[Dukes: we have a new honored guest joining us in the Kingdom this week! Moose from MSO Life. His blog is the living journal of his journey to reach financial independence and retire early. Today he is sharing a wonderful frugal lifestyle story about his grandparents, who in our humble opinions, are legendary. Welcome Moose!]

I consider my frugality a strength and I’m proud of it.

Though I’ve been on the path to financial independence fewer than three years, I’ve made massive progress in that short amount of time. Despite my progress, though, I’m continuously humbled by the frugality of my grandparents.

The frugality of my grandparents is the prime motivation for continuing to improve my spending habits.

From Chris -> Mine too! It must be something about their generation 🙂

Background

Today, I’m speaking about my two Mexican grandparents. My Abuelos. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away in December last year, but my grandfather is still going strong. They’ve both had amazing lives. Both grandparents grew up in extreme poverty. Not “the power just went out” poverty, but “I lost several of my brothers and sisters to disease” poverty.

They both grew up during a time of war and pestilence in Mexico. Frugality was not a choice for them but the only means for survival. To this day, their sense of frugality shines through.

The 4 Frugal Lifestyle Keys

I traveled to Mexico to visit my Abuelito and Abuelita in October 2017. Most things were the same or similar. However, I had changed and it was with these new eyes that I perceived things I hadn’t noticed or paid much attention to before. These factors are the 4 Keys to frugality that my grandparents espouse:

  1. Handiness
  2. Farming
  3. Making Stuff Last
  4. Embracing Community

Handiness

My Abuelito is the walking embodiment of handiness. In his career, he was a sailor and a cook. While he gained useful skills in those professions, he’s not limited to a narrow set of knowledge. He knows a wide array of skills.

For example, he made a hammock, by hand and from thread, that is still hung today. I’ve had some of the best naps there. My most treasured childhood gift from him was a little custom wooden table with an incline with divots built into the surface. It was a game for marbles and he made it himself from scrap wood. The game was painted green and orange and I spent countless hours playing with it.

Abuelito also made much of the furniture in their house, from step-stools and chairs to a little-modified table my grandmother affixed to her wheelchair when she needed to eat. If he can build something instead of buying it, he simply does. He can build many things because he has dedicated his life to being handy. He spent the time and energy necessary to learn these skills and he inspires me to be more self-reliant.

From Chris -> Truly inspired by people that can do these types of handyman jobs so well, a marketbal husband skill indeed!

Farming

I use the term “farming” loosely here. My grandparents don’t have hectares of land growing corn or something like that. Instead, they’ve converted the roughly half-acre of land around the house to provide value to their lives. They live in a vividly fertile part of Mexico. It’s hot and the humidity smacks you in the face like a warm, wet towel when you step out of the airplane.

This environment allows some houseplants to grow to the size of trees and it no effort grow most plants.

My grandparents take advantage of these growing conditions and now source much of their food from their garden. They’re not growing tomatoes, they’re growing:

  • papayas the size of footballs
  • guavas
  • two different types of mango
  • limes and lemons (the size of your fist!)
  • different types of chiles
  • coconuts
  • various herbs
  • avocados
  • aloe vera
hibiscus flower, grandparent frugality

Close-up of a hibiscus in their garden.

papayas

Huge papayas. Notice the piece of ribbon my grandfather repurposed to help support the tree.

These fruits, veggies, and herbs don’t just feed my Abuelos, they help to keep them healthy. This saves them a lot of money that would be spent at the corner store. This is also safer since they live in the most dangerous and cartel-riddled part of Mexico. My Abuelos always use a doctor when necessary (almost every day toward the end of my Abuelita’s life), but simple problems have simple solutions. For example:

  • papaya tree sap ground with a little water and an alka-seltzer helps with indigestion if you eat this right before a meal
  • Oja de Negro (hyptis verticillata) mixed with bougainvillea flowers helps fix coughs

From Chris -> Fascinating and so amazing my friend! I’ve never heard of the coughing solution and prefer nature over pharmacy.

Making Stuff Last

One thing that impressed me most about my grandparents is that they keep things for DECADES. They’re not hoarders in any sense but the objects in their house are sometimes older than me!

On a recent trip, I commented that I was impressed that their old fans never broke. My grandfather said “of course they break, but I learned how to fix them.”

oldfan

Crusty old fan, 20+ years old. Still works.

My grandpa has a bottle opener that’s several decades old. It’s a caricature of a cowboy and the boot opens the bottle cap. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t see it hanging out of his pocket. My grandparents buy good-enough quality items and fix them anytime they break. They don’t buy something because their old model is outdated. If my Abuelos toss anything out, I know immediately it’s irreparable. Learn how to fix things around the house and you’ll save a mountain of money in the long-term.

Embracing Community

The sense of community in many Mexican towns is strong. During every single one of my visits over the years, various friends and extended family members dropped by the house to say hello and share meals with us. I can’t help but feel that we’ve lost a lot of this sense of community here. It doesn’t help that many of us have moved multiple times, but building community is a worthwhile pursuit anywhere you land.

If anyone in this tight-knit community needs help (financial or other), the community rallies behind them and helps out. My grandmother had an adopted nephew. Abuelita promised, on her sister’s deathbed, that she would help my wayward uncle. While he still continues to be useless and irresponsible, the house he has lived in for the past 30+ years was built by my grandfather. I told you he’s handy!

This sense of community is something I strive to build. The personal finance community is one such community that I’m embracing. Even though it’s not a traditional community, many of the same benefits carry over. It has helped me with money by showing me how to maximize a dollar.

From Chris -> Totally agree and find it so helpful to have many like-minded thinkers around to support each other.

Final Thoughts on my Grandparent’s Frugal Lifestyle

Anytime I start to get somewhat cocky about my financial progress, I am humbled and brought down to Earth by my grandparent’s example. I still have a LONG way to go if I want to achieve their next-level peak frugality.

I’m inspired to be more capable and self-reliant around the house. I want to know how to build furniture and fix stuff. I will grow as much of my own food as possible. I need to build and be more of a part of my community. I’ll help them and they’ll help me. Life is more fulfilling and happy when you’re a productive member of a community, generally speaking. Learn from my grandparents, as I continue to do, and gain ground on financial independence.

What are you going to do to reach next-level frugality?