Many of us won’t be able to spend this Mother’s Day with our moms, but we can appreciate the financial advice they’ve given us throughout our lives. My mom is a pragmatic, Midwestern, real estate attorney, and the daughter of a tavern owner and a housewife.
What she learned about money, she learned the hard way, through trial and error.
Here are the money lessons she’s passed down to me:
- Don’t be afraid to be open with your family about money. Families that don’t talk about their finances will have more money problems and miscommunications down the line. My mother didn’t divulge everything about our family’s financial resources growing up, but she would explain to me how much she charged for her work, and how far that money went or didn’t go in buying groceries, paying the mortgage, etc. Having this base of information helped me budget my money when I went out on my own.
- Never pay interest unless it’s on a mortgage. Getting into credit card debt is especially bad because the APR (or penalty) for late payments is so high. There’s no sense in having a savings account if you have credit card debt. Pay the debt down first, then open up a savings account. My mom doesn’t live beyond her means, and from the moment I got my first credit card, implored me to do the same.
- When you’re broke, eat spaghetti. It’s cheap and fills you up for a long time. Spaghetti is the famous staple of our house. It’s what my parents ate when they were just out of college and my mom worked full-time to put my dad through law school. Then it’s what my parents ate when my dad worked full-time as a new lawyer to put my mom through law school. Then it’s what we ate when I was a kid. My parents always talk about the value of spaghetti.
- If you can, put away five dollars bills to spend for a celebration or a rainy day. My mom is a big fan of the five dollar bill trick. When you stash fives away, then decide to pull them out to fund part of a trip, pay for an unexpected car repair, or throw a party, it feels like free money.
- Understand your credit score and keep it high. People with high credit scores get the best deals. And if you see a deal that is too good to be true, read the fine print. It probably is not a good deal. As a real estate lawyer, this is really important to my mom. People with the highest credit scores get lower interest rates and fees on things like home mortgages and other loans. Therefore, it’s always important to pay bills on time, and if you can’t make all of a credit card payment, it’s imperative to at least hit the minimum. These tips will keep your credit scores from falling.
- When Lean Cuisines are on sale, buy ‘em in bulk. They’ll last in your freezer for a very long time. Never buy a Lean Cuisine at full price. My mom’s a Lean Cuisine queen. To me, they taste like childhood.
- When you’re online shopping and you see a box for a coupon code, it means there’s a coupon code out there for the taking. Call the company and ask for it! Mom’s gotten a lot of deals by calling companies on the phone. It’s such a rare thing these days that customer service seems surprised enough to acquiesce!
- When going in on something with a group (like dinner at a restaurant), make sure to not cheap out on your portion of the meal or tip. It’s rude and embarrassing. And our family WILL talk about your tackiness at the dinner table.
- Even though it’s so important to be responsible with your money, sometimes life is hard, and you’ve just got to just throw your hands up, get in your car, go to your favorite department store and splurge on something nice. My mom will be the first to admit she has a purse problem. She calls going to Nordstrom “visiting the purses.” But sometimes you gotta be good to yourself.
- Finally, always have cab fare in your purse when you go on a date. This advice is a little outdated (and was passed to my mom from her mother), but its essence still applies: When you go on a date, be financially able to get a Lyft home if your date turns out to be a dud. My mom and dad started dating when they were 20 (!) so I have no idea if my mom’s ever needed this advice, but I like it anyway.
No mom is perfect, but I think my mom’s advice is pretty good. I’ve got a freezer full of Lean Cuisines, a solid credit score, credit card debt only on my one card with zero APR until 2021, and even during my brokest moments, I’ve tried not to be “the cheap friend.” So THANKS MOM, for the love, care, and financial advice.
Happy Mother’s Day!