10 things my parents taught me about money

Being fortunate enough to be born when there is no war or famine, many of us have lost the money-habits that enabled our parents’ generation to thrive. Here are some of them:

1) Never tell anyone how much you are worth. I was seven and my father had managed to save X dollars towards my future. My mother said to me, “Don’t tell anyone because many people have much more than that. Those that have more will think it so little. Those that have less will want to borrow from you.”

2) Your siblings may be millionaires but that doesn’t make you one. My mothers sisters all married very well. While they’ve always been generous towards us, what my mother wanted me to learn was to live within my means.

3) Your clothes/shoes/household goods cannot be turned into money. Arguably with a huge garage sale and eBay they can, but you’d lose money on the lot unless you bought those items direct from the manufacturer especially for resale. In others words, you shouldn’t spend all your money on consumables. My parents were very against keeping up with the Jones.

4) Don’t borrow if you can’t afford. They meant for consumables like clothes, holidays, that new car. Refer to number 3. These are items that can’t be turned into cash without incurring significant loses. If you borrow to buy them, you’ll still be making monthly repayments long after the item has lost its value.

5) Don’t ask anyone for money. Be it your parents or your siblings, don’t ever stretch out your hand and say, “Lend me a bob.” Your parents only owe you love and a good education. If you have both, you’re already very lucky. Your siblings only owe you love. “Forget about asking friends because that’s the easiest way to lose them,” my mother said.

6) There’s no shame in second-hand. Whether it’s clothes or a car, as long as it’s useable, it’s good. When I was growing up, second-hand was practically brand new as my ¬†older cousins wore something before handing it to my sisters, who handed it down to me. Even underwear found a second life by being recycled into cloths to wipe the dining table.

7) Never underestimate the power of a single cent. My mother liked to say, “Even if you are one cent short, the baker won’t sell that loaf of bread to you.” In this new economy where they no longer make one cent coins, he might, but what she was trying to teach me was to care for my pennies. Many pennies make up a pound.

8) Learn to save. It won’t make you as rich as Croesus but without a good savings track record, the bank will be unwilling to lend you money. Or if they are already lending you money, unwilling to lend you more because you haven’t shown an ability to extend yourself. Of course there are many lenders out there, but those willing to lend when you have no demonstrable ability to repay are sharks out to gouge you with high lending rates.

9) Teach your child to save. There’s no point leaving your children money if all they know is how to spend. Unless you are Bill Gates, your money will run out before they get to the ends of their lives. Give them a piggybank and show them how it is done. Encourage them to have savings goals and allow them to use their own money for purchases so that they know the actual value of their savings.

10) Have goals worth saving for. My parents goals before they had me and my brother was for us to have a good education. They knew it would cost a lot so started saving well before I came into the world. My father didn’t want to be like his father who knew how to take his family for holidays, eat nice food and buy a car – then a luxury item – only to die destitute. He kept telling his wife they’d buy a house when they could afford a big one. They never even bought a small one as he died when my father was nineteen, leaving him as the eldest to support the entire family.

For 15 easy tips on how to slash the weekly family food budget, check out my article.