The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female part-time worker in my 20s. I’m worried about my mother because she is extremely frugal. She is in her 60s and lives with me.
My mother doesn’t allow us to use the air conditioning for longer than an hour a day, even in the middle of summer. She uses the washing machine only once or twice a week, while working on the remaining items by hand. She has also pasted adhesive tape to switches in the bathrooms so the lights can’t be turned on.
For food, she basically doesn’t buy items that aren’t at bargain prices. When she finds in advertisements for special sales, she has me standing in line at stores in the mornings to buy these items. She is always saying, “We are poor.”
Although my mother forces us to live this way, she is vain. She bought a brand-new condominium, even though we told her that a rented or secondhand house was good enough. She also insists on having foreign cars.
My mother got divorced when I was a child. I imagine she probably has had hard times because she shouldered my father’s debt. She has also raised my younger brother and me as a single mother. She sent me to a private high school and still works part-time to pay for my brother’s tuition at a private university.
I can understand why she has become so frugal. I also respect her ability to manage our household finances.
Despite this, I can’t help but feel somewhat miserable. What should I do to change my mind-set?
K, Kanagawa Prefecture
Dear Ms. K:
It’s true your mother’s money-saving efforts have gone too far. As a famous proverb says, more isn’t always better. I understand you’re fed up with her way of doing things.
But on the other hand, she got divorced when you were still young, repaid your father’s debt and sent you and your younger brother to a private high school and university. I suppose she is aware she can’t maintain her household unless she is extremely frugal. You should also thank her saving practices for the family’s ability to purchase that brand-new condominium.
So I’m amazed how much effort your mother has made in reducing spending to save money to her best advantage. It’s her philosophy of life. You shouldn’t feel miserable because of her extremely tightfisted policy.
Let’s think about what to do to change your mind-set.
How about you become independent and live apart from your mother to find out how to be in a more relaxed setting? If you acquire some work skills, you can be guaranteed a financially stable life in the future. It might also work for you to get qualifications as, for example, a nursery school teacher or cook.
You are still young and have your whole life ahead of you. It’s not too late to start over. Don’t be afraid to take up various challenges to have a different life from your mother.
Sachiyo Dohi, lawyer