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Money advice I wish I learned from my parents
When I was growing up, we didn’t have much. At 6 years old, my parents were divorced and the once affluent lifestyle we lived suddenly vanished. We went from living in a 4 bedroom house with my two brothers and parents in the suburbs to living in a 1 bedroom apartment on the other side of town, with just my mom and me. We moved a few times while I was in elementary school and eventually landed in an apartment in my uncle’s building next to most of my mom’s family.
My mom worked full-time as a seamstress for a few years. She worked long hours and brought work with her each night so that she can get some overtime after I went to bed. She eventually worked her way up to a quality control manager in the downtown fashion district. It would have been uphill from there, but by the time she started making good money, she fell ill and suddenly we were back to scraping by. All this happened before I turned 12 and it never really got any better for the rest of my childhood.
Strangely enough, no matter how bad reality was for my mom and her finances, I never got a whiff of any of it. Even though we struggled financially, it never felt like a struggle at all. My mom always made me feel like we were just like everyone else. We traveled with family, we went out to eat every so often, and my mom made sure I had everything I needed.
But, I often look back at those years with wonderment. I have no idea how my superhero of a mom never showed signs of stress or anxiety. She laughed and joked all the time. We had delicious meat and poultry-filled food on the table and lived in a good neighborhood, next to family. My life needed nothing.
It wasn’t until recent years, that I realized her struggle. She DID have credit card debt, she did struggle with making ends meet every month. She did budget and cut costs where she could. She was just that good at keeping it together.
My first job
By the time I was a little over 15 years old, I started working part-time on weekends at a fast food joint near my house. It was close enough that I could walk to and from work. I gave every paycheck to her. Later, when I was about 16 or 17, I worked as a teller at a bank. Thinking I was making decent money at that time, and still giving her all of my paycheck, I felt proud that I could help.
And do you know what she did? My superhero of a mom? She saved it for me! She put it aside and didn’t touch it, until I was in college and desperately needed a car for the commute, then she brought it out.
This was and still is my mom. She is an awesome example of frugality and sensibility.
My College Expenses
My college experience was standard, but financially I was set. All throughout my school career, I was a great student, bringing home straight A’s, so when it was time to go college, I had enough financial aid and scholarships to cover my school expenses for 4 years (although if you read my guest post on M$M’s blog, you already know that I made some rookie mistakes with credit card and loan debt).
Being a wife and mom now, I often wonder how my mom did it all. She was single, on disability, and had to make ends meet with a preteen. How did she budget? What tips did she have for saving money? How did she afford all the “Murphy’s” life threw her way?
But there’s so much I wish I learned from her when I started independently managing my own money.
Money advice and tips I wish I knew:
1. What was a budget?
2. How do I pay off my debt easier?
3. How do I save money and how much should I save from every paycheck?
While her silence was a sign of her strength, it unfortunately did nothing to teach me any money tips that that helped her survive the times of scarcity. I needed to know that. I needed to know her experience, her tips, her successes and her short comings. These bits of knowledge could have been extremely helpful.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the tools I needed to understand what I was doing. By the age of 20, I was in more than $10,000 in debt and was struggling to get by. I had absolutely no idea how to break the cycle of debt and get my life back on track. It took me more than a decade to have a good relationship with money. I can’t help by think that her teachings could have helped me avoid some (or all) of my money mishaps. I’m certainly not blaming her for my money mishaps, I’m just wondering how things could have been different if I had been given better tools.
On the other hand, while I wonder why she didn’t feel it necessary to teach me about money, in a weird way I’m kind of thankful that I learned the hard way. Because, honestly I’m not sure if my personality lends itself to learn any other way than trial by fire (and not the good FIRE that all of my personal finance blogger friends and readers strive for, haha).
Teach your Children
If you’re reading this and you have young children, you need to teach them about money. Teach them with games, teach them with allowances, chores to earn money, and expose them to budgets. They need to know how to shop for groceries and find deals. Teach them about debt and student loan traps. Teach them until they are ready to deal with money the right way.
As parents, we always strive for our kids to be better, smarter, and wiser than us. This is our chance to give them some tools from our experience toolbox that will help them navigate the money maze and be more successful than we were.
If you’re here because you have a similar story and can relate, let’s do better. Let’s spend less, save more, and live the debt free life we were supposed to live.
Tell me something your parents taught you about money. I’d love to know!
Until next time my frugal friends,