Frugal Was a Way of Life

Last weekend I was able to visit the Museum of American History in Washington D.C. One of the neatest exhibits was a house that was originally located in Massachusetts. Excellent records were kept by the occupants of the house for a few hundred years. The diaries and journals told stories about the families who lived between the walls.

Some time in the 1900’s the house was scheduled to be demolished. People from the historical society saved the house and it was moved to the American History Museum. While walking around the house and reading about its occupants I felt like I was there. It was fascinating to read about their way of life.

From the looks of the house the people who lived in it were not poor. The house was rather large and they had things that would have been luxuries  like glass windows and wallpaper. I remarked to my friend that the occupants of this house were definitely upper class and she agreed.

As I continued to walk around the house I read their stories and looked at personal items from many years ago. My husband found a display about the frugal nature of these families and took pictures for me.

I find it interesting that less than 100 years ago, frugality was a way of life for the majority of Americans. My how things have changed in such a short time! Today, frugality is seen as some sort of movement, something that is temporary, until the economy improves. Sometimes people even associate frugality with being poor.

My favorite quote from the exhibit was

she kept a frugal household that “used it up, made do, or did without…”

I plan on printing that quote and displaying it in my home, to help me stay the course. To me being frugal means so much more than saving a money, I want to be a good steward of the resources I have been given.

What does frugality mean to you?


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  1. What a cool exhibit! To me, frugality is being the best possible steward I can of the time, money, & resources I’ve been blessed with.

  2. I just saw that exhibit in June. I was fascinated by it! I love how they showed the different families that lived there and how the nature of the house, it’s economic standing and prominence changed over the years.
    And I have to be honest, I stink at being frugal. I try, really, really hard, but I’m just not good at it.

  3. I think being frugal is, in this world around us, an act of worship. To purposefully put aside the desire to “have” and do without, is a way I worship God. He has provided for us time and time again, and we can give more back if we consume less.

  4. I have put up a ton of food this season and loved every minute of it. I find it so fulfilling. Everyone calls me “ma Ingalls” and it makes me laugh. I think sometimes we’ve lost touch. Thanks for a great reminder!

  5. Southern Gal says:

    Years ago when my daughter was young, we started an American Girls Club in our homeschool group. I remember that quote from the Molly series of books which take place during WWII. What a great motto. We visited a Confederate Relic and WWI museum exhibit yesterday. Love those places.

  6. I think that last quote you gave could certainly help all of us if we would follow it.

  7. Although originally begun by necessity, to me frugality is now a way of life even though we have been blessed financially. Being a good steward of whatever you have been given enables you to be more generous to others and ready to give whenever it is needed.

  8. Love that quote! To me, being frugal means not being wasteful. In this day and age where everything is about “Going Green,” I believe that frugality goes hand in hand with respecting the earth’s resources. Reusing items, buying secondhand clothes, buying items that use less packaging – the list goes on and on. I take pride in being frugal and in contributing less to the landfills.

  9. I agree completely with Will Travel By Foot. I think being frugal is not being wasteful. It also means getting the best price for things that you do buy. I love the American History Museum. I need to get down there one of these days to see that exhibit.

    Michele in Northern Virginia

  10. TheHappyHousewife says:

    You do! The first lady exhibit is beautiful!

  11. I love that quote, but the one I hear all the time is more like “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. 🙂

  12. I love that we are starting to turn towards frugality more and more these days. We have certainly been a country of excess and it is almost purifying to not be so focused on ‘things’ and a thrill to see how much you can cut your bills. I still need to learn to can. I’m a wimp and am pretty sure I’d do it wrong and kill my family when we went to eat it because it would be contaminated.

    I love that quote. We are LDS and one of the quotes we hear a lot of in our church is: Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do without!

  13. What I find interesting (almost sad) is that they had to define “canning”. I grew up in a household where we grew our own and canned it, and continue on in the tradition with our children. Many of my friends in my new town (we’ve moved away from family for school) think I’m some kind of frugal zealot, but it’s just how our family prefers to prepare food, just as our family before us.

  14. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Yes, I thought the quote about canning was sad too! Think about all the money that could be saved if people were more resourceful.

  15. I loved the quote. I to am learning to live more frugally. For us it started with my husbands desire to learn how to “live off the grid” To not be dependent on the grid whether it is the grocery store, a box store and a convienent store. To know that when we hear of beef recalls or dairy recalls we are still safe.
    Getting back to basics! It has now become routine to rewash and ziploc bag, to can food and gather our own eggs. Very cool but also very rewarding to know that I am providing well for my family.

  16. We were there in June and I love the display of that home. Did ya see the “hairy” brick…they used hair in the mortar or plaster as insulation (if you leaned to close to see if it was really hair…an alarm went off. Speaking from exp. here!) Its neat to see that you took the same pictures I did. And I really like the poster about canning.

  17. Wow – I would love to see that exhibit! There are always ways to save more, but frugality is something that has been handed down in my family for generations. That last quote is very similar to a saying that we still use that goes back at least to my great-grandmother – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

  18. For me, frugality is about not wasting resources and being grateful for what I have. It’s also good for the environment, and it’s an act of humility.

    However, I regrettably find that I am frugal about some things, but not about others. I need to learn more!

    Thanks so much for the blog.

  19. To me, frugal means never going into heavy debt again. But more than that, I get a real kick out of seeing how much money I save by combing coupons with sales, building a stockpile and ‘making do,’ (as the poem says).
    I cringed when I heard some moms at work (I work for a pediatrician) talking about how much they spent on school supplies–mostly because they waited until the last minute! So I taught them about shopping early when something’s on sale. I also told them to hit the stores in the near-future, because school supplies will be extra cheap to make room for Halloween merchandise. After all, you know danged well you’re gonna need new crayons, pencils, pens and notebooks by January!

  20. I consider being frugal like a year round easter egg hunt for the best bargins. I feel like i’ve won a prize when I save a good amout of money on the items I use everyday.

  21. Jenny from SG says:

    I grew up hearing that quote a lot from my mom. It has had a lot of influence on me, especially now that I am an adult and have my own family. Good idea to hang it in your home!

  22. Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote up the depression era quote “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and posted it in a place that we walk by quite a lot everyday. 🙂

  23. You know, I am pretty sure I went through that exhibit about 3 yrs ago when we went to the Museum of American History! I remember that sign “Grow your own/ Can your own”. (Gotta love those retro aprons!)

  24. I shocked some folks from our community by telling them our thermostat is set to 80 degrees this summer. But they were equally surprised by my methodology (78 two summers ago, 79 last summer, 80 this year) and how much I’ve saved by making this very slight change.

    Sometimes I think people avoid frugal behaviors because they really and truly think they won’t save very much money, compared to the “inconvenience” of cooking at home (everyone in my family loves homemade food and likes to cook it, too), repairing well-loved items instead of replacing them, making cards and gifts (all my daughter’s friends make their own birthday party invitations, cake, games, etc. – how frugal is that!), and so on.

    Not only do you save real money, significant amounts of it, you can have real fun as a family making things and enjoying our beautiful world. Some inconvenience!

  25. We are to be good stewards of all that God has given us. We are to give to God first out of our income and then see what God would have you to do with the rest. Blowing it all isn’t being a good steward. Being frugal is like the saying that you are copying. There are so many things that we can do without and yes we can still live a fulfilled life. 😀 Don’t be wasteful with things that we have.

  26. I know I need to take a lesson in being more Frugal. I am bad.

  27. Found this article via a friend on facebook! Good stuff. The quote that I have heard and told my children since they were young was “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” Thanks for sharing!

  28. I’m not completely sure how to explain it, but frugal to me is a natural outgrowth of not being caught up in materialism. My parents were successful business owners, but we kids always had to work for what we wanted and were expected to work in the family business as we grew up. It taught me to be more content with simple things. Materialism actually makes me feel sick to my stomach 🙂 I much prefer the challenge of being frugal.

  29. Amen! Wonderful post! Frugality seems to be a dirty word in today’s society and it really is quiet sad. I think it has alot to do with the mind set of people these days that more is better and that everyone is competition with each other to see has the most and best stuff. It is sad really, it all comes down to not seeing the blessings the Father has given them and not understanding how we are too be good stewards with what He provides.

  30. I think that I have much to learn from this site and from you intelligent and “frugal” woman. I do coupons to an extreme so needless to say…I am still learning. I have started some of the going green things as the bulb changes and things that arent used are unplugged. Using natural sun light instead of flicking on the switch and getting my kids out of the house working / playing instead of on tv or bothering me due to boredome. Thank you Ladies

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