I have always taken for granted that I am a good saver. I’ve never really thought much about it. It’s just something I do. So, when I came across an article the other day about kids and money management and how parents struggle to teach their kids about saving, it brought up some questions for me. When did I learn about saving money? How has my past helped shape my relationship with money?
I don’t remember thinking about money until I reached about the 7th grade. That’s when I first started noticing what other kids were wearing at school. The cool girls wore brand names like Esprit, Laura Ashley, Keds and Guess. They carried Liz Claiborne purses and sported Swatch watches. All of a sudden, the things I had been wearing just weren’t good enough. When I relayed my feelings to my mom, she told me that if I wanted to upgrade my closet, I would have to pay for the difference. This sounded reasonable until I realized just how expensive everything was. Since Mom had been footing all the bills, I had never noticed what things cost before. Being cool was going to be expensive.
I didn’t have a job and was earning an allowance of $20 a month for helping out around the house. I took out the trash, put dishes away, cleaned my room, fed and watered the pets, picked weeds, swept the deck, etc. I decided to supplement my income by babysitting, but even after months of saving my allowance and babysitting money, I couldn’t afford more than maybe one or two of the items I had wanted. It was also getting harder for me to part with my hard-earned money. I just couldn’t rationalize spending $40 on a Swatch. I mean, that was 2 months of allowance right there!
I started to think about money in a new way. I translated the price of each new thing I wanted to buy into the number of hours I’d have to work to be able to pay for it. I became thrifty and resourceful. I gave up the Guess jeans and settled for Palmettos; I shopped at consignment stores; I even let my mom make me some Laura Ashley-inspired jumpers. I kept saving the bulk of my money, knowing that one day I would want a bike and eventually a car.
After a while, saving just became second nature. Whenever I got cash in a birthday card or made a couple extra bucks helping my dad stain the deck or paint the garage door, I would immediately put it away into an old Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox I had. Eventually I opened a savings account.
Today I continue to save. I make sure to put away a few hundred each month from my paycheck and contribute to my 401k plan. There have been times when I’ve needed to dip into my savings to survive. I’m thankful I had a reserve of funds and didn’t have to rely on a credit card or loan to bail me out.
I hope the parents interviewed in the article I read continue to try and teach their kids about saving, despite the challenges. Their kids will thank them later in life. Like I just did.
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