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Learned from the Best

Ron Wayne

MY KIDS THINK I’M cheap. I tell them, “If I’m so cheap, why don’t I have more money in the bank?”

I learned to be thrifty at the knees of my father and grandfather. During this time of high inflation, they provide me with examples to be emulated. Grandpa never owned a car and kept a vegetable garden into his 80s. He built a loom to weave small rugs made from rags, and then sold them to friends, family and neighbors. When he stopped making rugs, he put the loom into the wood burner to help heat the house.

The roll-top desk made by the author’s grandfather

He made much of what he needed and never wasted a thing. He built beautiful pieces of furniture, such as a blanket chest I still have, and a child’s roll-top desk that I used when I was growing up. His wife was equally thrifty and handy. She would fashion bowls from old popsicle sticks, crafted artificial flowers and sewed her own clothes.

Dad sought bargains and discounts on every major purchase. Until he and Mom started traveling, his only charge card was from Sears, where we purchased appliances, tools and lawn equipment. He bought old houses in the city and converted them into apartments. He and his father were excellent carpenters. They remodeled half of our basement into a nightclub, including a large bar.

Dad used to brag that he rarely replaced the brakes on his vehicles. As soon as he saw a traffic light turning red, he took his foot off the gas and began to coast.

He changed after having a stroke at age 55. It caused enough minor issues that he had to retire from his union job at a factory. Soon, he sold the rental units. Recognizing his mortality, he started spending on expensive vacations, his beloved cottage and a mobile home in Miami.

Unfortunately, despite my thrifty ways and higher education, I won’t be buying any weekend or vacation places. But here are some of the ways I save money:

  • I’ve never paid extra for a vanity license plate promoting my alma maters or pet causes. Why should I give the state extra money to tell the world I’m a Nittany Lion or Florida Gator?
  • I always urged my kids to order water with restaurants meals, instead of soda, unless it was a special occasion.
  • When the soap in the dispenser runs low, I add water. It’s amazing how much more soap you’ll get.
  • I never buy extended warranties. Most appliances, computers and gadgets should last long enough without major repairs if I buy decent-quality items.
  • I buy lots of household items at dollar stores. The quality is on par with what I have purchased elsewhere, but the price is a lot less. A 12-pack of Angel Soft toilet paper from Amazon costs around $23. I could buy 76 rolls at Dollar Tree for the same amount.
  • I’ve never given money to my alma maters and probably never will. They’re public land-grant universities in large states and should have adequate funding. I have contributed to churches, political candidates and worthy charities, however.
  • In the 15 years that I’ve lived in my condo, I’ve never parked in my assigned spot. I use a visitor’s spot on the other side of the complex because it’s closer to the direction I turn to work. I save a little gas on each trip.
  • I won’t order takeout, have groceries delivered or buy meal prep services. They’re probably helpful for busy families, but I save money by cooking larger portions and then freezing the leftovers.

I’m no Scrooge. I’ve always supported my children in their interests and activities, and certainly in their schools and colleges. Growing up, they had plenty of books, games and videos. We didn’t take extravagant vacations, but I never said “no” to out-of-town camps or sports travel leagues. We paid for Scouts, voice lessons and individual coaching.

So, yes, I may be frugal—but I’m not cheap. I learned from the best.

Ron Wayne spent 26 years working for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Georgia before becoming the editor in the University of Florida’s main news office. During his 10 years working there, he earned his master’s degree in mass communication and taught as an adjunct in the College of Journalism and Communications. Since retiring last fall, he’s enjoyed a simple life, including reflecting on his experiences on Medium.com. Check out Ron’s earlier articles.

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