Old Wisdom For Today’s Modern Money Challenges

Our grandparents can teach us more about money and living on less than we may realise, says Yvonne Walus. This article is part of our Tots To Teens and  Simplicity  partnership to help families tackle the increasing cost of living.

The shorts of this article:

  1. Grandparents say “PLAN AND SPEND CONSCIOUSLY”
  2. Control the WANT MONSTER
  3. Grandparents can HELP YOU SAVE MONEY
  4. How to ASK FOR HELP
  6. Little steps, BIG SAVINGS
  7. How kids can help GRANDPARENTS TO SAVE

Read on to learn how…

Our grandparents knew a thing or two about living frugally. And it’s not that our generation is less financially intelligent or responsible – the world’s become trickier to navigate. Prices go up faster than wages, corporations commonly manipulate us into unnecessary spending and shopping can be done from anywhere, anytime. Does the old financial wisdom apply in this new world?


Back in the good ol’ days, consumerism was not nearly as intense as it is nowadays. Sure, there were adverts and commercials on TV and in newspapers, but never before have companies been so successful in making us buy what we don’t necessarily need. The ads you see online are personalised to what an algorithm predicts you’re most likely to want via advanced data processing. Even supermarkets have strategies to make you buy more, like placing the most commonly bought items at the back of the store, so that customers are forced to walk past tempting displays first. And don’t forget those colourful treats staring you down at the checkout.

So how can we fight back? Grandparents would have one word for you: Plan. Shopping with a list will help you stay on track to only purchase what you need. Work out your weekly meals to avoid buying what might sit on the shelf expiring. Another good habit is to make extra dinner to take to work or school for lunch the next day (just reheat in the morning and pop in a thermos) – your grandparents would not have gone out to lunch very often.


Be honest with yourself about whether you need or want something. If you want something, think about it for at least a week before you buy it. If that dog-shaped candle is still haunting your dreams after seven days, calculate how much more that money could become if you put it into KiwiSaver or an investment account instead. Learn to enjoy the things you have instead of always wanting more new stuff. Embrace minimalism – The Simplicity Habit has an awesome blog about how to be happier with less.


Grandparents are awesome with hugs, emotional support, family stories, and generational wisdom about frugal living, darning socks, and baking biscuits. They can also be free babysitters, and even better, if you live in a three-generation home, you can get help with raising the kids and cooking cheaper nutritional meals. But wait, there’s more! Nanas and poppas can, in multiple ways, help set children up for a more financially secure future and teach them the wisdom of investing. Some choose to start an education fund when the grandchild is born, others contribute to the grandchild’s KiwiSaver every Christmas and birthday, instead of or in addition to a material gift. This will help their grandkids long-term, turning their regular (big or small) contributions into a significant nest egg.

4. How To Ask Grandparents For Help

  • Treasure the bond between grandparents and grandkids, not just the free childcare.
  • Ask their advice (and really listen to the gems they offer).
  • Accept the help they offer, even if it’s not what you really need.
  • There’s no perfect way to ask for money, but honesty goes a long way.
  • Remember they love you, and they love your children, so they’ll want to help.
  • If they can’t help you financially, they may be able to help in other ways.


There is endless advice from older generations that is still relevant today, but some has become dated. Depending on your situation, the following classic tips might not actually help you save:

  • Growing your own fruit and vegetables may cost more than it saves. Planters, soil, fertiliser, pesticides, etc are all big upfront expenses. Do your sums before you commit.
  • Even if you have a sewing machine and thread, fabric can be more expensive than buying a ready-made item. However, repairing old garments is still cost-effective.
  • Nana may have hidden her savings under the mattress, but this practice is hindered by inflation – cash is not necessarily king. Put any spare money into an investment account or KiwiSaver.

6. Little Steps, Big Savings

  • Secondhand is the way to go! Looking for a new pair of jeans or a summer dress? Try your local op shop! Items are usually in great condition at a fraction of the price. With consumerism driving trends to start and die at a never-before-seen pace, op shops are overflowing with barely worn discards. They’re also a great place to find dinner sets, home décor, and unique jewellery.
  • A new car depreciates at an astonishing rate the moment you drive it out of the shop. Buying one second-, third-, or even fourth-hand is a much more cost-saving choice.
  • Buy appliances and electronics secondhand. Alternatively, wait for sales like Black Friday, or when the new model is released, and “old” ones become cheaper.
  • Planning your purchases also means not buying a new umbrella every time you’re caught in the rain. Check the weather and take one with you!
  • Always take a water bottle when you go out.
  • Make a coffee at home and bring it to work in a reusable cup.
  • Wake up earlier to catch the bus instead of having to pay for a ride service or for overpriced parking.
  • Simplicity provides some handy advice on how grandparents can ‘skip the plastic‘ and contribute to loved ones’ investments


Not all lessons come from your grandparents. Your own kids can also have a tip or two, because new technologies mean that it has never been so easy to spend money. Convenient? Maybe. Dangerous? Definitely.

  • Don’t use autofill for your banking details. It’s too easy to click a button and buy something in under a second. If you get bored halfway through typing out your information, that’s money saved!
  • Disable payWave. Entering your pin might make you more aware of the amount you’re spending.
  • Take advantage of automatic payments: set up an automatic transfer into a savings account every time you get paid.
  • Utilise Depop, TradeMe, Facebook Marketplace to get rid of things you no longer (or never) needed.
  • Online shopping allows you to easily compare prices and find the cheapest option. It also means you don’t walk past those strategic displays in-store to find what you need. But beware of those pop-up ads when shopping online, and choosing pick-up rather than delivery can sometimes be cheaper.

More articles by Tots To Teens and  Simplicity to help families tackle the increasing cost of living:

How you can help your kids save

Tackling the hidden costs of living

Understand the power of compounding interest

Important Financial Milestones for your Family

Your Rainy-Day Fund

The Challenges of Home Ownership for Kiwi Families

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