The best financial advice my mom ever gave me helped sustain our family through financial hardships. I hope this advice will encourage you!
I am often asked how our family survived the Great Recession on a low income.
As a 1980 baby, I grew up in a generation that entered adulthood with more financial mishaps and fewer opportunities for financial gain than both that of our parents and grandparents.
But that doesn’t mean we need to wallow in self-pity.
When we were just barely making it, I was able to look back to the frugal life under which my parents raised me and draw from their wisdom in making every penny stretch.
There are several areas in which my mom–or really both of my parents–armed me with financial wisdom:
The Best Financial Advice My Mom Ever Gave Me
1. Don’t pay more than necessarily.
My parents were always looking for a bargain.
Clipping coupons and shopping at discount stores were their game, and they played it well.
I learned how to shop for clothes by entering the store and instantly heading for the clearance racks!
2. Don’t Live Above Your Means.
Living at or below your means is one of the best ways to save money.
Admittedly, this is hard or even impossible if you are living on a low income, but if you are middle class or above, strive to live on less money than you are making.
Refusing to use credit cards, adhering to a lower grocery budget, and buying a house smaller than the bank says you can afford will all make a big impact toward future financial security!
My parents could have afforded brand new vehicles and expensive lunches out, but, instead, they chose to drive used cars, and my dad brown-bagged lunches for the majority of his 40-year career in hospital administration.
Were they made fun of a few times because of this?
You bet, but my mother was able to stay at home with her children, my dad retired at 63, and they funded all three of their children through Christian school and college.
Living below their means in the little areas paid off big in the more significant areas of their lives!
3. Don’t reveal your income.
Although my parents taught me and my siblings how to live a frugal lifestyle, they never revealed their income to us, or anyone.
My mom and dad taught me that how much money someone makes should be a very private subject–one that you only share with your spouse.
Revealing your income can change the way people think about you. It can alter relationships and even bring out those who want to use you.
It can also take the focus off of the provider of that money–God–and onto the person who possesses it.
On the other hand, however, you should consider revealing your income to a trusted financial advisor. They really need to see your income in order to best help you.
We revealed our income to two trusted financial advisors who helped us make a plan to be more financially successful.
4. Don’t even try to keep up with the Joneses.
The riches of this world will all pass away. We can’t take our money or material goods to the grave.
There will always be those who have more and those who have less, but choosing to spend our money just to keep up with those around us will never bring us financial peace in the end.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SunTrust. The opinions and text are all mine.
The best financial advice I can give is to watch your own money. Don’t pay anyone else to watch your money. You will 100% of the time be more concerned about losing your money than anyone else.
The key is to don’t live beyond your means. No matter how much you make, even if you are at poverty level. It can be done.
My parents also taught us well. They raised 9 kids in the Silicon Valley and paid off their house when I was around 7-8 years old. Always bought used cars with cash. My mom never worked outside the home (but her job was way more stressful and hard than my dad’s job). My dad didn’t even have a college degree and was able to do this.
The trick is to pay the Lord first (tithing) and then pay yourself (savings). Then, pay your bills. If there are more bills than you have money for, then you are living too rich for your paycheck.
It is simple budgeting.
Don’t have more children until you can afford to take care of them. Medicaid and WIC and food stamps are not the solution, just because you are not good at family planning. Sorry (not pointed to anyone in particular). If a family believes they need to populate the earth, multiply and replenish, great. I am all for big families. I come from a family of 9 children! But don’t do it relying on the government. In fact, if you are on any government aid and want more kids — wait until you are self sufficient before you have more. Then, have as many as you want.
I love kids. I love large families. But I don’t like paying for other people’s kids.
tired of American conservative rhetoric
This is an American cultural response. In most western countries families receive government benefits because it is understood that families are the bedrock of society, and that those children you consider parasites will grow up to pay for our retirements. Only in the USA are families put on the pedestal politically, and then made to feel like failures if they fall on hard times. Thankfully I live in a country which believes families are important, and puts its money where its mouth is.
You are right. It is a typical American response. 🙁 Until people have lived poverty level (our family has), they cannot speak to this. Thank you for sharing.
Rebecca, I am offended by your comment. I find it incredibly patronising to say, “You can live below your means, even if are at poverty level.” You cannot know that it is possible for every family, in every circumstance. What if the family lives in Manhattan? Oh, I know – “They should move!” Moving is expensive. Historically, the families that moved west were the families that had capital behind them; the only exception to this was the Mormon handcart pioneers, who were financed in their journey west. Moving is certainly not any cheaper now – on top of the actual, physical costs of moving (hiring a rental van, gas) you also have the costs of first and last month rent and security deposit; moving takes literally thousands of dollars in capital. And moving can mean losing the only support system they have – no more grandparents to provide free babysitting means no more going to a job, even if it is a crappy job that doesn’t pay the bills. Or what if a family is struggling with a long-term illness or disability, and the bills keep piling up? What’s your solution there? “They shouldn’t have been silly enough to get luekemia in the first place!” “Your kid doesn’t really need a wheel chair, let him crawl along on his hands and feet, it’ll build his character!” It’s not always the case that “people are living too rich for their paycheck.” Sometimes the paycheck is really, truly, just not enough.
And children should not have to starve just because money is tight. You resent your money going towards helping a child eat? You’re cold-hearted. My parents resented the hell out of their tax dollars going towards the Iraq war. So why don’t we just pretend that your money went towards killing innocent civilians, and my parents’ money went towards feeding innocent children? Then you can be happy pretending that not a single dime of your hard-earned money is going to, you know, actually helping people survive. Because how dare people want to eat! Why, if they can’t afford bread, “let them eat cake!”
And before you come back here with some smarmy, “Well obviously you’re one of the families I’m talking about” – I don’t live in the US. I don’t cost the American government (or you) a single solitary cent, other than for the wages of the TSA and Customs agents who are employed by the airport when I fly in to visit my family. (And here’s a novel thought for you – that money actually HELPS the US economy, because tourism = jobs = people have money to spend.) Leaving the US was the best financial decision I ever made. The standard of living is much better over here; we are better-paid and have more money in the bank than if we’d stayed there; and it’s a safer, healthier, and more compassionate place to raise our children. Our children are American citizens, and part of me hopes they decide to live in the US for a while, but part of me dreads knowing that if they do that, they’ll come into contact with people like you. I hope to G-d I’m giving them the sort of moral grounding that will allow them to see through opinions like yours.
Just adding that I also cost the US government money because I still have to file a tax return (did you know the US is the only country in the developed world that makes expats file tax returns?) and file financial information (did you know the US is the only country in the world that makes expats report bank account details?) and so people have to be employed to review those; and I also cost the US money because of the NSA. (Hey there, you friendly NSA person who is reading this because mentioning the NSA probably flags a post! I hope you’re having a great day!) But really, truly, I think that’s a full cost-accounting of the money I cost the US government.
I’m so sorry I didn’t catch her comment until now. My family lived with the help of government aid for a few years, and I am so thankful for it.
I agree with watching your own money. When you are at poverty level, it is very, very hard to live within your means because you can’t even afford food. I know this because I’ve lived this.
I know there are a lot of emotions involved when it comes to government aid, but I am thankful for the time our family was able to benefit from WIC and Medicaid for children and pregnancy when we were in a very dark season and were trying to get back on our feet.
Now, as business owners, we have “paid back” what we benefitted from many times over–and I am so happy that our taxes can go to helping other families in need.
A lifestyle? Never. A short-term fix to help those struggling? Absolutely.
My husband’s a financial adviser. The notion that you are the best person to watch your money is factually incorrect; working with a financial adviser adds an average of 7% extra growth per year to your overall wealth. And yes, they do need to have a complete and accurate understanding of your finances in order to help you achieve that; they can’t help you if you keep your income a secret.
My parents taught me to: trust in the Lord; always pay my tithing; live below my means; and always keep a cushion in my checking account. Does anyone actually have a checking account any more? But the same principle applies to your every-day spending account – Always have a cushion in there, to protect against overdrafts. The trick is to teach your mind to pretend it’s not there, so you don’t spend it; but it’ll keep you from having to pay bank fees if you accidentally spend too much.
Hi Becca, did you see this in the post? “On the other hand, however, you should consider revealing your income to a trusted financial advisor. They really need to see your income in order to best help you.
“We revealed our income to two trusted financial advisors who helped us make a plan to be more financially successful.”
I agree we should reveal our income to trusted financial advisors.
Sorry, I was responding to Rebecca’s comment up above, that you shouldn’t trust anyone else to look after your money. Just about everything in that comment got me very riled up, as you can see!!! There are some dodgy financial planners out there but there are also a lot of very good ones who work terribly hard to look after their clients’ best interests, and actively grow their wealth in a way that most of us can’t do on our own, because they understand finances better than most of us. Choosing a financial planner is kind of like choosing your doctor – just as you should feel comfortable being naked in front of your doctor, you should feel comfortable making your finances “naked” in front of your financial planner. And also, always get recommendations!
Jamie @ simplelivingmommy.com
These are great tips! I really love seeing online how much people (bloggers) make, but I absolutely agree that it does change the way people view you.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was to “watch your pennies and your dollars will watch themselves.” I think this very quote before every purchase.
Sure, that item is on sale, but do we NEED it? If a $100 item is on sale for $75, you didn’t save $25…you spent $75. Live below your means and be grateful. Amazing advice!
What great advice about watching your pennies, Jamie! And the sale items can REALLY get you! I know I’ve fallen into that trap before! Asking yourself if you really NEED the item can be a complete game changer!
I go against the grain with many bloggers and think it’s a little tacky to share income reports. I think sharing in percentages can accomplish the same purpose, but I’ve seen a pervading sense of “self” and “me, me, me” in the blogosphere when it comes to sharing income, and that’s something I want to distance myself from.
I always see people over profits. I believe if I serve my readers well, the income will come.
Thank you for sharing!
These are all great tips.. however there is a way one of them can backfire. My parents never told me how much they made and never discussed financial decisions around me. Therefore I grew up and reached adulthood without knowing what a decent income was in amount.. I didn’t know how much a car costed and what was a good price. I didn’t know what was a decent price for a home or any of the big purchases. I’ve had to learn on my own with trial and error. There comes a point when an older teen needs to know the world they are walking into and a little bit about it. I was taught to not live above my means, to balance my checkbook.. and that was about it. I wasn’t taught to budget though my parents did.. I just wasn’t allowed to know about it. I wasn’t taught about credit cards and fell into that trap too. There were a lot of things missing in my education financially. Most of all I wish they had talked to me, or had let me listen to some of their discussions about the large monetary things because I sure entered the financial world as an adult in a completely gullible and naive state…. There are so many people out there ready and waiting to snatch up people like that and con them. My advice would be not to let your children grow up without that kind of understanding out of hiding your income level from them.
These are all great point, LHS! I think it needs to be a balance, for sure! We hope to teach our children financial stewardship early on. Thanks for sharing!
The best advice I believe is don’t buy on credit something you can’t pay cash for, with the exception of your house and possibly your car. When you buy on credit, you pay interest, which equates to paying MORE for something you couldn’t afford in the first place. I realize there will be times when you don’t have a choice, but most purchases on credit should be delayed until you are sure you it is a good purchase and you have saved up for it.
Yes! I love that! We were able to buy our mini van in cash, and it’s felt SO freeing!! I hope we can pay off our mortgage one day! Thanks for sharing!