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Personal Debt Wrangler – Had my money head in the sand – but no more!


Father’s Frugal Finances


The best example I have had for being frugal has come from my father. In fact, we often thought he was downright miserly.  Somehow, it might have backfired, given our current financial situation. There may have been some moments that I thought he was just too cheap for his own good. Maybe this stuck with me and I swung the pendulum too far the other way. In retrospect, he really has set a good example and one which I wish I had heeded a long time ago.

powdered-milk-frugalChildhood Currency

As a child I remember asking him how much money he made. Both of my parents scoffed and said “Oh, we don’t talk about that.” They realized I would blab to all my friends, even if I didn’t realize if it was a good wage or not, it certainly would seem enormous to me. They didn’t get the blabbing part wrong. Look at me now – a blogger!

But my impression was that we were a little poorer than my friend’s families. Not by a lot, and probably not at all, but hearing frugal talk in the household, drinking powdered milk (yucch, I hated that stuff) are things that may have lead me to this conclusion. My mother didn’t work until my youngest sister turned five, and then she took a part-time job in a retail store.  In general, I grew up feeling like money was not to be wasted, in case you really needed it someday.

Teenage Turns

Imagine my surprise when my parents started taking some winter vacations on their own when we got a little older but were left in the care of our aunt. A cruise, a trip to Florida…. well, well, things must be looking up in the Finance department.  It was probably more like miserly intervention.  My Mum had probably had enough and started threatening and there was probably a few “I deserves” on her part thrown in there too!


Florida-Disney-WorldNext thing I know, they bought a house in Florida. Wow! I didn’t see that coming. Of course it was mortgaged, and it meant seven of us loaded into a sedan for a three day 27 hour drive door to door. Disney World, Busch Gardens, the beach, Tarpon Springs… here we come!   We did this for three Christmases in a row.   We had to save up our own money for any extra spending. Truth be told, I think there was a bit of Jonesying there on the part of my mother when they bought the house, and she convinced him it was an investment. I was even allowed to have a friend fly down to Florida and meet us there.  I wasn’t complaining.

Sixteen years of age and a new driver, I managed to convince my Dad to let me have his car to go to the drive-in with my boyfriend. Looking back, he was pretty accommodating, though I didn’t see it as a big deal at the time. What I did see as a big deal was the scratch I put down the side when I parked too close to the speaker and scraped it a good long streak. I was so terrified of his reaction that I did not sleep a wink all night. I heard him up getting the tea and his breakfast and figured I need to get this over with. I told him what happened and immediately started bawling. He didn’t say a word but went over to look at the car in the driveway from the living room window. Eventually he spoke, asked questions, maybe appeared a little annoyed, but nothing like I expected, and nothing that I can recall now almost 40 years later. I don’t recall if he asked me to pay for repair or if he even had it repaired. All I remember now is my fear and his reaction being not nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be. Even though he was frugal, it appears money wasn’t always front and foremost in his thoughts.

frugal-studentTenant, Tuition and Transportation

I went to university but paid my way, tuition and accommodations.  There was never any discussion of money set aside for me for this. For the most part, I managed quite well, being in a Coop program, so I had good employment work terms between every semester of school.

We had an older used second family vehicle, even though my Mum didn’t drive. It was there for when I was at home for my work terms so I could drive to my job. I was allowed to take it the six hour drive to university for the first weekend of every term so I could take all my stuff, but I had to bring it back the very next weekend and return by bus to university. I often wondered why they didn’t let me keep the car with me at school all term, because it just sat in the driveway at home. It was sort of an unspoken frugality that was practiced.

I could walk to university from the various places I rented during my school terms which were at maximum about 2 miles. I didn’t need a car. I only needed a car to get my stuff down there and back each term (my Coop placements were all in my hometown).  Having a car at university was a want. He probably knew I would get lazy, start driving to school, drive all my friends, spend lots of money on gas, possibly get into an accident… . No, needs they could support. Wants would not be supported.

Even though I would have to buy a one-way bus ticket to get back to school after delivering the car back home (bus tickets weren’t that cheap either), and even though we got rear-ended once on the way home (not our fault, but my friend was driving), this was the standard that was expected all through-out my university years. I was envious of some friends who had cars. I would struggle home with my groceries stuffed in my knapsack and two arms breaking as I tried to carry everything the half a mile to my accommodations.   I think I tried renegotiating the terms once or twice, but for the most part it was accepted by me as a no go, for what-ever reasons, and even if it did not make sense to me.  Laying down the ground work for no lifestyle inflation had begun.

ToyotaGraduation Gifts

My last semester, I already had a full time job lined up for after graduation. I think the second vehicle might have died by this point, but that wasn’t needed as a way to get home that term. I was given a relocation allowance by my employer, whereby I could rent a van to bring all my stuff home, including some furniture that I had managed to leave there for the full four years.

I did need a vehicle though to get to work, and decided I wanted to buy my own brand new car. I planned to live at home for my first year to save up to buy nicer furniture and prepare to move out on my own.   I had my eyes on a Toyota Tercel and went shopping for it with my Dad earlier in the semester, so he could help me to negotiate. They asked for a $100 deposit, which my Dad put down on his credit card. (I don’t think I even had a credit card then). I fully expected to pay it back, once I started working full-time, because money always ran a little short by the time I got to the end of each school term.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up my new car in May, and Dad said I did not need to pay him back the $100. It was a graduation present. A very generous graduation present, I felt. $100 from my Dad felt like $10,000 at the time.  Maybe it was a little bit of foreshadowing to how he is today.

downpayment-for-homeHome Homage

Fast forward, and after a couple of years of apartment rental, it’s time to purchase a home.  Dad lent me some additional money for my down payment.   He set an interest rate that was lower than what I would pay but better than he could get in short term interest bearing investments, so it was a win-win!  I actually didn’t even pay this money back until I was married a few years.  He wasn’t asking for it but I didn’t want to be indebted to him any longer, especially now that I was a mother and with many family responsibilities. Since he was money savvy, he saw an opportunity to help his daughter out and himself, all at the same time.

frugal-sandwichBread and Butter

He continued to be quite thrifty, was good at repairs etc. so it wasn’t usual for him to bring in any experts. He cheaped out on house painting, leaving it to my Mum to do.  When she said eventually, that was it, she was doing no more painting, she was too old for this, he had to address.  He asked Huey, Duey and Louie aka my husband and my two BILS to help him paint the living and dining room and hallway one weekend, instead of hiring painters.  My Mum didn’t want to be around so asked me to take her out for the day which I obliged.  So by mid afternoon, the guys were getting hungry.  “Do you have anything to eat, Grandad?”  Oh, sure, he said and made them bread and butter sandwiches*.  They still laugh about Grandad’s cooking prowess to this day.  Not only was he frugal on getting the painting done, but he didn’t even have to score for a pizza!

man-on-phoneBrains or Braun

Years later, Dad took ill suddenly and was diagnosed with a brain tumor on his pituitary gland.  After surgery, he needed hormone replacement therapy, and getting exactly the right dosage is always a matter of trial and error.

At one point, he had so much estrogen in him he was calling us to talk on the phone regularly, crying in front of us and shopping up a storm!  I kid you not!  He went shopping for a sports car with my husband once (didn’t buy one, thankfully)!  He bought new windows for their house and my mother was in her glory!  We said to him “Who are you and what have you done with our father?”

Since he was under close supervision in those early days, the doctors immediately spotted the overdose and cut it back, a little too far, and he went back to his miserly self but worse!  Let me tell ya, those hormones play a big part in this I have witnessed!

Single but Satisfied

Life changes in an instant, and he lost my Mum unexpectedly 9 years ago.  7 years her senior, we never expected things to turn out this way.

He is 89 years old, lives in a rented apartment, still drives and comes to dinner most Saturday nights, bringing a bottle of wine for every meal.  He’s still frugal, but he’s no longer cheap and has become quite  generous.  He complains about how much his stock broker is making off him, but still has quite a bit invested in the market even at his age.

He knows we have cut back and are living frugally, which pleases him, I think.  But I could never tell him the extent of our debt, because I don’t want to disappoint him.

I must say that, as much as I miss my Mum (she was always the life of the party), it has been good to get to know my Dad even better in her absence.  I often think about their situation, since The Irishman and I have the exact same age difference.

In retrospect, I think my Dad has the right amount of frugality and I think that at the end of the day, I do too!

My-DadHAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all you Dads out there!

Just remember ~

Time is money, but money also takes time!



Images courtesy of
milk – imagerymajestic
Disney – David Castillo Dominici
student walking – Ambro
Toyota – tiverylucky
helping hand home – jannoon028
bread and butter – rakratchada torsap
man on phone – stockimages
My Dad – Simon Howden

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The Thrifty Issue


Author: debster

I am a fifty-something wife, mother and new grandmother, who admits to having their “head in the sand” about their financial situation until amassing $247,500 worth of consumer debt for a total debt of $393,500. We've paid $121K in 2 years with four more years to go. Join my journey at sharing ideas and motivation to all those coping with poor money management and bad debt decisions.

58 thoughts on “Father’s Frugal Finances

  1. What a lovely tribute to your father!

  2. Aw, happy father’s day to a perfectly frugal father!

  3. Lovely post, Deb. Have a great weekend. :-)

  4. Really enjoyed this post Debs, your father sounds very wise and financially savvy! 89 is a fine age too, sounds like you spend a lot of time with him and that’s great. :)

    • Yep, I learned from losing my Mum unexpectedly, don’t take them for granted. Thanks for your kind words, Hayley. Makes me happy that you enjoyed!

  5. My dad is definitely my frugal role model and I understand the desire to not disappoint yours based on past decisions that you made. It doesn’t matter how old we get, we still fear dad’s disappointment. My hubby is 9 years older than me and we joke about him going first, but really you never know what life has in store, which is why we have to enjoy it while we are here. Happy Father’s Day to the Irishman!!

    • Oh wow, you guys have a biggish age gap too, ay? Well if you use my parents as an example, it’s sometimes not as you expect. I’ll pass on your best wishes to the Irishman! Hope you guys have a great day tomorrow and FB Hubby gets to chillax with peace and quiet!

  6. Happy Father’s Day. Your dad sounds like a great role model. Frugal, efficient, and physically fit for his age :) Maybe that’s why it’s called the Greatest Generation :D Thanks a lot for the mention!

    • Thanks Liquid, and you’re welcome. I was already planning my Father’s Day post about Dad’s frugality and when I saw your bread sandwiches I laughed so much because I knew it fit right in! ;-)

  7. I can relate to your car scratch story. When I was 14, I hopped on a train and spent the day in New York City… totally forbidden. And I got caught. My mom gave me the old “just wait till your father gets home” and I spent the next few hours sitting in my room, dreading that moment. I heard his truck pull up and braced myself. A few minutes later, he opened the door to my bedroom and just started laughing at me. He left the punishment up to my mom. I found out years later he was actually pretty impressed I figured out how to get to the city on my own.

  8. Sounds like your Dad gave you just the right amount of frugal. Feel free to take the car……and bring it back next weekend, don’t forget your bus ticket. I like that part.

  9. Lovely post Debs, and wonderful that you have got to know your dad a little better – those opportunities make life really special, especially now that you can share a common perspective on frugality! Obviously very sad about your mum, but amazing he has kept going the way he has. Happy fathers day to him, and make the best of the time you have together with your family!

    • And to you, Jason! Happy Father’s Day and thank you for the kind words. BTW, I told him at supper last night I was moving towards managing my own portfolio and he said good for you. I told him once I got a handle on it, I could maybe help him.

  10. Beautiful post. It sounds like your dad imparted some great lessons, even though they may have been frustrating at the time.

  11. I love all the lessons you learned from your father’s frugality! He sounds great. I would have been so terrified if I ever damaged my parents cars. As it is, my dad taught me how to drive, and that was scary by itself! It’s interesting how the hormone treatment affected things. I’m glad he’s still going strong.

  12. Sounds like your dad really utilized frugality to help him get where he is today. That is being able to live comfortably in retirement. I think sometimes we struggle with frugality simply because we don’t understand the long-term benefits. Sounds like you have a wonderful dad, Deb!

    • Good point, Liz. We don’t realize the long term benefits enough and are living in the moment. Some may say there’s nothing wrong with that either, but we need a happy balance. ;-)

  13. Very nice tribute! 89 and still driving. God bless!

    • I know! We count our blessings. He just had cataract surgery, each eye done separately and still going! Thanks for your nice comment, Brian!

  14. It’s amazing how great parents mold great people. Your dad sounds awesome, and the financial lessons you learned along the way are truly priceless!

  15. Sounds like a wonderful dad who taught you some life lessons! Hope he’s around for a few more.

  16. Your dad sounds like an amazing man who worked hard to set a good example for you (most of the time). I know we don’t always listen to our parents, but I’m glad you learned a few things from him along the way. :)

    • It’s not peaches and roses all the time when we are living through our lives, but when you (or they) get to the twilight years, it pretty much is, and you value all opportunities.

  17. I loved this post Deb and your dad sounds like an all-around good guy :) I’m glad your dad is still able to manage for himself at 89! That’s a serious accomplishment.

  18. It looks like you really did have a great role model! My dad could have stepped up his financial game a bit, to teach us a thing or two about responsible financial management. Unfortunately he never did, so it was a bit of a rocky start for both my brother and I, but we came out of it on the other side okay.

    • Aww… thanks, Daisy… Seems like we were sort of the opposite of each other. I had a great role model but went astray and am now sorting things out. You had not such a great role model, had a little bit of financial misery but ended up A-ok!

  19. What a great post in honor of your father! My father is definitely frugal and has much of the same personality as your Dad. It’s amazing the influence fathers can have on us and how we view things like finances.

    • LOL, so that’s where you get it from, David! But you are so great to start at such a young age. I wish I had been more proactive. I could probably retire now if I had.

  20. Great post and words for a frugal father. As people we are in different stages in life, and his frugality you didn’t get it back then because he was dedicated to providing for his family. As a kid you can’t fully understand it. I am a father and I will do anything to put food on the table and provide as well.

    • Ya, exactly, Rich Uncle El. I see it now. I felt strongly to provide for my family too, although maybe I spoiled my kids a bit too much. It might have been the influence of my aunt who spoiled us. But actually my kids turned out pretty good, and I’m really seeing a lot of good stuff from them on the financial front!

  21. Isn’t it strange how life doesn’t turn out the way you’d thought? Frugal can look so bad some times and look so great others. Love this story.

  22. Debs,

    Great post. And a great homage to your dad. Sounds like he taught you some valuable lessons on finance, frugality, and enjoying life.

    I never had frugal parents, so I’m a trailblazer in my family. But it’s fun to pass along some lessons and see some (small) changes occur with my siblings and parents.

    Best wishes!

    • Hey Jason, thanks so much for coming by! So cool that you are leading the way for your siblings and parents. WTG! Leadership from the down low! ha

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  24. Enjoyed reading the post. It’s great to look back and see the money lessons our paren’ts have taught us. Some verbally and others more in their actions. My dad would also let me borrow money and when I was ready to pay back he’d surprise me (once in awhile) and say to keep it.

    • Thanks, Jason! How kind of your father. I guess he thought you needed it more than him and because you were being responsible, he was more than happy to give it to you! Thanks for visiting and reading my post. :-)

  25. I enjoyed your post and the stories. Reminds me of the relationship with my dad. It’s great to look back and see the money lessons we learn either verbally told or taught by their actions. My dad would often let me borrow money and when I repaid the amount he would surprise me and at times tell me to keep it.

    • I heard you the first time, Jason! ;-) I’m such a dork. I realize this is a duplicate comment. Probably was pending approval since you were a first time commenter. Just can’t delete such nice comments as this so I prefer to keep doubles! Heeeeee

      • Thanks. I thought I’ve commented before but if I haven’t I’ve definitely been reading your posts. I was having an issue commenting actually. It pushed me to sign on which I did and then it didn’t bring me back to your site.

  26. I love personal stories like this! Such a great tribute for your Dad! I feel the same way too, when I was younger I didn’t understand about my parents’ decisions about things and I was left guessing why they did this and that, but as I grew older things started to unfold themselves and how they made me who I am today.

    • It’s funny how it all comes together once you age and get more of life experience. Thanks for dropping in and leaving such a lovely comment! :-)

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  28. A few days later than Father’s Day as I comment here, but what a great post! I enjoyed this tribute to your Dad and post about money, the relationship, etc. Good stuff. You know, I don’t know what will take the place of blogging in the future, but I can only hope my own daughter has such a positive perspective of me many years from now!

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  30. Great post and what a great tribute to your dad. :)

    To all the great dads out there who lead by example! Whether we realize it or not, our kids watch our every move. Cheers to being the best dads we can be to our kids! AFFJ

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