You know, when people smoked in their living rooms, a woman’s place was in the kitchen, and men wore suits and ties to work…oh wait… Perhaps I shouldn’t base my knowledge of the 50’s and 60’s on episodes of Mad Men. Believe it or not though, Don Draper’s generation could teach us a few lessons about the true value of money and material possessions.
Here are my top 3:
Lesson #1: Quality vs. Quantity Back in the day, it was common to own only a few items of clothing. However, no self-respecting person stepped out of their home without that suit, dress, or baby sailor suit being cleaned, pressed, and looking as new as the day they bought it. When a holey pair of socks was removed from their clothesline, they didn’t buy another pack from some savings megastore, they darned them. Which if you ask me is the best thing you can do to socks with holes in them… Ba dunh bah! Yes, I know, I’m a regular Lucille Ball. Anyway, the point is they made sure to buy good-quality items and then they *gasp* took care of them so that they lasted more than a season.
How to apply that today: If you’re on a tight budget or any budget for that matter, be choosy about your clothing or household item purchases. If you know that pair of black pants that costs twice as much at Banana Republic as it does at Old Navy will last longer and looks more flattering on you, save for a little while longer and splurge on the nicer pair. By the time you have the money to purchase them, who knows, they may be on sale. You could buy that less expensive knock off oak table at Ikea or you could have a yard sale and come up with the extra cash to buy the real oak table you saw in a handmade furniture store. I’m certainly not knocking Old Navy or Ikea if you’re looking for something trendy that you don’t intend to keep a long time. But if you want something to last for the long haul, your choice should always boil down to what will cost you the least over time.
Lesson #2 Conversation is priceless entertainment Whether it was sitting on a back porch snapping green beans or having an after dinner coffee in the kitchen, people used to know how to work a conversation. Not everyone had a television set, especially not when they first arrived on the scene, so time spent cultivating relationships during work and leisure comprised most American families’ ideas of amusement. Although children were a lot less inclined to speak at the dinner table than today, you better believe they were listening intently to the life lessons their parents shared over the roast beef and mashed potatoes.
How to apply that today: Instead of going out when you get bored of having the same old chicken dish, invite a few friends over and have them bring their best side dish or dessert. And here’s a novel idea: talk to them. Learn to relish time spent in conversations, both listening and sharing. Engage your children in conversation over dinner or during family chore time and never underestimate the impact of instilling a willingness to work for something you want in their hearts. (For some great ideas on topics of discussion or ways to spend more time enjoying the free entertainment conversation provides, check out Green(ish) Monkey’s blog, chronicling a Maine family’s efforts to appreciate the simpler things in life.)
Lesson #3: Being a good steward My grandpa, one of twelve children raised in the Depression, will tell you that they never had much, but all they had was kept in pristine condition through attention to cleanliness and organization. This esteem in one’s possessions was passed down to him and my grandmother’s generation, but has somehow skipped a few generations since. This satisfaction in what you had and how you took care of it didn’t stem from a sense of reputation to uphold or materialistic desires, but a drive to be self-reliant and provide a nice home and nice things for your family.
How to apply that today: This may sound a bit simplistic, but do as your mother always told you and “Clean your room!”. In fact, clean all the rooms in your home, and keep your storage areas and garage in orderly fashion. Plant some flowers, mow the law, or get creative with some inexpensive landscaping. Space in your home limited? (I feel you there!) Get organized and learn to make the most of everything you own, instead of always wishing for something you’ll never be able to afford. You’ll be shocked at how just straightening up around the house each afternoon can give you a new appreciation for your possessions or cleaning out a closet will re-introduce you to all those things you forgot you used to love and inspire new uses for them.
With these lessons in tow, I hope you will find ways to cherish the things and experiences that make up your life instead of resenting your budget for what you don’t or can’t have during this current season.
Check in Wednesday for “Leaving a Legacy”, where we’ll focus on how to instill good money habits in your children .
Questions or feedback? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.