Valuable lessons on thrifty living from my mama

Happy New Year and decade! It has been such a long time since I have blogged here but I felt inspired to after spending some time at my mother’s house.

Over the last month, I have been recovering from major surgery so needed to stay with my mum until I am strong enough to take care of myself. This time has been a source of unexpected joy and deep healing in more ways than one. One of the things that has provided endless entertainment during this period is realising just how funny and thrifty my mum is! And also how much I love her!

Growing up, my mum has always been very resourceful but experiencing it as an adult has been inspiring and humorous on another level!

Here are just a few of the little lessons on thrifty living I’ve learnt during my stay:

  1. Do not waste water – I have my own method of washing up and my mum has her own. For me, washing up is a quasi-therapeutic, multi-sensory experience so I can be quite liberal (not excessive) in my water usage. I like the sound of the tap quietly running in the background, immersing my hands in the soapy water, and if time permits, really take the time to wash the dishes until they are sparkling clean. But to my mum, the ongoing running water is a monumental waste; it’s best to have one tub of soapy water to wash the dishes, and then do a similar thing re. rinsing them out apart from cups / glasses (which need to be rinsed in fresh water). And if I fail to fall in line, mum is quick to remind me that if I paid my own water bill in full, I would be more economical – ouch! So whilst I am at her house, I have been mindful to use less water, especially since mum has a sixth sense when it comes to water and energy wastage. I swear she can hear the sound of running water at long distances – from the other side of the house – even with the doors shut and TV on. (This must come with decades of being a parent?!). You may even be asking the question – ‘why don’t we have a dishwasher?’ The answer is simple: my mum is old school and still doesn’t believe they wash dishes properly!
  2. Ration washing up liquid – it’s been a while since I have seen washing up liquid diluted in a bottle as standard practice. Most people only resort to this if they are running a little low and need to make it stretch for a short while. However, this is the norm at my mum’s. Apparently some people don’t have the ability to regulate their usage so my mum just wants to help them out! I remember when one of my housemates tried to do this a while ago so that we’d be more economical. This didn’t last long; seeing that we are all adults -living independently of our parents -hopefully we have some ability to manage our usage!
  3. Turn off the lights – I am pretty good with turning off the lights if they are not in use, but my mum is a supremo. Before you’ve barely left the room the lights must be off or she is following closely behind like a ninja to turn them off if she happens to be doing a round of ‘inspections’. And this also goes for household electrical appliances. There is a nightly ritual at mum’s – partly motivated by fire safety and also a commitment to energy efficiency – where all appliances must be turned off at the mains to reduce energy wastage apart from the fridge etc.
  4.  Re-use margarine containers and jars for storage – I have written about this before but coming back to my mum’s home, I saw margarine containers used as tupperware; old coffee glass jars creatively transformed into containers for dried goods and other random plastic containers take on a new lease of life as bowls. In my mum’s own words ‘why should I pay money for these things when I can get them for free?’
  5.  Don’t pay for convenience – Mum and I went to a local franchise of a big supermarket chain. Mum wanted coffee from the store but when she saw the price – almost had a meltdown. “This is half the size of the one at the bigger stores yet almost the same price. No, I am not paying that much for a small jar.” I replied “But Mum, I will buy it for you, don’t worry about it.” My mum retorts: ” No, that’s not the point. I don’t want you spending this amount for this size – it’s the principle. Why should it be so expensive? I’ll go to the bigger store later tonight so I can get the one I normally buy. It’s a rip off. I can’t believe it.’‘ I laughed so much because this instance reminded me of numerous times as a child, when my mum would go to another shop – 10 mins away – to buy the same product which might be 20p cheaper because of ‘principle’.  At that moment, I had an epiphany; my mum is the original Thrifty Afropolitan. I can drop off from time to time- but she is the real deal when it comes to adopting a resourceful, frugal lifestyle influenced by her West African heritage.

On reflection, perhaps God brought me home as a reminder and a challenge to do better re. managing my finances in the new decade ahead…

What lifestyle / household hacks do you remember parents doing to save money? Share them in the comments section below.

Here are a few of the recycled jars in my mum’s kitchen!

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