Minimum Wage & No Credit History = My Mom

by Sandy L on July 19, 2010

How many people can say that they have never owed anybody anything?  Well, my mom is one. She has never had debt.

By NO credit history I mean:

  • She never had a credit card
  • Never had a mortgage
  • Never had a checking account or driver’s license
  • Never invested in anything besides a CD or bank account that was 100% safe.

She literally paid for everything with cash including her house, a 3-decker apartment building.

Here’s the only picture I have of it on my computer.

This is a photo of what the kitchen looked like when the last tenant moved out. (This person BTW didn’t have money to pay rent, but did have money to get a manicure, send her daughter to dance class, go on a R+R trip to NYC to de-stress after losing her job.)

Anyway, you may wonder what it’s like to have been raised by someone who a) made minimum wage AND b) had no credit. There are many people out there that say that getting ahead is absolutely impossible making minimum wage.  I disagree.  It’s very difficult because most people aren’t willing to move to the hood, work long hours, and have $0 budgeted for entertainment.

Here’s what mom did:

  1. Minimize housing costs – share housing with others, live in a small apartment, buy a rental property and live in some of it, move to a less desirable neighborhood.
  2. Don’t borrow money from banks – Interest, penalties and fees. They’ll kill your chances.
  3. Don’t buy a car – take the bus or walk or ride share. If you must have a car, buy an older model.
  4. Buy Everything Used – Even my shoes were from salvation army.
  5. Don’t go on vacation – Also, don’t spend money on entertainment.
  6. Don’t sign your kids up for activities that aren’t free or subsidized.
  7. Work as much overtime as is offered or get a second job
  8. Forage as your hobby – Hunt, fish, pick berries, pick mushrooms.
  9. Have a veggie and fruit garden
  10. Barter your skills for other people’s skills
  11. Don’t make cosmetic changes to your home. Only spend money on maintenance and repairs.
  12. Understand what is a need vs want – electronics, entertainment, manicures, haircuts, etc.
  13. Don’t go out to restaurants – ever.
  14. Don’t buy junk food – I don’t think soda, chips or cookies were ever in our house growing up.
  15. Have some perspective – Most of the things we whine over are so dumb. Most of the world would be happy if they had clean drinking water, food, and safe place to live.

I am amazed by how resourceful my mom was.  I’m also happy to report that her life much mellower now. It’s pretty nice that her main complaints are her summer long battles with the various wildlife in her garden.

As much as I hated those bowl haircuts and dorky clothes, I don’t think they actually did any permanent damage.   I’m also very thankful that she put me in a position where I can pick and choose where I want to be frugal.   Hurray for professional haircuts! I’m sure those bowl haircuts of nightmare’s past is why I now spend a small fortune with my very talented and hip stylist Becky.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

StackingCash September 21, 2010 at 2:17 AM

I can appreciate this post because some of your mother’s frugality reminds me of my parents. I do miss them dearly.

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tdvshifqq August 8, 2011 at 2:25 PM

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