Like trips to Scotland, for instance.

yummies in my cupboard: strawberry jam, pickled beans, peach chutney, peaches, honey... mouth watering yet?

I realize that what my mom taught me was balance. You might not be able to have the latest in everything or take the biggest vacations but you can still have creature comforts and enjoy life. It has never felt like I’m settling for something less – in fact, I’m so uncomfortable with debt, that I don’t think I’d enjoy something for which I was indebted.

What about you? Do you think it’s important to live within your means now? Or, given that we cannot predict our future,  is it more important to enjoy life now, whatever the cost?

I’m linking to Apron Thrift Girl  for her Thrift Share Monday – check out how others are living within their means!

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18 Responses to Living within your means

  1. gk says:

    Considering that I’ve been spending this week filling out one mortgage paper after another and getting one more income statement and pay stub and job letter and and and… YES, thank you for the reminder to live within my/our means!

  2. angelika says:

    ah paper work. it can be done! i remember how very uncomfortable i felt when we got our first and only mortgage. fully recognizing that owning a house puts me in the “super rich” category in the global scheme of things felt really weird. i think part of living within your means also means having a lose attachment to your things – if it all burned to the ground, i had to be okay with that. i think that’s also part of living within your means and not being consumed by consumerism.

  3. sonja everson says:

    LOL….I totally remember all that canning up at Oliver! I was too young to do the canning at the time but they definitely put the kids to work picking all that fruit!

  4. Dagmar says:

    You pose an excellent question Angelika, and I think your mom nailed it when she taught you balance…..something I am always striving for. I never feel deprived but I do have to make choices in life and I am thankful for that privilege. ps love your blog…..a book in the making??

  5. Cheapchick says:

    My Mom is where I learned all my thrifty ways too. A single mother raising two kids – lean times but we had fun. I got my love of thrift and nature from her. To this day her favorite thing to do is go out and feed the birds at the beach on Vancouver Island.

  6. SixBalloons says:

    Great points – and that’s the carrot for the savers: Getting to spend money on the important stuff, and realizing that not everything IS important.

  7. stephanie says:

    I loved reading about how you were raised. My mom didn’t can or anything but she was so thrifty in lots of other ways, struggling to raise 3 of us without much help. I used to wait in the car while she ran into the thrift store. Can you imagine?! 🙂 Now I am the one leaving my kids (and husband) in the car so I can “just run in really quick.”

    • i hear ya – although my son is totally into thrift shopping too. my hubby not so much, but that’s just because he hates shopping, period. i love it so much more when i can just go on my own, with no time retraints or with someone who is equally as enthusiastic about thrift shopping. that’s why i love shopping with my mom and sister!

  8. Megan says:

    Thanks for sharing! I love to hear how people came to love thrift.

  9. Really loved this! I agree it is important to be mindful of living within, or even a bit below, one’s means as a lifestyle. I’m sure your parents are so happy to pass down this quality to such an appreciative person. Priceless Disney picture, too, btw!

  10. Balance is so important! I tend to be super frugal or…… super spendy…
    Still striving for the balance needed.

  11. Tiffany says:

    I try, really try, to live within my means. The thought of not being able to pay my way scares the beejeesus out of me. My mom was/ still is a thrift shopper, coupon cutter, and former yard sale scourer. I’m lucky to have learned from her self reliance and the value of a buck.

  12. Pingback: A Special Day for Three Moms | thrift shopper for peace

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