When I was growing up, one of my mother’s favorite sayings was, “We can make that.” Craft fairs, home stores –you name it. She’d mentally take it apart and figure out how we could reproduce the desired item for a fraction of the cost. Never mind that we never did make those things. The mere fact that we could have made them kept us from shelling out good money to the people who actually did.
Yes, my mother was thrifty. She once bought me a dress that was 2 sizes too large (because it was on clearance), then adjusted the hem and seams to fit me. She slowly let it out as I grew, and I wore it for the next 3 years. I hated that dang dress by the time I finally grew out of it!
She was also thrifty about food. I remember sitting in the pediatrician’s office as a fifth grader, discussing my diet. She asked me what my favorite food was, and I unabashedly proclaimed, “Well, it’s shrimp. But Mom never buys it cuz it never goes on clearance sale!” My mother will never let me live that one down.
As a young adult, I rebelled against my mother’s thrifty ways for quite some time. If I saw an item I liked, I bought it even if I could have made it myself for a fraction of the cost. And after a dream-trip to Spain, I gleefully bought pounds of shrimp – at full price -to re-create my favorite meals from our vacation.
But as the economy plummeted over the last few years, I gained a new appreciation for my mother’s penny-pinching habits. I’ve learned to combine coupons with sales to get free toothpaste and deodorant. I only buy chicken when it’s on a great sale. I scour crafty blogs for DIY inspiration. “I can make that” has saved me lots of money over the years (and I actually do make things – sometimes.)
I knew I’d truly become like my mother a few months ago when my daughter asked to buy produce at the grocery store. She looked up at me with her big, innocent eyes and asked, “Can we get watermelon? Is it on sale?” Part of me did a happy dance that she’s learning some good money management techniques. The bigger part of me cringed as I recalled my own words about clearance shrimp so long ago.
Like me, my daughter will probably rebel from some of our family’s habits and go her own way as she discovers her true identity. In the grand scheme of things, it’s OK if she buys an over-priced headboard from Pottery Barn rather than refinish a perfectly good piece of scrap lumber.
I hope it’s the important things she returns to – the big Life Lessons we try to impart like our faith, our values, and our morals. I hope these things have true sticking power. And even if one day she thinks I’m totally nuts for making my own laundry soap, hopefully she’ll eventually grow to understand and appreciate my quirks – especially if she, too, turns out to be just like her mother.
In what ways have you become like your mother, both intentionally and unexpectedly?