20 More Signs That You Were Raised by Frugal Parents

In August, I wrote an article entitled 30 Signs You Were Raised by Frugal Parents. That article was inspired by my own parents’ frugality and by witnessing how a whole new generation of folks is instilling some of those same money-saving and self-sufficient ideals in their kids.

Whether it’s fueled by economic uncertainty or just the growing realization that there’s more to life than stuff, there seems to be a quiet resurgence in simplicity that’s encouraging to watch. I think some of the wisdom, tongue-in-cheek humor, and nods of understanding that readers saw in those 30 signs can help us all embrace who we are and the traditions we came from, and learn the value in passing on that spirit of frugality to tomorrow’s parents. (See also: Frugality, Simplicity, and Sustainability)

So, in honor of all those frugal moms and dads of yesterday, here are 20 more tell-tale signs that you may have been raised by frugal parents.

1. Carving pumpkins for Halloween isn’t just an artistic endeavor — it’s serious preparation for a pumpkin-flavored cooking challenge.

2. You’ve secretly placed generic food items in brand-name containers to avoid conflicts with fussy kids.

3. You’ve “fixed” a scratched bumper with a strategically-placed bumper sticker.  

4. You can make a delicious stew from the unlikely and random assortment of leftovers.

5. You buy winter coats in the spring and Bermuda shorts in autumn.

6. You can quick-scan the items at a yard sale in five seconds while driving and without slowing down.

7. There’s an herb garden on your kitchen windowsill.

8. You know the many secret uses of Super Glue, Armor All, mink oil, and linseed oil.

9. You know the prices you see at used car lots, yard sales, estate sales, and on Craigslist are just ranges.

10. You’re amazed that people actually pay for water.

11. You pay as much attention to the price on the back of a greeting card as to the sentiment written inside it.

12. For you, dollar stores are on-par with amusement parks.

13. You know how to meld many slivers of bar soap together to make a "new" bar.

14. You keep a flashlight and hand-sanitizer in your car for dumpster diving and picking up curb-side treasures.

15. You mourn the loss of clotheslines across the American landscape.

16. You hold a loyalty card to one or more thrift store chains.

17. Your knowledge of various stain-removal methods could earn you an honorary degree in chemistry.

18. Depending on the store, you feel a cosmic pull toward the dented, dinged, mismatched, and remnant sections.

19. You know exactly what each member of your family needs six months before they do — and you can find it for half-off.

20. Your ability to retain information on sizes, inseams, ages, birthdays, and anniversaries is unrivaled.

See yourself in any of the above? Of course, these are just 20 random ways that our parents saved a few bucks and made ends meet. Surely there were hundreds (thousands?) of others that went unnoticed. Back in the day, saving money was less conscious strategy and more second-nature.

What money savings methods did your parents use that you may not have appreciated at the time, but have since come to respect? What do you find yourself doing unconsciously that identify you immediately as the lucky kid of a frugal parent?


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Guest's picture

Wow!! This article was a great read. I had no idea of any of these things that frugal parents did!!

Guest's picture

While yes, I totally see all of this happening in my life due to being raised by frugal parents, I see this more often: those raised by frugal parents rebelling, throughout life, and going to the extreme. I'm a bit moderate in this; I'm frugal about certain things, but like to purchase for quality (my mother is straight-up frugal but doesn't always buy for quality).

Guest's picture

Mmhmm. My friends run the spectrum on their frugality levels (most of them were equally broke growing up), but I find myself in the frugal camp, yet firmly rebelling against my mother's hoarding. I simply will not live on a pile of garbage, e.g. wrapping paper unless it's seriously likely to be used for the many post-Christmas birthdays, butter containers (you don't need 10), hotel shampoos and conditioners (it helps that I work at one and could have as many as I wanted any time though), etc. It costs me more than it's worth to deal with that psychological weight 24/7 in the hopes that someday my clutter is going to help somebody. I'm paying for all the rooms in my house, so I need to be able to access them without fearing the avalanche.

Guest's picture

Haha number 6 made me laugh out loud. My mother and aunt were famous for driving by yard sales and assessing the situation of items before deciding to stop or not. My mom also was amazing at turning a bunch of different leftovers into an amazing new hybrid-meal.

Guest's picture

My mother was a single parent & taught me almost all of these. When I became a parent & then a single parent some of these helped me remarkably. But I think a favorite of mine was when my kids were little & I would take them to the Dollar Store & tell them to pick out one of anything they wanted. I didn't do it a lot, so when they got to roam the ENTIRE store it was thrilling for them. Not to mention it was almost like Christmas if I said they could get two things each. I'm willing to bet $$ (although it's not frugal to bet) that they will do the same thing with their children one day. When that happens I will smile.

Guest's picture

Ha ha! My daughter cringes in the car when she sees things out by the curb, I do fly-by's at garage sales all the time, and there is no such thing as leftovers at my house, just meals...lol.
The kids REALLY hate it when they have to wait for a coupon, sale, cash back, etc. for something that they need or want...And I absolutely DO have a reward card in my wallet right now for a thrift store!


It's all worth the eye rolls when one of them walks around the corner while I'm coupon shopping with my list at Target and says, "Mom...I like this lotion and I found it on clearance for 50¢...can I get it?", the answer is usually yes and wait, I have a coupon for that.

The greeting card one really got me because I ALWAYS check the back if I'm not shopping in the $1 section.

Guest's picture

Value isn't always the cheapest item. If it is cheaply made it won't last. Look for the middle price.

Guest's picture

The most-often used frugal method of my Dad? He would say "I'm broke" EVERYTIME we kids ever asked for anything at the checkout counter at the store.

Guest's picture

I tried that one and my daughter innocently said "So write a check". It took a while to explain that I could not do that either..........

Guest's picture

Norman, I love your Dad's method..I am going to start using it on my teenage daughters!! Thanks Kim

Kentin Waits's picture

I agree -- a great method (and so simple!).

Guest's picture

#13 - So true! To this day, my mom keeps jar beside the bathroom sink to hold all the soap slivers. She not only remakes larger bars from them, she also liquifies them and puts that liquid in a soap dispenser (the same one she's had for 20 year, of course!).

And #6...so accurate. I can make a quick decision on whether stop at a yard sale like nobody's business. When most sales end by noon, you have to be ruthless about this stuff! LOL

Guest's picture

I guess I'm busted. I do know many stain removal techniques. I also pay attention to the cost of cards. Guilty as charged.

Guest's picture

Great list, #14 is funny! After seeing my son scream and cry for his first haircut, I watched and emulated it for 20 years. Saved a bundle. Sewing curtains and getting things repaired saves big time. Being a stay at home mom saved us money over time. I've been able to get the kids fired up about learning and exposed them to world travel and all types of books. They both got scholarships. Thank God. There's a million ways to cut back. The best way is not to spend it in the first place.

Guest's picture

Ok, now I take exception to some of these. There's a fine line between frugal and cheap!