Lessons in Frugality from a Lady Named Grace

>> Saturday, March 6, 2010

image credit: Chicago Tribune online

Have you heard about Grace Groner? She lived her life in a small, one bedroom home and died in January at the age of 100. She worked for Abbott Laboratories for 43 years as a secretary and lived a very unassuming life. Growing up in the Depression, she knew all about living frugally and saw no need to live any other way during her life. When she died she left $7 million to Lake Forest College, her alma mater. In 1935 she bought $180 worth of stock in Abbott, it split multiple times and she just keep reinvesting the dividends. You can read more about her story here and you can watch the news story that gives additional detail here.

We don't all have to live as simply and frugally as Grace Groner but I think we can be inspired by her. Her life wasn't about surrounding herself with stuff just because she had the money to do so. She had what she needed and used the rest to bless others. While I aspire to live frugally and bless others with my abundance, there are certainly lessons I could learn from this lady named Grace and perhaps you could too.

1) Be wise with your money. She didn't spend her life chasing after every dollar she could make and making all kinds of investments in hopes of scoring big. She worked as a secretary for 43 years. She took a $180 investment and just kept reinvesting it until she had accumulated considerable wealth. No, we won't all be so fortunate to make an investment in a company like Abbott Laboratories but we can educate ourselves and learn to invest our money wisely to make the most of the money we do have.

2) Live below your means. We don't all have to live in one bedroom homes and never drive a car but I think most of us in today's society have more than we really need. Many live beyond their means and those who live within their means seem to be ahead of the game by today's standards. But we all really could live with less. Grace Groner had the means to live an extravagant lifestyle but chose not to do so. We can make that choice too.

3) Enjoy the blessing. Grace Groner didn't just stuff the money she had accumulated away. She knew what was important to her and allowed herself to enjoy what she had. Her happiness didn't come from material possessions. She surrounded herself with friends and stayed connected to her alma mater. She attended football games and cultural events at the school. She also traveled widely after retirement. What's really important to you? Is it the latest tech gadget or spending money on a fun outing with your family. Decide how your money is best spent and put the money there. For me, I love family outings and taking my kids different places and allowing them to have different experiences. I'd much rather spend my money that way than have the latest cell phone or designer clothes. The key is to keep that idea in mind when I'm facing the temptation to spend on something that doesn't fit with that priority.

4) Bless others with your abundance. So we may not all end up with $7 million to give away when we die but for the most part, we do all have an abundance to share with others. Grace didn't just give her money, she gave her time as well, volunteering for decades at a church. She blessed others through service, friendship and through her giving-both anonymously to needy families as well as her scholarship fund. So share your abundance whether it be time given to your children's school or a local food pantry. Or perhaps money to help a child living in poverty around the world. Or a meal to a friend who just had a baby or a neighbor you just lost a loved one. We all have something to give from our own personal abundance.

Grace's story has certainly given me pause. Since reading it yesterday morning I've thought a lot about how I'm really living out my priorities. Do my spending habits and saving habits truly reflect what is important to me? I'm not so sure they do. I've got some work to do. My goal has always been to bless others with my abundance but I really think I can do a much better job than I'm doing. Just looking around my house, I know I can do a much better job. So it's time to get to it and thank Grace for her lessons in frugality.


Denise March 6, 2010 at 3:36 PM  

I read about Grace yesterday too and was also touched by the story. Thanks for sharing your perspective, it gives me a lot of food for thought.

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