Dacyczyn Interviews: Jamie Part 2

I tracked down the Dacyczyn daughters to see how growing up in the Tightwad household impacted them.  Jamie is the eldest Dacyczyn daughter, and this is the second part of her interview.  You can find part one here.

What impact did your frugal childhood have on your adult financial life? Do you consider yourself a frugal adult? (Continued)
Like my mom, I also love to hunt through thrift stores and antique stores for household goods. After being in my own apartment for a few years after college, I decided that maybe it was time to start looking at acquiring a nice dish set. Ha! After looking around some stores at sets that I knew would get discontinued in a few years (not good for a klutzy person like me to have no options for buying replacements), I finally went to Goodwill and just bought dishes that were similar without being an actual set; white with green stripes around the rim from various manufacturers. A few of these had interesting makers' marks stamped on the backside, and I soon found that I had stumbled upon the world of vintage restaurant dishes. Intrigued, I began collecting more and more vintage dishes of that green-striped design that I found at Goodwill, yard sales, and antique stores (I ditched all non-vintage dishes and focused on these). Few of them are actually from the same maker, but they're all the same style and era, so they match. When I ended up moving in with my then-fiance (a frugal move that my mom did NOT approve of), all of these went into storage while we house hunted. We're still house hunting, but now I know that when we find the place, I'll have the most extensive, easily replaceable dish set ever. 

I've also squirreled away other vintage finds that I've found over the months....I have to admit that I've forgotten half of the fun finds that I've stored away in my parents' barn for "someday". When we finally find a house, digging that stuff out will be like Christmas......a frugal Christmas with ONLY stuff that I know I already like! (See? Frugal is fun!)

I also ended up marrying a somewhat frugal guy. Although my husband hails from a "normal" family and is sometimes frustrated with how long I'll deliberate over a purchase ("You've been wanting to replace your broken snowshoes for years now....just BUY a pair already!" "No, I can still borrow my mom's. We need a house more than I need new showshoes."), he is still very creative and also loves bargain hunting. We tend to get overly excited when we both have a weekend day off, and those days tend to begin with us screeching out of the driveway with screams of, "We're going YARD SALING!!! WHOOOO!!!" Although we hunt for different things ("Look honey, I got this gas can for fifty cents and this roll of sheet metal for five bucks!" "Great job! I found this totally sweet mid-century casserole dish for two dollars, and I got this hardcover book for a dime after haggling that lady down from a quarter!") we always appreciate each other's frugal victories. 

We had a very casual wedding that cost us about $4000 including the honeymoon. The biggest expense was renting two tents with tables and chairs...Other than that, we had a potluck reception (Oh yes we did!), paper pinwheel decorations, my dress was $200 custom made from a seller on Etsy.com, the bridal party wore outfits that they pretty much already owned (we bought matching ties and jewelry for everyone), a family friend did the photography, another friend did my makeup, etc. 

We went on a mini road trip to New Hampshire for our honeymoon. Even though we had plenty of cash gifts from relatives, we still had a hard time eating out at restaurants each evening ("You know, I've never had lamb. I'll have that. Oh, the kitchen's out of lamb this evening? Phew! That was too expensive anyway."). Instead of flying to a resort destination to laze around on a beach, we did two zipline tours, went horseback riding through the White Mountains, and took the cog train up Mount Washington (where I spent a whopping $1.33 on a postcard to mail to ourselves from the summit post office). We spent each night at different B and Bs, trading off some nights at more luxurious venues, and then spending other nights in the bare bones establishments to make up the difference. 

Aside from the wedding, my husband and I spent our first six months rent-free by housesitting for an elderly lady who was away for the winter, and then we spent the next 6 months (and 14 days!) living in a camper parked at a horse farm. Now we're renting a tiny apartment in someone else's horse barn (different horse farm) while we keep house hunting. I can handle this sparse living because of my upbringing; I know that a little sacrifice now will pay out in the end.

Would you raise children in a similar way? 
Yes, more or less. I think we learned lots of valuable lessons about the worth of a dollar and how to spend wisely. I can only hope that I'm as creative as my own parents when it comes to saving money while giving my future kids a fulfilling childhood. 

There was much hullabaloo during the reign of the Tightwad Gazette that the children (you) were deprived and that this would eventually blow up in your parents’ faces.  How would you advise parents attempting to raise children in similar circumstances? 
As I mentioned, it's easy to point out the shallow ways that I felt "deprived" at the time, but they didn't really have much lasting effect. The stuff that we had that other kids didn't were way better than the stuff that we did not have but they did. I don't feel deprived because we never went to Disney World or never had Happy Meals. It's probably better that we didn't get addicted to junk food growing up. I don't think the frugality thing blew up at all. Sure, like I discussed, there was some initial binge spending when I had real money for the first time....but that fizzled pretty quickly, and once it did I was able to revert back to the tightwad ways that I grew up with. I have many, many friends that also went through that crazy first-real-paycheck stage of splurging....and they didn't have any skills to fall back on once the money was gone. 

However, as you can tell from above, I did have plenty of self-esteem issues surrounding clothes during those obnoxious teen and pre-teen years (although it's entirely possible that even if I had the most trendy clothes ever, there would have still been teen angst in ample quantity), and I don't want my own daughter or son to go through that if we can avoid it. Puberty is awkward enough as it is without feeling like you're the single most uncool kid in school with your too-short pants. *sigh* I know, it's petty, but that's what I remember bothering me the most. 

My advice would be to just try to maintain the channels of communication with your kids as much as possible to make sure that if there is something that is truly bothering then, you can try to remedy it. I know my mom tried to help me find clothes that I liked, and took me on a shopping trip in fifth grade to try to understand what I liked......but I think I would have liked to do that again as I got older. 

You certainly don't have to bend to every demand that your teenagers make, but if they're struggling with self-esteem issues (and what teen isn't?) try to dig down and find the one or two things that are really bothering them and try to figure out how you can work to fix the problem.  For me, it would have been two or three pairs of jeans that I didn't feel perpetually self-conscious about, for another kid it might be something else entirely. Don't be so hung up on finding the most tightwad way possible that you forget to make sure your kids are at least somewhat content in ways that really matter to them. 
Overall, I wouldn't worry too much about raising children frugally and having it blow up in your face.

What do you buy that your parents wouldn’t approve of or that would've been verboten in your childhood?
Microwave popcorn! Sorry, but while air popped popcorn is good, I still crave the microwave stuff for whatever reason. That, and a nice cold Coke. Strangely, there isn't a whole lot in terms of regular material goods that I buy that would be totally shocking. I probably buy more new books that my mom would approve of (though I'm also a massive frequent flier at the library and I never buy a brand new book that I haven't already read to deem worthy), but there's just nothing else quite like the smell of new ink and the feel of new paper....Mmm......Maybe this goes back to drooling at the Scholastic Book Fair in school. What else.....Oh, last summer I taught myself to knit using a book I bought (brand new! *gasp*) on Amazon. Although my mom is thrilled that I picked up this generation-skipping family tradition, and is pleased with how fast I've picked it up....I won't be telling her how quickly I accumulated a stash of yarn and how quickly I built up my knitting needle collection. Whoops.

I guess if you had to sum up my entire response, it would be that I'm grateful for the way my parents raised me and I think I turned out all right in the end. I have retained most of my frugal upbringing, and more will probably resurface as I have my own kids. Also, I have my own dog-eared copy of my mom's book that is never far away.

A HUGE thank you to Jamie for participating in the interview!! What wonderful insights.  Coming up tomorrow- Rebecca's interview.


Unknown said…

Thank you so much for answering all these questions. I grew up in a frugal family where I too was never dressed like the cool girls and I'm sure that it was part of the pie chart of why I was considered a big dork. (Seriously though, I was still playing with my dolls in eighth grade, so I can't completely blame the clothes!)

I am now the parent to two teenage boys who are similarly saddled with a uber-frugal mom. However, thrift stores are soooo much better than they used to be, which means they've been able to wear cool clothing without resorting to he dreaded mall. And they both love the thrill of the hunt for on-trend clothes, which I'm almost always happy to pay for.

Your experience wearing out of style high-water pants made me feel for you. That's hard.

Thanks again for answering all these questions. I know it makes me sound all fan-girl, but your mother's books changed my life. LOVE HER!


Katy Wolk-Stanley
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without"
Debbie said…
Jamie, I remember when I first read your Mother's book. To say it changed my life would be an understatement. I decided to leave a long time "career" to stay home with my son who by that time was a young teen. I went back to work as he approached college age but decided to work towards early retirement. Just did that last summer. Could not have done this without the "Tightwad Gazette". I still use mine on a regular basis. Thanks for sharing your story and I am sure your Mom and Dad are quite proud.
I wanted socks that wouldn't fall down into my shoes when I walked. Because of that, I have spent more on socks for my own children (rather than the 6 pairs in one package kind with poor elastic that I had as a child) because it was so annoying to have my socks fall down all the time.

I also wanted my parents to get me what I wanted for Christmas and not just what they thought I wanted that was less expensive. I would have rather had one quality gift than a ton of little gifts that weren't at all what I wanted.

I work hard to listen to what my children say they want for Christmas and birthdays, and then I try to find it used or to make it.

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