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You don’t need a book to be a cheapskate

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I recently finished reading two books that encourage a "cheapskate lifestyle."

Both How to Retire the Cheapskate Way: The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement, by Jeff Yeager, and The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate, by Jeremy Bradley, are full of practical suggestions on how to cut spending and be happy with less.

Halfway through the books I realized that, having been raised in the North End of Winnipeg by immigrant parents, I already knew how to be frugal.

My family did not have a lot of money. My father worked as a salesman and my mother stayed at home with three children. When money was tight, she would get a part-time job that would last until that money crisis had passed.

Miraculously, my parents paid off their house and car and did not carry debt. They managed to send my brother, my sister, and me to private schools and later to university. Obviously, they were ahead of their time.

My parents were thrifty. Our family owned one car and lived in a modest bungalow. My mother cooked, cleaned, sewed, gardened, and preserved food. Once a year we would go on a short road trip, and every New Year’s Eve, we would celebrate at the Shanghai Restaurant. Travel and restaurants were luxuries.

We spent hours with cousins and friends. Library visits, church activities, and picnics kept us active. In the summers, we would drive to the beach and in the winters we would go skating or tobogganing. We didn’t have much money but we had a lot of love, freedom, and fun.

Several years ago, I cleaned out my parents’ home when my mother moved to an assisted living complex. I discovered that my parents did not throw things away, thinking they could be reused at another time. They were not rabid consumers, and understood the difference between needs and wants.

As children we were taught that to afford "extras" we would need to work. Early on, I developed a strong work ethic that has helped me through life. I learned that if you want to make money, you have to work.

Fortunately I also learned that money and material goods do not bring happiness. I learned that no debt was good. I learned that sometimes you need to adjust your lifestyle to fit your income.

Joanne O’Leary is a community correspondent for Riverbend.

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