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Most of us learned some sort of money lessons from our parents, whether through a sit-down talk or through watching their money habits.
Personally, I have heard more instances of observation versus being intentionally taught. This makes sense. Money is a taboo subject, and most people hesitate to talk about it.
A study by the University College of London found that its participants were 7x more likely to talk about details of their sex life before mentioning their income.
Thankfully, my parents were all too happy to teach me about finances. They provided some great nuggets along the way. I thought I’d share some of my earliest money memories and sayings that my parents taught me over the years.
“Why don’t you go outside and water the money tree.”
I must have heard my Dad say this about a million times as a kid and teenager. Whenever I asked my parents to buy something that I wanted, without hesitation my Dad would tell me to go outside and water the money tree.
There was a period of time when I seriously prayed that God would actually create a money tree so that all I really had to do was water it. Unfortunately, God never did that for me. So, I had to be resourceful in order to pay for my wants.
At 12 years old, without many skills, I spent many hours doing manual labor to make some cash. I cut grass and washed cars in the spring and summer, raked leaves in the fall, and shoveled snow in the winter.
While most other kids got excited about being off on snow day to go sledding, my friends and I viewed each snowflake as a dollar bill raining down from the sky. Each winter, we would devise a plan to shovel as many driveways in our neighborhood as possible. We began our mornings with a hearty breakfast and did not return home until dinner time. Most winters, we were able to make a couple hundred dollars each. At 12 years old, this felt like a fortune.
Be generous when you can.
I use to be neighbors with an NFL football player. He was well-known and beloved in our community. One winter day after a heavy snowfall, he told us if we shoveled his driveway that he’d make it worth our while. Normally we avoided his type of driveway. It was very long, and we could clear two driveways in the time that it would take to clear this guy’s.
My friends and I must have spent a good hour clearing his driveway. At the end when we were done, he handed us $5 total. Not even $5 for each of us. We typically received $15 per regular-sized driveway, so to receive $5 for a larger one was slap in the face.
We were so disappointed. This guy was making almost a million dollars a season back then, and he paid us $5. There were old grandmas in our neighborhood that would offer to us pay $20, $30 or even $40 for smaller driveways.
Anger aside, I learned two valuable lessons. 1. Never agree to do work without agreeing on a price ahead of time, and 2. Just because someone is wealthy, does not mean that they will be generous.
Try to stretch your dollars.
My Dad hated buying shoes for me.
Why? Because by the time we got home from the store, it felt like I had already outgrown them. So, he tried to implement all sorts of crazy rules along the way. At first it was that he wouldn’t spend more than $30 for new shoes. Then he decided not to buy Nike or Reebok brands because he thought they were poor quality. He really hated buying new shoes for me.
Basketball shoes were a whole other level of disdain for my Dad. They were extra expensive, and they always had to be a specific style/color to match my team. That meant that he couldn’t implement his previous rules. So, he instituted a new rule. I had to wear a full size bigger and then layer on socks until the shoes fit properly. Needless to say, at times, it looked like I was wearing clown shoes. However, while my friends oftentimes had to buy multiple shoes during a season, I played all year with the same pair. That was a huge win in his book.
Learn to shop sales.
My Mom was the queen of couponing growing up. She never bought anything unless she could use a coupon or it was on sale. She had a huge coupon organizer that she would carry in her fanny pack. It was quite a sight to see.
Random side note: I think fanny packs will make a comeback real soon. Yes, they are incredibly dorky-looking. But, I feel like it will be the next hipster trend.
Growing up, I thought couponing was dumb. Back then, many coupons were only $.25 off an item. I never really understood why my Mom was so adamant about shopping sales and using coupons.
As an impatient kid, I wanted to buy things when I wanted them. I didn’t want to wait for sales.
That definitely changed when I had to start buying things with my own money. That’s when I remembered the wisdom she had tried to impart upon me over the years. I started paying attention to prices more closely and shopping sales. Admittedly, saving money became a great feeling.
Get rid of debt as quickly as possible.
My mom hated debt with a passion. Every time she would look at our mortgage bill, she would groan a little bit as she wrote the check. I never understood why she felt this way until I started paying my own mortgage bill each month.
It wasn’t until I was getting ready to buy my own house that she shared with me that she and my Dad had paid off their house. She said it with a voice of pride, but I didn’t completely understand why she did it.
Everything that I read in personal finance said not to pay off your mortgage. Instead, invest in the stock market. Interest rates were/are at a historic low, so you’d be borrowing cheap money, right?
Before my mortgage, I never had debt. I paid off my credit cards each month and didn’t have a car payment. So when I got a mortgage, it was the first time in my life that I owed anything to anybody, and it was an awful feeling.
While some people can leverage debt and make it work for them, I became obsessed with eradicating my debt. I thought about it all the time. It was the last thing that I thought about at night and the first thing I thought about in the morning. I finally decided to put together a plan and started to throw all my money towards my balance each month until I finally paid it all off.
After 8.5 years, I no longer had a mortgage.
It was seriously one of the best feelings in the world. Since then, that time my net worth has tripled. Now, I finally understand why it was such a big deal for my parents to get rid of debt as quickly as possible. I am grateful for the example they set for me and the lessons they taught me over the years.