My Frugal Life: The Way of the Miser

Back in 1985, my father claimed that at the head of every giant corporation, in the hand of every international banker, in the stomach of every commodity pit trader lives the spirit of an old miser. Somewhere back in this leader's ancestral history was a dim room with an elder, carefully putting away his day's collection of coins, for that time in the unknown future when it could be put to good use for the benefit of the family. "If the spirit is not there," he wrote, "the poorly selected executive will squander the corporation's assets like a drunken sailor."


We have seen the devastating effects of shoddy money management reverberate throughout the nation, and in some cases, the world. "During the boom, they all do good. The brightest, the flashiest, the most innovative all do the best," he wrote. "During the bust, only a precious few survive. They tend to be the dull, the careful, the miserly," he concluded.

I first began saving money as a child, the dollars that came with holiday cards from relatives. Once I made a mistake of wondering aloud what I might someday do with it, in the presence of adult smokers and alcoholics. True to their addictive natures, they asked me for some of the money so they could have a "party". My mother, while privately encouraging my saving, would not go against her alcoholic husband and smoker friends. Obediently, I went and got the amount they asked for. A couple of them took it, and immediately went out to spend it on smokes and booze for the group.


By the time I was in seventh grade and living with my dad and his wife, I was becoming mindful of my weight and my figure. When my father gave me the basic amount each day for the school lunch, I didn't always spend it. Sometimes I pocketed and saved it. For cleaning the house, I earned a weekly allowance. With this amount and other savings, I purchased clothes and shoes on sale or clearance throughout the year.

As a teen with a part-time job, I opened a savings account at a local bank. The manually transcribed passbook system and the limited amounts of deposits and withdrawals allowed, helped me manage the money.

My father pointed out, in 1985, that the IRA plans available to everyone, when properly managed, could make millionaires out of many Americans by 2020. When my husband read these words of my father, both of us were working, we had two school age sons, and he could not see how we could save enough to make that deadline. After all, we were tithing to our local church and giving more to help construct a church building.


My husband pointed out the value of the house we were in the process of buying. A house, in my father's eyes, was an expensive consumer item that deteriorates, needs repairs and would probably be sold or abandoned before we reached retirement age.

He, on the other hand, started his married life on land his family owned. My mother and he purchased a one bedroom trailer. In succeeding years, he built two more rooms onto the front and two more rooms onto the back. He was the head carpenter and hired a couple of other men to help him. Instead of accumulating debt, he paid as he built. The family remained in that home until the neighborhood changed with younger pistol-packing, threatening heirs replacing their peaceful, law abiding parents.

After that, my father moved his family into a two-story warehouse that housed his pawn shop business on the bottom floor, with living quarters up above. To this day, when I see a store failing or going out of business, I wonder why the owners didn't try to cut costs by living at their place of business.


As for us, we are in our second home, still paying a mortgage. This house has business potential, if, in the future, we need to pursue that option. In this uncertain economic climate, I am thankful to have had a father who taught me his many miserly ways.

By Vivian P.

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January 5, 20120 found this helpful

Thank you for sharing your story! Saving money when you can is so important! Boo to the adults asking you for money to have a party, that part was not cool, but otherwise I enjoyed reading this.

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June 18, 20140 found this helpful

I also wonder why more business owners do not live above their businesses.

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