Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Money Lessons from John Travolta's Frugal Childhood

A DIY backyard pool, a bargain-basement nightclub and used designer clothes were part of John Travolta's childhood. As one of six kids, Travolta was raised by a store-owning dad and a money-saving drama-teaching mom, who inspired John Travolta's passion for acting. I learned a lot about frugal living and parenting by reading an article about Travolta's childhood in an old issue of Reader's Digest. (A neighbor gave me a huge stack of magazines. I'm reading & recycling.)

Here's a snippet from the article, with my comments on frugal parenting.

Travolta's DIY Family Backyard.

'My parents never limited their thinking. We had an aboveground pool in the backyard. We had a barbecue, indoor pit. We had a nightclub in the basement. These are things my dad and I created together.

We built barbecue pits, pool decks, fences, airplanes. A new pool in those days cost about $500; with a filter, it would be an $800 proposition. Instead, we got a used pool where the liner was $70 and the outside $50.' --John Travolta in

The Second-hand Wardrobe

'My mother would buy secondhand clothes. She said, "I can put my son in a Christian Dior suit for $10 at the Church of Atonement. If I buy it brand-new, that would be $300. Or I could buy a really cheap suit for $20 that will fall apart." All my clothes were beautiful, because they were the wealthy people's hand-me-downs. My mother was a smart woman.' -John Travolta in

Frugal Parenting Lessons That I Learned from Travolta

1. Family DIY projects add a lot to family bank and memory accounts. In my house, we've had fun making birthday cards, gifts and games with my kids. It's not really about the money; it's about the process of teaching kids to be creative and resourceful.

2. The right hand-me-downs can leave a big impact on kids. Like Travolta's mom, I also dress my kids in beautiful second-hand clothes from wealthy friends. (The grandparents also help with the wardrobe.) I also recommend shopping in thrift stores that are near on in upscale neighborhoods. Those stores often have new or only-worn-once children's clothes.

Besides: After the first washing, new, almost new and second-hand clothes all look the same anyway.

Your comments are welcome below.


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Amy said...

His momma was certainly smart! I live by that theory too. I get all of our clothes from the Goodwill and garage sales. Nothing we wear is new unless someone else bought it for us. Yet, I am still a brand name snob. I love good brand names, but I don't have the funds to buy them full price. I can be a snob in my Goodwill and dress really well for much less than my girlfriends! Great post- thank you!

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...

Hey Amy:
Thanks for the comment.
Garage sales are great. My husband once found a Zenga suit for $15 at a yard sale.

Zenga suits usually sell for $600 to $1,000.

And you are right: there are great labels at Goodwill and other second-hand stores.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I love shopping at Goodwill or any other thrift store, because even though there are a sea of clothes you may never wear, there may always be that one little gem that will make your wardrobe. And for $20 and under, no less!

My other big thing nowadays is also buying those cheap fake flower things (you know those stacks at Wal-mart), and snipping off the beautiful flowers, attaching a pin to the back, and using it to spice up my clothing that I already own, or pin it gently to my purses to add some flair...

Love the blog! :)

Frugal Duchess: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg said...


Thanks for your comments & thanks for liking the blog.

I like your flower idea. I have a friend who decorates her own hats with flowers.
Plain hats are inexpensive (under $10); but with flowers, ribbons and other details, the price can jump to over $60 and higher.