Thursday, February 26, 2009

Three Things My Mother Taught Me Financially

I give my mother a great deal of credit; she raised me and my two sisters essentially by herself, all the while working full time. She never let us feel deprived, alone or unloved. I'm proud of all her accomplishments and everything she has done.

Some of the most important lessons she taught me involved money. Between her actions in her personal life and what she explicitly told me, I learned a great deal about how to get a handle on my finances and keep my life in balance.

1) Control your spending - One of the first lessons I learned from my mother, I picked up simply by watching her in her daily life. She did spend money, but not on extravagances. She would buy food, resisting temptations of candy and sweets. She took us to the library, encouraging us to borrow books rather than buy them. She enrolled us in low cost after school activities, such as Scout programs, allowing us to socialize, learn, and grow.

All of these experiences that I observed helped to establish the idea of frugality in me. I still tend to keep my spending low, without even making much effort. Many of the tips I encounter about saving money, such as packing your lunches and resisting daily treats (like a Starbucks coffee) come naturally to me, all because of my mother's influence.

2) Save up for what you desire - When I was sixteen, I wanted to get a car. (Well, actually, my mom wanted me to get the car more than I did, so I could take my sisters to school and our other activities, but I still wanted it, as well.) Rather than simply buying me a car, my mother encouraged me to get a job, earn and save the money, and buy the car on my own. Thus began my employment at McDonald's, lasting long past when I actually bought my first car (a 1988 Aries, if I remember correctly; a pretty solid car, especially since I only paid $1000 for it).

From this, I learned that if you are going to make a big, expensive purchase, the best way to do so is NOT to charge it and slowly pay it off while accumulating interest; but rather, to work, spend less than you earn, save the difference, and eventually purchase the item outright. It has been a valuable, meaningful lesson for me, and I am glad I learned it without having to get overwhelmed by debt (as so many other people seem to have done, sadly).

3) Study hard and get good grades - My mother always stressed education. She encouraged us to work hard in our classes and take some of the harder courses. She pushed my sisters and I into the gifted program at our school and motivated us to stand out academically as much as possible.

This might not seem related to my finances, but it's had at least two important monetary impacts on me. First, my good grades and high SAT scores allowed me to start college without having to pay for my tuition, and by keeping my grades high allowed me to continue in the same fashion. I still had room and board expenses, but the savings enabled me to graduate with a relatively small amount of student loan debt, avoiding one of the major pitfalls of the recently graduated college student.

Secondly, that push to learn and study has stayed with me up to this date. As a result, I tend to be cautious, carefully, certain to learn as much as I can about something before jumping in. It is a good approach for many things in life, particularly when it comes to money and investing.

Almost all of my good money management traits are a direct result of my mother's influence.

This is not to say that my mother taught me everything I now know about money; in fact, there are some areas where I wish she had done more. I will cover those tomorrow.


  1. I hope your mom sees this post :)

    My parents, interestingly enough, have showed me both what to do with money and what not to do with money. It seems in their age they have gone from very fiscally responsible to a good bit less fiscally responsible.

    You see that happening at all? Wondering if its an age thing.

  2. I haven't noticed much of a difference in how she handles her money now compared to when I was younger. But, she is retiring soon, which could lead to some sizable changes.

    She did pass on a few bad traits when it comes to money, chief among those a fear of investing. I'm actually going to post on some of those tomorrow.