Dacyczyn Interviews: Rebecca

I tracked down the Dacyczyn daughters to see how growing up in the Tightwad household impacted them.  Rebecca is the middle Dacyczyn daughter.  You can find eldest sister Jamie's interviews here and here.

Growing up, were you aware that your family was different? How did you feel about those differences?
Of course I was aware that I was different when I was growing up. I would say that I became aware of the differences around the first or second grade. There were times that I was very proud of my family, I remember bragging that I had been on TV and on the cover of a magazine. As you grow older you learn modesty, and at that time it seemed culturally acceptable to act embarrassed or bashful. I was certainly never ashamed of the differences. All of my friends told us that we had the coolest home, and that our parents made the best food. 

I think the time that I was most self conscious was as a teenager. I was not focused on the differences between my family and the families of my peers, but about my clothing. With my adult perspective I am grateful for that. It made it very easy to weed out the people that were not good friends, and also made me a little more tough around the edges, and proud to be who I was. My parents never forced us to wear anything we did not want to wear, they presented opportunities to buy the clothes we wanted if we were willing to put in the effort to get them. Often, it turned out that clothes were not as important as it had originally seemed after we earned our own money and had to choose how to spend it.

What impact did your frugal childhood have on your adult financial life? Do you consider yourself a frugal adult? 

 I can very clearly say that the frugality I was raised with has made my adult life much easier. I consider every purchase before I make it. I compare the cost of an object to other things I need money for in my life. For example, is this winter coat really worth two weeks of groceries? And is that worth it when I already have a winter coat that is perfectly functional? I definitely consider myself a frugal adult. My husband and I have made career choices that led us to careers we enjoy, and are convenient to our area, as opposed to high paying. With those choices, we would not be able to maintain the home and vehicles we want if we were not frugal.

Would you raise your children in a similar way?
I am already raising my children in a similar way. My childhood was awesome, and I want the same things for my children. I want them to play in the woods instead of with a game boy, and have a clean house, parents who are married, and healthy food. A couple of years before I started having kids I started accumulating children's items from yard sales to store away for the future. By the time my first child was born I had my parents' barn half full of stuff and had barely spent $200. 

People love to hand down their children's clothes as well, so my oldest was two years old before I splurged and bought him his first full-priced, brand new clothing item. It was a pair of Thomas the Train pajamas for Easter which cost $6. Getting everything cheap or free became a game to me, to see how long I could last without buying anything new. I simply could not justify spending $15 on a pair of infant sized jeans that they would wear five times, when I could use that $15 to get 30 or more clothing items at yard sales.

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?
I remember reporters coming to our house and asking if we felt deprived. There may have been a VERY brief period in my early teens that I felt like my parents were being unfair to us. Looking back, I am so glad that they spent all those years teaching us the importance to spending money wisely. I know that an important part of parenthood is not necessarily doing what makes your child feel good at the time, but making choices that will help raise a responsible adult. 

I also think it is very useful for children to learn how to gracefully accept being told 'No'. Not everything in your life is going to go your way, and you can either be sour about it, or find a different way to get what you want. I think parents really need to think about the messages you are sending your child. Sometimes it is hard to stick to your guns, and do something that makes your child temporarily unhappy, but the long term goal is far more important.

I also have to say that our family was in a unique position where we lived very frugally even though my family was wealthy. Many parents trying to raise their children similar to how I was raised really don't have the extra money just sitting around to spend on their child's every whim. They should not feel guilty about that. Spending your money to buy healthy food, or a better home, is money well spent. Those things should not be sacrificed for jeans in the latest style, or the newest video game. 

There are a few ways that I spend money differently than the way my parents spent money. But my parents were also living as a model for all of their readers to follow, so it was important to their readers that we did all of those things to prove that they were a viable option. 

What do you buy that your parents wouldn’t approve of or that was verboten during your childhood?
 I buy hot cocoa mix in a can. I never liked the kind made with powdered milk though I do sometimes make it from scratch. I also buy several food items that are a 'step up' from what we ate as children, either in quality, or in expense. For example, I never had feta cheese until I was an adult, because it is more expensive, and an acquired taste that you wouldn't want to waste on picky children. Feta cheese is now a staple in my house, as well as store bought tortillas, though I do sometimes make my own.

Do you ever read or refer to The Tightwad Gazette?
I do refer back to the Tightwad Gazette. I have not read it cover to cover, but I have read all of the parts pertaining to parenthood. I often look back for party plans, or craft ideas from the kids. I also own a childcare center and we use several of the ideas from the book. It was also very handy when we were buying a house.

Rebecca, thank you for participating in the interview!  Tomorrow, we will hear from youngest daughter Laura.


George McCargar said…
Thank you so much for these posts! TCTG had a huge, positive impact on my life and we are raising our children the same way. Glad to know her children are turning out so well.--Paula
Paula, glad you enjoyed the posts!!

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