Growing up, my family struggled financially. I was raised by a single mom who received no child support, and I’m so grateful for the sacrifices she made. My mom worked very hard to support my sister and I. Watching her make ends meet, meant my early memories of money revolved around the financial stress I witnessed my mom endure. Early experiences shape our money stories and can impact our relationship with money as adults. Everyone has a money story. If you look at your current money behaviors, you’ll probably find pieces of your early money experiences woven through. What did your mom teach you about money? This Mother’s Day, I found myself thinking a lot about what my mom taught me about money and I wanted to share it.
According to my mom, using a credit card was basically synonymous with committing a crime.
“There’s no point to having a credit card because you shouldn’t be buying something you cannot afford,” she’d say. Her rationale was simple, if you want something, save up for it. When you have enough money, buy it. “Credit card interest is so high that once you use it you will basically be paying it off for the rest of your life,” she’d tell us.
I remember a new university friend of mine mentioned she was buying clothes online with her credit card and feeling rebellious just for knowing her. Yes, my credit card fear was that intense. Perhaps mom overdid it slightly, as I eventually learned there was value in having a credit card. But overdoing it probably saved me from accumulating loads of debt in my early adult years. Thanks Mom! Using credit cards to spend money we don’t have is a trap many new adults fall into. The authors of Quit like a Millionaire (Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung) describe the separation into two selves when we buy something on credit. They suggest we justify using debt to pay for something by disconnecting Future You that will have to pay for it eventually from Present You that just wants it right now. Unfortunately, we don’t actually have two selves and the book reminds us, “Eventually Present You will become Future You.”
My mom NEVER bought snacks from the concession at the movie theatre. She was appalled by the overpriced popcorn and drinks. “It’s pure robbery,” according to her. My sister and I knew better than to even ask for a small treat. And if this has you feeling pity for young me being deprived of movie theatre treats, don’t worry, because this served as a powerful lesson in my life. It was the early teachings of being mindful with my spending, to avoid making additional seemingly small purchases that can add up quite quickly. It is a lesson that many financial professionals and money experts share on budgeting and being diligent about where we are spending our money.
A quote by Benjamin Franklin sums this lesson up well “Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.” These days, my mom indulges occasionally in movie theatre popcorn, but the bottle of water she drinks with it was smuggled in her purse. My mom would NEVER pay for bottled water.
My mom has the strongest work ethic of anyone I have ever met. I witnessed her drag herself to work on sick days, go back to school to get a degree while raising us and working full-time, and hold five jobs at one time in order to support us financially. Five jobs! That has to be some sort of record. It would be impossible to be lazy after being raised by a mom like that. I learned from her that life isn’t easy, in fact sometimes it can be very, very hard, but there is no need to shy away from the hard stuff. Working hard shows us what we are truly made of and empowers us to know that we can do anything. When I desperately wanted a car by the time I turned 16, I knew I’d have to buy it myself. So I did exactly what I had learned from my mom over the years – I worked HARD. That summer, I worked at Dairy Queen and Subway. I pulled double shifts lasting 14 hours. I started my day as a sandwich artist and ended the day flipping upside down thick Blizzards. By the end of that summer I was the proud owner of a new (used) car, which happened to be a stick shift and I had no idea how to drive it. Bring on the hard work!
When I was eight we had the most unreliable car. It broke down and had maintenance issues constantly, it also only had AM radio, but that is a whole other issue. Luckily, my mom found the best person to fix it. A professional mechanic by trade, he was a friend of a friend and fixed our car on his days off at a generously discounted rate, knowing my mom was a single parent. As single woman who didn’t know much about cars, my mom could have easily been overcharged at any other mechanic shop. It meant a lot to have him as a trustworthy service provider with my mom’s best interests at heart. This need for a great mechanic may sound irrelevant as cars become more reliable and many people buy cars new and trade them in before the warranty expires. But whether it’s your dentist, doctor, trainer, accountant, or financial advisor, it is always important to truly feel your best interests are being looked after. If for any reason you do not feel supported then you absolutely have permission to seek out alternative options. You deserve to get the full value out of what you are paying for, advocate for yourself and find the right fit for you. Because you deserve a great mechanic, and they do exist!
Maybe you can relate to some of these lessons, and hopefully it brings up some of your own early money memories. These experiences live inside us and weave into our relationship with money. Pay attention to these early money stories and decide how you want your relationship with money to unfold. Keep the lessons that are wise and serve you well, adjust the outdated ones, and change the ones you think can be improved upon. Early experiences may have impacted how you got to where you are now, but it’s still up to you to decide which money lessons you’ll pass on to the next generation.
Thank you Mom!