Family history and fatherly advice

September 29, 2008

Sorry for the posting pause. My daughter is visiting for the Oz school holidays, and Dad came to stay for a few days, and what with one thing and another a coherent post didn’t make it to the top of the to do list. (And that Che fulla is just not pulling his weight).

While Dad was here we talked about this whole frugality business. My grandparents were all working class and frugality was a necessity, not a lifestyle choice. My parents were likewise careful. Mum made our clothes when we were little, Dad had a huge fruit and vegetable garden, there were home-made preserves, home-brewed beer, and a hard-nosed approach to every major purchase. So I thought that he would just approve of my new-found commitment to frugality straight away, for the ancestral habits are frugal.

But no. “What are you saving for?” he asked. And then he pointed that he and my Mum saved most of their adult lives, and just as they were beginning to be able to relax and enjoy, she died. In retrospect, he thought they might have been happier if they had spent more and scrimped less.

That is something I have been mulling over ever since.

  • Frugality preserves my independence. In highly-paid jobs there is the concept of “fuck you money”, which is the amount you need to be able to walk whenever you feel like it. Highly-paid or not, saving is the only way most of us will ever acquire fuck you money.
  • Frugality is a moral choice to take no more than our share of the communal resource.
  • Frugality is the best insurance against adverse circumstances: practising it increases my capital while decreasing my wants.
  • Frugality frees me from keeping up appearances. I am not shabby. I’m frugal. (OK, I’m shabby AND frugal, but you know what I mean).

Those answers deal with the criticism “you can’t take it with you.” It’s true that my savings are useless to me when I’m dead (although they’ll be damned handy to my family), but it is the act of saving as much as the result that provides the rewards.



  1. Intersting. I was thinking that we are frugal from necessity and savings are few. BUT then I realised that by being frugal in some areas we benefit in others. We might not be saving literally, but funnelling the money elsewhere. Being frugal means I can stay home and look after my kids, being frugal means we can stretch to afford those ballet lessons etc. Today I darned socks and made a HUGE pot if pumpkin soup from a $3 pumpkin. It’s the little things that add up.

  2. heh. doing what i can.

    am dealing with fatherly issues myself.

    like trying to unpack and repack my entire life to accommodate a new arrival…

  3. @artandmylife, you darned socks from a $3 pumpkin? That’s a post right there.

  4. Julian – that would be clever wouldn’t it! Darned with cotton actually – but did use a darning mushroom!

  5. art, you must be from california. round here we’d call is a ‘blimmin mushroom’.

  6. Che, I am from Southland originally – does that count? And you can look up darning mushroom on wikipedia – they are for real.

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