Money & Career

Five items my grandma would rather save her money on than buy

My grandma never imagined needing any of this stuff - this list helps put the whole luxury versus necessity thing into perspective.


It’s getting harder than ever to tell the difference between needs and wants in our society, especially when there are so many must-have items being thrown at us by marketers every day. A little while ago, I wrote an article about how to manage your money using the philosophy of grandma’s generation. So to follow that same perspective, I threw together a list of five things we have today that my grandma never had — or imagined ever needing.

She grew up in small mining town in West Virginia during the Depression. For her family, life was about making enough money to pay for necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Even when she achieved relative prosperity later on in life, she still lived frugally by shopping around for the best deals and making do with the same TV or pair of shoes until they couldn’t be worn anymore. Fast forward to today and our idea of necessities has changed drastically. 

Every year, it seems like there is a new must-have product — from iPads to flat screen televisions. The point of this list isn’t to say that people shouldn’t enjoy these things; I just want to make the point that they are luxuries rather than necessities. Feel free to add any items you think of in the comment box below.

1. An iPad: My husband had to have one last year. Having spent some time using it, I can say it is a fabulous piece of technology. My kids love it too. But is it something I can’t live without? No. It doesn’t really do a lot that my laptop can’t do. My grandma definitely wouldn’t have lined up for this.  

2. Pedicures: The modern pedicure is a thing of wonder and a necessity for many women. A pedicure is indeed a lovely experience, but it’s also something that can be done at home with a set of nail clippers, a tub of hot water and a bottle of nail varnish. 

3. A GPS: My grandma used a map and a good sense of direction. I have to say I prefer her method. (The ones I’ve used always send me on the worst routes ever.)

4. A Kindle:  This is the topic of great debate among my friends. On one hand, a Kindle reduces the amount of paper consumed, and buying new electronic books is a bit cheaper. I have one — and I love it. I can access a lot of titles that are out of print and it’s easy to tote around. But my grandmother probably would not have bought a Kindle. At over $100, it’s a high price to pay when you can just borrow a book from the library or a friend for free. 

5. A designer purse: A good leather bag, yes. But a bag splashed in logos? Never. Plus my grandma would carry the same purse for years until it wore out.