"I’m a Yankee", I announced to the business director of the dealership where I was buying a new car. He said, "What’s that?" I tried to condense Yankee frugality into an easy answer, using the country’s recent malaise of maxed-out and overspent citizens as an example of what a Yankee is not. I’m not sure he "got it", but I purchased a vehicle rated the least expensive to own in its class, with car payments of $189.00 per month.
Physically, a Yankee resides in, or is from, the six New England states and upstate New York. Mentally, they are more difficult to pin down. The venerable magazine Yankee once did an article “What it Means to be a Yankee” in which some traits were laid bare. They include a built-in aversion to waste of any kind, which produces a lifestyle of reusing and repairing things until they are absolutely irreclaimable, and difficulty not picking up discarded items such as t-shirts from the street. A Yankee definitely picks up change from the street. Yankees have trouble with “disposables”.
Yankees are savers and have a strong dislike of credit of any kind. My late husband made fun of someone whose entire being was on credit, from the suit he wore to his eyeglasses, his shoes and any accessories he might have. The point was that he owned nothing outright. I recall my mother finally giving in to time payments, as they were then called, for a new washing machine. These individuals were from the generation that didn’t buy a house until they had 20% down (or 5% for veterans) and then furnished it bit by bit as they could afford to.
Certainly, the Great Depression of the 1930s had a huge effect on those like my mother who lived through it.
When you did get some money, you put part of it aside for a “rainy day”. Frugality became a way of life, with women leading the charge in effecting household economies. Cookbooks were written to assist homemakers in providing eggless cakes and other substitutions for ingredients that were then scare. Regretfully, even when hard times strike today, these cost and resource saving techniques generally do not seem to survive an economic upturn. People go right back to living “high off the hog” as their grandparents would have described it, spending every available dollar.
Thankfully, I am not one of them. Having seen adversity, I prepare for its return in the good times. I am able to discard things without re-purposing them ad infinitum, and I have plenty of credit cards. Only one of them has a balance over $1,000, however, and then not by much. I save money even when I have none. I use coupons, but more importantly, scour the Internet for promotional discounts and codes. Getting 40% off an already reduced item turns me on. Beating the consumerist system, or the big guys, is one of my life’s biggest delights.
If you haven’t been able to grasp what a Yankee is, the following story told by a highly respected guest minister at our church may help: He was doing a contract ministry or a few months’ duration at a church in Maine. During the coffee hour that follows the service he noticed that one fellow was standing alone to the side of the room. No one was speaking to him. This went on for several Sundays. Finally, the minister asked, “What is wrong with Ralph that no one speaks to him?” None of the parishioners would answer his question, and equivocated as best they could.
The minister persevered in his questioning, wondering if the man had committed some unspeakable abridgment of morality, etiquette or fellowship. He was clearly being shunned. Finally, after having asked the question over and over again, one member bravely divulged the reason why no one was speaking to Ralph: “He dipped into capital.” he whispered to the minster.
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Published in: Homemaking