I know Father’s Day was yesterday but, unfortunately, I did not get a chance to put this post up until today. I think the sentiment is clear and the tips are timeless.
I grew up in a house where money was not discussed in any formal way. My sisters and I got an allowance and birthday money and at 13, I started babysitting to earn money (as an aside, I cannot believe that people trusted me to watch their children when I was 13). I had a bank account that I knew about once I turned 17, but other than that, my parents never really taught me any practical money skills: budgeting, saving, not using credit excessively–stuff like that. They just paid for stuff (my dad affectionately/sarcastically refers to himself as “the walking checkbook”) without teaching me anything.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my dad did indirectly teach me about money. Sure, he didn’t show me how to draft a budget but he did teach me some very practical money habits that I still use today:
- Always have some emergency money stashed in your wallet. When I first started driving, my dad gave me $50 to keep in my wallet just in case. It stayed there for many years (when the necessity for a beer became an emergency) and today, I keep a $20 folded up in my wallet. On the occasions when I’ve had to spend it on car related expenses (I’ve matured slightly), I replace it as soon as the next payday comes.
- Always balance your checkbook. In my house, I am the accountant. I pay the bills, manage the checkbook and, at least 3 times as week, I reconcile what the online statement says. My dad played that role in my parents’ relationship. I remember, every Sunday, my dad painstakingly going through their checkbook because my mom has the unfortunate ability to add when she meant to subtract. Had my dad not balanced the checkbook, I don’t know what might have happened.
- Always pay your debts. My parents are not in the best financial situation, and have been struggling for quite awhile. Given the little information I have, my parents are likely candidates for bankruptcy. Instead, they have dug deep, gotten on a tight budget and are paying off their debts. This is exactly what my husband and I have been doing for the last 4 years.
- Keep your financial stress away from your kids. Although my sisters and I are aware that our parents are struggling, they never, ever let us know how bad things have been. They never saw it as our burden to bear; they made sure that we had everything we needed and would do whatever they could to provide it for us. My husband and I are doing this exact thing with our daughter. Although she’s too young to truly understand what is going on, she never wants for anything. What we can’t provide, we find a way to make due. And on the rare instances where we fight about money, we never, ever do it in front of her.
- It’s important to work for your money. My parents were more than generous with me. They paid for a lot of things, and I feel incredibly blessed that they did. But they always expected me to work. Whether it was getting good grades in school, babysitting for my sisters, or working as a camp counselor, my parents never gave me a completely free ride. When I was in college, my parents didn’t have a problem with me joining a sorority but they made it clear I had to pay for it. So I got a part-time job and it made my sorority experience that more enjoyable. Because it was mine. I appreciate this lesson more than any other because it has given me the work ethic that I have today.
There are some other things: save for big purchases, having a savings account for your kids, and whenever possible, be generous. And most importantly, love is the best currency. Because even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still give love in spades.