People know me to be responsible with money and many times will ask, “how did you learn to manage your finances so well?” The answer is that I learned it from my Mom. Not from school. Not from my bank. Not from my childhood pet tamagotchi. From Mom. I consider myself lucky because, sadly, many people only get to learn from trial-and-error and many times, financial errors in life are hard to recover from.
During my childhood and teenage years, we were a lower-income family household and Mom always had to find ways to stretch every one of our dollars to make ends meet. We were coupon hunters, we always had our eye out for items on sale and we bought a lot of non-branded items for our home. Looking back now, Mom saw the challenges that our family was dealing with and made it her mission to teach and provide for us, so that we didn’t have to face the same challenges when my sister and I grew up to have our own families and households. That’s why Mom started money discussions with us from early on and I am so thankful.
Mom gave me a piggy bank when I was young, and I put most of my allowance and gifts from Grandma and Grandpa into it. I recall wanting to save a lot of my money in my piggy bank but I always kept a small amount in my personal coin wallet. I can’t remember if I had a velcro strap on that wallet or not, but it was hip back then! These seemingly little moments at a young age made such a positive influence on me.
In 1991, my sister and I wanted to buy a new Nintendo. It cost about $199 back then. Mom supported the purchase, but the money had to come from us, not her. So my sister and I saved and saved and saved and Mom promised to cover the taxes (thanks, Mom!). After a year of saving, my sister and I were able to buy the Nintendo and off we went to the store. Mom put it on her credit card and sissy and I paid her back in cash. This was a teachable moment of saving for something that we wanted and I’m glad Mom held us accountable.
Like I said, things weren’t always perfect. Sometimes I made mistakes with small amounts of money, like making an impulse purchase of a toy that I ended up not really wanting, or spending too much on candy. But I learned, and learning made me successful at managing household budgets, saving for retirement and years later, managing my own investments. Mom always welcomed our questions, so now, not only am I capable of asking questions about money, I welcome others to ask me questions about money, just like she did.
Looking back on these lessons, it really shows how important money management is no matter what financial situation we find ourselves in. It’s not necessarily about how much money we make, but it’s how we manage it!
Talk to your kids – ask them what they are going to spend their money on and guide them through saving up for a toy or that special thing they really want. When the time is right, get them to help you plan your grocery shop for the week and eventually get them to help do your monthly budget. It’s all small steps and each building block leads to new lessons and new steps. Give them the head-start they need, and get that money conversation going!
I’ll be back to share more tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way in future posts! So stay tuned.
P.S. Thanks Mom!