In our house, we have a picture of our mom when she was in elementary school – we looked just like her when we were her age. Seriously, the resemblance is crazy. But that’s only skin deep. Inside, I have inherited my mom’s love of reading, many of her mannerisms, and even her meticulousness (although this last one may not always be a good thing because it makes me a perfectionist).
But many of us don’t realize how much our parents have influenced how we behave as adults. For some people this is a good thing, but for others it’s a horrifying realization. We’d like to think that we have complete control over ourselves and how we act. However, there’s always that subconscious side of us that’s working just below the surface. Sometimes it’s working in our favor; other times, it is working against our best intentions.
Unfortunately our parents don’t have the luxury of knowing which lessons they are passing on to us. In this post I have chosen to focus only on the positive money lessons I have learned from my family, but perhaps in a future one I will discuss those which I wish I had learned. Here are the 8 money habits my family taught me:
- Invest in quality. We live in a very consumeristic society where items are cheap to purchase but often lack the quality craftsmanship to give them long-lasting ability. So, when our old snowblower from the 1970s refused to start anymore, we went and bought a new top-of-the-line one complete with the option of the electric starter and enough power to throw the snow half way across the yard. We paid a lot more for it, but we know it will get a lot of use and last us for many winters to come.
- Buy used when possible. Now this lesson does not always apply; there are some things that you should never buy used. However, when this concept is applied to certain furniture (not upholstered) or cars, this lesson is a huge money saver. Oftentimes, people look down at buying used items. But, why would you buy used if you could afford new? That’s where their thinking is wrong. I can afford new because I buy used.
- Take care of what you have. Because I choose not to have a lot of belongings, I take really good care of what I have so that it will last a long time. This is especially true with clothes. Just the other week I noticed that some of the stitches were coming out of one of my silk shirts. I got some thread and stitched that puppy back together and it looks better than ever I think.
- Buy in bulk. This lesson I owe to my grandma. I remember she always kept a sack of potatoes and onions in the garage and a very large container of olive oil that she would just refill the bottle with. Now, I too look for opportunities to stock pile essential items (although nowadays most of my stock piles comes directly from my garden).
- If you can’t pay for it now, don’t buy it. I’m glad I learned this principle early. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone..
- Never pay for what you can (learn to) do yourself. My dad is the kind of guy who likes to build things and work on cars. When he decided at the age of 62 that he wanted to build a new deck on his house to replace the one he built 3o years ago, he turned to YouTube to learn how to install a new one using composite lumber. When our windshield wipers broke, we Facetimed him so that he could walk us through how to replace them ourselves. Doing these things ourselves is not always convenient, but I do have the peace of mind to know that I did it the way I wanted it done and my money is staying in my pocket.
- Start investing early. The ink on my diploma hadn’t even dried, and my parents were already espousing the importance of saving for retirement…even if it was only a small amount each month. Although it took a few years to really start hearing them on this topic, I am glad that they took the time to make sure we started to invest early in our careers.
- Return what you don’t want. There was a recent article in NY magazine titled The Weird Psychology of Store Returns that talked about just this idea. If you don’t want something, return it.
What habits have your families taught you?
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