I had the privilege of living next to my grandparents when I was growing up. My grandfather is gone, and my grandmother is now in a nursing home. Since my parents still live next door, they are taking care of her home. They realize that she is not coming home again, and has asked all of the grandchildren if there are any things we may want.....
My cousin got the coveted "cookie jar", but I was lucky enough to get the candy dish. (Also coveted!) In fact, my daughter has already "called it" when it's time to pass it on again. It's actually a beautiful candy dish, but probably would not invoke the same value that my family has placed on it. Each time I look at it (and grab a few chocolate kisses!) I remember the simplicity of growing up and learning the simple pleasures in life from my frugal grandparents.
Some of the lessons I've learned include:
1. Buy quality and pay cash. My grandparents purchased classic solid maple furniture. It's still in the home today, and in great condition. I've taken the beautiful bookcase that was in their livingroom. It is over 60 years old and is still BEAUTIFUL. They paid cash for all of their furniture. They did not have a credit card 60 years ago. Which brings me to next lesson:
2. Take care of the quality furnishings you buy. My grandmother took very good care of all of the furniture she bought. It is all in beautiful condition. She also had a washing machine that lasted 30 years. Unfortunately, we won't be as lucky to get away with that. Manufacturers are not making appliances to last. But, you can still take care of what you buy, so that you can give it the best chance possible.
3. Borrow books from the libary. My grandparents home was never cluttered. They had a classic set of Dr. Seuss books for their grandchildren, but when my grandmother wanted to read a book, she walked down to our neighborhood library. She always had a book on the coffee table that she was reading, but never did I ever see a bunch of magazines and books cluttering up the house. Have you ever added up what you spend in books and magazines? I did, and I'm slightly sick over it.
4. Make dinner every night and make it special. Every once in a while I would get to eat at my grandparents house during the week. I LOVED it! Usually I chose a friday night because that's when my grandmother would make her homemade macaroni and cheese. She'd serve it with a wonderful tossed salad and her famous blackberry jello (which she made with red wine). The food itself was not especially gourmet, but it was the way she presented it and the way she set the table that made it special. She used her good china and a beautiful table cloth. She had sterling silver and beautiful cloth napkins with pewter napkin rings. The food tasted better on the beautiful dishes and silverware. She did this EVERY night. We now use cloth napkins and I cannot imagine going back to paper. I'm still searching for beautiful napkin rings....
5. Stash a special treat just in case for special occasions. I need to do this more often. When I'm invited at the last minute to someone's home, I rush to the store to pick up a bottle of wine, or something to bring. Or I'm caught short when someone pops in unexpected. I never seem to be prepared. I always remember my grandmother's hall closet had a box of chocolates on the top shelf. It was there if there was an unexpected guest coming over. She did not overstuff the hall closet. She kept it slightly empty so guests could hang up their coats, and she could easily find what she needed.
6. Always have a candy dish. Whenever we (the grandchildren) visited, we would always check the infamous candy dish. It sat on a side table next to my grandfather's chair, and if we wanted a piece of candy, we would usually get a "smooch" from my grandfather before we were allowed to take from it. When my kids were younger, they remember visiting and looking in the candy dish. (the very one above) Now I carry on the tradition of having one in our familyroom. I've filled it with my favorite treats, and the kids LOVE it. That gratifies me because in a way I'm passing down part of my childhood to them.
My grandparents lived in a small cape cod home, kept quality furnishings, didn't over clutter, cooked every night, and lived a wonderful life. As far as personal finance, my grandparents vacationed in retirement, spent half their time in Florida, and still saved enough money to support my grandmother in a 5 star nursing home which has taken the burden off of my parents. All on one salary. They did it through frugality and simple living.
I aspire to live the same way...