30 Signs That You Were Raised by Frugal Parents
Frugal folks come from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were raised in typical American families with traditional buying and spending habits and came to embrace frugality much later in life. Others were raised by parents or grandparents who made simplicity part of everyday life — from the way they cooked and cleaned to the way they fixed their cars and celebrated holidays. For those of us in the latter group, we can spot another member a mile off. There’s a sort of unspoken but common shorthand that comes from years of shared experiences. What follows is my tongue-in-cheek way to tell if you were raised by frugal parents (or if you might be on the way to becoming one yourself). (See also: 7 Important Lessons Frugal Parents Teach Their Children)
1. You skip the headlines in the Sunday paper and head straight for the sales inserts.
2. You’ve washed (or seriously considered washing) tin foil to use it a second time.
3. You remember smuggling homemade snacks into the Saturday matinee.
4. You know how to buff your shoes to high shine by adding a bit of water or heat to the polish.
5. You’ll still stop to pick up a penny.
6. You ignore the suggested use or recommended quantity directions on most products.
7. There’s a coupon organizer in your purse or car (extra credit if it includes a calculator).
8. You save rubber bands or twist-ties.
9. The chocolate milk you were served as a kid was heavily diluted with regular milk.
10. You have a loyalty card to any thrift store chain.
11. You can sew a button, darn a sock, or repair a seam.
12. You firmly believe that vinegar and bleach are the only two household cleaning products anyone really needs.
13. Your family holds a contest to guess how much money is in the change jar every six months.
14. A little mold on bread or cheese doesn’t cause you to immediately toss it.
15. There’s an almanac somewhere in your home.
16. You know the technique for properly canning food.
17. You know what Green Stamps are.
18. Your medicine chest has at least two hotel soaps or bottles of shampoo in it.
19. You know how to change the oil in your car (even if you don’t always do it yourself).
20. The primary toys of your childhood were wooden blocks, the great outdoors, and a tire swing.
21. You know the balance of your checking account (within $5.00) at all times and without looking.
22. Negotiating the price of a used car inspires a sense of adventure and thrill.
23. You know the secret magic that’s contained in every bottle of furniture scratch cover.
24. You have a secret stash of used, neatly folded gift wrap from previous holidays and birthdays.
25. You regard empty butter and yogurt containers as a reuse challenge, not trash.
26. At least three pieces of your household furniture were acquired through dumpster-diving, a yard sale, an estate sale, or thrift store.
27. You brag to friends about how much you saved instead of how much you spent.
28. You can calculate any product’s price-per-ounce in mere seconds.
29. Your dryer sheets have three times the life expectancy of other people’s.
30. You rinse out laundry detergent bottles and cut open toothpaste tubes to get at the last bit of product.
Though these signs are offered with a bit of humor, there’s a grain of wisdom that guides each. Our modern-day mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" is just a new spin on an old refrain. For many of our frugal mentors, there was simply no other way to live. The tips and tricks they taught us are recounted here with as much respect as comedy — and with a gratitude that comes from rediscovering best lessons of our childhood.
What other signs suggest that you might have been raised by frugal folks? What favorite or quirky saving technique have you unwittingly adopted and passed on to your own kids?