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Warmest regards: ‘But it’s only 70 cents’

Published July 06. 2018 10:30PM

By Pattie Mihalik

My good friend Jeanne and I just had a debate about my habit of looking for the gas station with the cheapest gas.

She said she pulls in at any station because there isn’t enough difference in the costs. I told her I saved 70 cents by using a different gas station.

“Big deal. Seventy cents. That’s not enough to matter,” she insisted.

Well, certain things our mothers taught us stay with us. My mother taught me that if I made a constant effort to save money on little things I would then have money for a bigger thing.

She had a lot of small ways to save money. For instance, she never shopped at just one grocery store. Instead, she made lists of the specials at all three grocery stores in town and bought the specials at each store.

“The savings add up,” she said.

She also didn’t wait until she ran out of something to go to the store to replace it. Like many other women in town, she had a small food pantry where she kept staples we often used. When there was a two-for-one special on items we used, she bought it then and kept it in the pantry until needed.

She saved a few pennies here, a few dollars there. It’s something she had to learn at an early age, and that thrift was ingrained in her.

It’s not called being cheap. It’s called being smart, despite what my friend Jeanne thinks.

My mom lived through the Depression and the lean years that followed when there were no jobs to be had. Every penny counted.

Years later, when economic conditions improved, she still made every penny count. And I learned to do the same.

One cardinal rule in our house was never to waste food. Take what you want but eat what you take. And don’t even think about throwing away leftovers. Use it to make something else.

If we had leftover mashed potatoes, Mom made it into potato patties. Leftover vegetables became part of the next soup.

I’m still like that, and so is my husband.

From watching my mother I also learned her “envelope system” of managing money. Some used to laugh at me, saying I wrote on my money. No, I wrote on the envelopes, never taking money from one if I ran out of spending money.

Each payday I put a few dollars in my vacation envelope. Often it was just three dollars. Or, maybe some weeks I could sock away 10 dollars.

It’s pretty obvious we can’t vacation anywhere with three dollars — or even 10. But I knew if I kept putting a little bit in my vacation envelope all year eventually it would pay for a vacation.

I’ll never forget the time I wanted to buy a Pennsylvania House rice carved bed. I saved for a long time, a few years actually, putting money away in an envelope for my eventual purchase.

When a store was having a going-out-of-business Pennsylvania House sale there was the exact bed I longed for. My husband loved it too but said we couldn’t afford it — even with the major sale.

Much to his astonishment, I went in my purse and pulled out the envelope marked “new bed.”

He wanted to know how I did it. A little at a time, that’s how.

And yes, there were quite a few “70-cent savings” represented in what I had managed to save.

Jeanne wants to know what I can do with the 70 cents I saved on gas. Maybe not much. But it all adds up.

In much the same way, my brother wanted to have his own woodworking shop in the shed in his backyard. When he stopped smoking he used my mother’s envelope system to save the money each week that he would have spent on cigarettes.

After a while it added up to enough to buy the machinery he wanted for his workshop. He, too, was influenced by my mother.

Sometimes it’s all about habit. My brother and I picked up my mother’s habits. To tell the truth, my father had the same habit. He saved a few dollars each week in an envelope so that when hunting season came around he could afford a trip to the mountains without taking money out of that month’s bills.

But while I think it’s smart to save a few pennies at a time, I don’t feel the same way when it comes to seconds.

If we’re behind a car waiting at a red light, my husband is one of those horn blowers. If the car in front of him hesitates a few seconds before moving, he’s impatiently blowing the horn.

A lot of people are like that. If they have to spend an extra second or two at a red light or waiting for traffic they are yelling or blowing the horn.

I always ask my husband the question: What will you do with the three seconds you think you save by moving quicker? At the next light or stop it all seems to even out anyhow.

If I save a few cents I know I can use it elsewhere.

But what do you do with the few seconds you save in traffic?

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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