There’s been a lot of talk lately about what we can learn from how our grandparents got through the Great Depression. My American grandparents died when I was very young so I don’t know too much about what they did other than a very vivid memory of my father’s mother telling me that when she was a young girl all she got for Christmas was an orange and a new toothbrush.
My mother grew up in South Korea right after the war. She lived in a little farming village and the war had left them so poor that the US Army and Red Cross would leave them provisions of rice, dried milk and cornmeal. While things aren’t quite that bad during this economic downturn, it’s inspiring and empowering to remember that we all come from tough people who survived hard times and we can do it too.
As I’ve been reading various newspaper articles and blog posts discussing various depression era tips for getting through tough times, it made me a bit wistful that I don’t know very much about how my own grandparents lived back in the days. Then it occurred to me that I was doing very little myself to make sure the stories I do have access to are preserved for my children and grandchildren and beyond.
There is no doubt that children need to be taught the mechanics and mathematics of finance. They need to learn how compound interest works and how to balance a budget and read a bank statement. But more than this, I think that we need to share our stories and experiences with the younger generations. Not just to share with them practical lessons in how to scrimp and make do and get ahead, but to show them concrete examples of how things can work out in the end and how at the end of the day, money is just a tool.
So, I’ve decided to start keeping a scrapbook of these things for my children and grandchildren. Here are some of the things I plan to do:
- Interview my mother and father to get stories from when they were small and write them down and preserve them both on paper and in digital media. I will also do the same for stories from my childhood, teen years, and early adult years and beyond and likewise for my husband.
- Save a couple of sales flyers each year to show what we paid for a loaf of bread, a pound of apples, socks and shoes and cars.
- Write down recipes of the foods we most commonly eat, including which foods were for payday and which ones were for the day before.
- Save clippings and printouts of various frugal tips and tricks and write my notes on how it worked.
- Note what we gave and received for holidays and birthdays and how we celebrated.
- Talk about the new technology and gadgets that came into our home, including how much they cost versus our income and what we used them for.
There is no doubt that our descendants will live in a world that is much different than the one we live in today, but I believe that human nature will remain the same.
I’m not sure what kind of financial legacy we’ll be able to leave to our children and grandchildren, but I hope that by preserving our family’s stories of survival, hope and perseverance, they will always remember that everything comes from generations of hard workers with can do spirits.
I hope that by sharing these little glimpses of what life was like in the past, I’ll inspire their curiosity and give them a sense of perspective about what is going on several decades from now.
Even if you don’t want to commit to a project as ambitious as keeping an ongoing scrapbook, I urge you to think about the stories that you have and how much others would enjoy hearing them. What memories do you have worth preserving? How can you help to make sure that the lessons that you and your parents and grandparents have learned about life and finances are not lost?
Photo Credit: iwinatcookie