John’s dad’s nickname is El Cheapo and he truly is one of our money management role models. It’s not like he wears shoes with holes in them or lives without creature comforts- he just saves for what is truly important to him (like a family-sized vehicle and even a vacation home for us to gather) and forgoes things that don’t mean as much to him (like fancy meals on the town and a room-sized flat screen TV). Of course deciding what matters to you and being frugal in other areas is truly a personal decision (so if a flat screen TV will give you more joy than a minivan you should certainly follow your heart and save up for that!).
But the point is that Tom literally squirrels away moolah for years to put towards a new car, buys it after extensive research, and then drives it until it has record breaking amounts of mileage (which averages much less cost per year or per mile than most people would ever think possible). True story: he still drives a fully functional 1998 Nissan Quest with over 300,000 miles on it (!) while his wife drives a new Honda Pilot (they saved up for that but the Nissan still works so his thoughts are “why not drive it until it dies?”). In short, the man knows what he wants to save money on and he knows what he wants to spend it on. And he’s not afraid to divert funds from one area to attain something that will bring him and his family great joy- which is always an honorable quality.
In fact we referenced both him and my father when we answered the big “how do you budget and afford so many DIY projects?” question a few months back (see more on that subject right here).
And after reading that post, he sent us an inspiring and memorable email that we just had to share (note: we’re always astounded when our relatives email us to say that they read our blog). So without further ado, the wise words of Tom Petersik:
“Loved your frugal blog post! Funny thing: I was just “admiring” that puffy painted tie from John yesterday. But onward to the main point: too often frugality is incorrectly viewed as “giving up,” when the real point of frugality is “getting what you really really want.” Many times I think the main point of frugality isn’t in “not buying;” the main point of frugality- and perhaps life- is to recognize what brings you the greatest rewards and to go enthusiastically for those things. When Kathy and I got married, buying our first home was a biiig stretch, all $27,500, but we loved every minute of it. And buying our current home was a bigger stretch, but it has been a great blessing. And they were both “frugal” decisions. The point is, if you as a person truly derive great pleasure from something, the frugal behavior is to “go for it” – enthusiastically and whole hog. Who cares if you’re not going out to dinner if the money you’re saving can afford you the things you really want? What is given up means little compared with the pleasure of the better choices.” -Love, Tom/Dad
So we thought we’d share those inspiring words with you guys since they meant so much to us- and because so many of you seemed to relate to that original money management post that he’s referring to. And while we’re on the subject of great parental advice, have you guys ever been taught something by your parents (or another wise-beyond-their-years family member) that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear what legacy your relatives are passing down and inspiring in your household.
Love this advice :)
I love that! He’s right… so many people think about all the things they’re “giving up”, and remembering that eventually they’ll get “what they really want” – genius! Thanks for sharing!
Our parents taught us similar values. In particular they taught us never to carry a credit card balance and to always pay ourselves first, meaning to stash away savings before buying a single thing.
those dads…they sure know a thing or two, don’t they?? :)
You certainly have a strong and powerful family tree there, John and Sherry. Just think, the two of you have those same awesome, rock solid values, and now Miss Clara will too!
Thanks for the reminder of why having old fashioned financial values is an amazing virtue!
i want to thank you for this post from your dad/tom. my husband and i will soon be moving into our second home to accommodate our now bigger family and frugality has definitely taken over. only yesterday my friends were over and talking about shoes to buy (at a discount even) and i was feeling kind of glum about knowing that i dont really need any and would rather put it all toward all the expenditures involved in making a new house our home. and now having read that, i can let go of the silly glumness and again be inspired by all the potential of our new house and getting it renovated and decorated. shoes shmooze. =)
Love it! What a great perspective! Makes me more excited to cut out things I don’t need in order to save for things I REALLY want! Thank you!
laurie eller says
My husband and I have been credit card free for almost nine years. It’s had its ups and downs but honestly, we love to save for the things we really want. We just put in new wood floors in the upstairs of our house and paid cash for them. It just makes me happy to do it that way, plus when other people are still paying off their Disney vacations (ugh!) and their Christmas-present-buying-sprees, we have no debt (other than our home) and we have very little stress.
The stress comes when we get to “decide” on how to spend the money we’ve saved. :) That’s good stress.
Tom is smart! Listen to Tom!
Heather Wendling says
Love this post, thanks for the advice and being proof that budgets work. My Dad keeps cars until they die, too, does the maintenance himself such as oil changes or installing a CD player. Another habit I developed from Mom and Dad is turning the lights off when you leave the room and how important it is to budget and save for things. My husband and I don’t use credit to pay for a vacation or furniture – we wait until we have saved the money – which makes our adventures and time at home that much more fun.
Liz @ It's Great To Be Home says
It may sound cheesy, but the best advice I ever got was this from my mom – “This is not a dress rehearsal.” Essentially, she was saying that you only live once so go for what you really want in life. Great words to live by!
Great post and advise. :) My Dad always said, no matter a good or bad situation (but mostly to keep in mind for bad situations) to “chalk it up for experience.” So what if you made a mistake, had a fight, came upon a challenge you couldn’t quite meet – chalk it up for experience. Experience makes us who we are and who we are we should be proud of. I love that advise and I KNOW I’ll be shellin’ it out to my kids some day. ;) My hubby and I save for the things we REALLY want. Sometimes it’s hard to forgo the dinners out or the new clothing, but we’re always glad we did in the end when we reach our goals.
Save, save, save. My parents started teaching me the power of saving money and the benefits you can get by doing so. We talk often about the money I’m saving and what it will turn into by the time I retire. My dad always reminds me that later, “you’ll never be sorry to have money.” My friends squander money away on expensive meals and trivial items, and sometimes, I do feel like I’m missing out, but at the end of the day – I (like Tom!) save for the things that matter most and forget about the little things that merely steal money from my bigger dreams and goals.
Now if only I could figure out what was important enough to save for! At the time it seems whatever I’m about to put my money on is important … For me, the most important thing my parents instilled in us was to be non-judgmental, that basically everyone is just looking for their own little bit of green grass in this world. My mom took in pregnant teens, fresh air kids from the Bronx, etc. She was a veritable friend of the friendless. I miss her so much. Oh and I have to mention … just spent the entire afternoon reading a ton of posts in your “how to” section. Such an amazing array of ideas in there, good work you guys! Now I have projects to get to if you’ll excuse me ;)
My dad has been gone for almost two years now but he was super thrify and always looking for a good deal, sale or bargain. He had a VW Jetta that was at least 15 years old and the odometer had stopped working at 200,000 miles so who knows how many miles it really had when he finally sold it five years later! Anyway one thing he taught me was to always pay your credit card bills every month. “Don’t give those credit card companies a penny.” Growing up when the credit card bill came my dad would sell something (he collected lots of things so there was always something he could make a buck on) if he didnt have the cash to pay it in full! My husband and I pay our bills every month and if we dont have the money…we dont buy it!
My father, to this day, reminds us to check for our exits when we get on a bus or a plane. Trust me, I’m going to be the first one off in case of an emergency. Maybe it has something to do with his father being overly cautious – my grandfather made us stand 10 feet away from the railing when he took us to visit the Grand Canyon.
So very true. My husband and I are the same way, thanks to our very frugal but resourceful parents. It’s cost us a few friends along the way, but saving money by not having cable, opting to bring every lunch to work, and eating out no more than once or twice a month is worth the savings we continue to put toward our first home. We’ll get there some day, until then, my home will continue to be my husband and our fur-kids!
liz @ bon temps beignet says
Oh my gosh, Tom is JUST like my Dad. My Dad is a very cautious buyer…of anything and everything, big and small. I drive my husband nuts anytime we go grocery shopping because I always check the price per ounce to find the best deal, whereas he would just go for the brand names he recognizes. Those pennies add up to dollars and the dollars add up to the major purchases.
My husband and I had collectively $30K in credit card debt when we got married. And in a year, we paid back every penny. I even lost my job a month into our marriage, but we still managed to do it. Hard work and dedication paid off. We learned our lesson and now we pay cash for everything and are even paying for hubs to go to grad school without taking out loans.
We say: “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else!”
This post rings true with my household.
We live in a small house that is filled with all the things we adore (hardwood floors I hand picked, furniture we picked out together, etc.) and although early in our relationship I teased my husband about his frugal ways, I now totally and 100% get it. We live on a budget and to have the things we want, we have to save and save, but rather than having a bunch of junk like I had before he came along, I have a home full of things that I absolutely adore.
My husband’s frugal ways have turned me into a frugal-er myself and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Ashley @ The Design Thief says
As we and all of our friends begin to have children, my dad’s piece of advice to us is to “be the house that all of your children’s friends gather at”.
To paraphrase him, letting all of the kids hang out at your house has many benefits–you get to know all of your kid’s friends (which is invaluable), you know that no matter how late they stay up that they are safe with you, and you are the first to hear about everything that is going on with them. My parents always kept our house stalked with great food, so we were never hungry, and they told us all of the time that we were always welcomed to bring all of our friends over.
Besides that all of my friends still call my dad their “second dad” my parents were apart of my life and my friends’ lives in a very appropriate way. We were were out wandering the streets or hanging out where parent’s weren’t…we were doing normal things within reach of my folks.
I love his advice and I plan on doing the same thing with our daughter and our other (future) children.
My dad is a pretty frugal guy himself, not one to really want anything fancy for himself, getting gift ideas that are “wants” not “needs” is like pulling teeth! But he has taught us to live a little and splurge every once in a while too! When we were little my parents would take us to some sort of Disney on Ice show each year and when we were there if we wanted a $12 snowcone we could have one since it was a once a year special occasion! It’s a running joke now that $12 snowcone and the souvenir cup…..
Reading your blog reminds me a little of my parents, in the last two years they have completely gutted and remodeled a little ranch house on an acreage and they couldn’t be happier!
Great letter, and I love what he says about wearing something out! Even though I live car-free in dc, whenever I go home to Oregon, I still drive my 1989 Camry. The kicker is that the milage is still so good it didn’t even qualify for the cash for clunkers program! When I’m not using it, my dad still drives it around town. Might as well run it while it still can (without releasing bad fumes, of course!)
Amy Wolff says
Wish someone would have taught me.. it is a hard lesson to learn. I can’t wait till the day we are debt free AND don’t live paycheck to paycheck.
I love this. Very wise, very philosophical. I have been trying very hard to focus on what we get from saving money rather than what we give up. He is so right.
The point isn’t to hoard riches; it’s to have a rich life.
Your fathers are both wonderful, wise men to instill in their children (you) simple values that will ultimately enrich your lives.
My husband and I are children of parents who were brought up during the depression, when doing without was all there was. The two of us were taught by example to: live without debt, live below our means, and that great joy can be had in simple things. We both had wonderful childhoods, and never felt deprived.
It’s been natural for us to live the same way we were raised. The surprising thing for us is that by waiting and saving for the things we really want – we often find we don’t really want them anymore.
My father used to tell me and my siblings that he and my mother, “always tried to give us what we needed, and not necessarily what we wanted”.
I’ve strived to live the same way and know they took pride in my doing so.
Chatelaine B says
My Dad taught me how to budget the day I got my first babysitting gig. He showed me how to make a ledger, input what I had and then to show me how to keep track in order to buy what I wanted, say a new bike.
Having that lesson early on has sure made me appreciate having a savings, knowing what you want (long term goals) and how to achieve them.
Guess that’s what you get for being the first born LOL
All this holds true today – gotta love our Dad’s!
Great advice! I was talking about this to a friend the other day about how many ‘frugal’ people are often misunderstood as ‘cheap’. But, so many people don’t really think about how when they are spending money on one thing, they are usually making a ‘choice’. Most people can’t have everything they want. So when you eat out or buy new clothes or shoes or whatever, you are making a choice of how you are spending your money. You are essentially giving up something that might be more important, if you really thought about what you really want.
I have a friends who eat out all the time, always have new clothes, you name it, but who also drool over my family’s yearly family vacations to Australia to visit my hubby’s family), wishing they too could travel.
But we choose those trips over eating out all the time or having lots of new clothes or new furniture. We drive older cars and shop consignment for clothes, toys and books…but my kids have also fed kangaroos and elephants and have petted koalas and wombats. Not what I would call ‘giving up’ by any stretch.
We just made a decision of what is important for our family and we made a choice based on that.
Kevin M says
Awesome advice. I love the comment that frugality is usually seen as giving something up, which is wrong. Our family is all about spending on what we value and cutting everything else to the bone. Example, I drive a 1998 Jeep Cherokee that I, like John’s Dad, plan on driving until it dies. Why spend $300+ on a car payment when it still runs great?
Viva El Cheapo!
My Dad has always told me to “Pick your Battles.” This has come in incredibly handy with my husband. I am a very go with the flow person and he is not. So when I speak up and say something is very important to me and strongly state my opinion and thoughts he knows that it means a lot to me and will usually bend to my way.
That’s such great advice (new Grandpa Petersik sounds like a wise man!). I try hard to live frugally too, and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your own impatience to attain something, but overall your so much better off saving up and waiting.
I think frugality is really important, and I think you enjoy things, experiences more after you save up for them.
That being said, I don’t think frugality should get in the way of enjoying life! Many people in my life are paralyzed by saving and spending money, and consequently miss out on the amazing experiences in life. I think too many people put emphasis on spending money on things versus experiences. Seeing value in a vacation or a nice dinner out is hard for some people.
I think you have to prioritize spending money on what is important to you. I like to travel, and saving money for vacations every year is a key priority for me. I also like to eat out, and enjoy food immensely. That experience is important to me, and I make room in my budget to savor the experience.
I am totally going to type this up and post it in our kitchen. Neither me nor my fiance was taught particularly good money management by our parents and so we’re learning together. We’re closing on our first home (in an hour!) and we’re feeling exactly what John’s dad described. Everything we did without is totally worth it today! The other benefit of frugality that I don’t think you’ve touched on is that it has been so good for our relationship! Finances are on of the huge sources of tension for couples and we’ve definitely found that when we set goals as a couple our values are in line and there’s no resentment or feeling deprived. We have a totally “we’re in this together” attitude and every time to reach a financial milestone it’s a triumph that we can share as a couple. As far as we can tell, though, there’s no downside to being “cheap.” Thanks for all the help you’ve given us along the way!
This is my favorite post ever. I totally agree. I don’t know if I’d have the motivation to be frugal if it just felt like denial all the time.
I’ve never really heard it put quite that way–that instead of giving things up, you’re actually saving for something you really, really want. It’s all in your mindset and attitude, huh? GREAT advice. My husband and I are celebrating our first anniversary in a few weeks and “money” was definitely pretty high on our list of struggles as newlyweds this year. Wonderful advice to “take to the bank”. Heh heh. ;)
now that you’re parents, too, you’ll get to pass along your dads’ wise advice!
we work hard to teach our kids about the positive side of saving up for something you want, even though we are fortunate enough to be able to afford to just go out and get the things we want right away…it’s fun to decide together on a shared goal, and find ways to ‘earn’ money towards that goal. We’ve make lists for various ‘jobs’ around the house, most of which involve some sort of co-operative task (e.g., if everyone puts their laundry away on the day it’s done, we contribute money to the savings for a trip to the cabin.)
do other people get teased by others for being frugal/thrifty? once, someone told us that picking up the job candidate in our 2000 geo metro would ‘send the wrong message’–what does that even mean? must everyone drive a huge SUV?
so what if we’re perceived as quirky, I think it’s a more responsible attitude towards ‘stuff’ to be thoughtful about large (and small) purchases.
[email protected] says
Great post, and I can relate. I think, essentially, saving for what you want also translates to working for what you want. If it isn’t worth working for, then you don’t really want it.
I grew up very frugally – my clothes were usually hand-me-downs, from garage sales, or from stores like Ross and Marshalls. I only bought items that were on sale – something I, for the most part, continue to do to this day. My parents did all this, too, and saved money for more important things – like the mortgage, food and utilities, and the occasional vacation, stock full of valuable family time. One thing they didn’t save for, however, was an education for me and my brother. During middle school, my parents told me that they couldn’t afford to send me to college (they couldn’t even afford to buy the books for one year), and that if I wanted to go I’d have to find a way to pay for it myself. Once I became a freshman in high school, I joined the school’s rowing program – hoping and praying that one day I would get a scholarship to a good college. I sacrificed a lot of things for rowing: a social life, lots of friends, time for homework, study time for tests, Spring breaks, Christmas breaks, weekends, etc. I loved it, but I also looked at it like a job – one that could potentially change my life and get me where I wanted to be. My dream eventually came true: because of my hard work (43rd in the country, tied for top on the team, 3 yrs undefeated), I was offered a full scholarship to the University of Tulsa, a 4 year private university that had a great College of Arts and Sciences and a widely-recognized Graphic Design Program. 4 more years of hard work at rowing, along with hard work in the graphic design field, and I finally graduated with no debt to my name and a BFA. I would not be where I am today if not for my parents instilling within me frugal-but-important beliefs and values.
Sorry for the super-long comment! I didn’t really mean to write my whole life story, but it just came out and in the end did sort of apply. :)
Anyways, thank you for this great and thought-provoking post.
I’m working on frugality myself these days. It’s hard to be disciplined, though!
Here’s some great advice from my amazing mother: NEVER buy a house you can’t afford on one income. If someone is laid off, injured and unable to work, or there’s a divorce, it’s important that one person can make the house payments. Also, that means the other person in the relationship can save an equivalent amount of money and put it in a savings account/travel fund/house project fund.
And by the way, there’s nothing wrong with driving an older car. I drive a nine-year-old Honda Civic and it still runs like new!
Loved your post about this!! Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are the only people in the world who do it like this. We too are CC free and sometimes get discouraged when our friends go and make lots of frivolous purchases with their credit cards….but at the end of the day we know that we are debt free!! (ps I’m right up there with your dad…my car is a 1997 Toyota with 250,000 miles – still running great!!)
Lessons from my parents:
1. Life’s not fair, but God is good
2. Never be to proud to pick up a penny
I was taught by my parents to live within your means. Your families have taught you well. What a wonderful example for precious little Clara. Our country needs a lot of this philosphy. How does your father-in-law feel about running for office?
[email protected] says
What a great letter! So wise and true. My husband and I both drive cars that have over 100k miles on them, with no plans to replace them any time soon. We’d rather take memorable vacations than drive fancy cars.
Hi. This is a great post. I love John’s dad’s words of wisdom. The best piece of wisdom my father ever said to me was this: “A problem isn’t a problem if you can throw money at it and make it go away.” What he meant was that if a problem is solved just with money, it wasn’t really a problem. Problems are things that can’t be fixed with money — like ill health and a broken heart. This idea has helped me focus on all the positive things I have in my life that have nothing to do with money and stop focusing on how much better life would be if I could afford something I want.
I love this! The quote “frugality is getting what you really really want” is one I am going to live by.
The hubs and I have been living on a budget for almost a year now. It is amazing how much we have been able to save since discovering where our money was going.
I have recently wondered if we are “giving up” by living on a such a tight budget but this reinforces that we are not. In fact, our current savings goal is a vacation to the caribbean. We wanted to go for our honeymoon but we couldn’t afford it so we decided to do it now before babies enter the picture. After saving for a year, we will be paying in cash, and as a result, getting what we really really want!
Katie C. says
Wow, I think that Tom and my dad are one in the same. My father buys a car brand new, practically pays for it in cash, and drives it until it sputters to a standstill on the side of the highway. They bought their 1985 Chevy Celebrity station wagon brand new and it didn’t far out until 1998 and it had plenty of miles on it. Probably in the 300,000 mile range. They still have a 1994 Plymouth minivan that has well over 300,000 miles and still runs. It has had a few issues, but it still runs well. The thing is, they also have a brand new Jeep Liberty Renegade that they bought recently, and my mom bought a brand new Chrysler Crossfire. As kids growing up, we didn’t have fancy cars like that, but my parents always made sure we had what we needed and they saved for important stuff. And while they have these nice new cars now, they still hold on to that old minivan because, as your father in law says, why get rid of something that works? Too often, I see people constantly trading in their vehicles for something new, never even paying off the loans. I figure as long as my car is chugging along, I will keep it, and save that money! I am almost done paying my car note and I will be jumping off the walls when that is done! I figure I can put that money, the $340 a month that I won’t be paying anymore, towards the new house we want to buy.
Frugality is not about living without – and your father in law said it beautifully. It is sacrificing a little here and there in order to get something amazing in the end. I look at is as a game. And let me tell you, it hasn’t been easy to get into that game! Because I didn’t have a whole lot of extras growing up, I sort of went apesh!t when I grew up and got a good job and had money and would spend my money on what I felt like. Now that I am a little older and wiser, my husband and I realize the value of being frugal. We don’t live without things we need, but I have learned to forgo the frivolous in order to save for tomorrow.
Great blog post! Thanks!
Thanks for this tried and true advice that is oh so unpopular in this day and age. When we told folks that we were down-sizing to one car, there was pity and genuine concern in the eyes of everyone around us. They simply could not imagine how we could do it. And here we are two years later, still doing it.
Brandi Ledesma says
I wholeheartedly agree and am so happy you’re parents are so wise! Mine, not so much. LOL, but I love them anyway! Just having to learn these lessons the hard way!
I just wanted to take it a step further and say that we also have to realize that getting the things we really want will take time. Our generation wants everything our parents have and more, and we want it NOW! The only problem is that it took our parents and grandparents many years to get to where they are.
I know we don’t like to do it, but mature people can wait to get what they want!
Kélé S. says
One way that I chose to be frugal recently was by not getting a ‘smart phone’. Oh, the temptation was there but I couldn’t commit to that 30 dollar / month data plan. I suppose for you guys though having a smart phone might help you since your bloggers / on the internet a lot of the time. It might be nice to have one on the go. Is this an area you guys splurge?
Yup, we don’t even think of the one iPhone that we share as a splurge- we’ve learned that it’s a necessity. Having a blog like this means we’re on call 24/7, so even trips to see family or traveling over the holidays was majorly stressful since we used to pull into random rests stops on the hunt for free wireless to answer comments and keep things going on the blog (which could add an extra hour or two to each trip and tons of stress). Since getting our iPhone we were able to blog our way halfway across the country to Texas (where we attended a wedding) and back, which is something we definitely couldn’t have done before getting that phone. To us it’s a necessary business expense and it allows us to live a more rich life and see more of the country without major stress along the way. It even comes in handy when we’re stuck in traffic and are late getting home to publish a post- so it’s definitely a worthy investment!
I love this way of looking at things! I feel the same way, but am a bit of a material girl, so it’s hard to remember sometimes that I’ll be much happier with a new camera that I can use for years and take on all of my trips than I will with that new nail polish/shirt/lunch out.
The one thing my parents taught me about money was this: the long list of things worth going into debt for are a home, a car, and an education. Beyond that, nothing is worth going into debt for (and even those are questionable). Cash is best, but those things should not be avoided just because they might come with debt.
Thanks for this post! As a relatively new reader, I went ahead and read the money management post and all the other links on cutting spending. I’ve recently been re-examining our budget, and I wondered if you could share how you work gifts into your yearly budget. Do you buy birthday presents for family and friends? Holiday gifts? Anniversary, mother’s day, father’s day? Personally it all seems quite overwhelming. How do you “gifts” line item low while still making your friends and fam feel special?
With huge families on both sides we see how it could totally get overwhelming. We’re lucky that every Christmas everyone draws one name to buy for (that way everyone has one gift to open, but no one is buying 40 gifts for everyone). As for birthdays, we all decided that going in on an experience is better than buying birthday gifts throughout the year, so we pick an annual “adventure” (this year it was a winter ski trip) and we all put the money we would’ve spent on gifts towards that vacation. We love that we all get to have a memorable experience, instead of unwrapping a sweater or gift card.
Lesley H says
What a great dad and great advice. You are lucky to have such a strong role model. One of my favourite pearls of wisdom has come from YOUR site. I have adapted Sherry’s “post it note on the credit/band card” technique and taped a small picture of the furniture I’d like on my own card. If I go to use it, I’m reminded of what I REALLY want and think twice about making a purchase. When I don’t make that purchase, I transfer the equivalent money into my savings account. It’s growing quickly and that furniture will be mine soon. I’ll enjoy it all the more by not having a credit card bill for it. Thanks for all you share youngsters! We’re paying attention :)
I am a major frugalista if you will. My mom always says that I have my grandad’s genes in me as he literally squirreled away his money and invested it so well that he made himself enough money to live very comfortably but then still saved, saved, saved so that there’s now enough left to have sitters take care of my grandmother long after he’s gone. My family has in fact inspired me to start my own money saving blog. Would love for you to check it out!
Heather @ http://www.savingmoneylivinglife.com