In the first part of this post, I wrote about some of the frugal tips that I observed in my parents, grandparents and other immigrants. As I wrote in the first post, I know many multigenerational Americans who use many of these tips as well, while many immigrants are not frugal at all. This is just a general observation. Today, we continue the topic. Let’s get to the second part of Frugal Tips From An Immigrant.
4. Find good deals and barter.
Most immigrants are geniuses at finding good deals. I think it probably goes back to the Russian bazaars, marketplaces with many sellers. Haggling with the merchants was something that was part of the whole shopping experience. Don’t be afraid to ask for a deal and keeping an eye out for sales and discounts can save you quite a bit of money.
Here’s a great article from Dave Ramsey about getting great deals.
Live on less than you make. In the old country, credit cards didn’t exist. (That has since changed.) If you didn’t have the money for something, you just didn’t have another option other than saving up for it or going without. It seems like a novel idea nowadays, but it’s such a basic principle. By not getting sucked into society which thinks that it’s impossible to survive without a credit card, you will save so much money and frustration by not getting into the trap and becoming a slave to the Master - Mastercard.
This part may seem contradictory to frugality, but hospitality really works out to be a benefit in the long run. Slavic people are very friendly. They will invite strangers to their homes, they are very generous to guests and love having company. Since they are so hospitable to others, people are hospitable in return. It’s very much a part of our culture to make room for others in our homes. It’s not unusual to have 10-15 guests in your home in addition to your immediate family staying with you when there’s a family wedding. Most people will stay with family or friends when traveling, therefore saving a lot of money on hotels and restaurants. It’s a very cultural thing. I’ve noticed that the younger generation is different nowadays and are more likely to get hotel rooms and go out to eat.
6. Dress Up, Not Down. Always.
This isn’t exactly a frugal tip, but I think it does have a role in frugality. Russians dress up for everything, no exceptions. In fact, we are usually overdressed. It’s part of our identity. We get dressed up to go to the grocery store. You won’t catch somebody Slavic in their pajamas at Walmart:). Even though there wasn’t much money available for many nice outfits, people would make the most of the clothes that they had.
The way you dress plays a huge part in your self esteem. If your clothes are frumpy and your hair is a mess, you won’t feel good about yourself. On the other hand, when you are dressed sharp, you will walk with your head held high, with an excellent attitude and ready to take on the world. The more successful you feel, the more success you will actually achieve in every area of life. People will respect you more too, if your appearance is clean cut. Think job interviews, purchases, getting promoted, etc.
7. Education is vitally important.
In Belarus, calculators are scorned, excellence is expected and shortcuts are avoided like the plague. My parents always made sure my schoolwork was completed in perfect penmanship, work was done very well, if they didn’t think we got enough homework, they came up with additional assignments, such as reading a book, practicing Russian reading and writing, learning the multiplication table in 1st and 2nd grade, etc. Remember how sometimes the homework assignment was to do only the odd or only the even questions in the book? Our parents didn’t understand that and made sure we completed the whole assignment.
My parents are big readers and they passed that love on to us. Most Slavic people (or maybe it’s just my family and our relatives) are very proud of their bookshelves filled with books. You will see many photographs with the family members posing in front of the full bookshelves. It was a favorite activity of our family to read books aloud together as a family. We were all carried away in our imaginations together, learning, having adventures and also spending time as a family.
Not only did they expect excellence from us, they worked hard themselves to get an education. My Mom is so smart, she did better in college than I did. She has been a Registered Nurse for years now. Dad has had his own business for most of our life in America. My parents are always reading and learning.
8. Dream big and work hard.
I wrote a lot more about this in a post about the Immigrant Spirit, so I won’t go into it much here, but one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my parents was to dream big and not be afraid of hard work. One of my parents’ dreams was to have their own property and building a house and they did just that. My siblings and I grew up with 100 acres of land as our playground. It was phenomenal. It’s my favorite place in the world and I dream of living in the country someday too.
The immigrant spirit has been rooted deep inside of me from early childhood. It’s a desire to grow and learn, to always take advantage of the opportunities that life presents, stay humble and be thankful for the blessings that I have. I believe that deep inside all of us, God planted a desire to always become better, and I’m so thankful that we can do so in this land of opportunity.
9. Always be grateful.
The most important lesson I learned from my parents and grandparents was to always remember where I came from and not take for granted the blessings that I enjoy today. It’s so important for all of us to remind our children and tell them stories of the old country. Grow in them a love and respect for their heritage and an appreciation for this amazing country that we live in today and are proud to be citizens of. In the Bible, there is a passage that talks about passing down the stories of God’s goodness from generation to generation.
“Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm…. But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done… Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (A few excerpts from Deuteronomy Chapter 11.)
I loved the times when my siblings and I would gather around my parents and hear their stories of Belarus, of coming to America, of the first few years in America and all the adventures that they have experienced. It’s so special to hear the stories that they heard from their parents and grandparents. So we reminisce, we remember and we will always cherish our heritage and look back on the goodness of God in order to be grateful and appreciate our future too.