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By every inch of the definition, my parents were thrifty. They shopped for clothes at second-hand stores, always bought used cars and could sniff out a sale with the best of them.

They had to be. There wasn’t another option on a social worker’s and private school teacher’s salary. They simply had to live that way or go without.

And we never were without. I don’t remember a time ever being hungry,  or lacking clothing or any of the other necessities one would consider normal for a child. In fact, they even managed a way for my sister and I to receive a private school education. Thank you, private school teacher discount!

I’m completely thankful for the example my parents set in regards to the wise use of money. I’ve carried many of those same principles of frugality and budgeting into adulthood, although the concept of budgeting took me longer to grasp. I haven’t completely followed in their path, however, and sometimes those differences sometimes bother me.

Ways I’m Different Than My Parents

The three biggest ways I’m different than my parents when it comes to my financial life:

I want to buy new. Thrift shop clothes don’t interest me. I’d prefer a new car rather than an old one. Most of the pieces of furniture in our house are new. Any used items are either functional (i.e. antique dinning room table and chairs) or hand-me-downs.

I don’t know why it is that I like new things. My parents were always drawn to antiques and other used items found at garage or estate sales. We shopped at second-hand stores frequently and found nice items to keep us adequately clothed. And they saved a ton of money doing so. I don’t remember it bothering me then, so I often wonder why this practice didn’t filter down in a greater way to me.

I find it annoying to haggle. I do not enjoy this at all. Bargaining for a price is something I hardly ever do. Just tell me what you are pricing the item at and I’ll pay and be on my way.

Perhaps it’s my personality that keeps me from haggling. I don’t thrive on or in situations that produce conflict- my naturally tendency is to run from that.

I don’t want to fix things. If it’s broke my first reaction will be to replace it, not fix it. This is because I:

  • struggle with patience (which is much needed when in a repair situation)
  • place a higher value on other priorities
  • think it takes too much of my time (which would be saved by buying a new one) and
  • simply don’t enjoy repairing things

I don’t trash all broken items nor do I abhor remodeling projects. But if the cost of replacing a broken item is minimal in my eyes then that broken item is more than likely headed for the dumpster.

A Generational Shift

I’ve often wondered whether these differences are a psychological backlash to the financial challenges I saw my parents go through when I was young or just a personal choice I’m making based on my own financial circumstances. I’m leaning towards the latter, mostly because I don’t believe that living a frugal lifestyle is inherently wrong. I can’t fault anyone for choosing that path.

I find it interesting though that, while some kids follow in the footsteps of their parents, others do not. They choose the opposite path, completely revolting against the financial values set by their parents (whether that’s for good or for bad). What causes this 180-degree shift in thinking?

I can think of at least four reasons why a child who grew up with frugal parents may resist that lifestyle when they become an adult.

1. They think the values are antiquated. That was fine for the previous generation but times have changed.

2. They feel the societal pressure to keep up. Everyone around me is living this way so I must too.

3. Frugality is not always seen as “cool.” I’m not going to be laughed at by my friends because I’m clipping coupons to reduce the cost of groceries.

4. They have no life experiences that force them to think differently. I’m financially better off than my parents and have no trouble paying my monthly bills or buying what I want. Why should I change?

When I dwell on those reasons in trying to resolve my own questions, I only see myself agreeing with #4 on the list. In the 18 years we have been married, my wife and I have seen our net worth grow as money has come into the family through various sources (better paying careers, investing, family gifts, etc.). Those inflows have created a scenario where I am financially better off than my parents were at a comparative stage of life. It’s not a knock on them rather simply a function of how our pattern of life has evolved.

So perhaps the fact that I can afford it has contributed to my liking of new things, my refusal to haggle and my dislike of fixing things.

Insights Please

Clearly I’m still working through this. I’m not above thinking there is a deeper psychological, emotional or spiritual issue at work here that I just can’t put my finger on. All I know is that I prefer buying new stuff and am clearly willing to shell out a little extra money for it.

Does anyone else feel this way about buying new things? I’d appreciate any insight you could give that might help me analyze my own feelings better.

Reader Question: Am I wrong for only wanting to purchase new items? Other than saving money, what’s the value in purchasing used? Do you enjoy haggling for an item or repairing broken ones? How are your financial habits different than that of your parents? What are some other reasons children might reject the financial values of their parents?

About the author: Brian Fourman is a former private school personal finance and Bible teacher now turned stay-at-home dad and blogger. His hobbies include rental real estate, running, cooking and sports. In his down time, he loves hanging out with his four kids and hearing his wife talk about all the cool things CPAs do at work. You can check him out providing encouragement and inspiration on his blog at or by connecting with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.