Thrifty Like Your Nanna

‘If you look after your pennies, your pounds will take care of themselves.’

As told by Kristy to mustbethrifty

Grandpa was tight when it came to money. When he was alive, the family never went to restaurants. There were few treats: if Mum and her siblings wanted ice cream, they would have to share between the four of them.

He died when I was six months old. Nanna has been on her own ever since. Us grandkids and her Salvation Army work have kept her busy. She’s received a Community Achievement Award for her twenty-five years of service.

While Nanna isn’t as tight as Grandpa (she prefers to call herself ‘economical’), she is still careful with money. She doesn’t own a cheque book or credit card. She never buys anything at full price. Her stockings, the only new thing in her op shop wardrobe, get purchased when they’re on special at Coles. On Saturdays, when she was living in Box Hill, she’d go to the market and grab a kilo of bruised apples for a dollar, cut off the bad bits and feed the rest to us grandkids. She also hates throwing things out. In our family, nothing goes into the bin unless Nanna has had a look at it first.

Nanna’s habits make Christmas interesting. Her presents consist of boxes of tissues, tea towels from op shops, and junk from garage sales. She’s a notorious gift recycler. One time, Nanna bought a dream catcher from the two-dollar shop for my cousin who didn’t want it, so Nanna rewrapped it and gave it to me for Christmas. I kept it for a couple of months before returning it. The following Christmas, Nanna gave it back to my cousin who then handed it to me, thinking that my daughter might like it. I ended up throwing the thing in the bin. Otherwise, Nanna would have tried to give it to someone else.

Until recently, Nanna stayed in the home she and Grandpa bought after the war. She left the kitchen in its original 1930s-1940s condition and got carpet from a seconds factory. When there were holes in the floor, Nanna patched them up with chipboard and lino.

In the backyard, Nanna grew her own fruit and vegetables: rhubarb, beans, peas, strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, zucchinis, cauliflowers, apples, lemons, figs, and plums. She’d rescue her apples from the birds to make apple and rhubarb pie. The apples were tart, so the pie always needed heaps of sugar in it.

Grandpa and Nanna’s house got sold a couple of years ago and Nanna has since moved into a nicer place in Mitcham. Mum’s old secretaire looks out of place in its new surroundings. Out the back, there’s the beginnings of another kitchen garden.

At seventy-nine, Nanna still tries to save money by walking to Ringwood, instead of catching the bus. But I think she’s starting to realise that she doesn’t need to be so tight anymore. She even treats herself to the occasional shop-bought coffee—but only if there’s a discount voucher for it of course.

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