Apr 17

Financial Lessons Learned From My 80-Year-Old Grandfather

student debt survivor

So if fair is fair, I can’t write a post about the financial lessons learned from my 80-year-old grandmother on her birthday, and not include a post about financial lessons learned from my grandfather on his 80th birthday. Happy Birthday Papa! I love you!

My grandfather is an adorable man who has worked incredibly hard his entire life. He was drafted by the Army and served proudly in Korea. Although he doesn’t speak much of his military service, we know that he helped save a friend’s life and has the fragmented grenade shards in his legs to, “prove it”. He’s not a man of many words, but when he does have something to say, you’ll hear about it. He’s stubborn as a mule, but has an incredibly selfless spirit. So without further intro, here are the financial lessons my grandfather (papa) has taught me:

  • There’s No Shame In An Honest Days Work-My papa worked many jobs throughout his lifetime. He worked at grocery store/deli, in a fish canning factory and at my high school as a janitor. He was never afraid of difficult or dirty work, and never said, “no” to a job that others might feel was, “below” them. He taught me that any work is better than no work, and beggars can’t be choosers. That being said, he busted his hump working those low paying jobs so that he provide for his family and help my mom, “get ahead” and go to college. A few years ago he told me that he wanted her and I to go to college and get an education so wouldn’t have to work as hard as he did (melt!).
  • Grow You Own Food to Save Money-My grandfather saved the family a ton of money by growing his own fruits and vegetables. As a young child I remember him digging up rows of potatoes with a clam hoe. We’d dust them off and put them in the cold, dark cellar where they’d stay all winter (or until we ate them all). Carrots, beets and tomatoes were all boiled and canned in glass mason jars. Dill pickles and sweet pickles and piccalilli (a sweet relish made out of green tomatoes-I found some made in Amish country on amazon if you’re curious-see below) were jarred and enjoyed throughout the year.

  • Hunting-Ok, I’m not a hunter, and I don’t eat red meat, but both of my grandparents (grammy grew up hunting and according to local folk lore, was the far superior hunter of the pair-you go grandma!) were hunters in their younger days. If they shot a deer they would freeze and can the meat and eat it for the whole winter. They also caught and preserved fish, and froze the clams that my grandfather dug from the local shore.
  • Modesty Breeds Savings-My grandparents bought a modest two-bedroom home where they lived for their entire adult lives. They never, “upgraded” my grandmother’s engagement ring, went on vacation (my grandma had never been on a plane until she visited us this past Christmas), or splurged on expensive dinners or entertainment. As a result, my grandmother was able to stay at home with my mother and they were able to pay off their house and save for retirement on his salary alone (my grandmother later worked after my mother went away to college).
  • Homemade is Better (and cheaper!) Than Store Bought-If papa could make something at home, he did. One of my favorite memories of growing up was making pints of homemade vanilla ice cream each winter. Lots of heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla blended in that old ice cream maker made a really fabulous treat. Sometimes we made coffee flavored, which was equally delicious. Yum!
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle-My grandfather sat in my grandparent’s dining room for years, knitting bait bags on a hook he screwed into the doorway’s molding. He’d sell the bags to the local fishermen for their lobster traps. He also sold raspberries by the quart from the front lawn (old school with a homemade sign and money jar. We trusted people back then!). After he, “retired” he continued to work part-time. Until his late 70’s, he was still working as a stern-man on a lobster boat with a friend.

Is My Papa the Cutest? How Lucky Am I? Tell Me About Lessons Learned From Your Grandfather or Father.

Image: 401(k) 2013

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  1. Sounds like he’s got the right attitude towards earning a crust. Incidentally, I now feel like eating raspberries.

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm
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      We always eat them with heavy cream (whipped or not). Yum!

  2. It’s funny how sometimes the attitudes of the “older” generation seem to fly in the face of our current culture. I love “Thereโ€™s No Shame In An Honest Days Work.” It seems like people in their 20s and 30s are too prideful to just “get it done” when they need to and do an honest days work…regardless of how prestigious the job is.

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm
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      Totally, DC. I’ve done my fair share of hard work and dirty jobs (house cleaning, dish washing etc). I’ve never felt I was, “too good” to do either and if I had to do either again to feed my family or pay my bills I absolutely would.

    1. I agree with DC. Just reading his lessons are pretty much the complete opposite of most people today. We won’t take a job that we feel is “below” us. We waste food like there is no tomorrow. Fast food is better than home cooking because hey, we’re busy. When you stop and put it all together, the light really begins to shine on why we are in the mess we are in.

  3. Are you sure we don’t have the same grandpa? Mine used to grow a humongous garden that fed our entire extended family. He raised 7 kids working as an ice cream truck delivery driver. I miss him =(

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:23 pm
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      We might lol, maybe that’s how we got out thrifty ways ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m so lucky and thankful to have such a wonderful grandfather.

  4. Sounds a lot like mine too, except he wouldn’t hunt. He does kill any rat or other disgusting animal that invades his land though. Reminds me that I have to try to make ice cream, thanks!

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm
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      guacamole ice cream? I’d be down to try some. Bf says that he used to have avocado milkshakes when he was little. I think that’s a Filipino thing.

  5. Wow – your grandparents are so young! My PopPop died in 2007 at 92 years old, and your stories remind me so much of him. Especially the work ethic. When PopPop retired from working his nth career in his late 70’s, he was leaving a custodial position at a hospital that he worked part time at. Turned out they had to replace PopPop’s 20 hour per week contribution with a full time equivalent (who was in his 30s!) since Pop had been so productive at keeping everything in the hospital running swiftly and efficiently!

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:28 pm
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      Go grandpa, that’s such a testament to him and his hard work. My grandparents had my mom when they were 22. My mom had me when she was 28. Mom having me at 28 was really “late” for our area. 22-23 was pretty much the average age for having kids for folks my grandparents age in rural Maine in the 1950s. I can’t even imagine having a child now and I’m 30 lol.

  6. Sounds great! I don’t know that I could save money growing fruits and vegetables in Brooklyn, but definitely have a few plants of herbs I wouldn’t be able to afford without growing my own. And he’s still right — homemade is cheaper than store bought (Except I gave up dairy to save even more)

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm
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      Rural Maine breeds all kinds of frugal activities (hunting, fishing, gardening) that would never be possible for us here. We don’t even have a patio.

  7. Sounds a lot like my grandfather as well. Definitely some wisdom to learn from and apply to my own life.

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm
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      Aww, thanks John.

    • Janine @ My Pennies, My Thoughts on April 17, 2013 at 11:21 am
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    I love learning frugal tips from grandparents, they are simply the best! My Grandma always tries to teach me how to darn socks, because back then no one threw out socks haha!

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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      I’ve never darned a sock, but I’ve knit one. I guess I’d just have to knit new ones instead of fix old ones.

  8. Aww, I love stories like this! He sounds like an amazing man with some great values to pass along. You are a very lucky granddaughter ๐Ÿ™‚

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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      I sure am. He’s the best grandfather I could ever ask for.

  9. You can learn a lot from a role model like this. My mother worked into her early nineties. Not traditional jobs, but she made things and sold them at open air markets. It kept her busy and engaged. She eventually had to stop, but she live dto just a few weeks shy of 99 years old.

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm
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      Wow, god bless her. I only hope I can make it to 99, let alone be able to work until 90.

  10. This is absolutely adorable. Sounds like your grandpa is so cute! My father in law is actually 71 (he was 41 when he had his 1st born, my hubby.) They do a lot of the same things you’re describing – canning veggies, having a garden, and even collecting cans to make a few cents. He’s one of the smartest guys I know. I think we’re very lucky to have such good examples in our lives.

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:34 pm
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      Absolutely. I’m so lucky to have him. Totally forgot about collecting cans. When I was little we’d go for long walks with a bag to collect them. $0.05 a can of free money!

  11. This sounds a lot like my grandpa. Everyone can benefit from wisdom like this. Heck, I need to do a few more things on this list ASAP. Great article!

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm
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      I guess we both lucked out ๐Ÿ™‚ So much wisdom to be learned from our parents and grandparents.

  12. Aww, I called my grandpa Papa, as well! What a touching tribute to him, and it’s apparent to see where your strong work and financial ethics came from! My Papa grew up in a house of 10 kids and food was rationed, so he loved telling the story of how happy he was when he got to buy a whole can of Pork and Beans just for him to eat. I think my main motivation to not waste food lies in that. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm
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      I actually don’t know how I ended up calling him papa. I’ll have to ask my mom. Maybe that’s what he preferred to be called? My nephews call my step-dad grampy, but that’s because he wanted to to called that and so we all just refer to him that way with my sisters’ kids. My grandparents never waste any food, ever. I think a lot of that was learned from their parents growing up in the depression.

  13. Awww, these posts always warm my heart. As I told Justin over at The Frugal Path when he wrote about his grandfather, this generation is the one that Rick and I aspire to be like. They understood the value of a dollar and know everything there is about frugal living. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, KK. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • KK on April 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm
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      You’re so welcome. With my grandparents getting older, I really feel like I need to write down a lot of these memories so I’ll always remember them. Since they just so happen to be the ultimate frugalistas, it also makes sense to blog about them ๐Ÿ™‚ If I can be half as hardworking, diligent, and humble as them I’ll be doing well.

  14. What a heartwarming Post! Homemade is better than store bought. My grandfather was also very talented at building/cooking/making everything on his own and I learned a lot of different skills from him. I really liked learning how to use tools to fix things as well. Nowadays, I am fully capable of fixing all toilets/sinks/closet doors/ and AC units in my house! I am sure you have learned so much from your grandfather and may you both continue to celebrate many birthdays!

    • Kelly on April 19, 2013 at 2:01 am
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    Just found your site. I remember your grandparents. They ARE awesome. Can’t believe your grandfather is 80 !
    Love from Aunt Kelly

  15. He sounds so sweet. And, he sounds like my grandma! Haha.

      • KK on April 22, 2013 at 9:27 am
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      Grandparents like ours are the cutest!

  16. He sounds like an awesome grandpa.They really know best. So full of wisdom. And generous too. lol We should learn a lot from them since they have the experience.

    • Brady on April 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm
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    I learned so much from my Grandpa! He too was an avid hunter and I learned to appreciate the old-fashioned homemade things from all of my grandparents over the years. My Grandpa never went to school past the 6th grade but died a multimillionaire! He taught me the fundamentals of money from a very young age. My nana taught me how home-can lots of veggies and how to make our own jams, jellies, and fruit juices! Grandparents really are full of knowledge!

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