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3 Financial Principles I Wish My Parents Had Taught Me

Guest post from Jason of Work Save Live

Looking back on my childhood, I can’t remember a time that my family taught me or talked to me about managing money. There was never a mention of anything regarding a budget, limiting spending, saving, or investing for retirement. Even when I left for college, I still hadn’t balanced a checkbook or written a check for that matter!

I realize now that some of my financial struggles as an adult could be directly related to the lack of teaching I received from my parents. The only teaching I received was from what I witnessed: the spending habits of my parents growing up and certainly the habits of the people I associated myself with during college.

Here are three financial principles I wish my parents had taught me:

1. You can’t have everything you want

Although I was raised by a single mother, I never remember going without. We didn’t live luxuriously by any means, if we went to the movies it was on $1 movie night and if we ate out it was typically at all-you-can-eat places where children ate free or at a discount. However, when it came to sports and Christmas presents, I always remember getting what I wanted.

Not only did this hurt my future financial well-being, it also gave me an impractical view of what life really looks like. The reality in life is that you can’t and won’t have (or get) everything you want.

2. You have to work to get paid

While I wasn’t given a strong financial foundation, I was taught a strong work ethic. I did the laundry, cleaned the house, and mowed the yard through my grade school and middle school years. I learned from an early age that I had to work hard if I wanted to succeed in life.

Furthermore, this principle also helped me become a better husband. While my wife and I continue to inch our way out of debt, it’s vital that we complement each other and are one team. When my wife works late I make sure to straighten up the house, cook dinner for the night, and prepare our lunches for the next day.

Not only did teaching me a strong work ethic eventually help my ability to generate income, it’s also strengthened our marriage in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m so thankful it was ingrained in me from the start that nothing in life is given to you and that, as a family, we must all work together and contribute to the household.

3. You can’t spend everything you earn

I wish my parents had taught me how to manage money. Instead, they modeled a life of spending everything they earned.

As I recall on my childhood, I distinctly remember trips to Walmart and the wonderful clearance racks that line parts of their stores. My mom would often buy things that we’d never use solely because the price was reduced.

Instead of budgeting, having a limit, and paying in cash, I remember the majority of the things we bought were purchased with credit cards. As time passed, the debt started to rack up (along with the associated stress and collection calls) and by the time I reached high school she had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

Being a single mother with two growing boys couldn’t have been easy, but it was still possible to survive and prosper (due to living on a tight budget) despite the circumstances.

While some of us are destined to learn life’s lessons the hard way, it never hurts to ingrain these valuable principles early in your children’s lives.

 Jason is a financial coach and advisor. He started Work Save Live in late 2011 in hopes of helping people change the way they think about money, life, and their careers.

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  • J says:

    Sounds like we grew up in the same household. Even though my parents are in their 80’s they continue to spend everything every month. One time I ask my mom if she wished they had saved and she said no. Her and my father’s philosophy is that you only live once so enjoy it. They virtually live month to month with nothing saved for emergencies. I struggled for years to learn to manage my money and save.

    • J,

      Being an advisor and understanding that you MUST save in order to retire one day (whether by choice or force), I always get frustrated with my step dad when he says the exact same thing.

      Luckily my mom has been doing a better job of saving over the past 5 years, but my step dad is 54 and has $30k saved for retirement due to the “you only live once” philosophy. I’m a little scared for him/them as they near the end of their careers.

  • My parents never spoke to me about money either. When I was younger they were okay but then they struggled for years when the guy my dad worked for sold his business after twenty or thirty years. Growing up in an affluent neighborhood only made me more confused as to why everyone else had what I did not.

    I have to say that just being around mom did help somewhat. I have never been a big spender and still find it hard to spend money today. She was always cheap and that sort of made its way into my head. But in terms of anything financial—saving, purchasing, investments, etc—I didn’t have a clue. My husband’s parents were awful with money. But together, we are making huge strides and live in a completely different way than our parents did.

    • TTST,

      I’m with you on growing up in an affluent place. I was able to experience both sides of the road (so to speak) as a child. I grew up in a very poor area but ended up going to middle and high school in the richest part of St. Louis (my mom made it a point to get me out of the school district I grew up in).

      Going to the new school was tough though because I was far-and-away the poorest kid there. It was tough to grasp how some families could vacation to Europe or take the annual ski-trip to Aspen when we were just barely making ends-meet.

      Looking back that experience had a profound impact on my money-managing abilities though. As I grew up after college and learned more about “the true American millionaire” and learned how SOME of the affluent save their money, it has helped me in understanding what it takes to truly live a financially independent life.

  • Amie says:

    Oh, I can relate to this post although, my experiences were different. My parents never had any money growing up and the little money they had they squandered. My mother stayed at home and my dad was unemployed at least half the time. When my Mom got her food stamps and check at the beginning of the month, they were gone within a week or so. We relied on my grandparents, our church, and a local food pantry when we were out of food or our power was disconnected. I worked hard as a teen, but never saved a penny. I helped pay bills and bought food. I went to college and was offered credit cards. I really didn’t understand that by only paying the minimum, I was digging a huge hole. I charged away to eat out and to buy my family groceries or help pay their bills. I entered a relationship with my now-husband and he had no financial skills either so we dug deeper into debt. His parents bailed us out, but we did it again. I was so clueless! Everything changed for me when we decided to have a second baby. I knew I couldn’t afford it. I started scouring the internet for tips (something I’d never considered before). It led me to coupon blogs, frugal blogs, etc. I started couponing, cooking from scratch, and stopped using credit cards. I am literally still paying for my mistakes, but I make an effort to teach my children about saving, spending, and making choices.

    • Such a great story, Amie! My prayer is that all parents take an active role in ingraining wise financial principles into their children at an early age, because if they don’t, the only path is learning lessons the hard way – as both of us experienced. Certainly not all children will grasp the life lessons parents try to impose on them, but I have to believe that trying to teach them how to manage money is much better than ignoring the topic.

  • Missy June says:

    Thank you for sharing! I’m a single mama of three and we strive to maintain a debt-free lifestyle. I’m not doing a great job in the savings departement … but hopefully in time I can grow that aspect.


  • Jessica says:

    I dislike the first point.
    I was actually discussing this with friends over the weekend.
    Many parents work hard to give their children a good childhood. They often make sacrifices (wether sacrificing their own things or as a household) to give their children good experiences. We shouldn’t knock the hard work they did. As long as you still had food shelter, and clothing, be appreciative that your parents gave you the opportunity to be in sports. Whether or not they show what (if any) was sacrificed is there call. Now that I am an adult, I recall eating out less when we were in an activity, and we didn’t participate year round. As a kid, those didn’t make an impact on me.
    I never thought anything of going to Ponderosa. As a kid, buffets were fun, I could choose and change my mind.My parents didn’t directly impress upon me that things were tight, but I think a big way I learned was that you don’t get everything at the store. You can’t always get the bag of chips, candy, or toy, because money is tight and this is grocery money. Ice cream doesn’t always fit in the budget.
    I remember rolling change with my dad for deposit. that was a big way to learn about savings (plus counting). I never thought of my piggy bank as spending money. Plenty of kids I knew saved their change and blew it at the 5 and dime.
    When I got older, I learned about retirement, and have saved for it. Maybe to the reverse end though. I am not yet 30, with a very decent emergengy fund, and modest start to retirement savings. But, part of my inclination to an emergency fund comes from the rough times in 08/09.

    I definately agree with 2 and 3, but I think #1 is about making choices and trade offs as needed. What do you want to make happen, and what do you need to do to get there.

    • Ginger says:

      I have to say I appreciated point number 1 probably the most. We are solidly middle class. My husband provides, thanks to our Lord, a decent living for our family. I have worked full-time, part-time and now I stay home. We can afford things that, growing up, were not an option for either of our families. Camps, sports, vacations are things that come to mind.

      However, we do not provide all these things for our son. We choose wisely how and where we will spend our money for these extras. And we have always made our son aware of our financial choices in these areas, being careful to educate him that sometimes just because you “can” afford something doesn’t mean you “should” spend your dollars in that area. He’s twelve now, and I am so proud of the thought he gives to a purchase or a request for an “extra”.

      I, by no means, feel he is deprived or has had a bad childhood experience because of our solid financial teachings. He participates in plenty of activities, has plenty of things he wants. But he has learned to choose thoughtfully and (usually, he is 12) wisely between his options. Truth is, as adults, most of us can’t have everything we want when we want it. I think we do our children a disservice in not teaching them this while they are still in the safety of our homes.

    • Hi Jessica! Thanks for your insightful comment.

      I can’t disagree with your opinion because it’s certainly a great point and we’re all entitled to our beliefs, however I write from the experiences I’ve gained both personally and what I’ve seen through coaching hundreds of people over the last few years.

      I’d say that the BIGGEST trap I see 90% of parents make is an emotional spending pattern they develop with their children when they have the mentality of giving their kids a “better childhood” that you referenced.

      Parents go into debt and ignore saving for retirement and building emergency fund savings so they can take their children out to eat, buy them wonderful Christmas presents, pay for their college, take them on the annual family vacation, AND put them in all of the sports that’s known to man.

      While I agree with you that there is NOTHING wrong with trying to give your children a great childhood, I simply want to encourage parents to find a happy medium of giving their children a wonderful life WHILE being responsible to your family’s present AND future financial situation.

      • Lisa says:

        I agree with both of you on some level. All parents want there kids to have better-but there are a lot of things that are more important ($ to pay for emergencies, food, the mortgage and car repair). We struggle with that feeling, we are constantly telling our kids “don’t break that it is expensive”, or “keep the lights off electricity is something we pay for” and I don’t want to do that all the time. On the other hand a friends kids have a battery powered kids car that my kids absolutely love-and I saw my husband searching online for one yesterday-and it is TOTALLY out of our budget, we can’t give them everything they like since that can change instantly and you will never be able to keep up. There has to be a balance. I wish my parents had been a better example, but we are trying to change that for our kids.

      • Jessica says:

        Each person on this particular thought has a good point. One thing I would like to mention (as someone who is only 25 and remembers being a kid well) is that if the budget allows parents spending money to go get starbucks or whatever and the child is actively participating in the home and in education it only seems fair to allow them some “spending money” of their own for sports, camps, ect. Seeing parents buy things that aren’t a need but saying you can’t do something that teachers life lessons, builds friendship, and can encourage physical and mental health is hard. I realize that not all budgets allow for this luxury. Its all about balance.

        I played sports but through the YMCA not a competitive league. We did the things the Jones did but just on a scale we could afford and I think that is also an important thing to remember. I also remember when I was struggling at school and need private expensive tutoring not being able to play sports or get things even the family wanted at the store. As everyone says its a balance.

      • Jessica says:

        I do see your point, that many people get wrapped up in giving a “better” childhood, and spending more than they bring in.

        I guess I should say that I also don’t support spending just because you have it. and that doesn’t mean every activity you child “wants” to do should be done. I only went to sports camp in high school once, because of the cost. It was the third of 4 years, so no question on liking the activity. But, I greatly appreciate that my parents had saved and gave me the opportunity to go and experience it.

        There’s a difference between what you called “emotional” spending, and spending on something you know will be a good memory and that will be highly enjoyed.

        I see a kid with 2 toys that he always enjoys, and a kid with too many to remember that never get played with.

        My dad got into financial advising later in life, and has seen parents knowing throw money to their children, basically an income. He has shown them that if they keep that up, they will bebroke by age x, and they don’t care.

        There’s also many people who buy more than they can afford because they are materialistic in the way that they care what others think. They feel if they keep getting new cars, that means they do well for themselves. they get every toy on the market for them and their kids.
        But if you are able to save up and take your kids to disney when they are the perfect age for it, (and you won’t go broke/starve/loose the chicken coop) there is NO REASON to feel BAD or GUILTY about it.

        • Jessica says:

          I agree with the other Jessica. “Budgets” are subjective. She noted the Starbucks. I have a coworker that ALWAYS brings her lunch and complains that she can’t eat out because she is on a budget. But, that is her choice. She chooses to bring her lunch and buy fancy clothes. Her cube neighbor is the exact reverse, always buys lunch, coffee, “water”, and wears her clothes out.
          Sometimes a budget has room for subjective. And you could take that budget of starbucks, fancy clothes, or who knows, and buy your child an instrument for band, would you? That’s a choice you have to make.

  • Jenna says:

    Same situation here, my mom was a single mother who relied on credit cards to meet our “needs”. She passed away two years ago and she still had 20,000 in credit card debt and had no savings or life insurance. I would not want to leave that burden to my family, as my brothers and I, who all have young famiies had to come up with 9,000 for all the funeral and other expenses. Needless to say, it has inspired my husband and I even more to leave under our means and not repeat our family’s mistakes.

    • J says:

      I do so understand, we have had to bury an adult daughter, a father and brother because no one planned. Big drain on a tiny budget. I am grateful that we were able to do so.

    • Kathleen says:

      Life insurance is soooo important. My sister died very unexpectedly at the age of 37. Thank God she had insurance. I don’t know how we would have been able to pay for her funeral expenses. If you don’t have it PLEASE consider getting it. You never know.

    • TNK says:

      So what happens if you aren’t able to pay for a funeral or burial costs? Doesn’t the state take over?

  • anonymous this time says:

    Thanks for this post. It gave me a lot to think about. It’s a subject I’ve been reflecting on lately. We never had a lot of money when I was growing up, but I still had much more stuff than I needed. My mom taught me to look for good deals and make do with cheap things instead of expensive things, which I think is an important skill, but now that I have a couple of children of my own and have been learning to manage my own family’s finances, one of the things I have observed about her is that she doesn’t budget. She looks for deals and buys things when they are cheap, but I don’t think she keeps track of what she spends. The result is that she rarely buys nice things because instead she buys a lot of cheap things, so she still spends a lot of money and thinks she’s saving money because everything she buys is cheap. She also caves in when my younger siblings (who are still fairly little) beg her for treats or trips to the thrift shop. When I visit them I feel sad because the house is full of junk that was bought because it was cheap. I suspect they could be much better off financially if they could develop a budget and learn to say, “We can’t get this because it doesn’t fit into the budget this time.” On my most recent trip I was especially struck by this problem, and the result was that I returned motivated to make a monthly budget so that I can know when to stop myself.

    • Jessica says:

      You should sit down with your mom, adult to adult, in a non threatening/embarassing way, and speak to her about this. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

  • Michelle says:

    I think it was and still is common for parents to not teach money skills to their children. Many expect schools to do this; both settings home and school would be beneficial for children living in the US a country with debt and nearly all its citizens drowning in debt. Budgeting, loans, retirement . . . these are essential. In my state, more than half receive government assistance while the middle class is dwindling. We also need to look closer at college costs and actually consider the cost rather than just where a child might like to go. A friend’s son will have over $100,000 in debt at the end of four years sinc he chose a private college because our society says kids should be able to choose whatever they want. We need a focus on finances, it’s extremely important.

    • Danielle B says:

      The fact that most people don’t have financial wisdom is very evident in the housing market, the student loan market, and the personal debt market, as you pointed out.

      In each of these markets, a MASSIVE percentage have stepped out, borrowing much more then they could ever afford, most of the time putting nothing or very little down to secure the debt (interest only loans, anyone???!!!!) and didn’t actually stop to think about whether they could afford the debt, or pay cash instead. I understand that some “innocents” will get caught in the midst of each of these bubbles, but the fact is that most of these people did not have the wisdom to plan, save, and wait until they can pay cash. And I don’t say that judgementally, because my husband and I, and others in our families have made some of those mistakes ourselves.

      The difference is whether or not we LEARN from these mistakes, assume our own responsibility for those mistakes, work diligently to not let them happen again, and then pass our newly found wisdom on to our children.

      • These are both tremendous points. Obviously I’m a little consumed with all of these realities and statistics as I’m a Dave Ramsey coach and financial advisor, so I could sit and talk about these problems all day but you both nailed them on the head.

        Frankly, I’m of the opinion that we’re unfortunately not going to really turn the corner until we have another 2008 debacle. Student loan debt will continue to climb at an ever-alarming rate and it’s simply a time before that bubble bursts along with a financial crisis from the majority of young adults being strapped with bills they can’t pay.

        It will be interesting to see if the government bails people out then or what will happen exactly. We’re still years away from that but the day will come. We can’t go into debt forever (as a country or as individuals), right?

        I’d like to think not, but we’ve come this far and are $16 Trillion in debt both individually and as a nation.

  • Melissa says:

    Excellent post, Jason. My mom always taught me how to be frugal, which I appreciate, but she never taught me to make more money. Even now, she scoffs at people who make a good living. I hope to teach my kids both sides–how to be frugal and how to make a good living. (But there will still probably be something later they say I wish I would have taught them. :))

  • I grew up spoiled silly in the 80’s, then, after that recession hit, I feel like I received more than my parents could afford. I left home with no clue how to manage money (or laundry or food!) My philosophy on money has changed dramatically since I became a stay-at-home mother. In fact, it astounds my parents that my husband and I (now) budget, avoid credit cards, and tithe. Thank goodness I have learned these skills on my own and can teach them to my little ones.

  • Kathleen says:

    My parents didn’t really teach me how to budget my money. I knew I should work and save some money but, I didn’t realize that I should live on a budget. I started to get some clue about money and savings by working at a bank. I learned how so many people deal with their finances. I didn’t really learn how to budget until I was forced to when my husbands hours got cut almost in half about 3 years ago. I had just had a baby and a three year old and only working part time at the bank. I HAD to learn how to live on very tight budget. We had a mortgage and bills to pay. I started googling how to save money on groceries and found a lot of blogs on it like Money saving Mom. Then I learned about this awesome man named Dave Ramsey. I saved up enough money to take his at home financial peace university class. I LOVED it! My husband loved it too. I guess you could say we were taught by Crystal & Dave Ramsey on how to save and budget our money. We survived and managed not to go into any more debt during that rough time. My husband is now back to working 40 hours a week again after 2 years of almost part time. We are now trying to pay off his truck so we can work on our mortgage. I feel sad for some of our friends who are in so much debt that they can’t sleep at night. We try to help by telling them what we have learned, but they just don’t seem happy unless they have the newest and greates things. They don’t seem to dislike debt as much as my husband and I do.

  • K says:

    Good post.

    I must commend you and your wife for working as a team. When you mentioned that you help w/ chores, dinner, etc. I was pretty much floored. It seems that so many working mothers end up having the full load of two jobs as husbands tend not to lend a helping hand around the house.

    I agree that it is important to teach children about the importance of managing money at an early age. I am making strides to this in our home.

    I really don’t recall my parents teaching us, (my brothers, sisters, and me), about money. It would have been nice to be “warned” or educated about the responsibility of credit cards, the importance of having savings goals, etc. I guess that their parents really didn’t know to tell them, so….. I think that they too wish that they’d known to give us some pointers.

    • I get pretty frustrated with the men out there and their lack of willingness to help around the house. I know guys that come home and plop on the couch all evening and watch TV while the wife cooks, cleans, and gets the kids ready for bed.

      They’re ultimately children trapped in a man’s body.

      Saying all of that, I think my wife realizes she’s pretty lucky. lol. Her friends at work are shocked that I actually make her lunch!

  • Jessica says:

    Like most of you guys my parents didn’t out right teach me about money. They did however teach me to make my own decisions and review each option before making that decision and there were some financial implications there. Also my dad lived a conservative lifestyle and taught me that just because you have money doesn’t mean people have to know. If you see him on the street, you would never know that he helped put his daughter through college where she earned two bachelors degrees and a masters with almost no student loan debt (>$4,500).

    As an adult I have taken these lessons, experience I gained as a bank teller, and lessons I have picked up by reading and formed my own financial platform. My mom who is not the best financial manager now asks me for advice some times. Same with friends. I will share my choices with anyone who wants to know. I only ask that they don’t judge me simply because they choose not to make the same choices. I in turn to my absolute best not to judge them for their choices. I think that is the one lesson I wish I was taught as a child.

  • Lynn says:

    It is funny how a person’s background influences their interpretation of things. I grew up in a middle class family and really didn’t want for anything. We are also solidly middle class and able to provide many things for our children. However, when I ready Point #1 I interpreted it more about achieving balance. For example, we went through a period with my then 5 year old where she was starting to expect something every time we went to a store – partly because I would often pick up treats from the $1 spot. Honestly, when we stopped that habit it wasn’t because we couldn’t afford to spend the $1, it was because we wanted to teach the lesson that you don’t get something you want all the time. My daughter is now 6 and we talk about money, she watches us organize our cash envelopes, and we have purposely had her save her allowance money for items she would like, instead of just buying items for her on occasion and we stress things like “you had to save your allowance for X weeks to get this item, are you sure this is what you want”.

    I guess, for our family, we want our children to know that a balanced life is the best life in our opinion. We still provide lots of opportunities and often explain to our children that we are able to do many extra things because we make choices to live in a balanced way.

    • Lynn,

      It sounds like you do a tremendous job of teaching your children some of life’s important principles. I wish all parents would actually show their children that they don’t get something every time they want it. I think that younger generation would turn out very different if that was the case.

  • Stephanie says:

    I think a great follow-up article to this one would be helpful to give parents tips on how to introduce money concepts to their children at different stages (or maybe it’s already posted to Jason’s blog…sorry, didn’t look yet).

    My daughter is only in preschool, so she’s just learning what money is, getting an allowance, and using her own money to buy something she wants plus giving at church. When she turns five, I intend to teach her the savings aspect of money. That’s a lot to absorb, but I know she’ll begin to understand it better as her math skills advance.

  • Danielle B says:

    This is a wonderful article, and I expect it’s going to spark some debates here since it’s also a difficult subject to think on and make judgement calls on.

    I, too, grew up with parents that imparted next to no financial wisdom to me. Why? Because they lacked it themselves. I grew up just a notch or two above poor, and my husband and I have repeated many of our parent’s mistakes.

    Now, due to many reasons that are too long to share on here, my parents finally began accepting the nuggets of financial wisdom I have gained through people like Dave Ramsey, Crystal from here, and Brandy from The Prudent Homemaker. I may not know any of these people in “real” life, but because of the wisdom and encouragement they put out on the internet on a regular basis my family has been able to learn a new way of living.

    I am very worried that I’m not doing enough to teach my children the actual principles my husband and I have learned or are in the process of learning. But the one thing that has helped me the most is just being very, very honest about our finances. And since we use mostly cash now, before each grocery/household supplies trip I show my oldest two (6 & 4) my list, my estimated total, and how much cash we have. Then in the store we go through the list together.

    For example, if I have peanut butter on my list I say, “Okay, now we need peanut butter. I have $3 budgeted. Let’s find the biggest container we can for $3.” If we find one that’s $3.28, but it’s the better price per ounce, I’ll explain that we can get the larger/more expensive container because we came $x.xx under budget on some other item(s) OR that we can’t get that item because we have no overage so far.

    It seems like such a small step, but it’s stopped almost all of the asking for extras or toys. My son especially understands that if it isn’t on the list, we aren’t getting it, unless I honestly just forgot to put it on the list, we really do NEED it AND we have the money for it. And my son and daughter take turns handing the money over to the cashier once everything is purchased.

    When we get home, they help unload bags from the van, put things away, and put the bags back. It has really sealed that connect of “you must pay money to bring something home from the store.” This fall we’re also starting the system of earning allowances for extra chores done around the house.

    They also don’t receive toys, presents or extras throughout the year.(Except for the occasional ice cream sundae or something along that line, but it is ALWAYS preplanned and budgeted!) It just makes the two times per year that they do receive something all the more special. This is the first year we’ve implemented the “1 present per child” rule for all extended family. We both have large extended families and it was just getting too crazy. We’ve also encouraged all of our family to think more towards books, school/arts & crafts supplies, or clothing & shoes as gifts.

    These are just some of the things that have started working for us, and will hopefully be stepping stones to greater impartation of financial wisdom to our children in the future.

    • Danielle, it sounds to me that you’re doing great. To teach your kid those lessons when shopping are huge (IMO). I think the next step will just be to teach them how to manage money when they actually receive some (maybe when/if they get a cash gift or when they start getting summer jobs one day).

  • TNK says:

    So saving and being financially responsible is a tough job, especially when you are a single parent. Im a single parent and can tell you that many times we didn’t have enough money to pay the bills. I had to several times put money on a credit card to pay for groceries. You can only work so much, and when rent, utiltities, etc. all go up and you are the one carrying the financial burden for 2 other people (or how many kids you have) you find that there are limits. I would often save up money, only to have something wipe it out. I went 9 years without getting dental work done, or getting my eyes checked because my kids needed food, heat and a roof over their head. Your kids get sick and you don’t have someone else to care for them, that means missed work. A problem at school, a doctors appointment, etc. You get laid off, not because your a bad worker but because of the economy.

    I have an envelope for Christmas and Birthdays. I have a budget and apply every means necessary for my kids to get at least ONE thing they ask for. I don’t think that is a lot or financially wrong.

    I try and provide my kids some opportunities in life, they are involved in sports, music lessons, etc. and it all costs money. You have to make sacrifices in life, and sometimes that means putting your own needs to help someone else out. In this case it’s kids.

    My kids don’t have fancy cell phones, they don’t have the latest do dads.. I think if anything being a single parent has taught them how hard life really is. I haven’t ever sugar coated anything. My kids know that we have limited funds, they each have friends worse off than us with two parents working full time. Even they are having to use credit cards to get through some months.

    The reality of life in America has changed drastically. Even on a cash budget system, people run into problems.

    Have you ever asked your mother what it was like being a single parent? I have found that often times people make these grand statements because they themselves have not been in that same position. In other words they have made it work for them, so why on earth can’t everyone else do it too!!!

    • Amie says:

      I can’t even imagine being a single parent. I am fortunate to have a husband who works and helps out with the household responsibilities. Even with 2 incomes, there were times we had to use the credit card – mostly medical expenses. I put aside a chunk of our tax refund for an emergency fund and I am hopeful that it will get us through any unforeseen expenses. I wish you the best.

  • Katherine says:

    I don’t understand your point two…you seem to be saying that your parents did teach you a work ethic, which belies the title of your article.

    • Katherine, I almost thought I was going to get away with that!

      After a few emails back and forth Crystal and I decided to re-title my original post that I sent them. It was going to be ‘5 Financial Principles to Teach your Kid’s’ but we thought a different direction would be better.

      Little did I realize (I didn’t actually notice it until I reread it yesterday) that my 2nd point was actually a principle I learned and not one I wish I had.

      Sorry for the confusion!

      • Crystal says:

        Whoops — Katherine is totally right and I take full blame for the confusion since I was the one who had Jason edit his original article and then I did the final edits and totally missed that (where is my brain this week?!?). Maybe it should have been titled “Two Principles I Wish My Parents Had Taught Me & One I’m Glad They Did”? 😉

  • Alicia says:

    My dad worked hard (mom was unable to due to disabilities but she had three girls and I was a handful enough) but when he was laid off in my middle school years he didn’t have any retirement. Both left with disability, it was tight, but we managed. I knew what it was to live without and know I don’t get all I wanted, but I never learned what it was like to safe. Every month, money came in, went back out to bills. It’s taken me nineteen years (started working at sixteen), to figure out I need to have a budget and by doing that I can still enjoy life and get some of the things I want (and need).

    I am very candid with my daughter (ten) about money and having to save. She is so very responsible with her money so much that when my boss gave her a chunk, she sat down and planned what she wanted to use it for over the summer, and how much to go in her savings. So happy to see she’s getting the message. 🙂 I think it’s important to let kids be kids and not worry about money but at the same time to give them knowledge and experience with it so they’re not clueless when they’re out on their own, like I was.

  • Kate says:

    I think many of us could’ve written a similar post. I like the intent behind this, making lemonade out of lemons and all that. People with parents who taught them wise stewardship of money are very fortunate. The rest of us went into the world ignorant and making horrible financial choices and habits… then we find Money Saving Mom, LOL.

    • TNK says:

      Im wondering.. now after my post.. how realistic it is for people to NOT make financial mistakes. I think a lot of growing up is realizing that you made mistakes. Even within the financial world there are debates about what is the proper way to save for our retirement.

  • I really think this is a great article, thank you so much for sharing!

  • Kim says:

    You highlight some very important areas of financial know-how.

    The one about getting whatever you want, especially in regards to sports really hits home with me. I see parents spending thousands of dollars and countless hours and driving hundreds of miles so their kids can “get that edge” in their particular sport. Yet, most of them never see the true cost to the family of that slavish devotion.

    • Kim, you can even see some of the defense to spending money on sports within the comments to the post…it’s CRAZY how attached parents have become with allowing their children to play every sport in the world.

      I played soccer, lacrosse, football, basketball, and baseball for years throughout grade school and middle school and then focused on football, track, and basketball in high school. I even went on to play football in college, so I understand the joy kids find in sports and the lessons that it teaches you.

      However, one lady mentioned (above) that they played YMCA sports and I did for years as well. I wish more parents were content doing that though, however, I have a good friend that coaches a bunch of 14-year old kids on his baseball team that they charge every family $3,000/year to participate in – the kicker is that all of these kids are apparently pretty bad and it’s unlikely any them will go on to play college baseball…so why pay $3,000/year when you could go join a rec league or other league and pay far less (or nothing)?

      These parents want to “give an edge” to their kids but they’re completely throwing money down the drain WHILE hurting their financial present and future (sure, some of them may actually be able to afford it, but I’ve coached people for long enough to know that most of them can’t).

      I’ll have a post on my blog about this at some point, but I think it’s unbelievable how much emphasis our culture and parents now put on sports. Some families entire lives revolve around it. It’s what they do every weekend, it’s what they watch at all points during the day, and it’s what they “play” when they go outside.

      It’s quite crazy if you sit back and really think about it.

      • Kim says:

        I think it is a similar cultural pressure to the “gotta go to college” drumbeat. That same senseless, mindless following really bothers me. Not every kid is cut out or ready for college after high school, nor should they or their parents be incurring thousands and thousands of dollars of debt just to go when they don’t have even a smidgen of an idea of what they want.

        I sat down with my nephew about a year ago as he was deciding whether or not to switch to a third college for yet a new major. I asked permission to give him suggestions and he was all ears. We talked about choosing, waiting, trying on careers by working in an industry, doing individual classes like adult ed. I also showed him via an online debt calculator what he already owed and his payback time. He almost fell off the couch, as he had no real idea of what he had already racked up.

        Yet another part of the college experience-the kids truly don’t understand what they are getting into when they borrow so much money!

        We have gotten debt free, and we facilitate Financial Peace for our church. I do all I can in person—and sometimes on my blog when I write about financial topics—to help folks make wiser decisions, especially around college. Like the sports, though, it has been so well sold that parents are loathe to have their kids take another route.

        For the last two years, every graduate to whom we give a gift gets a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover along with a note explaining that if they do what he teaches, our gift will be worth millions. 🙂

        Sorry to go so long. These are such hot buttons for me!

  • Slides 'n Sandboxes says:

    All points mentioned are mostly common sense. The third point here about not spending everything you earn is not happening when that’s all you have for bills (not debts, but luxuries like electricity and heat) and even if you eat only rice and beans, you still need to eat. Ok, you put a third patch on your torn jeans but food is something that you cannot do without. And that’s where it all goes. So, starting a savings account when you get to eat every other day and perhaps twice on Sunday doesn’t seem too wise yet living within your means still means no emergency funds.

  • cathy says:

    I was bothered by the tone of the article more than the content, it didn’t seem to me to fit MSM’s style–I felt the tone was heavy on blaming his mother for any mistakes he and light on empathy and understanding.

    I’m sure the author realizes his mother sacrificed in other areas of her budget to give him things and that her credit card debt was likely a result of trying to give him a good life. These weren’t wise financial decisions, but they may still have been the right ones for her.


    If the author is angry with his mother for not preparing him to face his own financial challenges, a public blog is not the best place to work through those issues. I’m sure the author does not feel he is upset with his mother, but to an outsider reading the article–it is apparant that he is.

    • Thanks for your insight and thoughts Cathy. I will have to disagree with you though…I’m certainly in no-way upset with my mother; if there is any animosity coming across in the post then it’s from a frustration with our country and culture in general.

      My mom did nothing more than most parents do and there in-lies the problem we face as a country moving forward. As parents and people we hide our financial problems, mask the truth of the struggles we’re facing, go into debt on a daily basis, and ignore the realities of our financial futures in lieu of things that bring instant gratification.

      The majority of American’s financial education is learned through making consistent mistakes (often serious) over, and over, and over again.

      My hope for every parent out there is you desire for your child to take a different path. And the only way that will be possible is proactively teaching them how to handle finances at a young age.

      I guess the last part about cultivating empathy and understanding isn’t something that I’m good with (I am it just depends on the context). I desire more for myself, our country, and the people I coach. I’m not really going to look at people’s mistakes an empathize with them; I look to understand why they made them, help them become aware of why they made them, and help them overcome them so they (or others) don’t make them again.

      Nothing is gained or changed if I just empathize and become understanding/accepting of what happened. If somebody doesn’t learn something from their mistakes then that person or somebody else will just make them again.

      I see no point in that I guess. I’m weird though…I know. I accept that. 🙂

  • Michele says:

    I am actually one of the few apparently who came from the flip side. I had parents who modeled good monetary habits and taught me about financial planning. My dad was an excellent role model who made a success of himself out of nothing. His father died when he was 10 and his mom worked at a 5 & 10 as a cashier. So he was fairly poor growing up with no financial education himself. Without a college degree he was able to get into a good career (court reporting) and work extra hours to build up savings. So, in addition to his 9-5 job, he would take night hearings to make extra money that was put away for our college education.

    He listened to radio shows about finances and subscribed to Money and similar-type magazines. He learned about savings and investments, and always told us in general terms what he was doing “I’m working extra night hours so you can go to college.” My mom grew up in a very modest background, too and wasn’t used to any luxury items, so she was not a big spender. By watching them and listening to them, it really made me appreciate all that they sacrificed for us and taught me the value of saving.

    My dad is retired now, and my parents saved enough to have a comfortable retirement income. They put all three of their children through college and were able to provide a new car (up to $10K back in the 80’s) for each of us as a graduation present. By many people’s standards, I suppose you could have called us “privileged” – we went to summer camp every summer and took a beach vacation each year – but we lived in an upper middle class neighborhood, and we were definitely not as well-0ff by our neighborhood standards. We didn’t have designer clothes or fancy vacations. We shopped sales at cheaper-type stores, etc.

    I felt very prepared to start my life, financially, as an independent adult after college. And I attribute a lot of it to my parents. I would say my brother is the same way. My sister, however, despite having the same financial teachings, has gotten into trouble like many people these days – spending more than she has, getting into debt, not saving enough for retirement, etc. So even with the good finanical teachings, people can still get themselves into financial binds (but perhaps it would have been worse without the good finacial background?)

    Regardless, I am thankful for all that my parents taught me financially, and believe I have been successful in my financial endeavors because of it.

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