PaidTwice over at I’ve Paid For This Twice Already has a very interesting post today about how her attitudes about money have shifted as she travels her road towards getting rid of debt. She asks of her readers, “What change in your financial behavior happened so gradually you didn’t realize it was happening, but you wouldn’t do without now?”
That started me thinking about my own attitudes about money, and how they came to be. I realize that most of them developed as I grew up, living with and watching my parents and how they interacted with money – just as I’m sure most of you did.
My parents divorced when I was six, and my Dad re-married a short time later. Dad, a Certified Public Accountant, has always been very good with money. My mother… not so much. I was given a unique opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work regarding money, and make my own choices about how to be.
In my Dad’s house frugality was a second religion. With five kids (his two and her three) there wasn’t much choice. Our clothes came from K-Mart, and hand-me-downs were the norm. We often wore all our clothes at once because the heat was set at 68 degrees. Generic products were used wherever possible, even if they sucked. Light tuna was cheaper than white, so that’s what we had. Orange juice was only available to drink in the mornings. No midday glass of the orange stuff allowed (though I think that was so there would always be OJ when my Dad wanted some). There was even the dreaded powdered milk phase, which my Dad to this day insists was about nutrition. Yeah, right. I’m still having nightmares. He gave us allowances and taught us to save up for the things we wanted. Dad’s frugality is done with an eye to the future, providing for his family’s health, well-being and education, and where he wants our family to be.
In my Mom’s house we went to The Middlesex Diner and McDonald’s quite often, and Carvel even oftener. Three degrees outside and we’d be shivering as we ate our cones. I’m pretty sure we were the reason that guy stayed in business through the frigid New Jersey winters. When we arrived home, though, we could wear our tank tops and shorts, as our heat was kept at 80 degrees. My mother never buys anything on sale, unless it’s an accident, and then she’d want to give the salesperson a twenty for their trouble. We had yummy white tuna and real, non-powdered milk. Moooooo. And we could drink the OJ anytime we wanted. Money was like water running through her hands, but we sure had fun spending it. How can she be out of money? She still has some checks left. Mom lives for the moment, the here and now, not thinking much about the future and what we’ll need when we get there.
Both homes loving, both homes providing everything necessary to grow happy, healthy children. Just differently.
So, I took what I saw in both homes, and here’s some of what I learned.
- Generic products are to be used, but only where they are an acceptable substitute. Walmart’s generic Great Value Crystal Light-like Tea tastes like ass (according to my husband, and you’d have to ask him how he knows what ass tastes like), but their generic Great Value raisins taste better than SunMaid. Don’t be afraid to try them – just about everywhere will give you a refund if you try and don’t like their store brand. On the other hand, all mayonnaise must be Hellman’s. There is no acceptable substitute. Same with Diet Coke.
- Heat/AC should be set at the lowest level for which you are comfortable. If you’re wearing so many clothes you can’t bend your arms, it’s not worth the savings.
- Ice cream is yummy in the winter, but not every day.
- Save money for your future, as it’s going to get here sooner than you think. Dad is doing pretty well financially. Mom struggles every day, but with some help she’s okay, too.
- Acquire as little debt as possible, but have some fun with your money, too.
- Don’t ever, ever give your children powdered milk.
There’s a ton more that I’ll explore in future posts, but really, this is long enough.