Sunday, August 5, 2012

One Hundred Things My Mother Taught Me A Million Times - Chapter 90

#90 -  “Keep a $50 bill hidden in your billfold just in case of an emergency.”

Mom was a consummate penny-pincher. As you know, I’m always curious about words so I googled ‘penny-pincher,’ and synonyms that popped up were “skinflint, stingy and niggard.” None of those words defined mom because she wasn’t stingy. So I googled ‘frugal’ thinking that was a better word for mom’s ability to stretch a dollar. Interestingly, makes the point that, “frugal refers more to practicing economy in the course of shopping for goods or services; whereas thrifty applies more to the preservation of funds.” By the way, the antonyms of frugal are generous, lavish, uneconomical, wasteful and SueAnn.

Mom was both frugal and thrifty. Dad, on the other hand, invested in racehorses, goldmines and oil wells. I think I’m the apple that didn’t fall far from dad’s tree. On the other-other hand, the things that I invest in (heavily) aren’t all that crazy: my grandkids’ whims, my children’s needs or enjoyment, my husband’s health, friendships, books, travel and food. I’m certain that I’m spoiling my grandchildren, and although that probably isn’t good for them, I am just a victim of my own heritage. I didn’t have any grandparents and always wanted them. I know, I know, grandparents are supposed to impart wisdom and love, not DS’s, Androids, Nikes and ice cream, but I never got presents from grandparents so I am also a victim of the backlash effect. But enough rationalizing, let’s return to mom’s emergency $50. CLICK ON READ MORE BELOW...

Back when mom was hiding $50 bills in her billfold (which was actually her shoe and where she kept all her cash), there was no such thing as credit cards. Actually, there were credits cards, but not in my mom’s world. Mom never, ever owned a credit card.

The history of credit cards is pretty interesting. The first recorded reference was in 1887, but the reference was to spending one’s assets, not borrowing. The first widespread use of credit cards was for auto fuel in the 1920’s. Then in the 1930-50’s charging really began to sink it’s teeth into us with the “Charga-Plate” that could be used by any merchant that wanted to extend credit to their customers. Then the airlines jumped in to lure travelers. Diners Club, Carte Blanche and American Express soon followed, and as they say, “The rest is history.” Good for creditors; bad for creditees (yes, I know that isn't a real word).

I think the core lesson from mom was to have cash on hand, which I try to do. But it seems that an awful lot of my cash on hand ends up going to pay for the interest on my sins of the past (overindulgence). But the good news is that as I scooch towards retirement, target date 2018, my goal is to eliminate the frivolous so I can live comfortably on my retirement income. For example, I recently gave up my acrylic nails. That’s $60 a month, or $3,960 I can save between now and retirement. Next is hair color, which won’t save me much as I do my own color.

The big thing is to give up credit. My worst fear is to die suddenly and my kids having to use some of my life insurance money to pay off my debts! So I must pay off all my debt (which really isn’t a lot) and not accumulate additional debt.

I’ve also been thinking seriously about giving up my car. I could buy a Vespa and join Austin’s car2go (car sharing), and occasionally rent a luxury car for long trips. I suspect that would save me a ton when you count car payments, gasoline and insurance.

So I guess I am following mom’s lesson of keeping a $50 bill in my billfold, by planning to keep more money in my bank. Maybe I’m not so unlike my mom after all. 


  1. What is a Vespa---your red neck county friend wants to know? Linda Sue

  2. It is an adorable little motor scooter on which you and I would ride as we bar-hopped in Rome!

  3. Mommy's money-in-the-shoes story is legendary in our family. I remember seeing her, car stopped at an intersection, bend over and pull out a large bill. The funny thing is, she'd use a big bill to buy a coke--her favorite beverage when shopping.

    Anyway, she was frugal and I think her daughters (my aunts--although not you, Dear Blogger) weren't always happy with her spending behavior. But, her penny-pinching efforts were so very interesting, such as growing beautiful vines out of sweet potatoes, and using the vines to decorate her dining room built-in bookshelves. She also made drapes from old chenille bedspreads and other fabric. She tied them up and draped them over the windows much like interior designers do today! She collected menus and displayed them, along with large jars of sand (from beaches all over Europe and other destinations), and glassware from restaurants--much to the disdain and shock of her family. She could have had her own design show on HGTV or DIY--and focus on the tasteful aspects of re-purposing.

    If the Wade Sisters (note: I turned this into a proper noun)thought their mother extravagant, her grandchildren enjoyed this about Mommy. She was generous, so much so that she'd buy a lovely (and expensive) dress and save it for one of her daughters or granddaughters. She'd buy patterns and fabric and make school clothes for us--things we couldn't buy in the stores--that's still my preference; I want to wear what no one else is wearing. But, Mommy also taught us to have fun and enjoy life without money. I recall visits where, every night she'd read to us. What a gift was that! At the time, I enjoyed listening to her voice as she read about Veronica's struggle as a brunette. These days, I read to my students (yes, they are college age) and they love it!

    I loved that she was so involved in helping me develop a sense of style and the encouragement she gave me to be a strong woman. In fact, I felt like a princess in her presence, and, I'm sure I'm not the only Wade grandchild who had the same experience with Mommy. There is only one word to describe this memory of Mommy; it was PRICELESS. Jane

  4. Thank you for helping me memorialize mom, niece Jane, and in such a poetic and touching way.