NPR logo

Frugal Father's Lessons Newly Appreciated

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98759517/98759509" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Frugal Father's Lessons Newly Appreciated

Commentary

Frugal Father's Lessons Newly Appreciated

Frugal Father's Lessons Newly Appreciated

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/98759517/98759509" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Essayist Jennifer Jordan isn't worried about surviving in this troubled economy. That's because her dad taught her everything she needs to know about living on the cheap.

JACKI LYDEN, host:

There's at least one person who's not too worried about surviving in this new economy, essayist Jennifer Jordan.

Ms. JENNIFER JORDAN (Essayist): Like the rest of the country, I've been listening to all the reports from woebegotten Americans and their sad plans to save, cut back, even perish the thought, cut out. And through all the talk of financial Armageddon, I'm thinking what is the big deal? But then I have to remember none of those staggering in shock grew up in rural Vermont with my father. None of them kept the thermostat just above where the pipes would freeze. None of them wore socks to bed and a wool hat to the dinner table. None, I venture to guess, learned to drive without using the brake, because every time you do, young lady, you might as well just throw your money out the window. Nor would I imagine they too had never even seen paper towels until college, because in our house, the only disposable item bought to be disposable was toilet paper. And even that was taught at potty-training to be used with the utmost of care.

Aside from living the life of some sort of post-revolutionary Doctor Zhivago, I also was taught to never, ever buy anything unless I needed it to survive, and if so, to only pay cash, otherwise forget it. Credit cards were only for emergencies, the buying of plane ticket to escape the invading armies kind of emergencies, never for clothes I didn't need, or dinner out with friends who might splurge with getting that second glass of wine or heaven forbid, dessert. I always suffered through my Yankee father's frugality with a lot of eye-rolling and gritted teeth, especially as he reminded me to coast through the stop signs and rinse out and reuse the plastic bread bags.

Then suddenly, I found myself an adult able to buy my used cars in cash, and my modest condo with 20 percent down and a fixed mortgage. Dad still lives in the same split-level ranch he bought 30 years ago for under $40,000. I called him the other day to do something I never had. I thanked him, because I realized I would rather save a dollar then spend it. Imagine. Don't get me wrong, I feel terrible for those losing their homes and drowning in debt, but I can't help but wonder where were their Depression-era dads when they needed them?

LYDEN: Jennifer Jordan writes, makes films, and saves in Salt Lake City.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.