Our parents provided a unique approach to money.

(Think budget. Tight budget. Think living frugally.)

Merriam-Webster defines frugal as: being careful about spending money or using things when you don’t need to; simple and plain.

Were my parents extraordinarily frugal or simply intelligent about money? 

I have often marveled at our parents’ ability to give us so much with what they had on hand. Dad worked for a steel mill, earning a decent wage, but by no means an exorbitant salary. Mom worked outside the home once or twice during my junior high school years. But with four kids stretched across twelve years, she was needed at home.

Somehow, with three little kids around and another added when I was ten, we always had enough. We were never without food on the table, clothes and shoes to wear, and Christmases consisted of nice gifts. 

Let’s digress about Living Frugally at Christmas

Our Christmases were special because of how our parents approached the holy-day. It wasn’t because of the number of presents we were given. Nor was it the monetary value of the gifts. Our parents were aces at making Christmas an event because of the sentiment, thoughtfulness, and honesty surrounding the giving. They also never let us lose sight of  Christ, despite the fun of having Santa Claus in our lives.

Don’t let this special holiday become one of stress or debt that you are stuck with until next December. Your children and family will remember for decades what the holiday felt like—far longer than they remember the presents.

Our Parents were Never Overloaded in Debt

If they needed a new washing machine, it was purchased on credit and diligently paid off before any other sizable purchases were made. Who does that these days? When I got divorced, was penniless with a mortgage, a low-paying job and an empty home, I followed their lead. I needed a bed. I bought it on time and when it was paid off, I replaced my defunct washer. The dryer went next and I hung clothes outside year around. The blessing of Montana is the airiness that dries items dangling from a line.

Other Ways of Living Frugally

I’m sure I was occasionally given Jackie’s hand me downs. With only one year and three months between us, it’s most likely we were growing at about the same rate and size. When we were little, Mom made our clothes. Gosh, I had some favorites! Like the little dress on the homepage of this blog. There was also a reversible blue vest that I wore until it was worn out.

My parents were frugal before & after having kids
Mary & Gilbert Griffith – before the kids came along!

Mom used tea bags twice, letting the tea steep two or three minutes. She would pull the bag onto a teaspoon, twist the thin string around spoon and bag to squeeze the tea. After drinking one cup, she would repeat with another dump of boiling water. Who does that these days? I don’t. When I want a strong cup of Chamomile, I extravagantly plop two tea bags in the mug.

Living Frugally is Important for Marital Compatibility

Alex and I share this money attitude. Our deck was in a sad state. We debated hiring someone to do it because of Alex’s travel with his job. We got a ballpark figure that blew our socks off, looked at each other and agreed, let’s do it ourselves. With the money we saved, we purchased the deck canopy and furniture. The monetary savings was great, to be sure. Even better was the satisfaction of doing it ourselves and for me, learning how to use more power tools.


I grew up in a family of: Hmmm, I need that and don’t have it…. Okay, I’ll make it. I thought that was what everyone did and didn’t learn differently until college. That’s when a bias was uncovered: all men do not know how to fix cars. What a shocker. I thought it was genetic. Men, I had to recalibrate how I judged you and pull fundamental car knowledge from the list! Dad fixed cars—he liked it and also for the extra income. Mom wanted new coffee tables for the family room. She built them. Who does that these days?

When my sisters want something new to decorate the house, they first look around at what’s on hand. Being creative, they are soon sending me pictures, saying, check this out.

Do you do that frugal thing these days?

What prompts you to pause for a minute and think: I can do that!


Read: That Griffith Idiot Grin…