Grandma was Right: 5 Time-Tested Money-Saving Tips

Any successful financial plan includes thinking about how we spend our money, and on what. Older generations had a whole other retail reality to contend with, which helped inform a more frugal money mindset. Here are five ideas to borrow from your grandparents that will help put money back in your pocket.

Buy Quality

The Target Dollar Spot, a sale at Old Navy, Ikea anything—fast, cheap, and good-looking bargains are everywhere, and super tempting. But when we score something cheap, we often lower our standards and don’t buy things we love or that last. Investing in quality, however, can save us in the long run. A well-made pair of leather clogs can last for 10 years or more; a classic wool pea coat never goes out of style. Instead of calculating value based on the sale price, look at the price per wearing: Divide the number of times you’ll wear something in a year and estimate how long you’ll wear it; it helps you realize that higher-quality purchase can be cheaper over time than the fast-fashion alternative.

Take Care of What You Have

Our grandparents had a way of fussing with things—stuffing hats with tissue paper to keep their shape, giving shoes a weekly polish, changing the car’s oil religiously. It may sound obvious, but taking care of things makes them work better, look smarter, and last longer, which means less money spent fixing and replacing.

Repair vs. Replace

Who wants to bother with fixing and fussing when you can replace that broken toaster for $25? But if you practice buying quality (see #1), then you’ve got an item worth keeping, and opting to repair can save you money and end the vicious cycle of buying cheap replacements. Think of ways to fix things on the fritz—like taking worn boots to a shoemaker for new heels, replacing a blown appliance part with a DIY video tutorial, or ordering a replacement part for your coffeemaker on eBay. You’ll add years to the life of your purchase if you’re willing to fix it as needed.


Painting the deck, fixing a missing button, washing your car, baking your kid’s birthday cake—in our convenient, quick-fix world, it’s so easy to farm out jobs we’d rather not do. But there’s a lot of satisfaction in creating, fixing, and making, not to mention a ton of cash to be saved. Compare the price of pantry ingredients to that $50 Whole Foods cake, or a quick hose and scrub to your usual $15 car wash, and DIYing starts to get pretty addictive.

Borrow, Don’t Buy

Click, ship, smile… yup, online purchases keep feeding our need for instant gratification. But older generations remember what it was like to borrow what you needed, not buy. Whether it was the neighbor’s chainsaw or a book from a library, there was an expectation that you didn’t need to buy what you didn’t need to own for keeps. These days, there’s revived interest in the library concept, from “little free libraries” on every block, to tool libraries full of gardening and woodworking tools, to regular public libraries offering everything from knitting needles to banjos you can borrow.

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