Friday, July 21, 2006

The Best Financial Advice My Family Members Gave Me

Yes, I did actually listen to you guys.

From my dad: Everybody should have an "oh shit" fund for when something really bad happens. (I think this was a comment on something expensive happening to my sister.) Yes, this is what my emergency fund is titled at ING. I also have a first-response emergency savings of $200 in a savings account at the same bank as my checking account, which is there strictly to transfer money temporarily if I think I am going to overdraw. I don't even include it in my emergency fund tally because it really isn't money that I can spend.

Also, my dad never let us buy cereal that cost more than $2 a box (we clipped coupons a lot) or anything with a lot of sugar, so I really never got into the habit of buying the expensive sugar $5 a box cereal. Boyfriend and I mostly eat the store brand Cheerios with dried berries, or Mini Wheats. Sometimes I get a $1 box of store brand sugary cereal and put 1/2 a cup in with my Cheerios.

From my sister (this was when I was in high school, we were out at a mall and I was trying on shoes that were silly looking - I used to own a lot of those): You shouldn't waste your money on that because you're going to wish you still had that $20 when you are in college. I saved up over $1000 for my first year at college before I left, and since then I have never needed my parents to pay for my incidentals (including books.) I have only borrowed money from my parents once - $150 when my paycheck got screwed up and I was not going to make my summer rent. Because of the "oh shit" fund, I didn't even have to ask to borrow the full amount of rent.

My sister definitely got a LOT more frugal once she was living on her own and it was her money. She has always had roommates and lives in an inexpensive area. She drives a paid-off used car, gets really excited about department store sales, and doesn't have cable or high-speed internet. Right now she is in the process of moving to my parents' city, and basically everything she owns fits in one side of a two-car garage. I don't think all of my stuff would. =)

From my mom: Can we get a box for this? Don't throw that away, someone will eat it. Take a sandwich with you. Don't buy that, I have granola bars in the car. My mom never likes to waste anything, so we would always take home leftovers, reuse food, and take food from home instead of buying things. This is part of the reason that I was very surprised to find, when I began my job, that the other ladies bought their lunches from the cafeteria every day instead of bringing them - I did that in high school, when it was $1.75, but I made great use of the dining hall in college so I wouldn't need to buy food. (At one job, I had a stash of nonperishables from the dining hall's bag-lunch program in my desk so I wouldn't have to buy anything from the vending machine.) My mom also had the knack of making things that are commonplace for most other kids into a special event - like getting breakfast at Burger King, but only on the way to Sunday school at the synagogue once a week.

From my grandparents: We didn't like it, but we saved the rest for you so you can eat it. We bought you some Diet Coke because it was on sale. That banana's not rotten, I'll just put it in banana bread. Here, I made you a new hat. If you don't want it, send it to Goodwill. These are my mom's parents, and you can see where she (and therefore I) got it. They would never throw out anything they thought somebody somewhere might use, had an entire pantry full of canned goods bought on discount, and my grandmother would make and mend their clothes. They definitely had the Depression-era mentality, and were extremely frugal about everything (except gifts to us grandkids!) but because of that they were able to help their children finance cars without using high interest loans. They also put three kids through school on one income (although the kids I think paid for grad school on their own.)

My mom said that she realized that depriving them of stuff as kids allowed my grandma to squirrel away a LOT of money for their retirement. This is part of the reason that I'm so gung ho about my own retirement savings, because just like them I only have myself to depend on. My grandfather worked as a traveling salesman and I doubt he had any kind of pension, so if it weren't for my grandmother's penny pinching habits they might have had a much worse retirement. They moved to a retirement home about five years ago, and my aunt took over managing the rest of their money, but they probably wouldn't be able to live at such a nice one without careful planning. I'm hoping I can do as well as they did - using their financial mindset is probably a good start.


kyle said...

You got some great advice from family. All of them I use myself. The only financial advice I received was that if I saved $10,000, I'll have many more options in life.

D said...

Sometimes life seems to get away from me and I forget what I have received from the people of my life.

Thanks for the reminder. With all the faults of family, they are still are largest asset.

mapgirl said...

Awesome post! That's great you know where you got it from. Thanks for sharing it with us!

Kailani said...

An "oh shit" fund? That's pretty funny! It's great that you didn't have to depend on your parents in college. Not too many students can say that!

Here from the Carnival of Family Life.

Anonymous said...

What good advice! My dad's advice was, "Why would you pay someone to borrow money and have a credit card and then have to pay interest?" But I wanted it so baaaadly--and I got burned in college with that $1000 limit. Should have listened to my dad as well as you listened to your family!