Carrots, No Sticks

When we were kids our family was on a tight budget. That is not particularly unusual. When we were kids our parents didn’t believe in debt. That is pretty unusual.

No debt has huge long-term benefits but some uncomfortable short-term consequences, like not getting the new Reebok shoes or BFD jeans (remember those stupid things?). Negative consequences do give rise to creative thinking, especially on the part of whoever is in charge of creating that discomfort, and that thankless position always fell to the holder of the purse strings, mom.

Eastern Washington is cold, frigid when the wind-chill kicks in. Heating a house is far more challenging there than in our damp, less than frigid clime. Our dad did his part by building a wood-burning stove, but that heat needed to be supplemented by electric baseboards in the bedrooms. After one month of a particularly high bill, Mom proposed a challenge. If we could keep the electric bill under $90, we kids could split the difference. If we couldn’t, we couldn’t.

If you sleep in socks, long-johns and a sweater under a pile of blankets, you don’t notice the temperature being 40. You get used to it, especially when you imagine all the candy you will buy with your share of the “earnings.” Turning off the lights wasn’t painful at all. Of course, we didn’t have electronic gadgets that sucked and ever constant stream out of the grid, but if we did it would have been pretty easy to monitor those as well. After a month, we each got $13 to pocket. A huge success for everyone.

Being frugal is boring, frankly. Being broke is WAY more boring. Every little nip and tuck from expense to saving will go a long way toward an old age that won’t find you in socks, long-johns a sweater and a pile of blankets at the dinner table. The kids will get over it, trust me.