There was a time not so long ago when obtaining credit was extremely difficult, and owning a home was a significant undertaking.  Being frugal involves more than just identifying ways to cut back, it requires patience and sacrifice.

Unfortunately, recent times have been characterized by excessive spending and instant gratification; we all wanted everything NOW!  Credit card companies were only too happy to oblige. I think that it is safe to say that those days are gone; we now have to answer to the bank, and/or Credit Card Company.

I suspect that younger generations are in for a rude awakening as credit issuers and lenders begin to crack down on lending practices. Credit worthiness will be reintroduced into our mainstream vocabulary. In preparation for these suspected changes, we can wind back the hands on the clock for some good lessons about "living as you need not how you want." Here are few tips from the old days-- back when people did a lot more with less:

1. Change your mindset about credit!

I know when I was growing up in the 1950s there were no credit cards. With the emergence of the first credit cards in 1960, most people still didn't have them.  It was much more of a cash and carry society. Interestingly, did you know that nearly 50 years ago the banks in San Francisco actually mailed the first credit cards to over 100,000 people?! Shocking, isn't it? Their goal was to create credit-friendly consumers. Yep, it worked so well that living with debt became a cultural phenomenon, literally overnight. Instead of credit-friendly consumers, a monster was created! We now have to learn to live without that credit safety net, which is going to be a tough lesson for everyone! Even those of us who come from generations where living without was the norm need to readjust our mindsets. The fact is that credit is a privilege, not a right, and using it to purchase things that you simply don't need will catch up with you. Start to level-set your expectations now, by establishing what is truly important for you and your family. Below I have included a link to a fascinating article about the state of debt back in the 1950s, a very interesting, if not eye opening, read-- I promise!  

2. Live within your means and accept it. 

We need to STOP overspending! Do not spend what you do not have.

I remember in 1963 my psychology teacher asked the students in my class who had more than one car to raise their hands. Not very many hands were raised, mine certainly wasn't. I was a senior at the time. Many households in this period had "one" breadwinner. The majority of moms stayed home to raise the kids. That does not mean that being a stay-at-home mom was the best solution. I personally believe that children benefit from having two parents who work outside the home, provided good daycare arrangements can be made. The point is, most families made a life with one primary income. There is a lesson to be learned from those one car families: is it worth creating debt just for convenience? Back then there was more carpooling and many were lucky to be on a bus route that would take them to the office. Stay-at-home moms would drive their husbands to work and then pick them up. The point is the priority was living within your means. Sure it's more convenient to have multiple cars, cable TV, and wireless internet, but essential? Are these conveniences worth incurring debt and stressing about finances month after month?

3. Take on a Second Job

I remember when I was growing up my father always worked a full-time job and a part-time job, a few nights a week at a liquor store. My mother also took in ironing. There was a sense of pride associated with putting in an honest day's work. Having supplemental income was how they saved money for emergencies, or that proverbial rainy day. Today it seems that few families take part-time jobs to save for those unexpected expenses-- that is what credit cards were for. Unfortunately, today more and more people are losing jobs, so I realize that finding a second job is not really a priority when you still need a first job. The key here is to not be afraid to take those extra steps, to sacrifice a bit more, and to put in the extra effort. There are ways to create income; consider growing your own veggies, sell your non-essentials on craigslist.com, or even begin babysitting again. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you can cover your expenses and prepare a nest egg to help with the unexpected expenses that are just a fact of everyday life.  

There are important lessons to be learned from the past and we have to accept that there are no easy fixes. Paying off your debt is a great first step, but this is a marathon and not a race. As I continue to learn, there is a lot that goes into living a frugal life.

What do you remember from your days growing up? Are they similar to mine? Do you think I am way off the mark here? Please let me know, I'd love to learn from you.

Related Links:  

Getting Specific, Where do I Start?

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Judy Kline

Judy is retired and recently widowed. She is a contributing author for the Retired & Widowed blog where she shares what she has learned about living on a fixed retirement income as a widow. Judy is an amateur photographer and has nine grandchildren. Compensated CareOne Blogger

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