Late 1960s: My mom and dad and the five of us, all in our Sunday best. 

For my first mid-week guest post, I asked my mom to write on the topic of money-management. Every time I speak with Mom, she asks, “How are things going with the debt?” She and Dad used to cringe at the way I spent money when I was younger, and she’s so glad to see the changes that have taken place since my husband and I started our journey out of debt in June 2012. I never get too old to be glad that my mom is proud of me. She’ll be turning 90 next month, and as she ages, I just keep getting more and more proud of her. Mom wrote the post by hand, and I’ve typed it out here.

Growing up in the ’20s and ’30s

I grew up in the years between the two World Wars. When we bought things, we paid for them with money already in hand. Nobody preached this to us. We just did it. We bought things when we had the money for them.

Married with children

In my early years of marriage, my husband was a student, so we had to live and spend very carefully. When we both were 36, we bought our first car for $200 – and of course, we paid cash.

As time went on, my husband got a job, and we settled in a house with 5 children. We furnished the house bit by bit, dressed the children in hand-me-downs, and gradually became comfortable. We always ate well, but we rarely ate out.

First credit card

I remember one day, my husband gave me a little card called a credit card. He explained that it could be used instead of money to pay for things in a store. For a long time I didn’t use it, as I was so used to paying cash. However, in time I saw it as useful in that with it in my purse, I didn’t have to carry around a lot of cash; I could just pay with the card and settle at the bank when my bill came in.

Reflecting upon present-day personal debt

So it comes as a shock when I see how the attitude to spending has changed in our children’s and grandchildren’s generations. The idea of buying now and paying later has taken hold to such a degree that it creates a sense of entitlement.

Now a house is completely furnished before the family moves in. Two or three cars fill the driveway. Every school break means a family trip. Eating out is a regular phenomenon. Travelling is a common occurrence.

The troublesome aspect of this whole business is that these things are not paid for. They become a debt. And debts demand interest. It is that interest which bothers me. Can we not return to a somewhat more simple life?


Mom on a glamorous family camping vacation

Did your parents or grandparents live more frugally than most people do today? What are some lessons you’ve learned from them? I will make sure that my mom gets your comments. Your comments are welcome.


Join the Conversation


  1. Well said Prudence’s mom! If we savour the simple pleasures of life there is no need for spending beyond our means. Best wishes Prudence in continuing to tackle you debt. You’ve demonstrated discipline, courage, candor and a sense of humour. You offer a great gift in your inspiration to others. S.S.

  2. Nice to meet you, Prudence’s Mom! 😉

    It seems that the movement towards spending more money on stuff is a learned (bad) habit. I remember feeling guilty on wanting to spend things on the house (decor etc.) because, after all, it was just a house. It seemed pretentious and greedy to endow yourself with all these material things. However, everyone around me seemed to think this is what you do. I started to feel peer pressure so to speak, and wondered if I got it wrong that way. Once the water faucet was turned on, it was hard to turn it off. Now I wish, I had stuck to my initial leanings and principles. All the luster of what I spent my money (or rather credit on) has worn off. But the pain of having to make things right is as real as it comes. Thankfully I can sleep at night, but I am dog tired.

    Incidentally, my Dad will be ninety in four months. Here’s where I wrote on his influence on finances on my life with his frugal ways. Perhaps Prudence can print it off for you if you don’t have a computer. Dad has a computer and he knows about my blog too. I don’t know if he reads it regularly but I showed him this post. He asks me when he comes to dinner if I’ve written any other good finance articles lately. 😉

    1. Prudence’s Mom says:
      You’re lucky to have a parent who has good, strong financial wisdom. We can’t live life caring about what others think of us. Standing by your principles leads to a much deeper happiness. It sounds like you’re well on your way.

  3. This post gave me goosebumps! It is so simply written, but speaks in volumes. Her words could not be truer. I hear it from my grandparents quite often, the idea of paying in cash being lost in today’s world. Thanks for sharing your mother’s thoughts. I’m sure this will touch a lot of people.

  4. Your thoughts are so valuable to our generation and to our children, J. We are constantly bombarded with media pressure to spend on a look, a lifestyle, a status. We attach our sense of identity to these external things. When we get the opportunity to stand back and gain perspective and to be reminded by you and each other about what’s important, we remember that a rich life is about spending time more than spending money; time to build relationships, time to enjoy each other, our surroundings(preferably in nature rather than the mall!), our health and well-being. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving doing just that!

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