Over the weekend I was out shopping for some new trainers (I have a thing for trainers) and there I was trying on the new Lacoste Ampthil Leather shoes when I overheard a young boy saying to his mother ‘Can I get my birthday money early so I can buy both pairs of shoes?’ Straight away I begin to think about back in the day if I had ever said that to my mother the guilt inflicted on me wasn’t worth the shoes. So being a little more tuned into this topic I noticed kids throwing tantrums, to kids looking so pleased with themselves to even opening their own wallet and purchasing the product themselves. It got me thinking about my parents and what they taught me along this journey in regards to money and my perception and relationship with paper notes that rule the world.
Money doesn’t grow on trees – This was announced in our household at least once a day. But being too big for my boots I used to respond with ‘What is money made from?’ Paper. How is paper made? From trees! Needless to say this did not impress my parents, not one bit.
Be content with a little – Growing up, at times money was a bit tight, but whether our bank account was healthy or not, our expenditures were exactly the same. We rarely splurged as individuals but instead as a family unit and for us that may have meant a dinner out, or even a weekend away down south. As kids we appreciated that these splurges didn’t happen every week, we looked forward to these surprises. In saying that, my parents may not have spent thousands of dollars on new bikes or toys but we did entertain ourselves for hours with some paint, a cardboard box and trying to build a treehouse with whatever we could find.
Stress less about money – I’m thankful that whether my parents were stressed or not about money it was rarely portrayed to us kids. Growing up in this environment has made me the person I am today and that is “life first, money second”. I don’t have anxiety or panic attacks when thinking about my finances - I just do. I get on with it and figure out the best solution for that particular situation.
Tracking – Before computers, spreadsheets, calendars and apps at the end of each week both my mum and dad would sit down and set out their plan of attack for the upcoming week. Bills, groceries, presents, school fees and everything in between would be written down on paper according to their incomings. My mother always said she didn’t like surprises so by writing everything down she knew exactly what she could spend on what was a priority.
Exchanging something for money – From a young age if I completed my tasks around the house I would receive an allowance. It was the usual stuff of cutting the grass or washing the car, however cleaning my room, setting the table for dinner and sweeping were not a task, they were a responsibility I had to uphold to not only myself but to the rest of the family members. I appreciate this differentiation between tasks and responsibilities now – I set the table now to help my partner whilst she is cooking, not because I want something in return. Completing my tasks also gave me a sense of accomplishment – which is how the work force ultimately works, do your best and at some point you will be rewarded.
Honesty – My parents may not have stressed about the finances in front of us but when we asked for something they would both calmly speak to us and explain the situation that indeed there was no money to buy Michelangelo’s nunchucks from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. At times, as kids usually are, it went in one ear and out the other. However, after a while I stopped asking because I didn’t want to remind my parents that they couldn’t afford to buy something so minute. They didn’t give me everything I wanted simply because I demanded it – and they told me why: “there is no money for that.”
Confidence – They never compared themselves to anyone and, more importantly, their kids to anyone. In our household you could never say ‘but Mum, Matt has the new limited edition Gold MC Hammer pants’ and god forbid my mother ever said ‘What? Matt down the road? That’s it, first thing in the morning we will go buy them.’ My mother would stare at us blankly and walk away – it was at that point in time we realised that the only way we could purchase these was to save our allowance.
Goals – That’s exactly what my parents instilled in us by giving us our allowance. We were working towards something, whether it was lollies at the corner shop each week or a BMX bike that took a few years to save up for. We always looked forward to it and appreciated it even more when we paid with our money and worked our butts off to get it.
In summary, it’s important for the parents to set a good and healthy example, for we are all mirror images of the behaviours that reflect upon us.