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4 Frugal Lessons From My Grandma

Multi-generational frugality tips! These are SO great!!

Guest post from Carrie:

My grandmother is a sweet, 97 year old Southern lady who has never worked a paid job in her life. Yet I found myself thinking of her recently as I finished up writing a book about frugality and money management. As it turns out, I learned a lot about money from her quiet example… here are just a few of those lessons.

1. Value experiences over things.

When I visited my grandmother, I was not offered gifts and we didn’t go shopping. Instead, I was given the gift of her time.

I got to “help” her bake biscuits from scratch using an antique wooden dough bowl. I would watch, hypnotized, as she made a well in the flour, mixed in buttermilk and lard, and shaped perfect, fluffy biscuits by hand, miraculously identical in size.

We would do simple household chores together, feed the chickens and weed the garden, and I would ride my bike up and down her village with my cousins.

2. Relationships are true wealth.

My grandmother had three children, all of whom live nearby, but in fact she birthed five babies — two of them not surviving infancy. If you ask her how many children she had, she always said “five”, not “three”.

She was married to the same man for 70+ years, caring for him in her home rather than letting others take on this task.

A stream of grandchildren, dozens of great-grandkids, and even great-great grandkids run through her house constantly. Even grown-up neighborhood kids, who moved away from the tiny village years earlier, stop by to visit and check up on ‘Ms. Huggins’.

3. Hospitality

I’ll never forget my grandmother opening her door to an older lady known as The Cat Woman. Though obviously mentally ill – she lived with dozens of cats – Grandma offered this woman conversation and hospitality. After she left, we would have to air out the house and Lysol the chair she sat in due to the smell.

Though my grandmother was never wealthy by any stretch, she always had something to offer someone in need. Whether a meal and glass of her famous iced tea or a wad of cash, she invested in other people.

4. Frugality

Growing up in the deep South in the post-Depression era, my grandmother had many habits that hearken back to that time.

She never heated her entire house in winter, only the living room where people gathered to visit (the kitchen stayed warm from cooking). I remember crawling into her bed in the winter, my teeth chattering and my breath visible! After a few minutes, however, I didn’t know the difference, as she put me to sleep telling me the old-fashioned stories that were told to her as a child.

Grandma also didn’t take a bath every day, but before slipping into bed, she washed her hands, face, neck, and feet – a habit I’ve kept until this day.

Meals didn’t have to include meat, but peas and beans along with vegetables made up the bulk of her diet. Grandma also hung laundry on the line, kept chickens for their eggs, and had a thriving garden.


What did you learn about frugality and money from your grandparents?

Carrie Willard is a blogging, homeschooling mom of 7 and author of: The Temporary Tightwad: Radically reduce your spending, meet a money goal and change your life forever.

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  • HokieKate says:

    My dad’s parents lived on four continents as he grew up since my grandpa was in the Army. My grandmother not only taught me to love traveling, but also that family relationships can be strong and vibrant even with literal oceans in between.

  • Mrs S says:

    My grandparents never spent their coins. They always said that was their “savings” -it went into a special account at the bank when the jar was full. I watched my grandmother very carefully add up the total of her groceries sometimes adding one more thing or placing something back on the shelf, to stretch her grocery budget as far as she could, knowing that once the bills became coins, they went into the jar. Now that one of them has passed and the other lives in a retirement community, there’s still money in savings, from those coins long ago.

  • Bethany says:

    I loved this post and felt like I’d love to sit and have some tea with your grandma. My grandparents were very frugal too. They invested in a lot of real estate, but you’d never know they were wealthy looking at them, they just looked like your average grandparents. 🙂 When I was a child I watched my grandma always wash out a ziplock bag after using it, and put it away. They only had the lights on in the room they were in (and sometimes not even then.) My grandfather seemed to find a way to reuse almost anything. They never hired things done that they could figure out how to do themselves. They were always so humble, helpful, generous, and classy. And my grandma made every holiday SO special! The holidays were all about family and less about the gifts. What I remember most is the dinner tables and how grandma decorated them with such thought and care! There was a note at your place setting from her, and a miniature fun gift, with a small chocolate at your place setting too. And she always organized a dinner game for the kids because we’d finish eating first. So there was a scavenger hunt prepared and waiting for us to run off to, (all of the instructions were at our place setting). We’d often play a “get to know you” game whenever someone brought a significant other over to introduce to the family. 🙂 Family was valued. People were valued. Money was just a tool to be wisely used. I’m so thankful for my grandparents’ example. It molded me for sure!

  • Carrie, I love this post! It touched my heart as it reminded me of my own grandmother and great-grandmother. I think that generation really had it right when they prioritized relationships over things. Such a beautiful legacy!

  • Jennifer says:

    A good chunk of my childhood was spent at my grandparents’ home. I am so thankful for this. You always knew when it was close to payday. My grandpa was payed biweekly and for most of his life barely made above minimum wage. They lived on the dairy farm he worked at. He was up at 3 am , breakfast break for an hour, back to work , lunch break from 12:30-3:00 and then worked until 7-8 at night! 7 days a week with 2 days off per month. He was an incredibly hard worker and loved his job. My grandma never worked a job outside her home. The week before payday , without fail, she would fix green beans with ham hock, soup beans, potato soup and tomatoes with macaroni noodles. The green beans and tomatoes were canned from her garden. Their philosophy was truly , ” wear it out and use it up”.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Lovely grandma you have…and so fortunate you STILL have her!! My grandma was a lot like yours…I learned a lot from her…and she was my main supporter too…always affirming and helping…both with her time and money. They lived actually rather poor…but their main joy was giving their money and time away. They lived into their late 80s and early 90s…and we lost them way too soon!! I miss them every day!! Do all you can to stay in contact with yours so long as you have them!!

  • You are very blessed to have your nice grandma. We used to love going to grandmas house when I was little. We loved it because it was “country” and we were city kids. Your right we never were given material goods just cookies and love. It’s funny how those memories stay in your mind.

  • BJ says:

    Wow! My mom and grandma made biscuits that way! So special and a lost art today. I always did with with my mom by my side but never was able to do it without her there. Great memories. Thanks for sharing about your grandma.

  • Jill says:

    Thank you for this post. Your grandmother was wise! I admire that generation for their hard work & values.
    I found myself reflecting back on part of this article often yesterday. I also lost 2 children (one 5 & one a baby). Because we have moved since that time & it was back in 1999 when people ask how many children we have, I say 2. We have 2 living children that were born after the loss of our others. I think I do it because they feel so bad for asking or it just seems much deeper than a casual conversation to me. I dearly love & truly miss our precious babies. But thank you for the gentle reminder that I have 4.

  • Michele says:

    What a lovely photo and story to go with it. How blessed she is to have her children, grandchildren, and greats close by. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hello. This story and all the posts after it has touched my heart so much! And reminded me of my wonderful childhood at my grandmother’s house where she let me go through all her Avon jewelry every time I came and tried on all her shoes. She would make biscuits and egg grave for breaky and we ate fresh blackberries and cream with sugar sprinkled on it! IT WAS AMAZING! My grandmother was amazing just like these ones t mentioned and I’m thankful to be reminded of the wonderful childhood I had at my grandmother’s house. I am sad to say that my mother passed away a few years ago but was that kind of Grandmother to my children. They got to have a modern version of my grandmother in the best possible way she could be. I believe being there for your kids. I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for 25 years and every time I have taken the job, for a short spell, my heart is pulled so strongly back home to be there for my kids. No matter what their going through, work and a job isn’t nearly as important as the hearts of my children and their needs. This world makes life about stuff and kids need more than ever to know it’s about people! I hope they appreciate that later the way I do now for my grandmother and my mother.

  • Jen says:

    Your grandmother sounds like a lovely woman; thank you for sharing. My last name is Huggins, with relatives in the south. Maybe we’re distantly related. 🙂

  • Nicole says:

    Scrappy quilts and afghans. Neither grandma threw away fabric or yarn, no matter how small!

    Both taught me to use up every last bit of something.

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