Tuesday, July 11, 2017

frugality from grandparents

My grandmother grew up in a poor, rural family in northern Philippines. Although she wound up marrying money (my grandfather was high society), the super frugal habits she was raised on persisted in her new life after moving here to America and allowed her to accomplish things people all over the world (including here in the US) can't even dare to imagine.

Once here she took up work as a secretary, a position she was quite content with and retained until her retirement around 40 years later. She started out here alone in a one bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. Her adult children followed shortly after, and they all bunked up together in that tiny apartment for the first few years.

My grandmother always took the subway to work, and never went out 'for fun' to things like restaurants or movie theaters. She was a homebody and cooking was her idea of a good time. It was through her uber-frugal lifestyle that after just a few years she realized she had enough money for a downpayment on a house in the suburbs. She got one within walking distance of the subway and continued to use mass transit for commuting to work throughout her career.

She was so frugal that by late mid-life with a secretary's salary she was able to cover the downpayment on a second house where her son took up residence, loan my parents the money for the downpayment on their house, pay large chunks of the bills for four of her grandkids' college tuitions and vehicles.

My mother started out with admirably frugal habits early on in life, saving enough working in the Philippines to pay for six months of backpacking through Europe with a college buddy. However as she settled into the conventional 9-5 career with mortgage and two kids she slowly became entrenched in the mindless-shopging-for-fun consumerism typical of middle-class America, and lost a lot of her frugal edge over the years. My was dad even less so, relying on my mom to alert him to when it was time to tighten the purse strings. I wasn't the worst with money but was far from great, and had terrible latte-factor habits that kept me stressing over being unable to afford pricier goals in life (like world travel or a high quality instrument).

Growing up here in America, surrounded with advertising messaging, pop culture, and conventional thinking feeding each other in a vicious cycle, it's very easy to get suckered into festering credit card debt from 'treating yourself' (usually far too often) and lose sight of much more important things like emergency money, fiscal freedom, and things you dream about most in life (like adventure travel or simply less stress and more spare time).

It took me stumbling upon the early retirement blogging community to wake up and start working on thinking about money more like my grandmother would, realizing that things in life that I'm more interested than a nonstop job that pays the bills are still possible, without needing to adopt the dreaded monk-like lifestyle.