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Budgeting lesson from the 1950's

August 16th, 2005 at 01:35 pm

Last week DMom and I were discussing money and budgeting methods, and she pulled out a ledger book from when she and DDad were first married--1952 to 1956! We got a good laugh at some of the prices, believe me. Wink

DMom is Mrs. Moneybags at this point, but as she pointed out, back then it felt like they were living from paycheck to paycheck. And actually that wasn't such a bad thing for them back then. The first few years they were living in an apartment and didn't own a car. So there weren't surprise car and appliance repairs or large car insurance and property tax bills to plan for. They kept track of things as small as 47 cents for an electric socket, but my dad managed to buy a slide projector for $185. That's $185 in 1950's money--equivalent to several month's rent.

What I found really interesting was that although they had a budget, they were always going over. (I think I found one month where they were under!) And yet, over that 4-year period, things worked out just fine overall.

The key seemed to be their systematic savings, along with an artificially low, slightly tight budget. (To paraphrase The Millionaire Next Door, "they created an artificial economic environment of scarcity for themselves.")

DMom said she had a nice cushion of "war bonds" she'd bought during WW2. And I could see in the ledger book they were still buying more savings bonds, $37.50 a month for a $50 bond, through payroll deductions. If they went over budget by $10 each month, they were still $27.50 ahead because of that payroll deduction. When the checking account got too low, or they had something unusual to spend money on, they just cashed in some bonds--as opposed to the modern way of using plastic. Wink

It left me feeling a little better about making mistakes and not managing to stay within a budget all the time. I tend to worry and feel guilty--like if every financial move I make isn't exactly right, we'll end up bankrupt and it will have been my fault. But maybe the important thing is just to make sure we're moving in the right direction even if it's only by $27.50 a month. Once again, remembering to look at the big picture and not letting myself get so riled up.

1 Responses to “Budgeting lesson from the 1950's”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this - thank you for sharing your mom's story.

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