INDEPENDENCE, MO—Grace Hoagland's purchasing habits are increasingly influenced by her sense of impending mortality, sources close to the 73-year-old reported Tuesday.
"I offered to buy Mom a new fan, because hers is 10 years old and only works on 'low,'" daughter Nancy Seely said. "She said, 'Oh, don't bother. New things are only wasted on an old goat like me.' Like she's in the grave already."
Although she remains in good health and has a comfortable pension, Hoagland sees her golden years as a time to severely restrict her purchasing habits. This means sleeping on a sagging mattress with coils poking through the padding, watching a television with a drifting picture, and manually opening her heavy garage door.
"I said to her, 'Mom, don't pull those weeds in your tomato garden out by hand. Get a soil aerator, so you don't have to bend down,'" said Seely, 46. "She told me, 'Oh, honey, I'm used to doing it this way. Besides, you and [Hoagland's other daughter] Peggy don't like gardening, so it wouldn't be of any use to you once I pass on.' Good Lord."
In recent months, Hoagland has revealed that similar logic dissuaded her from buying a new car, a modern refrigerator, a decent couch, a grocery pushcart with working wheels, an alarm clock she wouldn't need to wind every day, and non-charred pot holders.
"Mom used to buy the most durable products available," Seely said. "Now, when she sees 'Five-Year Warranty' on a box, she says the thing is 'too nice' for her. A 60-day warranty is about all she'll accept."
Hoagland even considers the purchase of a new winter coat to be frivolous, given that she's likely to die before it wears out.
"I know my old coat isn't at the height of fashion anymore," said Hoagland, referring to her 20-year-old quilted stadium coat. "But it still serves its purpose just fine. Leave fashion to the young. I had some very beautiful coats in my time, like the lovely blue boucle one I wore when [late husband] Dick proposed to me."
Once an avid bulk-purchaser of items like pretzels, toilet paper, and sandwich cookies, Hoagland now only buys what she needs. Her refrigerator contains a pitcher of filtered water, a jar of mustard, several hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of waxed beans, a half-empty can of chicken broth, and a slice of pepperoni pizza from her grandson Carter's birthday party in July.
"I hate to bring more things into the house," Hoagland said. "The basement freezer is still full of sausage from the deer Dick shot before he passed six years ago. If something happens to me, all that venison will go to waste."
Seely said that she and her siblings don't buy Hoagland the things they think she needs, because the gifts usually go unused.
"I got Mom a coffeemaker, but it sits there on the counter all shiny while she makes her coffee on the stove," Seely said. "She said she wanted to keep the new coffeemaker nice, so whoever got it next could enjoy it. The box and all the instructions are in the kitchen closet. Plus, she said she didn't want to buy coffee filters for it, because they come in packs of 100."
Seely complained that her mother's frugality has had a deleterious effect on her own memories.
"I can't be nostalgic about my childhood home, because it's still right there in front of me," Seely said. "Mom will hold on to a throw pillow until it's just a frizzy, formless clump of feather-dust inside a worn-out sack, and then she'll still keep it."
Appraiser Jane Schallert of the firm Glover, Glover & Upham recently assessed the value of Hoagland's personal effects.
"I would be surprised if Mrs. Hoagland owns anything less than eight years old," Schallert said. "Her curtains are sun-faded to a sickly pale yellow, her area rugs have large holes produced by thousands of footfalls, and the vinyl tablecloth in the dining room was past its prime when her middle-aged daughters were still teenagers. I'm an appraiser, not a psychiatrist, but I'd say Mrs. Hoagland has all but handed in her cards."
Drying her hands with a dish towel Schallert characterized as "a handful of soiled yarn," Hoagland said she plans to maintain her thrifty ways, but insisted that she is "no miser."
"As my daughters will tell you, I'm very generous with the grandkids," Hoagland said. "I know little Aimee will adore the kitchen play-set I got her for Christmas. I know it seems premature to buy it so early, but you never know what will happen to me between now and December."