Throughout their upbringing, my husband and I have been conservative in our spending. Living within our means and carefully managing our money is something that we have taken very seriously but this lifestyle has come at a cost.
We never took our children to the nation's capital. We didn't throw lavish birthday parties as they were growing up nor did we go overboard at Christmas. We were limited in the sports we could offer them, since we relied on second hand equipment. Out of town competitions and frequent movie theatre visits were unaffordable.
I don't recall my children ever complaining but I was acutely aware that they were never in the lead group. They were never able to brag about a fancy new toy or describe a scene from a new movie. Nor could they join in a conversation as others relived their latest sporting adventure. Watching my children stand quiet and listen was humbling to me.
It's not that we didn't have any family fun, or indulge our children to some extent, we were just always very careful to watch our finances. Family vacations consisted of simple tenting for a few days and, when money was tight, many of our "vacations" were just one day excursions. Birthday and Christmas gifts were limited to one special gift, along with other necessities such as socks or mitts. DVDs were rented for at home movie nights. Yet even with these sensible and acceptable memories, my regrets still get the better of me.
One day, my son laid out his plan to pay down his 5 year car loan ahead of time. Over the next few months, I watched as he carefully managed his money and succeeded in paying his loan off in just over a year! Seeing the result of our thriftiness in my son's actions was astonishing and I have begun to appreciate the value of our lifestyle. We provided all that was needed for our children - a loving home, and in doing so, we prepared them for the money challenges they will encounter in their lives.
We all have a Disney World. We all feel the pull to involve our children in the numerous activities society recommends regardless of our financial situations but this can lead to serious consequences.
At times my regrets haunt me but when I see my daughter's reluctance to spend money as she works her way through university or listen to my son's financial plan for purchasing a piece of property, they quickly disappear.
Perhaps showing our children how to use their money wisely is our greatest accomplishment as parents and any regrets are dwarfed by the comfort of knowing our children will not be fools with their money.
Disney World can wait.
Source: Just a reflection as my kids become adults.
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This is an excellent article. You shouldn't have one minute of regret. You never know what life is going to throw at you. I know people who experienced death, illness and job loss in the family who weren't frugal. They had a lot of problems because of it. Some people had to move away. That caused trauma for the entire family. You gave your children security because you lived beneath your means. As adults, they have the choice to spend, and they are choosing to save. I would say you did a great job raising them.
Pat yourself on the back - sounds like you made all the right moves - so smile and enjoy an extra cup of coffee.
No regrets, sounds like both you and your husband did a wonderful job!!!
Your son paid his five year car loan off in one year, but will he take the four years of extra money and have fun. Take a once in a lifetime trip, go on a cruise, visit Washington, DC, go to Disney World, have installed an in-ground pool.
Apparently he's considering going back to school. Just told me yesterday.
Why do you have a problem with thrifty and frugal being used interchangeably, Luann? I have always thought of them as being basically the same and the dictionary definitions also are very similar.
thrifty - (of a person or their behavior) using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully.
frugal - sparing or economical with regard to money or food.
My mother Susan, who is the founder of ThriftyFun, was a single mother for most of my childhood. We never had a lot of money but we definitely had a lot of love. I worked as soon as I was able, just to be able to buy new school clothes instead of always depending on hand me downs.
Those early lessons have helped me with my own family finances today and I am thankful that I don't feel like I have to "keep up with the Jones" in regards to vacations and such. The real gift is the time spent around the dinner table or during our "thrifty" road trips.
Going back to school is wonderful to hear! The best of luck to him - money well spent!!
I understand the dictionary/thesaurus may use the two words interchangeably, but in reality the perception is far from similar.
Thrifty - "using money and other resources carefully- not wastefully." I think of prudent, careful, economical, budgeting. This is how people should live. No wastefulness. This is thrifty.
Frugal - "sparing" In my mind, the thought of depriving or denying oneself, scrimping, penny-pinching, tight (tightwad) and most of all, miserly. These are the words that I picture when I hear frugal. It's not flattering, not a compliment, but a depressing, dreary, and dismal way to live one's life. And, to what purpose? So, you can say, 'I haven't been to a movie in 30 years' or "These shoes are 10 years old', etc., and wear this frugality as a badge of honor?
I am on a fixed income. I am not a spendthrift or live lavishly. But, I will not deny myself simple pleasures - dining out with friends, buying a bouquet of fresh flowers, going to a concert or museum, subscribing to movie channel ... the list is endless.
I think of thrifty and frugal as about the same. Remember "The Frugal Gourmet"? The idea of frugal is using everything up and not wasting anything.
Stingy is the word that describes people who do without or make their families do without necessities while they're sitting on plenty of money. My father was stingy. He didn't care whether I had nice clothes to wear to school, but he wouldn't hesitate to drop $15K on a new piece of farm equipment.
Getting a job was not an option because we lived way out in the country and I didn't have a way to get to one. So, as soon as high school was over, I hit the ground running and left. I'd prepared myself for 2 years, taking every typing, shorthand, and business course that was offered.
When my son was little, I heard of people who bought their kids' shoes at garage sales, but I made sure he had new shoes that fit when he needed them. I'd buy his shoes at Buster Brown and then I'd go to K-Mart for mine.
Like the song says, you don't have to live like a refugee.
I know some people think having things like cable tv and Netflix are luxuries, but for my husband and me, that's our source of entertainment. For the price of two movie tickets, I can watch several movies on Netflix. (That doesn't mean we don't go out occasionally to a good movie.)
I remember one of my students ranting about people buying big houses. She said she wanted to have a modest home and use her money for traveling. (We'd just built our big custom home.) I told her that it was fine if that's what she wanted. Personally, I wanted a nice home to live in all the time, and I don't like to travel.
We enjoy eating out, though we don't do it as much as we did before we retired. Some people think eating out at all is wasteful and we should all stay home and cook. Well, I don't like to cook, and I'm not going to make myself do something all the time that I dislike.
Yoh are confusing frugal with miser. Thrifty & frugal ARE synonyms, both means being careful with your $$$ & use it wisely.
It's interesting how different people use words differently, and how meanings change from generation to generation. I would use "cheap" where you use "frugal". But I agree that thrifty sounds more complimentary.
I bet your children never worried about where their next meal was coming from, or had tense parents when an emergency arose. Congrats !
I was very moved by this post. Disney World means so much in the popular imagination.
To me as a child living on the other side of the world, Disney World was a dream land that was sometimes shown on TV. I used to play at going to Disney World with my toys. There was no expectation of really going there, because foreign travel was much more expensive then.
My husband and I took our own children to Disney World a few years before he became disabled and our income was drastically cut. What I would say to comfort myself was "At least the girls went to Disney World."
Have you talked about this to your grown up children? Why not start to make long term plans to go there in future with them, when there is enough money saved? You could all play at being very young again. You could wait until you have grandchildren to take, but there is no need. You could just be children again.
That's what it is - a place to dream. We have actually "talked and planned" but then common sense kicks in and we choose a different destination. Perhaps a more meaningful or suitable destination and I'm ok with that but sometimes I want that "at least they went to Disney World" feeling.
I understand how you feel but let me tell you a story. Several years ago, we were doing well financially and my husband talked me into an expensive family vacation. We had struggled for years as the kids were small and now could afford to splurge a little. We chose a Disney cruise, which traveled down the west coast of Mexico. We also planned to go to Disneyland and some other theme parks while in California.
The cruise was amazing. I practically never saw my children except at mealtimes, because they were so busy with all the clubs and activities that were offered. When we arrived back in L.A., we met my sister and nephew for the theme parks. Disneyland was first and we made it a very long day. The next day, which was supposed to be California Adventure, got cancelled in favor of a leisurely day playing in the pool and hanging with the family. My youngest was a little disappointed but seemed to be OK with it. We finished out the trip with Legoland, legos being a favorite for everyone. It was a jam packed vacation, something my single mom was never able to afford and I was so pleased to have been able to give it to my boys.
Recently, I asked my son about the Disney trip and what he remembered best. His response, "I remember how we didn't get to go to California Adventure and how I didn't get to ride the Tower of Terror." My heart hurt a little bit to realize that he only remember the regret, not all the hours of happiness that I know he experienced. I wish I had sent him to the park with my husband, while I stayed home with the rest of the family. Or even just stayed home, as college costs are now looming and finances are not quite as rosy as they were in the past.
There are always regrets, one way or the other. You can just do your best to make the right decisions at the time and not dwell too much on the past. It sounds like your children were lucky to have caring and thoughtful presents, who taught them values which will hold them in good stead through their own family decisions.
Thanks so much for sharing your essay with us.
My kids are in their teens and have found myself from time to time having the same regrets. However, I am reminded that I was able to be a stay-at-home mom while they were in elementary school so that I could be there during the field trips, class parties, etc. I worked part-time during the evenings. While money was tight, I enjoyed the luxury that many moms do not have. Thanks for the post!
I remember reducing my hours to part-time so I could be home when my children got off the school bus. I did it mainly for my special needs son. Then one day I saw my daughter smiling and talking to herself as she walked up the driveway! I knew then, I was where I needed to be.
You are right - those choices we made during those years were a luxury that other did not have.
I really enjoyed reading your article. As parents we all have "regrets" of decisions we made raising our families, that is just how life is. We did not go to Disneyland either but the memories we enjoy of frugal outings are just as wonderful if not better.
I think you might want to ask why you are being so hard on yourself. You have proven the old adage, 'Money can't buy happiness'. So, your children grew up being a little on the thrifty side. That's commendable. They seem well adjusted and I'm sure they will splurge once in a while and within reason.
You did well. Don't let unwarranted guilt feelings rob you of the pleasure that knowledge should be bringing you, now.
Money can't buy happiness, but the lack of money can certainly make you unhappy.
I've been poor and I've been comfortable, and I much prefer comfortable.
I think the lack of money can cause unhappiness only because lack of money equates with lack of security. Most people want to feel secure. I still contend there are a lot of happy poor people, people who rely on their own mindset for happiness rather than material things.
Good question. I think I am being so hard on myself because truthfully I want know that it was ok. That it was ok that my kids only did one sport. That it was ok that our lifestyle was modest and there was little to brag about.
When my husband's income was unexpectedly cut in half, suddenly I was being harrassed by creditors, not because I wasn't paying something, but because I couldn't make the minimum payments all the time. That made me VERY unhappy. I was working a temp job, but about half that money went for child care.
I wasn't aware at the time, but you can fire a bill collector, according to the Fair Debt and Collections Act of 1978. I did write one particular jerk a "cease & desist" letter, and suddenly that creditor was willing to work with me. Like I said, we were paying something, just not the total amount every month. Eventually, of course, things got better and we paid every last cent.
I can do without buying things I want, but not having enough money to pay bills is an insecure feeling I never want to have again.
I have regrets about not taking time to do special things with my children. I've had two children at different times end up dying. I don't care about Disneyland but doing more fun family things. Its okay to be frugal but at the same time once and awhile spend a little more and do something special. You never know when they will die. I'm 64 and last month I took my first trip. I took a long train ride through the states I'd never seen. I didn't visit any place and brought my own food. I just watched out the train windows are learned about things I didn't know about where I traveled. I loved it. It cost a lot less then I thought it would. I wish I knew about this when I was younger and given my children the opportunity to see our country. I try to be frugal and in someways I always will but after my children's deaths I realized, what memories will I have when they are gone? Saving and managing money is great but once and awhile we need to do something special and enjoy special memories with our children. After they are gone, memories are all we have.
Anonymous, I am so sorry for your unimaginable losses. My heart goes out to you.
I raised my son in the exact opposite way from my parents. I didn't even go to my father's funeral. I told the young pastor, a family member, who was going to do the service that I couldn't sit there and listen to somebody say he was a "loving father," when he was anything but.
My parents' answer to everything was to hit us. My 6-year-old brother couldn't remember a letter in the alphabet in first grade, and his teacher asked my parents to work with him. My father worked with him, all right. He'd hit him every time he forgot. My mother stood by and watched and, as usual, did nothing.
So while raising my son, I'd think of what they would have done and I did the opposite. Now, he's 32 and more than once, he's thanked us for the way he was brought up. We weren't lenient by any means, and we expected him to behave, and as he grew older he was expected to work and make something of himself. I'm proud to say, he has.
My family never took a vacation. Once, my father decided to do us a big favor and drive us north, into another state. That's all we did--drive. We couldn't even stop and eat lunch at a Dairy Queen. He made my mother pack sandwiches in an ice chest, which we ate on the side of the road. I was 16 and my brother was 14, so we slept in the back seat. My father acted like we were SO ungrateful, but neither of us had wanted to go in the first place.
We've taken only a few vacations with our son, but he has seen Nashville and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Ruidoso, NM. School trips with the band took him on a cruise and to DisneyWorld. For his job, he's been all over, even to New York City. Taking a few vacations won't make that much difference in most families' finances.
Hi Leah, I am compelled to reply to your post as I think it's commendable that you didn't waste your hard earned money exposing your children to the false and tawdry world of Disney!
It's all FAKE! What's the point? Go camping, picnic in the park, have a family BBQ in the back yard, anything but feed money into the maw of corporate America.
We took our now 33 year old daughter to Disney when she was 4. When asked what her favorite part of the trip was, she said the self-flushing toilets in the bathrooms! I almost forgot about this until I reread this post. A child can have fun anyplace, so there's no need for guilt.
Hi Leah, First, thank you for writing. I am amazes at all the responses. I hope after reading those and mine, all your feelings of regret will all be washed away! We can only do what we can do. I commend the families that give their family what they need first before giving them a trip that some can't afford. That makes no sense to me. And I knew families that would scrape money together and take their kids to Disney and come back and need a loan to pay past due bills. There is no sense in that at all. Just so their kids can say they went to Disney! "CRAZY" I commend you for doing the right thing for your children to see. And it all pays off in the end. I am the mother of now four adult married kids with teens and little ones of there own. I am so very taken by your touching words and more so can relate to every word. I am with you, "No Disney in our family growing up. No way possible. All their friends went to Disney. I truly never saw sadness. I'm not saying that there never was. If there was, they were respectful enough not to show it. My husband for the first 25 years of our marriage worked 2 jobs and I worked part-time nights. They always had a parent home. My kids never lacked for things to do. I was a very young mother, having four children before I was 24 years old. I like to say I grew up along side of them. I loved it. We always had great fun. But "CHEAP" fun. They never knew the difference. I would take them to the hills and forest on nature walks and give each one a brown paper bag for a scavenger hunt. This was so exciting to find things that they thought their sibling would never have in his/her bag. When we were through, we would put out a blanket for snacks and drinks I brought then head home. Then the fun would begin...Each one got a large piece of white paper and crayons then dumped out their treasure on the paper. They could draw what they found, or write if they could what they thought it was. And then we did "Show & Tell." There was never a winner, all four won a prize from my prize jar for a good job done. "FUN, Free Fun."
We lived by a Free town lake with a lifeguard, In the summer I would pack a cooler and off we would go for half the day. They got free swimming lessons and swam all day and had lunch under a tree. I had four very tired little ones by 2pm. "Hello Nap time." Mom gets housework and dinner cooked. When they got a bit older I enrolled them in Summer Bible Camp. Again a freebie! There are so many options for children in the towns you live in and your public libraries offer discount tickets to Zoos, museums and shows. I kept my kids active always. The only sport that we could afford was Baseball. Having three boys that was great! We did splurge a bit for a few years on dancing school for our one daughter. You just have to be creative. I used to have each kid invite one friend over on a Saturday for a craft day. I would do very frugal easy crafts. Serve juice boxes and popcorn. They loved it.
My kids respected us for doing things with some children who never did anything with their parents. Today, all four of my kids have fantastic careers and beautiful homes and I am the most grateful lucky mother to have 4 kids and spouses still living all within 25 minutes from me and they have blessed me with 11 amazing healthy beautiful grandchildren. Who all have now been to "DISNEY." This is written by one proud happy "Nana :)" No Regrets, no one should regret bringing their children up the right way with good morales and respect for what they have.
Hi Jackie. I have to admit, I am humbled by the responses to my "regrets". I know that my husband and I have done the right thing by being smart with our money but sometimes my heart overrides that logic.
It is so refreshing to read the comments and see that there are those who understand and respect our choices. And read that others have followed the same path!
This frugal lifestyle must be a quiet one. No one would brag about a "Show and Tell" moment in the woods, as one would with a trip to Disney, and yet the common denominator of both activities is just - spending time with your family!
Your words were very comforting and I wish all the best to you and your family.
You're wrong that Disney World can wait. You can die in an instant. What you should do now, is teach moderation. To say - don't also be afraid to splurge every once in awhile. And I'll tell you why:
My husband is of that my mindset: save this, wait another year, when I get this paid off or ... whatever and whatever. While you're waiting for the "right time", life keeps going. Now his back and neck and arthritis are so bad, that physically we won't be able to do what we planned for. What was the frugality/CHEAPNESS for at that point?
My mom was killed in a car wreck not 2 miles from home. What about her things left undone?
I'm not saying you're wrong, the values you instilled are admirable, but what I don't hear you say is life is so short. Take some of the money and enjoy it. I think you're right to have regrets and I think your best action is to now tell your kids: we made some mistakes, and learn everything in moderation.
I can't imagine telling my son he couldn't have played tennis because we couldn't find a decent used racquet.
Save some, spend some, don't deny everything.
This was a thorough and heartfelt response. I came from a poor family living in midst of a rich families. As far as bring kids, rich kids did not boast anymore about going on vacation because they were usually isolated as their parents didn't allow them to take friends or socialize outside of their cousins. Poor kids had more friends because you relied on neighborhood kids to babysit. So as an adult I made sure we lived in good school districts but in modest housing. That way we felt secure with an affordable roof over our heads in case someone lost a job, and had enough money to have fun without guilt. When my kids reminisce with their spouses I feel proud they did go on big vacations as well as local camping. And we gave them a happy home. We also paid for them to take along a buddy.
My parents were older when I came along and were farmers, we never took trips though I had friends and an older brother who took me places. They paid for my college though and my first car. They also helped me when I bought a house. Their frugality has enabled me to work part time and be with my children. When they were elderly, I never had to help them pay their bills and we had no trouble paying for their funerals and associated expenses. When mom needed assisted living, she had the money to pay for it. I would rather have financial freedom than a trip to Disney. Being able to care for them when they were elderly and not having financial stress is worth more than fancy birthday parties or expensive clothes.
All the posts were great, some made me cry, some made me laugh but they are all so very true, very good advice. Thank you all for sharing.
WHAT MORE COULD YOU HAVE OFFERED YOUR CHILDREN BUT TO RAISE THEM AS SENSIBLE AND OBVIOUSLY RESPECTFUL OF YOU THEIR PARENTS, A GOLD WATCH FOR YOU BOTH FOR DEVOTED SERVICE TO THEIR FUTURE. BLESSINGS TO YOU ALL.
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