Our childhood memories around money form many of our attitudes about money today. Some may be positive experiences like vacations. Or “staycations” when money was tight.
Sometimes experiences around money are ones you cherish and develop in your own life. Sometimes memories are bad experiences and compel us to do it differently than our parents. Or bad money experiences can trap us into repeating poor behavior patterns.
Like many, in my childhood I have good and bad memories. I have learned and gleaned from these experiences. I have made informed choices about money.
One of the foundational lessons “Money is a tool.” It isn’t End All or Be All. Money can build our life experiences.
Education was important. It gave you earning capacity; it gives us opportunities to explore and grow; self-discover. My parents took classes well into their 70s. And shared what they learned with friends and neighbors. Education is one of my value words today. Helping foster care youth pursue higher education is one of my volunteer activities.
I grew up as 1 of 7 children. We didn’t have a lot of ‘stuff.’ What we did have was top quality. A dining room table that survived 7 kids without broken spindles in the chairs. Nicks and scratches were avoided with tablecloths over protective pads. Mom bought quality and carefully preserved the items.
We didn’t go through a lot of cars growing up. My parents bought new and did regular tune ups and repairs. Cars were well maintained. In our house today, we do the same thing. We add one caveat – cars have to have all wheel drive for where we live.
Mom was creative in how she managed 7 kids in a station wagon on long trips. There were favorite spots in the car so we had rotations. Mom had a goody bag with games, coloring books, activity books and snacks. We would get something every 30 minutes to an hour. We stopped at a school or park with a playground equipment for lunch. We had ‘fixins’ for sandwiches. But more importantly we ran off the energy from being cooped up in a car. Our destination on vacations was usually to visit family.
Today I still visit family but its only one trip for the year. I wanted to do more and see more growing up. I have a savings account that is just for vacations. I do a lot of research into an area before we visit. I want to make the most of our time – there is so much to see – so many places to go.
Holidays were amazing for us. We didn’t get a lot of gifts or expensive toys. We didn’t take extravagant trips. But we did have lots of traditions. We anticipated those each year – carving pumpkins, trimming the tree, putting up our stockings, frosting sugar cookies, doing treasure hunts and much more. We learned the joy of family experiences. This is something we share with the youth who have aged out of foster care. Not expensive, lavish holidays but healthy, happy, fun traditions. Quality experiences.
When I headed to college, I had to give my parents a 6 month cash flow projection or budget for each semester. I had to live by my budget. I had a fixed ‘student loan.’ That was when I learned about the non-monthly expenses. You can’t spend everything you receive, every month. Because the bill was coming for car insurance, books each semester, and family gifts. (That non-monthly list of expenses has grown today.)
I also learned to have emergency money. Not for repairs on my car or apartment but if my hours got cut short one week or I got sick.
One of the best things I learned is having separate allowances for spouses in the budget. When my mom started working part-time outside of the home, she had her own money. The arguments over money disappeared. I have found no matter how tight a budget, an allowance to spend as desired, helps lessen the friction over money.
How you experienced money growing up impacts how you manage money today. I think the best lesson I learned from my mom was money was a tool. It wasn’t how much we had. It was how we used it. What it allowed us to enjoy.
What are some of your childhood memories about money? What did you learn from your mom about money?