I’ve written about my frugal grandmother, and one might assume she would be the one who impacted me most as a child, but she wasn’t. She was a positive influence, and to tell you the truth I think I inherited some genes from her, but the person I feel had the most impact on me was my foster mother.
When I was sixteen I lived with another family. I was put to work to begin earning my keep and was essentially the main breadwinner for the family for five years. I was only making minimum wage, but I was the only one that contributed my entire paycheck each and every week without fail. I saw a lot of waste in that household which would affect me for the rest of my life.
Things I’ll think twice about doing because of my foster mother:
Waste money on food. Extravagant and unnecessary amounts of money were spent on food. For example, consider this was in the 80s, the mother would spend twenty dollars on a spaghetti dinner. Every item purchased had to be the highest cost premium product, from the extra lean hamburger down to the commercially produced garlic butter. This meal was to feed three adults, a teenage girl and a two toddlers. I used to spend time thinking about how many meals I could have put on the table for twenty dollars. They ate a lot of commercially prepared foods, like Hamburger Helper and everything had to be name brand. For example, they’d buy Ritz crackers, which cost twice as much as store brand saltines.
Eat out excessively. The family ate out a lot. At least two or three times a week they would go to Jack-in-the-Box or McDonald’s and drop twenty dollars on a meal. The mother was a musician and earned $25 a night. This splurge usually took up her whole night’s earnings.
Expensive drinks instead of water. Water was rarely drank by anyone in the family, instead they drank Coke, Tab or milk. At least a six pack of Tab and a gallon of milk was downed each day. And they didn’t recycle the aluminum cans.
Pay to look fake. The mother paid a professional wig stylist to create elaborate wig hairdos for her each month. She dyed her real hair regularly, and once damaged her hair so badly that it turned straw-like. She wore fake nails, and fake eyelashes.
Try to pretend I’m rich, when I’m not. The mother leased a big fancy car so that people at her job would think she was wealthy. She also bought expensive dresses from places like Diamond’s or Saks Fifth Avenue to wear once and return. She bought shoes with purses to match to go with every new outfit. We lived in a neighborhood that we couldn’t afford to live, and three months later we’d move in the middle of the night so we wouldn’t get evicted.
Life with this family was so far removed to the way I had been raised. I spent a lot of time thinking how I would NEVER, could NEVER be as frivolous as these people.
Who had the most financial impact on you as a child?