Although we sometimes had help, we were required to help ourselves first. What I mean by this is that I had to make my own bed. I had to vacuum, wash the car and shovel the snow. I had to set the table, which is where I learned that I liked the table to be beautiful. I now call this “table art.” So many of the things I learned to do have become part of my signature style. In addition, I had to earn my own spending money and my awareness of money and how to best utilize it became the basis of my brand, which is “casual luxury”. One doesn’t have to spend a lot to live well.
Today’s economic climate requires us to be more creative than ever. The answers can be found in our recent past. I’m talking about the 70s. When I look back at family photos from that period, I must confess that the fashion left a lot to be desired, in my opinion. What were my parents thinking? My Grandmother wore house dresses and had black cat-eye framed glasses and my Mother had an impressive collection of wigs and hairpieces that would rival Zsa Zsa Gabor’s.
As a child, I remember many aspects of life, that if applied today could not only save us boatloads of cash but also give us and our children a different perspective on what is really important and how little we really need to be happy.
Most children in the 70s earned their allowance by doing chores around the house. Many of the tasks listed below can be done by us and/or our children and are a great way to contribute to the household and save money. So it’s back to the 70s we shall go!
Let’s take a walk down memory lane and remember how life used to be:
Cut the grass: My Father cut the grass in our yard until my brothers and I were old enough to safely operate the lawn mower. Then it became one of our chores. On a nice summer evening or morning, what a great way to spend some time outdoors, save some money and get some exercise.
Iron: I have to say that ironing is very therapeutic and gives me a great sense of satisfaction. If you add up the yearly costs to have shirts professionally laundered, you might consider doing it yourself while you’re sitting in front of the TV. My friend Geri’s mother used to pay her ten cents a shirt back then. So, even with inflation, it’s still a bargain. Washing them at home also prolongs the life of the fabric.
Wash your car: Taking your car through the car wash can cost anywhere from ten to twenty five dollars. For most of the year, a car can be washed at home by hand and takes about an hour or even less.
Sewing: If you can’t sew on a button, something is wrong. Granted sewing a hem is a more difficult but I was taught that someday I might need to know how to do this for myself. And sure enough, this knowledge has come in very handy more times than I can remember. It’s really about being self-sufficient. And a great example to set for the kids.
Shopping is not a sport: In the old days, people shopped for what they needed. It was not considered a recreational activity or a hobby.
Raking and Shoveling: As kids, we constantly scouted the neighborhood for small jobs we could do to earn spending money. After a snowstorm we went door-to-door asking if we could shovel the walkway and driveway. And when the leaves fell, there were lots of leaf raking opportunities. Doing these jobs yourself or with your kids is a great outdoor activity providing exercise and saving you a few bucks.
Resole Shoes: If you invest in good shoes, resoleing them will transform them into new shoes. I recently spent $40 to resole a pair of shoes on which I originally spent $350. They look brand new. What a bargain!
Save: In the 70’s, we saved to buy a car. We didn’t buy a car we couldn’t afford. We also saved for a down payment to buy a house. Living beyond our means is where we’ve gotten ourselves in trouble.
Painting: Be your own handyman/woman when possible by doing it yourself. Start with a small room such as a powder or laundry room. What a great way to give your house a lift for little money. Paint is cheap. Painters are expensive.
Credit Cards: There is way too much to say about this here. Suffice it to say that your library card is the new credit card. You can get books, magazines, movies and music and it won’t cost you a dime. Utilize your library card if you’re feeling the need for some retail therapy.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn and teach our children is how to be frugal. I’m not talking cheap here people. Being frugal was considered a virtue for most of the twentieth century. Being frugal means not being wasteful and making the most of what one has. It requires thoughtfulness, planning and critical thinking. It is an important life skill, as we never really know what is around the corner. In hard times, being frugal is necessary. In good times, being frugal is smart.
And there you have it.