Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeMoney MattersFrugality is Not a Dirty Word

Frugality is Not a Dirty Word

Now I know that I am fixing to age myself, but I want us all to think about being more frugal in our cattle operations. The reason that I say I am going to age myself is simply because folks of my generation knew what it was to do without.  This is not to say that everyone today is on easy street. But back in the day it seems to me we valued what we did have more than we do today.

Levis – then and now. 🙂

One of the things that really pisses me off is these blue jeans that are bought new and are made to look old and worn out, legs all tore open and split. We wore stuff that looked like that at work or in the pasture or field. This was the way we saved our better ones to wear to town. My grandpa would not go to town or anywhere else away from home wearing patched britches. He believed that this would reflect on the family and say to the world that we were really, really poor. When we got home from school the first thing we did was to take off our school clothes, to wear them out of the house to work or play was next to a sin. It was a normal thing to see a shirt or dress or some other piece of clothing that was finally unusable as a garment to turn up in a patch work quilt pattern.

To be frugal is to be not wasteful, to be thrifty, to be economical. Over the years the idea of frugality has been labeled with terms and words such as tightwad, skinflint, penny pincher and those who practiced it were called Scrooges. But if each of us would take a honest, hard headed look at our operations and for that matter our personal business there is no question there is some unnecessary spending going on.

Now I understand the folks who feel that they owe themselves a reward for all of their hard work so feel no hesitation to reward themselves, but the question remains is the reward coming at the expense of some necessity. This is a small example, but I believe it makes the point. I remember one Saturday morning at the farmers market. We were just walking and visiting with the folks selling their stuff and had stopped at a stand where a lady was selling baked goods. This was without a doubt the best looking baked goods that we had seen all morning. Betty loves to bake and I love to eat so this was the perfect stop.

While we were visiting with the lady a couple of twenty something young ladies walked up and began to oh and ah over all of the things on display. One of them finally made a commitment and bought a half dozen of the big chocolate chip cookies. As they passed us continuing their trip through the market I heard her tell her companion, “I have no idea how I’m going to pay my phone bill now, but I just had to have them.”

Now we are not talking about chocolate chip cookies, what we are talking about are things such as that stock trailer that sits under a shed except for a couple of trips to the sale barn every year, or that hay baler that is not used but 2 weeks each year.

If being frugal does not sit right with you how, does being smart sit with you? Do the math, compare cost. What is better for your bottom line? One of the things Gordon Hazard, bless his heart, was famous for saying when it came to talking about equipment and tools. He said, I have two hammers and one fence pliers and if things get too bad I will sell one of those hammers.

I am not saying not to spend any money. No matter how hard we try that is impossible. But before money is spent in or on your cattle operation ask the question: Is this really necessary? We as producers have learned to break production records but have failed in the profit making side of our business.

What is that old saying? The best dollar is the one you can fold and put in your pocket.

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Don Ashford
Don Ashford
My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.


  1. Another difference between then and now was wearing out a tractor or machine and rebuilding it and then wearing it out again. Or building what was needed if you were capable.
    Admittedly, equipment needs were simpler then than now. That asks the question, is all that updated machinery required? Or was it purchased to cut the tax bill? I have a friend that retired a few years ago that only bought one new tractor while faming three irrigated circles. He took what tax breaks he could, but never bought machinery to cut tax bill. He paid his taxes and the remaining money was invested. This worked out very well for him.

  2. One minor quibble. If the equipment is not used much but there is no way to rent or get the services that it provides and they are necessary for your business then it’s not wasted to have one of your own. The stock trailer comes too mind. I can buy hay but you can’t rent or borrow a stock trailer so we do own one even though it only gets used about 10 times a year.

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