Learning From The Lilkendeys

"Learning from the Lilkendeys" is a series about a family I had the pleasure of meeting in my teens. They were the butt of many a cheapskate joke but I love them dearly. And while we may have had our fill of making fun of their frugal ways I can assure you they are the ones laughing as they enjoy early retirement and do whatever it is that pleases them most.

Fifteen years ago, when I first met the Lilkendeys, it never occurred to me that they were wealthy. In fact, I may have thought they were poor. They lived in a modest home and dressed appropriately, but after hearing what I thought were miserly horror stories from their sons, I couldn’t imagine that the Lilkendeys had more than a few hundred dollars in their bank account. But like I would be so many times in my life, I was completely wrong.

Now, I don’t for the most part ever assume how much anyone has in their bank account. I really have no interest, but what made me even consider it this time were the stories. The unbelievable tales of being a cheapskate. 

The Lilkendeys have three sons and I was friends with all of them. The brothers all told the same version of how incredibly tightfisted their parents were. One tale included stopping on the highway and telling their son to run across traffic to grab an old rusted coat hanger. Another story described the rare occasions they went out to eat and they were only allowed to order water, because it was free. During Christmas, I remember asking their middle child what he had received. Turns out all he got for Christmas was a belt and cologne. Merry freakin’ Christmas!

I had heard all of these stories before I had actually met the Lilkendey parents. So imagine my surprise when I met them for the first time and found out what warm and welcoming people they were. To be honest, I was halfway expecting ogres.

They were, of course, nothing like ogres. Their home was cozy and filled with yard sale and curbside finds. It just so happened that they had found an old beaten up wooden trunk on the side of the road that day. It was in pretty bad shape and I remember thinking why would you ever take home this junk.

As I got to know the whole family a little better it dawned on me that the Lilkendeys were not frugal because they had to be but because they truly enjoyed it.

One night, as their son was helping me change the oil in my car, (yeah, I think this may have been my first lesson in frugality from the Lilkendeys) I noticed the wooden trunk from my previous visit. But it didn’t look anything like it had before. They had sanded it down and fixed all the broken parts. They had stained it a beautiful rich color. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful pieces of furniture I had ever seen, especially given its former condition.  

That's when it hit me that these crazy frugal people might actually be on to something here.

To be continued...