Money Lessons From My Mom

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Hispanic mother and daughter hugging
Getty ImagesMoms often teach their kids some of their earliest money lessons.
By Gail Blair

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.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Stay organized: She was a firm believer of having a place for everything, and everything in its place. How would I pay my bills if I couldn't find my checkbook, or know when the bills were due if they were scattered around the house? Getting charged my first $25 late fee for a bill I forgot to pay painfully proved this point. Today, there are several mobile apps and websites that make it easy to organize finances and bills online, which I've taken full advantage of because the groundwork was laid years ago.

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.

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Money Lessons From My Mom
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes Mint.com spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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