We honor Mothers every May, but they influence every single day of our lives. Lessons I learned growing up have had a huge impact on how I approach money matters, and today I’m sharing some of my mother’s financial wisdom.
Personal Finance Advice: One Mother’s Wisdom
My mother grew up with very little money. Her personality combined with a childhood of scarcity taught her some incredible lessons in personal finance that have benefited me and my siblings.
Money should never define a human being.
When you grow up as the child of parents whose families suffered deeply during the Great Depression and when your own family has very little, you understand the gulf between the worth and the effort of a human being and the money they are able to pull together. My mother always taught me that money was no measure of human worth. Instead, we were taught to look for kindness, generosity, resourcefulness, and hard work as characteristics to value.
Use money for good.
Raising ten children meant that my parents never had much extra money lying around. When they did find a surplus, they always used it to accomplish something worthwhile – from helping individuals in need to funding family experiences. They found money to donate to charity no matter how tight their personal budget – a practice Mike and I have continued.
Build skills to carry yourself through life.
My parents made sure that each of their ten children developed a solid set of skills. Their goal was to make sure that, no matter what dreams we chose to pursue, we would have enough in-demand abilities to remain employed throughout our lives.
Prioritize spending on things that matter.
Growing up, I never had “cool” clothes. I did have some wonderful music teachers! My parents also took us on some amazing road trips. My mom taught me that clothes get worn out and go out of style. Talents and memories last forever.
Get creative when finances are tight.
Having grown up with a very limited diet, my mother was determined feed her family healthy food. She found the most affordable stores that sold fresh ingredients, bought in bulk, and cooked everything from scratch. She patched clothing and taught us to do the same.
When I wanted different clothes from the hand-me-downs I was inheriting from my two older sisters, she opened the fabric cabinet and told me to learn how to sew. I wound up making many of the clothes I wore in high school and throughout college.
Work Hard for Opportunities
When I wanted to go to music camp in high school, my mom encouraged me to get creative so that it could happen. I worked to save money to get myself there, got a scholarship to pay for most of the camp, and worked at the camp site as support staff throughout the camp as well as for two weeks after my camp finished to cover the rest. I came home with a new-found confidence in my own abilities. My SAT score even jumped 200 points – after a summer spent practicing piano, playing violin, singing, and occasionally reading Les Miserables in French.
Focus on what matters most.
When money is tight, it’s easy to dwell on what you wish you had. My mom taught us instead to focus on what mattered most. We need money to live, but so long as basic needs are being met, money should not be our top priority.
Find Joy in Simple Things
My mother taught me to find joy in the simple things in life. Growing up, she put dandelions we picked in vases on the table. She loves sunrises and sunsets, and the sound of autumn leaves crunching under her feet. There is so much happiness to be found in the world around us – without spending money.
Be grateful for what you have.
My mother taught me that, once our basic needs for food, warmth, safety, and shelter are met, any feeling of poverty is largely of our own making. We should always work to create opportunities for ourselves and our children, but not at the cost of ignoring what we already have, or losing sight of long-term priorities. When we are grateful for what we have been given already, we are more likely to prioritize spending carefully. We find the inspiration we need to get creative about addressing financial struggles. We focus on what matters most, and that means that we get the things that need doing done.
Don’t Let Money Define You
My mother taught that money should never be a defining piece of who we are. We shouldn’t define ourselves by our wealth or lack thereof, just as we shouldn’t judge others based on how much money have or do not have. Money is a practical tool that gets us through lives. It can enable tremendous opportunities. But our choices define us, not our income.
What personal finance advice did your mother give you?