Be Thankful & Thrifty – Part I

This country has moved from a hard work ethic to instant gratification.  Americans have confused needs versus wants.  We see it on television and like kids we need it.  Teenagers assume they should make six figure salaries out of high school with no work experience.  Even in these hard economic times, we are not tightening our budget belts.  Black Friday has people ready to go further in debt.

As everyone passes the blame for who got us in this economic situation, no one is willing to sacrifice.  My dad used to say “It is good to want things but we don’t always get what we want.”  I knew my parents worked hard.  Before going anywhere, we received the talk.  “You want nothing, you need nothing, don’t ask for nothing.”  Truly, we wanted for nothing and we never went without food, shelter or presents on birthdays or holidays.  They wanted to teach us the value of earning things.

As a kid, other friends talked about allowances.  I asked my dad about why he didn’t give us an allowance.  He asked, “What do your friends get allowances for?”  I told him for cleaning their room, good grades and helping around the house.  His reply, “Did you sleep in the bed, did you use the bathroom, did you use the dishes to eat?  So why should I pay you to clean what you used and messed up?  You are suppose to do your best all the time, so good grades are expected.”  That is not to say that he never rewarded us, but you had to do something exceptional.  No rewards for doing your job.  Nowadays, people want recognition for doing their job descriptions – for being average and doing just enough.  We have lost our work ethic.

Dad always wanted to associate reward with earning it. As teenagers, if we wanted something it was “if you earn half, I’ll pay half deal.”  My mom said, “you have summer jobs – either you wear what I want to buy you and fits our budget or you can use your summer job to get the clothes you want.”  My first purchase was a pair of burgundy corduroy jeans.  I was so proud.  Not only because I looked good, but I bought it with my money.

My mom managed the food and bill budget and she was tight with it.  She went over the food budget and bills with us.  She taught us you save more when you buy in bulk, use coupons, buy sales and buy off season.  She would buy our winter clothes when they would go on clearance in March to make way for spring fashion.  When my sister received her driver’s license, mom gave us the grocery list, and a check.   Driving the family car was a privilege not a right.

With times hard across every socio-economic background and profession, are we sitting at the table with our children and saying here is how you manage your money?  These are mistakes that we made.  You should avoid doing this to have a better future so when times are hard, you are prepared.

Are we telling them to be grateful and thankful for the necessities that others do not have? There is a cable program – Downsized.  It features a former middle class family hit hard by the housing crisis.  The father used to be a general contractor. They had a few homes and ate out every day.  Their homes were foreclosed and they are now on food stamps, even though the wife works full time as a teacher. I have already told my nieces and nephews that this will be a light Christmas.  There will be presents under the tree.  However, times are tough and I must tighten my belt.  Pay down debt and squirrel away like the ant in Aesop’s fable.  This economic crisis has revealed that unlike the ant, most of us were like the grasshopper living for the instant pleasure and not saving for tough times.

It is human to go through negative experiences, disappointments and frustrations.  It is one of the ways leading us to maturity. -Kunkel & Dickerson (paraphrase of Kierkegaard)


Ronda Lee
Founder, Editor-in-Chief
Ronda is an attorney, writer, and entrepreneur. She is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Los Angeles and New York. She loves to travel and is passionate about education equity, especially for first generation college students.