Monday, July 22, 2013

Costs My Grandparents Never Had to Worry About

I came across this article a couple days ago which got me to thinking.  There are A LOT of costs that my grandparents never had to worry about which are now part of almost everyone's monthly bill list.  Here's a typical monthly bill list compared to a typical bill list for a family in the 1950s:

  • Mortgage (they bought their land and home with cash).  Of course they started with a tiny piece of land and a shack and slowly expanded as they had the money.
  • Electricity (this is one bill they had).  
  • Water (they had a well--their only option for water--so no water bill)
  • Sewer (they had a septic tank--no sewer system back in the day in the rural areas they lived in--so no sewer bill)
  • Gas (they were far removed from any natural gas line so no gas bill.  They usually burned wood for heat which they cut down and cured themselves)
  • Trash (they processed their own trash by composting and burning; they produced little trash because they rarely bought anything).
  • Credit card bills (unheard of back then; they paid cash for everything).
  • Cable TV (ditto; they had a TV with "rabbit ears" and about three channels).
  • HOA fee (unheard of back then; no HOA bill)
  • Internet (ditto)
  • Cell phone (ditto ditto)
  • Health insurance (in the early days they paid cash for medical care; eventually the union paid for the family's medical care).
  • Car insurance (when this became common my granddad always carried car insurance).
  • Life insurance (ditto)
  • Food (they did shop in grocery stores but they produced as much as their food as possible with a huge garden and orchard.  Hunting and fishing supplemented the meat they would buy or barter for.  They did always have to buy coffee--it was a staple, as were sugar, flower, spices, etc).
  • Eating out (I can count on one hand the number of times my grandparents went out to dinner.  Granddad preferred to eat at home; in later years grandma went out to lunch once a week with the "Lunch Bunch" ladies and thoroughly enjoyed eating out).
  • Cars (they always paid cash for their cars and never had a new car--granddad said it was a waste of money to buy new--so he would barter or cajole or otherwise end up with quite decent vehicles for very low cash prices).
  • Gas for the truck (this was a necessity; back then gas was like 35 cents a gallon)
  • Entertainment (they always had a farm in a rural area so entertainment was a barn dance, playing cards with the neighbors, or playing music).
  • Clothing (some was purchased, some was handmade; they never had an excess of clothing or shoes)
  • Telephone (they had a phone when service got to their area; of course they had a "party line" for many years)
  • Travel (this was exceptionally rare and neither one ever traveled by plane; they would either drive or take the train to visit family).
Things they did pay for that might be a bit uncommon today:
  • Guitars (granddad loved his guitars)
  • Guns, fishing gear, hunting gear (these were necessities of life back then)
  • Livestock (they had horses for a while, chickens, etc)
  • Seeds (they would receive massive orders of seeds each late winter for their farm)
  • Books and magazines (they were avid readers so there were always books and subscription magazines at their house)
  • Canning supplies (grandma canned a ton of food each summer and fall)
  • A huge freezer (for as far back as I can remember they always had a huge freezer full of food)
  • Whiskey (granddad loved his whiskey)
  • Chocolate (grandma loved her chocolate)
The bottom line was that they lived simply but had a full life.  They didn't need a lot of "stuff" to make them happy but a full freezer and pantry were both a joy to them and a kind of insurance against hard times.  Both had lived through the Depression and were very frugal.  Granddad always had a wallet bursting with cash yet he hardly ever spent it, and grandma saved what little money she had as well (it was called "pin money" back then). They seemed to have everything they needed but little extra when it came to extravagances (no fur coat for grandma, no travel to distant lands just because, etc).  Life seemed so simple back then...


  1. This is a nice post. I often think back to my own childhood in the 1960's when life was simpler. Sometimes watching old TV shows will take me right back to that living room where me and my sibs would sit on the floor in front of the black and white TV and watch Lost in Space or the Ed Sullivan Show.

  2. My grandparents lived like this too. They were even able to put their purchases on a tab at the neighbourhood grocery store and pay for it on payday (which was likely weekly and in cash!)