It's one thing to teach your kids about money, it's another to relive your own experiences as a young mother with no money. Although John and I were never troubled with unemployment, we had a few years early on when we were "creative" with our finances. When I first quit working, we knew we could make it on one paycheck alone, but in 1982, making it was different than in 2010.
Every month, we had a house payment that took up 50% of one paycheck, or 25% of our total take home per month. In those days, the house payment was around $400.00. With the remaining money, approximately $1,000.00, we had to feed, clothe, and otherwise support a family. We were saving for our future and our retirement before that $1400.00, but were doing little else.
Groceries and utilities ate up a big chunk of those bucks. One month alone, we had a power bill of over $200.00, a real shock for us, so to speak. By the time John and I paid for utilities, we were lucky to have a few hundred left for groceries and "incidentals."
I got to be pretty good at stretching that thousand bucks. We bought a wood stove and cut our own firewood. I ran laundry on a schedule to save hot water heating, kept the lights off when not in use and installed dimmer switches on bedroom lights.We almost never ate out, kept our personal indulgences at a bare minimum, paid our bills in full every month and never carried a credit card balance.
We had two perfectly functional cars, both well used, and part of our pre-take home checks included savings for future vehicles. Our medical, dental and other insurances were also paid before the paycheck was cut. We figured it would be cheaper to make car-payments to ourselves in advance of purchase rather that buying fancy new rigs and paying huge payments to finance companies. We were right.
We ate Velveeta, not Brie and bought generic beer when the urge to drink seized us. But we thought we had the world by the tail, and we did. In the early eighties, the nation was struck in the face by a nasty recession and we were able to weather it by just being, frankly, cheap.
The pinnacle of my cheapness came one morning when I was shopping at K-Mart. I was in the grocery department, stocking up on macaroni and cheese (generic, of course) when the "Attention K-Mart Shoppers" alert went out.
The Blue Light was flashing in the children's apparel department.
I beat a path over to the excitement and found boys' corduroy pants on sale for $.99 (my keyboard doesn't even have a 'cents' character!). With all the speed of a lioness on prowl, I attacked the table and piled pants into my cart. I stuck with the basic colors, blue, black, brown and khaki, and bought pairs in every size from 3-10. My boys' bottoms were covered for the next 7 years (this was before sagging, of course).
This was the first time my K-Mart purchase exceeded $100.00 and I felt like a spendthrift. But with a pantry full of generic foods and closets full of $.99 pants, I felt like a conquering spendthrift. I proudly made my way home with my prey.
I've never had a shopping high quite like that, and I've shopped all over the world. You can have your Zurich Bahnhofstrasse or Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore, Paris,