I used to think my mom was so cheap! As a teenager, I never could understand why she thought $40 was too much for a sweatshirt. Hello? Did she not see the Benetton logo? Or why she fussed so much over people leaving half empty drinks around the house. I mean, that stuffs cheap, right?
Like a lot of teens, I got a rude awakening the first time I had to try and buy groceries for a week on a limited budget. Why didn’t anyone tell me cheese cost so much? As time has gone by and I’ve become a mother myself, I’ve learned to appreciate the lessons in thrift my mom taught me. Here are four that I remember particularly well.
• Little things do add up. A can of soda might have been just 25 cents back when I was a teen, but wasting the equivalent of one full can a day (which would have been a low estimate in a house with 3 teens) adds up to nearly 100 dollars a year. The same goes for wasting paper towels, snacks, and all the little things that seem to be so cheap.
Waste is also distressing because it shows a lack of respect for resources and how lucky we are to have what we have. Children generally do not have the perspective to understand all the reasons why waste is bad, so it’s up to the parents to teach them. I’m very glad my mom taught me.
• Buy good quality things, but buy them during promotions. I’m doing the best I can, but I can’t recall a single time my mother bought herself any article of clothing that wasn’t on sale. She likes wearing nice suits and designer handbags when she goes out but doesn’t see the point in paying full price when almost everything eventually goes on promotion.
As a teenager, I’d often fall in love with ONE shirt or ONE pair of jeans and couldn’t see getting anything else much less taking the chance to wait for it to go on sale. They might sell out! What my mother patiently taught me was that for most things, there are many similar items that you can love and it’s expensive to set your sights on just one particular thing. Be patient and something similar will become available, often at much better prices.
• Spend money on experiences. My family is not wealthy, but there always seemed to be money to send me on educational field trips and academic events. I was lucky enough to travel to several different countries and participate fully in drama, speech and journalism events without having to worry about my parents saying no.
Looking back, my parents could have spent that money to buy themselves fancier cars or go out to eat at fine restaurants or any number of things but they decided to invest their money by giving their children educational experiences instead. That lesson has stuck with me as my husband and I prioritize our spending on things that will help our family grow and learn instead of fleeting pleasures.
• Work hard for and with your family. One of my most beloved memories of my mother is how she spent hours every week to roll and fry spring rolls for my high school FBLA trip to sell to pay for a trip to the national conference. I don’t know how many hours she spent on this, but it had to be hundreds on top of a full time job and taking care of a busy household.
Not only that, but my entire family would go along to events like bagging purchases for tips to go towards school trips and car washes and bake sales. It was not optional for us three siblings to help each other; it was just the way things would be.
This taught me not only the value of hard work, but how much a family can accomplish when they work together and that we all have to support each other, even if it’s not our turn to reap the benefits.
As we approach Mother’s Day I’d love to hear what other MoneyNing reader’s mothers and grandmothers have taught them about family values and using money wisely. What have they taught you?