As a child, my mom always made me feel safe, secure and loved. But she also made it a priority to prepare me for a life of financial stability. She spent a lot of time and effort over the years to set me on the right path. Sometimes she taught by example, and other times it was necessary for me to learn the hard way. These lessons have become a part of my core set of values and impact how I strive to teach my own child as well as my work for a coupon company. Here are some of the key money lessons I learned from my mom.
Make your own money: My mom believed I wouldn't truly understand the value of a dollar unless I had to earn it myself. I got my first job at 15 and continued to have a job throughout college. Yes, working for minimum wage while my friends spent lazy days by the pool was hard. But as time went on, I realized I made more responsible decisions when I earned my money. I became a savvy shopper and learned to use coupons and scoured store sales and clearance racks for the best deals.
Invest: Sometimes spending less doesn't equal saving more. I remember on one of our shopping trips, I proudly showed my mom a trendy blouse I had fallen in love with and it was only $10! I was sure she couldn't object. Not so fast. After closely eyeing the cheap garment, she asked me how many times I'd be able to wear it before it fell apart or was no longer fashionable. Two times? Three times? This taught me my first lesson in investment shopping: Calculate the per wear price. It didn't seem like such a bargain after all. Sometimes it's worth paying more for high-quality, timeless pieces if I can get more uses and versatility out of them in the long-run.
Make it work: As you could probably guess, my mom didn't grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth. There was no extra money to spend on items deemed frivolous, which unfortunately for her meant toys. She became very resourceful with what she had around her. She made flowers by folding old newspapers and caught insects to keep as pets to distract herself from the fact that she didn't have dolls to play with. She reimaged most items into serving more than one purpose. Once when I ran out of glue for a school project, she used some leftover cooked rice from our dinner and mashed together a sticky paste to hold together my artwork.
Cash in on the perks: We were fortunate that the company my father worked for paid for annual family vacations, including first class tickets and upgraded hotel accommodations. A very nice perk indeed! However, she would book us in coach and we would stay in more moderately priced lodgings or sometimes even stay home for a staycation. There were times I whined about it, but she would respond that we would have more spending money for shopping and fun activities. She won that argument every time.
Let your head rule your heart: This isn't to say my mom doesn't believe in true love or romance. But she felt having financial compatibility with your mate was just as necessary to sustain a happy marriage. It was important that she and my father were on the same page with their spending habits and financial goals. Bad spending of habits of one person in a family causes bad consequences for everyone.
Know when to hold them, know when to fold them: I used to cringe that her relentless bargaining skills could reduce a grown man to tears, but more times than not, she got what she felt was a fair price. She taught me to set a budget beforehand and not to be afraid to ask for a discount to get to that amount. The worse answer I could hear was "no." And if I couldn't close the deal, she taught me to just walk away. At times that was easier said than done, but she felt that agreeing to pay beyond your budget was the same as tossing money in the garbage. That mental picture has stopped me from many last-minute purchases.
I'll admit I've faltered from my mom's lessons over the years. Nobody's perfect, after all. But thanks to my mom, when I get financially off-kilter, I have the tools to always get myself back on track.
Gail Blair is a consumer engagement specialist at coupon company, Valpak and editor of their savings blog, Behind The Blue.