Four Lessons My Mom Taught Me about Family and Money

by Tracy · 20 comments

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Gerald Filardi says:

    All great replies! As always, the one common thread is “family,” and the nucleus of the family is usually mom. Nice to know there are folks out there who learned values from mom or grandma!

  • sunil says:

    Great points, I think we often assume our expenses will go down when we start cutting things we consider non essential from our budget. But in my experience there always seems to be another expense that comes along or even the unexpected expenses happen.

  • Boston Market Coupons says:

    Your mom is so sweet. She taught you well. I’m gonna use those tips for sure.

  • Lissi says:

    We didn’t have much material stuff growing up, but we learned very early on that that stuff wasn’t as important as being a family and being there for each other. my Dad has been legally blind since I can remember but didn’t realize he was til I learned how to drive. My dad took me out since I was 9 to teach me how to drive stick shift – cuz once you learn the basics you can do anything. My Mom is a sample maker and because of her INCREDIBLE gift for being able to sew ANYTHING, she made 95% of our clothes. My prom dresses, birthday outfits, suits, pants, shirts, blouses, pretty much anything except jeans and socks. Her secret was that all the clothes or fabric she got, she got on sale or was a sample sale, meaning they had something wrong with them like they were cut or had a design flaw. That didn’t matter to my mom, she would always find a way to make it look unique and in fashion. If there was a cut in the back, she would make her own patch to cover it and no one would ever know it didn’t belong. She is that talented. We had no other family other than the 5 of us. Although my parents are each 1 of 11, we had no other family other than each other here. But my parents managed to send us to see our family every year for the summers so that we could spend time with the family we never get to see. Important – ABSOLUTELY. and Truly PRICELESS. I am a mom of a 3 yr old daughter and she is also learning the same values I grew up with…

  • RoadOutOfDebt says:

    It’s touching. Being a mother is such a difficult task and a lot of times kids realize all these efforts when they have their own children, in their 30’s.

  • Kelsie Vaske says:

    My mother never taught me these things, but when I got into high school I made sure I took all the finance classes I could. My teacher, Mr. Page, taught me all these things and more. At we teach students about finance through games and student written essays. You may find this helpful for your kids.

    Kelsie Vaske,

    • Kim says:

      I did teach you these things. Being a mom is a difficult thing, when your kids need money I always made sure they got it. When ever you needed anything, I made sure you had it. I am not wealthy, I work had for my money ,working everyday, to support you in anything that you did or wanted. Always saying to you to” save your money!” I am sorry, that you really think that I didn’t teach you this. just wait when you have kids and eveyday its can I have some money, can I have this or can I have that… and you always got it!!!

  • Witty Artist says:

    The most challenging task of all is being a mom, and especially when it comes to money and siblings. What you see when in childhood will influence your grown-up behaviour. My mom also taught me some lessons about saving money and I thank her.

  • Jerry says:

    My mom, too, was HUGE on the little things. They definitely do lead to overspending if you aren’t careful. If you can reign in your spending on the small stuff, it’s your insurance you can manage larger amounts of cash when you have it.

  • B Kelly says:

    From young, my mother always advocated dining in vs dining out. I wondered on many occassions why my mother was so adamant about eating out. But now that i’m an adult, not only am i a decent cook (i’ve had way too many hours helping out in the kitchen to be anything else but that), it’s finally dawned on me the dent in your monthly budget eating out makes. I still have to negotiate & convince my mother today why we ‘must’ eat at this or that restaurant (guess little has changed in this aspect ;p), but it’s my way of saying ‘thank you’ for the life lesson.

  • indio says:

    For some reason, I don’t recall many lessons from my mother. On the other hand my grandmother, who was an immigrant, was very frugal. Observing her, I learned many lessons that she had from growing up on a farm as the youngest of 9 children. While she wasn’t a great cook, she was very good at sewing, crocheting, knitting, gardening and very rarely threw anything out. If it was old and tattered beyond repair, it was repurposed into doll clothes or dish rags. I think my mother rebelled from having to grow in this type of household and didn’t have any of my grandmother’s frugal ways. Later in life, she started a vegetable garden, but even then, my stepfather did most of the work.

  • Mano says:

    Moms are great when it comes to saving money for the rainy days and teaching their children great values. That’s why I love my mom and my wife so much for being an inspiration and good examples to my kids.

  • Lizzie says:

    Mostly, my mom taught me to not flip out if I suddenly get behind on my bills; that most companies will work with you if you call them and explain what’s happening. She also was an incredible example of work ethic since she worked full time and commuted long distances and still made it a priority to have a clean house and dinner together as a family every night.

  • Eloisa says:

    My mom taught us not to be wasteful. She worked as a contract teacher in Nigeria for several years and she saw a lot of people with so much less. We were taught to be more grateful and not take things for granted.

  • Melanie says:

    My mom taught me lots of great lessons about how to handle money, and I think the best one was the thought experiments that she used to walk us through. She would say, “Ok, we can buy these expensive jeans for you, but then we can’t go to the movies this weekend. Or next weekend.” I learned quickly that there are trade-offs and consequences for everything that you buy.

  • Brad Jobs says:

    Save money even the smallest amount add up to make something really big. That is the biggest lesson I have learned from my mom. No matter what happens, save something from what you receive.

  • Amy Saves says:

    Mom taught me to recycle everything. paper towels were used more than once. clothes were worn till they were too small and then handed down to other people.

  • Finavigation says:

    I’d say the most important lessons I learned from my mom were the importance of getting an education, not slacking off, and showing up day in and day out. I would have to be dying before she would ever let me stay home from school. I don’t think I’d be as driven as I am today if it weren’t for this.

  • ITIN Number says:

    I love that my young son carefully checks his receipt after each purchase with his birthday money or allowance. he has matched us shop as a family and is beginning to realize the importance fo paying attention to details in the dollars at an early age.

  • KM says:

    My mom taught me a lot of things, but I don’t agree with her on many of them (I am actually way more frugal than she is). The ones I fully appreciate are her teaching me honesty, sharing, and how to knit. We didn’t have much when I was growing up, but we always shared – everyone got the same amount of a chocolate bar and everyone got to participate in housework.

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