Frugal Parenting: 7 Lessons I Learned From My Soviet Parents

Ana Goldberg
by Ana Goldberg

When we are young, our parents often annoy us, but as time passes, many of the lessons our parents teach us begin to make sense. Today I want to share with you seven lessons I learned from my parents.

These rules help me live a simpler and more mindful life, and I follow them to this day. At the very end, l will reveal one extra lesson that is very important and very valuable but is very hard for me to follow.

I was born in 1983 amidst the Soviet regime. My parents were very low-income, both from the working class. They were always struggling financially but had very solid moral values and resilience.

They went through a lot, and I am thankful for their frugal parenting and everything that they taught me. They were not angels, just humans, but some of their lessons stuck with me forever.

1. Not expensive but tidy and clean

Things that we own do not need to be expensive, prestigious, or trendy. What makes a difference, however, is keeping them clean and tidy. When I was growing up, we did not have a washing machine, and we did all our laundry by hand or using a special board.

Of course, it required a lot of effort, but it was part of our daily routine, even as kids. Taking care of your items means loving them and love transforms everything, right?

2. Boredom means you are missing something interesting

My parents always worked a lot, so I learned how to entertain myself at a very early age, and there were no phones or internet back then. Realizing there is always something interesting around me was where

I took a sense of life as an adventure, a treasure-seeking experience. Indeed, as long as we are alive, our boredom is nothing but the laziness of the mind. Nowadays, of course, it is pretty challenging to follow this lesson because of the huge amount of passive entertainment surrounding us.

Saving money

3. Save and resist immediate gratification

I grew up when the word “deficit” was used all the time. There was a deficit of clothes, a deficit of good food, a deficit of self-care items, but on special occasions we always had something to treat ourselves because of our habit of saving.

My mom had a special section in our pantry that was filled with such Soviet delicacies as assorted chocolate candies and spreads in oil. I no longer eat fish, but I sometimes nostalgically miss the taste.

There are many situations in our life when money can be laid aside instead of spent on something that we do not need right now. Still, of course, everything should be in moderation, even the saving habit.

You must have heard about the so-called marshmallow experiment, which proves the importance of patience. I think that thanks to my parents and their lesson about spending money, I would probably pass the marshmallow experiment.

4. Knowledge is paramount

My parents always did their best to remind my brother and me how important knowledge is. They used to say that learning new things is not always easy, but nobody is going to do that for you.

The more skills you have, the less likely you are to starve. We were always encouraged to learn new skills and master them because it is just a perfect way to adjust to the changing world.

Working as a cleaner

5. No job diminishes your dignity if it pays the bills and does not harm anyone

Honestly, I hate the idea of prestigious and non-prestigious jobs. Sometimes we simply cannot pick and choose our careers because of tough life situations or our background or physical condition.

My parents had to take whatever jobs they could in order to feed the family, and I am still ashamed to remember all those moments when I felt embarrassed to tell my friends about my parents' professions.

In challenging times, I did not hesitate to take up jobs that paid very little, that were dull and not promising at all, but they were just enough to pay my bills at that very moment.

6. Even if everyone around lies and steals, you do not have to do the same

My father was one of the most honest people I have ever known. Mother told me about the time when he used to work for a meat processing factory and one day she asked him to take some sausages back home from his work at a meat processing factory, where everyone did it. My father refused to steal.

It was just one example out of many. Thanks to my father, from a very early age I understood the importance of being honest.

Bullying at school

7. Do not listen to the mean things you will inevitably be told

I grew up with a Jewish surname in Siberia, where anti-Semitism was not uncommon. In school, I was often called hurtful names, but I was ready for that because my mom had warned me that such things can happen and that it does not mean that I am worse than everybody else.

She told me that I should always move on and let those words crash against the wall of my mind: the dog barks but the caravan moves on. Moreover, we should always remember that if people enjoy hurting others, it means that someone has hurt them, too.

Bonus: Keep in touch with people you meet

This is the extra lesson from my parents that I find especially hard to follow. It is not just regular networking, but rather, it is about genuine human connections with friends, co-workers, co-passengers, and even with some random strangers that you met only once, but the encounter felt meaningful to you.

My father had a small yet thick journal where he kept all names, addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates of people, and on each holiday, he would make dozens of calls to reconnect with them. I really admired his social skills.

Unfortunately, I am nothing like that, I struggle to stay in touch with people on a regular basis and find it overwhelming, which means that my connections slowly die, and this is something I would love to work on.

Frugal parenting

What lessons did you learn from your parents? Did they practice frugal parenting? Please share in the comments.

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2 of 3 comments

    Yes, I experienced very similar in West Germany after WWII. We always had very good basic food, no junk food , no soft drinks, no Cyreal, No steaks! Actually Germany never ate or drank these chemicals! We did drink a lot of mineral water....Family and friends were very important and helped people in need. My father used to say nobody was fat after the war! We worked together, grew our own veggies, etc all were fresh...great times!


    Forgot...we did send coffee to East Germany, also some nylons, face cream to friends, those were very expensive or not at all available in East Germany ( Communist) rent was very inexpensive , but food was hard to come by, same for shoes, TV's,cars all " luxury items"!!!