Financial Lessons from Great Aunt Mary

My Aunt Mary was an AMAZING woman.  Faith and family were the pillars of her life.

She married young and later divorced.  In the early 1960s this divorced woman (no children) purchased a home.  Her earnest money deposit was $500.  Years later she told my mother how the settlement agent commented she would lose that $500.  But that settlement agent didn’t know my Aunt Mary.

She worked two jobs.  Growing up during the Great Depression, she never forgot the harsh circumstances of the 1930s and 1940s.

** She lived within her means.

** She packed her lunch daily.

** She noticed colleagues buying coffee at the job site but realized the coffee wasn’t so fresh because it was brewed once every one to two weeks.  Aunt Mary prepared her own coffee at home and carried her home-brewed coffee to work.

**Aunt Mary was entrepreneurial.  She cooked and baked and sold dinners and desserts at her night job.  Aunt Mary would pack her dinners/desserts and carried them on the bus to sell to work colleagues.

** My mother recalls, on one occasion, Aunt Mary got 40 slices out of a Bundt style pound cake which she sold to her work colleagues.

**On the occasions when she would eat out [years later], Aunt Mary carried tin foil, mayonnaise jars and plastic margarine containers in her purse to pack her leftovers.

**She purchased five burial  plots in the 1970s.  Because of her foresight there were final resting places for her mother, two sisters and a sister-in-law.

** Aunt Mary not only looked out for her family, she got her financial house in order so as not to be a burden on others.  Not only did she pay for her burial plot in advance, she also paid for her casket, her marker and the  opening and closing of her grave (in other words, all funeral expenses were prepaid).

**She retired early from a government job (only 12 years of service) to take care of her ailing mother.

**Despite retiring early, without life insurance or health insurance [because she couldn’t afford them], Aunt Mary budgeted tightly and paid off her house.

Aunt Mary exemplified frugal living all her life.  She never forgot the tough times of the Great Depression.  Now, most Americans are  forced to rediscover frugality.  I learned these lessons years ago from Great Aunt Mary.


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