This is a guest post by John Gower, a writer for NerdWallet.
For most of us, the first thing we learned about finances from our mothers was the sage wisdom, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” But there is a lot more we can learn from our moms about keeping our financial house in order, after all, moms are often tasked with budgeting, day-to-day spending, and other household financial skills. Here’s a summary of some of the best things we picked up from our mothers.
It’s an unfortunate fact that credit card debt can get racked up faster than you can believe. A lot of moms have stories of barely making it by in parts of life, and the tricks they’ve learned can save us a lot of trouble. Living within your means according to mom means that if you have a credit card, understand its perks and pitfalls – don’t accumulate more debt in a month than you know you can pay off. It means buying store brand groceries (you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t a brand name without looking at the label!) and saving up for a new car or other big purchases instead of piling on debt and hoping for the best.
As kids, most people get told to stop complaining and deal with it. Don’t have enough money for the latest gadget? Go earn some money for it: mow lawns, wash cars, or get a real job if you’re old enough. Moms aren’t about to let you whine your way into wasteful spending. It’s the same way now that you’re an adult: complaining accomplishes exactly nothing (maybe worse than nothing if you complain to the wrong people!). Moms also were all too eager to remind us that about the things we do have: food on the table, a stable place to live, parents who care. So, maybe you hate your job, but you can be grateful that you have one and that the skills you’re learning there can be something you can use to get into a job you hate less.
Eating out once in a while might not seem like much, but if you don’t keep track of those expenditures, they will creep on up until you’re spending a lot of money and have no idea where it goes. Maybe you always wanted to buy lunch at school instead of brown-bagging it, but mom always said no. That’s because she knew that $2-3 per day would rapidly become $40-60 per month, and that’s a pretty good chunk of cash just for school lunch. It seems like a no-brainer that money adds up, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that going out to lunch “here and there” is going to take a toll on the budget in a real way.
Knowing exactly how much money you can expect to take in every month allows you to make a budget so that you’ll know exactly what you can and cannot afford. Part of that budget needs to be saving for a rainy day—another mom lesson. Set a budget that includes room for savings, necessities, and a little bit of fun too.
“If you want anything from the store, put it on the list,” was a common refrain in my house. Moms know that making a grocery list keeps them from buying all the crazy foods you don’t need at the store and you can use this technique as an adult too. Grocery lists are a great way to buy food, but you can also use lists in real life. Make a list of things you really want instead of buying things right away. Check the list in a month or so, and if you still really want something, then you can work it into your budget. Lists keep us from splurging on things we may not really want or need.
John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet, a website dedicated to helping youth and moms alike compare savings accounts, CD rates, checking accounts, and more.
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