I always joke that I come from a long line of Penny Pinchers, Frau Frugals, and Tedious Tightwads, but quite honestly it is absolutely true. And probably one of the biggest influences in my own financial life is my mother, Penny Pincher Numero Uno. She is the quintessential Frau Frugal (yes Frau – she’s quite German you know), but she is also the perfect example of what you can do with your financial life if you actually have the nerve to live a more frugal lifestyle. So to honor her during her birthday month, I thought I’d offer you 15 Financial Tips From My Mother…the Original Tightwad.
But first here’s a little about her background so that you understand her better.
What Makes an Original Tightwad?
My mother started her life born to German/Canadian parents who thanks to a calling to be Lutheran pastor and Lutheran’s not being too financially kind to their pastors back in the day, didn’t have much in the way of extras. There were many Christmases, holidays, birthdays in which there were no presents, there were many times in which her mother scrambled to simply feed her family, and there were years in which my mother had two outfits that she exchanged back and forth every other day. My grandparents didn’t own their their first home, a condo, until retirement using a very modest inheritance from my grandmother’s father that could have easily been blown over the years for clothes and food but instead was hoarded away for a rainy day. And yet, my mom and her three siblings all were able with the help of my grandparents to go to college, seminary, and nursing school. Priorities I suppose were different in those days.
My Mom and Her Parents (Far Right)
Me (Far Left)
My mother married my father in 1967, with my mom giving my dad the ultimatum that she would not marry him unless he went back to and graduate from college. They lived very meagerly during those years that she worked as a nurse to put my dad through school. I was born at the end of the last year my dad was in college, and my first bedroom was the kitchenette area in a basement apartment in the bad part of Kansas City. My mom chose to stay home with me at that point, and she carefully set away money during her pregnancy gambling that my father would immediately become employed after he graduated. Her gamble paid off. We moved to Tulsa where my Dad worked as a mechanical engineer in the oil industry, and the rest as they say is history.
Living the life as a child of a parent who grew up desperately poor and who eventually became very financially comfortable in many ways is a blessing. That fear my mom always had that the next day all that they had gained financially would disappear was always there, and it rubbed off on her children. We’ll never forget the many financial lessons over the years, and as some of them are classics that I see financial writers writing about every day, I thought I’d share a few lessons with you. Here are my favorites.
15 Financial Tips From My Mother
1. Always know where your money is, even if you are not the one managing it.
Especially important to all of you whose spouse is paying the bills and managing your investments.
2. Live on one income, and if you have a second income, pretend like you don’t and sock it away.
3. Make car payments to yourself and pay cash for your cars.
4. When clothing shopping only shop the discount racks.
And 20% off? That’s no discount.
I think I bought those earrings from a discount rack.
aka…My Awkward Family Photo Moment
5. Don’t be afraid to shop in weird and unusual places.
My mom called me one day and had me meet her at an old grocery story in Tulsa that was selling “earthquake sale” furniture (furniture that had been damaged in the earthquake in California 1989). I found a Henredon sofa that at that time normally sold for $1500 for $500. It was not earthquake damaged in the least, and I still have that sofa. And that brings me to my next lesson.
6. Always buy quality over quantity.
Quality items last longer and saves you money in the long run.
7. Avoid at all costs buying convenience foods.
They are always more expensive that cooking from scratch. Yes. Even if you buy them with coupons making them free. They are more expensive as they will cost you in medical expenses because you are eating so badly when you eat convenience foods.
8. Always meal plan to the sales at the grocery store.
She recycled when recycling wasn’t cool or green or trendy. I grew up with butter dishes being used as storage containers, baby bottles being used to store hardware in the garage (nail, screws and such), and zip locked bags drying in the kitchen having been rinsed out and used over and over again.
10. Take a senior with you on senior discount day to get the senior discount.
She actually yelled at me once for buying something at Ross Dress for Less on a non-senior discount day even though I bought the item off the clearance rack at Ross Dress for Less. “You could have gotten more off with my discount,” she scolded.
My Personal Senior Shoppers
11. Do it yourself, but know when to hire an expert.
12. Stalk items and wait for major sales before purchasing them.
And if it disappears before the sale? You didn’t really need that item.
13. Know when to walk out during major purchase negotiations.
The deals my mom has made over the years? Magic. All because she walked out when they wouldn’t agree to her terms. Amazingly they always call days or weeks later ready to match what she wanted.
14. Invest in yourself and your kids’ education.
The long term payout is always worth it.
My Mom with My Kids
And her latest thing she’s been harping on….I mean giving me advice about?
15. Pay off your house and invest your mortgage payment instead.
She argues that the write off that she was getting by making a mortgage payment is totally trumped by the money she is making off of having the extra money to invest.
What financial lessons are you teaching your kids?
And if you feel so inclined? Join me in offering my mom a happy birthday.
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