In the past couple of months I've been enjoying reading Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette books. As I've been slowly going through them, many things made me nod my head, some were "aha" moments and only a couple of times I had to raise my brows (mostly at unimaginable prices some ten years ago).
But one of the topic that really attracted my attention was based on a few letters when her readers shared how their parents' spending choices and examples shaped their whole financial health. Many said that they are savvy with money because their folks taught them to be.
It immediately took me down memory lane and made me wonder, mostly due to the fact that my own Mom and Dad are total opposites when it comes to their finances. I think, this story takes roots even further, starting with my grandparents (as far as I can remember) and how different they were.
Even though my parents are both Russian, my Mom was born and raised in Estonia - a small country that used to be a part of the USSR but was a whole different world. Growing up, Mom's family wasn't rich but they had everything they needed and then some. My Grandma died young, so grandfather remarried a beautiful, independent, yet soft-spoken woman who had a life-long, never fulfilled dream of becoming an actress. It was her second marriage too. She took on a man with three little children and brought love and order into the family. When they got married, she was working in an unusual store. Back then, in soviet Russia they were called "The Currency store". Basically, they were dealing with merchandise from different countries (like swiss chocolate or Czechoslovakian boots - a dream for many Soviet women).My Grandpa served in the army and was also well set. My mother never felt deprived and had some things that other girls could only dream of...
My Dad's parents were divorced, and his father was not in the picture since he was five. When he was younger, my Dad would spend most of his time with his grandparents while Grandma was finishing medical school and working two jobs. The doctors in Russia, though well respected, do not make much money (seriously, more like teachers. There is no comparison to US docs!) My Dad's family never had much and struggled all their life.
But what is interesting is that looking at my granparents' houses on both sides, Dad's Mom always had more stuff. Significantly more! In fact, I believe, she's on the border of being a hoarder. She would spend huge chunks of her salary on clothes, household items and china (and I do love my Grandma dearly but all of her possessions always meant a great deal to her).
Where am I going with this? Well, my parents are very different in their spending habits. After being married for 35 years, they are still not on the same page. In fact, my Mom sometimes hides part of her income from my Dad. Because he took after his Mom. He could spend his whole salary in one day, mostly on fancy new foods and books. I'm pretty sure they have close to a thousand books in their 1-bedroom apartment...
When I was younger, my Mom used to say that I'm a lot like my Dad in regards to spending habits. And honestly, she had her reasons for saying it. Back then, I could spend my whole salary on clothes, make up and little trinkets. My parents never asked me to contribute to the family fund and, I'm ashamed to say, it never occurred to me.
But when I started living on my own, I realized the true value of money and spending versus financial peace of mind. This mindset change wasn't overnight. But slowly all of the lessons my Mom and Dad intentionally and subconsciously taught me throughout my childhood, started coming up to the surface.
I did learn a lot about money from my folks, from both their example and their mistakes. And I hope to be able to teach some of the lessons to my own kids too, both right and wrong. I'm thankful for everything I could learn from my parents because it has been and is shaping who I am in many ways.
What about you? Did you learn from your folks to be savvy or learn from their mistakes? Or maybe, a little bit of both, like me?