Realising the sacrifices our parents made

by Kylie on March 15, 2012

Last week I saw a hitch hiker which got me thinking about my dad for 2 reasons – 1.) he used to pick up hitch hikers and 2.) he used to hitch hike to work. I forgot about that until I saw the hitch hiker.

This prompted me to think of all the sacrifices my parents made, which at the time I didn’t realize were sacrifices, so that we could have a house, do sports, family holidays etc.

One of these things was hitch hiking. At the time I thought nothing of it, as it was just what dad did. I now think we probably could not afford much else. He always got picked up by friends or someone who knew him (he was a good local AFL player, not pro but good enough to regularly be in the paper and frequently talked about and watched), so he didn’t walk the whole way.

As I pondered more I thought about all the things I took for granted as child that they did:
- Mum didn’t even have an engagement ring. I remember her getting a diamond ring and I know it was after all 5 kids. So for most of her marriage she had no ring.
- Her jewelry generally came from Avon, as did her make-up and things and she sold it for a while, which is how I suspect she paid for those little things she wanted.
- Dad had the same board shorts for swimming for probably 20 years. I am not exaggerating. There are pictures of him in them when I am young and he only stopped wearing them a few years ago and that is only because they were ‘killed off’ by someone else.
- They pretty much never got new clothes, always second hand or mum made them.
- Mum cooked everything from scratch, bartered with neighbors, had a vegetable garden, cut all our hair as well as some of our friends and their families too. Everything was either diy or done by barter.
- Some of our gifts were second hand. I remember the year I got a red bike and I LOVED that bike. I knew it was an old bike from a neighbor, but it was my own amazing bike. Mum scoured everywhere for bargains and things to ensure we got what we wanted, but it was within their budget.
- Mum preserved fruit and sent us up to the back of our school with our lunch boxes to pick the blackberries there so she could make jam.
- Dad had basically 4 pairs of shoes which he wore until they fell apart – thongs (aka flip flops or jandals), basic sneakers, footy boots and black shoes for church and work. They were polished when needed and all taken care of.
- My parents had essentially no time to themselves, didn’t celebrate anniversaries, go on dates or anything.

I am so amazed with all they did. The above is just a handful of things. They lived very frugally and I know that initially it was because they had no choice and it was that way for many years. I think I am so lucky to have seen an amazing example of frugal living and to learn money management from my parents.

I know I am much more selfish than them and I struggle to think of never putting myself first, ever. I sacrifice a lot for my children now I am a parent, but I am not sure I could ever do things as extreme as hitch hiking.
What were your parents like? Did they live frugally or are they on the opposite end of the spectrum? How did that affect the way you handle money do you think?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah March 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

My parents lived on a tight budget but we always had everything we needed and some of what we wanted. We went on one holiday each year and got clothes and school pens/bag etc for birthdays and Christmas (as well as a few toys). I have grown up to be similar to them but I struggle to be content while saving for things, knowing we have the money there for other things.

My husband grew up having every material possession you could imagine, but his parents struggled to pay the bills. As a result, they have recently lost everything they own. My husband is absolutely a saver because of this. He hates spending money at all – unless it’s on something necessary. We have a substantial savings account but I struggle to see what that money is actually being saved for, if you know what I mean.

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Kylie March 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

What a difference Sarah between your upbringing and your husbands. I understand the struggle of seeing what the savings is for. Funnily enough my husband grew up really poor and saves and works way too much because he is terrified of being like that again.
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Lisa Travers March 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

You mum was pretty amazing :D My parents were pretty frugal. Sure it sucks to not get everything you want, but they taught me so much by teaching us not to use everything and that needs are more important than wants. Maybe that’s why I’m so careful with my money now.

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Kylie March 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Thanks Lisa, your parents are pretty amazing too! :)
I can imagine you learnt a lot through them, having chatted a bit to them myself and what they sort of went through over the years. It’s great when parents can teach us well.
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Jac Lambert March 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Don’t even talk to me about Dad’s thongs, I was the one to break them after 17 years… Boy did I get in trouble!
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Kylie March 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm

lol, I remember that now!
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Ruby Hohensee March 15, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Hi Mrs. Ofiu,
I’m a 18 year-old student at the Singapore American School, and just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blogs. Thank you so much for sharing everything! To answer your questions for this one, I can totally relate in that my parents lived frugally compared to my current lifestyle. Both of them grew up in conditions that are a lot less privileged than I am, and I am so grateful. For example, because my dad didn’t have enough money to pay for a honeymoon to Bali, my mother paid for the airline and hotel costs. My mom often tells me about how she worked in a convenient store,where they paid very low wages, every summer when she was younger just so she could buy a leather jacket. Now, her life is very different in that she can buy things without having to worry about every penny she worked to buy whatever she buys! In fact, she doesn’t even work…
My mother grew up in Japan where her family had their own rice fields. On the weekends she and her two siblings would help her father literally pick grains of rice! Now they have machines, but the way we value rice as a result of her childhood experience of picking grains is amazing! Whenever we go back to Japan for the summer and winter, we bring back bags of rice and my grandparents make sure we eat our rice bowls clean every meal…Anywho, my dad also grew up in an environment that similarly valued money. He grew up in a family of ten people so my grandfather, (who was a doctor) had a huge financial burden- although totally worth it! As you can imagine, they often ate at home, rarely took family vacations, and many of his siblings went to in-state colleges. I guess what I’m trying to say is that me and my brother- and it looks like maybe you too!- have it so much easier than our parents when they were younger and I’m so thankful. Subsequently, the way we view money has changed dramatically and we are so lucky that our parents were the ones who went through all of this so that WE could have a better, or more financially supported life, than they did!
Whether or not it’s that relevant, I thought I would share my thoughts with you. Also, I hope that one day your kids and mine can say the same about us :)
All the best,
Ruby

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Kylie March 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Thanks Ruby. What an amazing background you have. I cannot even imagine picking grains of rice by hand! It is great you have been able to learn so much from them. I too hope our children view us in a similar light when they grow up.
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Catherine - Our Village is a Little Different March 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I’m always amazed when I think of what my parents did without so that we could have the things we needed for school and sports, etc.

I wish my Dad were here so he could enjoy some time relaxing in retirement.
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Billy Burgess March 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

I was an only child, so I was somewhat spoiled, but I did learn how to save money by clipping coupons, etc.

I left you a review on Alexa!

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Kylie March 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I can’t imagine being an only child (I am one of 9) but that’s great you learned about coupons and things. And thank you so much for leaving me a review on Alexa. :)

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Rachael March 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

My parents were awesome ;P I often find myself thinking or saying to J “Mum used to do it this way or Dad did this” about things I see as being wasteful or not needed. J has very very frugal parents so wants to be ‘free’ with his money especially on the kids for what he missed out on as a kid. I never felt like I missed out on anything as a kid. I find it interesting how our parents attitudes and actions with money affect our lives as adults.

I will be forever grateful that my parents taught and showed me the real value of money and work and I hope I am teaching that to my children
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